I’m not really a fan of journaling prompts because it’s turned into a gimmick. Every journaling app or article about the topic uses them. And people come up with the weirdest prompts.
It almost seems like they think you need to trick people into writing more. But a person who believes in the power of writing doesn’t need to be seduced to write more.
However, writing doesn’t always happen by itself. Sometimes we need to give ourselves a little push to get started. And that’s how I use journaling prompts.
I stick to prompts that trigger self-reflection—and I stick to a small list of questions that I keep repeating to myself. That’s the secret of journaling. It’s useless to journal once or twice a year. The purpose of journaling is to track your progress over a period.
By asking yourself the same questions consistently, you can see how you respond as your life circumstances change. It’s similar to Peter Drucker’s feedback analysis; a practical, long-term strategy for knowing yourself better.
To give you some inspiration, here are 10 journaling prompts I regularly use.
1. What time did you go to sleep and wake up?
One of the best things you can do to improve your energy is to sleep and wake up around the same time every day.
So it’s not only about getting 8 hours of sleep; a consistent sleeping schedule matters too. When you write about the times you go to sleep and wake up, you get a good idea of your sleeping pattern. When it’s irregular, you remind yourself that you might want to be more mindful of your sleep.
I usually start my journal entry in the morning with this question. It’s an easy way to get started. Most of my entries look something like this: “Woke up at 9 am, slept around 1 am. Feel good.” The last part brings us to the next prompt.
2. How do you feel?
Did you wake up energized or tired? Just observe yourself and write about how you feel. You don’t have to judge or come up with ways to improve right now. Simply write about how you feel without any form of judgment.
The process of writing about how you feel creates awareness. And awareness usually leads to change eventually.
3. What did you eat?
Here’s another easy question. By writing about your diet, you automatically become more conscious of what you consume. Again, it’s important to write about yourself without judgment. Many of us write something like, “I can’t believe I ate a whole Hershey bar. I shouldn’t have done this.”
I would lose the last sentence, that’s where you judge yourself. Look, we all mess up sometimes. We shouldn’t be hard on ourselves. We should only be aware of our behavior and have a desire to improve, if necessary.
4. Did you work out? If so, what did you do? If not, why not?
My goal is to get at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. Just by asking myself this question, I’m more likely to pursue that goal. And look, you don’t have to go crazy every day. This is a great journaling prompt that will motivate you to get moving.
And if you didn’t work out because you’re sick, that’s fine. You can write about that too.
5. Are you injured?
When I’m injured, I write about it so I can use this information in the future. How long did it take before my back felt better? I always ask this question in the Day One app because I can search in my entries. A few weeks ago, I had a stomach virus for a few days. I thought to myself, “What’s up? I had something like this a few months ago as well.”
I searched for “stomach” on Day One and found a few entries about a stomach ache from two years prior, but not a stomach flu or anything serious. You see, we have a distorted view of time. This is why journaling helps you to understand yourself. If I really had a stomach problem, I would’ve gotten it checked out.
6. What are you working on? And why?
It’s easy to get carried away by busy work. With so many distractions and shiny objects that catch our attention, we might chase the wrong goals. This happens to me all the time. A while ago I thought about writing a new course, and even made a start.
But then, I asked myself “why?” I didn’t have a good reason. It was just something I thought of doing without a clear purpose. So I stopped and started working on a new book instead, which was something that was a better fit with my overall goals.
7. What are you reading?
I always want to read a book. Just by asking myself this question, I force myself to read. Also, when you write about what you’re reading and learning, you’re more likely to remember it. This is a great journaling prompt for personal development.
8. Did you talk to your friends this week?
You’re getting the point. All these journaling prompts are related to things that I value in life. The point of this article is not only to share these prompts as inspiration. The goal is also to share my journaling system with you. Look at what’s important to you, then, ask yourself whether you’re acting on those things. It’s a form of self-accountability.
9. How was your day?
This question is about your general well-being. If you consistently give a negative answer to this prompt, it’s time to make a change in your life. You don’t have to make a big change like moving to a different country or getting a new job to enjoy your days more. You could incorporate small things like practicing gratitude, meditating, cooking your favorite food, etc.
10. What will you do tomorrow?
Living a productive life is all about focus. So every night, I think about this question. When I take a few minutes to get clear on my planning for the next day, I wake up with clarity.
Writing is a form of thinking. And when you regularly use all these journaling prompts, you will change your life. I’ve experimented with this regularly over the past six years. Now and then, I just stop journaling to see what happens.
Guess what? After a while, I started feeling unhappy, lazy, and dissatisfied. But when I keep journaling, I remain cheerful, enjoy the small things, and make progress every day.
Isn’t that a huge return for such a small-time investment?