One Journal for Everything, or Separate Journals for Different Things?

I go through this dilemma quite often. Currently, I am wondering whether I should have a separate journal to record inspirational quotes and my notes on why they inspire me. I’m also drawn towards having a separate journal for some personal development experiments I’ve got planned.

To be honest, I know what my decision is going to be, yet I go through this mental argument time and again. I keep one main journal, in which I write most things. This is the journal I carry around with me, and it’s the one I write in regularly. When I talk about journaling, this is the journal I’m usually referring to.

However, I also have a:

Writing Journal: Specifically for Fiction, because I don’t want to go through various different person journals to find story ideas or fragments of dialogues I might have written. Though my personal journals inevitably contain things about my writing, as they contain something about everything.

Dream Journal: I don’t actually use this. I started it few years ago, recorded a few dreams, and it’s still waiting for whenever I feel like adding a few, but I doubt I would use it much. It was an experiment that is still open.

Tarot Journal: same as the dream journal. It was an experiment. Not attempt to do future-reading, but rather a creative exercise. I used Tarot Cards to work on personal development. It was an interesting experiment, and I might fill few more pages of journal now and again, but this is not at all an active journal.

So basically, I have two active journals: my main personal journal, and a writing journal (for fiction)

As much as I now get tempted to start a new journal for something new (because let’s face it, I love starting journals), I’ll stick to using just one main journal.

Here is why: 

  • I want my journal to reflect my whole life, the all rounded version of it. So if I am doing Personal Development experiments, but then have a bad day at work, or a fight with my husband, well that’s going to have an impact on my experiment. If I kept a separate journal, I would only write about the experiment, and so it wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of the process or the result because it would be missing “life” elements that have a major impact.
  • It’s impractical to carry multiple journals around. I take my main journal everywhere, so that I don’t need to have specially assigned journaling time. I write when I have an opportunity, and sometimes when I must write something down, I create an opportunity. I feel comforted by the knowledge that it’s right there, with me, safe. If I kept multiple active journals, I wouldn’t carry them around, and so the frequency and possibly details of writing would suffer.
  • Journaling, like life, is an organic process. You can do your absolute best to plan everything, but then something out-of-your-control comes along and changes everything. That’s why my Dream Journal and Tarot Journal are half-empty. I tried something, and moved on from it. Therefore, it makes sense to have everything in one place, so that I not only record my process and growth in particular areas, but also see the pattern and movement of my changing tastes and priorities.

What about you? Do you keep multiple journals, or just main one?


Look at your current journaling process. Is it working for you? Do you need to change anything, whether it’s to combine multiple journals into one, or create separate journals to get optimum results? Are you getting a fully rounded view of your life in your journal?



29 thoughts on “One Journal for Everything, or Separate Journals for Different Things?

  1. I have a main journal, a half writing/ half art journal, a journal for online Bible studies, and a journal to my daughter who passed away last October

  2. I love the idea of separate journals. I have several active journals and frankly it simplifies things for me. My life is my life and should focus on events, trials and tribulations. Work is separate but if you think about it it’s like another whole side of me. Plus I have others for certain topics and projects. This works for me and might not be for everyone but you do what feels right.

  3. Sorry to hear about your daughter. I lost a few loved ones over the past few years.

  4. I keep three journals. I have my main journal – like you – that I write in every day. And then I have my art journal that I spend a portion of every Sunday making a spread that reflects the week past and/or where my head is at the moment. I’ve tried a gratitude journal, but that didn’t last long. I also have a small notebook in my purse. I write when I’m waiting for various things. Just bits & pieces that don’t really matter.

    I like my life in one book. So far I haven’t gone way back to reread any of them. Since I started journaling when I was in emotional/spiritual pain, I know I am not ready to go there just yet. Maybe I never will. Who knows?

  5. Teresa, I’m sorry that you lost your daughter. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain that must cause.

  6. MOST of the time I just keep one journal. I did start a journal to record my Bible reading and thoughts about what I read at the beginning of the year, but I changed my plan and didn’t keep that one up.

    One reason that one journal works for me is that I use the Circa/Rollabind journals that I put together myself. I can move pages around and I can have dividers for sections for different things. Right now I have sections for Bible reading and thoughts, a section for Books I’ve read and thoughts on those, then my main journaling section (which is first). But what I love about Circa/Rollabind is that you can add and remove pages so easily. So when I start a section, I’m not guessing how many pages I’ll need for that section – that would but me if I thought I was wasting pages. There are always a few pages of phone numbers and odds and ends at the end of my journals, and I usually take those pages with me and put them in the back of my new journal when I start a new one!

