Want to be better at keeping a journal? Try this one simple writing prompt!

journal writing prompt ideas

Question: What’s the difference between a journal and a diary?

I don’t know if there is a technical answer for this question, but for me a diary is a record of my day to day activities.  It is a look into my life to see how I spent my time and what I accomplished that day.  For me, my diary is my “to do” list notebook.

A journal is about my spiritual journey.  It is a record of my growth, my worries, my trials, my happy moments, my goals, my priorities and a record of how I try to strengthen my relationship with God.

Keeping a journal

I kept a daily journal from middle school through college, but couldn’t seem to keep on top of my homework and led a scattered life full of anxiety and stress.

I would procrastinate studying because I didn’t have a clear picture of how to break up that big task into more manageable pieces.  I was always late because I couldn’t get into good routines.  I was never on top of laundry and would spend hours in the basement of my dorm washing clothes when I should have been studying.

Oh, wait- that one still rings true.

Keeping a diary

After I had kids I would journal every now and then and feel bad about how many times I would start an entry with this statement:

“It’s been forever since I wrote in my journal…”  and follow it up with a quick recap of what had been going on and why I was too busy to write.

I was getting better at keeping a running to do list of tasks, however, so I had more structure to my days as a stay at home mom.  Over the years I have discovered a way to combine the daily diary with the more in depth journal and in the process be more consistent with both