    The translucent plastic covers are from Levenger, the Rollabind/Circa discs are cheaper from Rollabind (and come in more colors), and I LOVE the Levenger pages. I use the junior size journal covers and pages, which measure about 5.5×8.5. Underneath the translucent cover, I use colored cardstock that I put coordinating patterned paper on, and add a title with stamped or die-cut letters and numbers. I’m a Stampin’ Up demonstrator, so I have lots of colored cardstock and patterned paper.

    Oddly enough, I don’t usually stamp in my journals except for the name of each month before my first entry of each month. But because I have a Circa punch, I can punch anything and add it to my journal. I could stamp on cardstock and insert that in my journal if I wanted. Sometimes I write a long email to someone that I don’t want to take the time to handwrite in my journal, so I just print it out (I have to have a special Word template for the correct margins) and put it in my journal.

    So that was a loaded question – and a good one! :-)

  7. I have only just begun to journal. I used to try to keep diaries and have lots of them with a month or two filled in and the rest of the year blank. So this is going to be a new experiment for me.

    I want to use it mainly for my art, but as you said life is part of that process, and if things happen in my life then I’ll add those too.

    All I have to do now is try to remember to use the thing!

  8. Well, I for one, have to have only one journal, atleast at the present time.

    My daily life has to be kept in one journal, but yes, I do have a fiction journal, which I don’t use much anymore, but was a big part of my life a while ago.

    My one journal just helps me put all of my thoughts organized. I, as well as I’m sure countless do, ramble and blather and chatter, but in the end, all of my life is again in order. If I had separate journals, I think it would take me forever to get my life in order, as there are many choices.

  9. Definitely one journal for everything. I like things all mingled together as they emerge and and as I write. I do read back through my journals now and again and so I have now decided to start numbering the pages (and numbering those in all my previous ones). That way I can pick up a theme and track that and reflect on it in a journal entry (and be able to look back at what I have picked out).

    By the way, thanks Dolly for sharing pages from your journals – it is interesting to see how you use the pages (and I see you number them too). And after your previous blank vs ruled post I have thought some more and might try blank for my next journal after all.

  10. Dolly,
    This is a popular issue for those of us who use journals for different purposes as I do. I have journals for many different reasons/uses: personal (includes almost everything!), dream, spiritual, note taking, writing projects, art journal/collage, plus notebooks for working in with workbooks, etc. If I didn’t keep a journal separate for these different purposes, I think it would be far too cumbersome. I like to have everything reasonably organized and having separate journals for active projects is essential for my work and my life.

    I appreciate what you shared about what works and what doesn’t for you. Experiments are good; you can never know what will stick and what won’t. So journaling is a great way to make that discovery.

    I have chosen your post, One Journal for Everything, or Separate Journals for Different Things?, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 8/27/12 for all things journaling on Twitter;
    I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal:

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST, for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: Asking Questions.

    Thanks for bringing up this topic on one or many journals.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

  11. Brian,

    That’s interesting. What I’m curious about is how do you maintain your separate journals? Do you journal only at home? Do you have set times for it, or is it whenever you happen to be near a particular journal?

  12. Joni,

    You’ve reminded me about my art journal. I usually forget it, because I rarely do something in it :-)

    It doesn’t matter if you never go back. It’s enough knowing that your memories are there waiting for you if you feel the need to go back.

  13. Hello,

    TY for sharing. I used to do similar. Now I have a pretty photo binder and use pix dividers as categories for diff topics. I use non-lined 3 holed paper in a clipboard which I carry w me which is light.

    I write, make to do lists, dreams, apple computer lessons, running lists ( which serve as good reminders of old to do lists I keep in the binder- for writing things I must do again), in the dividers I put my fav postcards of my fav vacation spots to relax.

    I do have a separate same size thick paper booklet to paint and draw. I love drawing and this book is only for that.

    I like this system for me. I use a fountain pen which uses a refillable ink cartridge to be green and also to enjoy reminiscing writing like I had to in school: w cursive and only w fountain pens. You can’t press hard writing w a fountain pen and it is conducive to conscious relaxation when writing. In this rat wheel fast moving world it is ok to savor small moments and not necessarily be on the fast lane. Slowing down so I can speed up: The Tao of Yin Yang. I single task today for maximum efficacy.

  14. Jan,

    I agree. My method is quite similar to yours. I do have few journals for odd purposes but these are the ones I started a while ago, and rarely use them. Except for writing journal as mentioned in the post. I do need a separate writing journal, because I fill up my personal journals far too quickly so if I kept writing journal in that too, then I would end up having through several personal journals to find what I was looking for.

  15. Nigel,

    Yes, I like having issues as they emerge, as it’s more authentic representation of what’s going on in one’s life. Numbering pages is definitely a good idea. Yes, I do do it :-)

  16. MIBS,

    I like fountain pens as well. I can’t use them with all of my journals, because moleskine in particular doesn’t really handle fountain pens well.

    Single tasking is a great skill, and greatly devalued in today’s “multi-tasking” world.

  17. I have one main journal as well, that I use for mostly everything. The only exception is that I keep a commonplace book to record all the inspirational/meaningful quotes that I copy out from my reading. I’m on my third one now ;)

  18. Hi
    I am a recent convert to journalling, recovering from depression, and undergoing therapy. During a stint in hospital I discovered that ‘writing it out’ works for me.

    I am also a creative person, embroidery being my main creative outlet. I had lost touch with my creativity – in that it had lost it’s joy for me. As I am able to start letting go of anger and old hurts etc my creativity and it’s joy have returned with a vengeance I.e. It’s back, I need it – sometimes as much as I need food, and it’s joyful and nurturing.

    I have a creative journal – where I sketch, make notes, jot down ideas, put in pictures of work I admire or that sparks ideas for me which I may or may not try.

    If I am really worked up or upset about something – that needs to be let out – and left – then i just scribble it out with all the anger / passion etc it needs to release and let it go on sheets of ordinary school A4 paper. Gets it out – it’s done.

    Then I have a plain blank sketchbook – like a school sketchbook which I colour the pages and use as my everyday thoughts, to collect quotes, to make notes on my therapy reading and everyday notes, frustrations, things I want to bring up in my next session general how I am feeling, when I notice what my needs are and have followed through and not squashed them down back inside etc.

    because it’s a sketchbook I can write in it, draw, use paint, markers, stick in photos or cuttings …. It’s A5 so easy to carry round in my handbag in a zipped bag with a couple fountain pens and 3 or 4 coloured pens I use for accents etc.

    There – my essay on what is working for me at the moment. So pleased to have found this site. Thanks Dolly.

  19. I have journaled off and on throughout my life..I have more than one dream journal and a meditation journal in which I have recorded many spiritual experiences..I don’t worry about jotting down every dream I have, but I will if one stands out for any particular reason, and the same goes for my meditation journal. Right now I have a personal journal started, where I am releasing many thoughts and emotions..and I have started an intuition journal, where I’m keeping track of my intuitive messages, how I’m recognizing them, and how they are coming through to guide me. For the most part I am having fun with them. When I’m feeling bad or confused, the personal journal is a wonderful outlet that also helps me put things into perspective.

  20. I have a journal where I write down my favorite poetry, a journal for my agnsty feelings which is my main journal, a book of story ideas, and a couple of journals for longer stories in progress. Also I have two sketchbooks, a little one I carry everywhere and a big one for my living room. I can be a bit of an incomsistent writer, but having many journals keeps me writing at least something.

  21. “I want my journal to reflect my whole life, the all rounded version of it.” this really helped me make up my mind about a single journal or multiple journals for different areas.

    I’m not doing the bullet journal with regarding to planning and dates.

    But will continue looking into the 1 journal and the indexing!


  22. For years that’s the question I’ve asked myself and it has only left me stuck without being able to write any thoughts down. I was thinking of having journals for personal development, one for writing poems, stories, dreams… and because I’m a student and under clinical supervision, I constantly think of ways to improve myself in that aspect that closely ties in with my personal life. It’s like I have a need to separate all these areas but at times I think that I can just put it all in one book… maybe I can just section it off?

  23. I think it’s best to stick to one, I was just about to begin another, reading this post inspired me to keep and stick to one single journal!

  24. “I want my journal to reflect my whole life, the all rounded version of it. So if I am doing Personal Development experiments, but then have a bad day at work, or a fight with my husband, well that’s going to have an impact on my experiment. If I kept a separate journal, I would only write about the experiment, and so it wouldn’t be an accurate reflection of the process or the result because it would be missing “life” elements that have a major impact.” ……..this was extremely influential for me. I have decided to have one journal for everything.

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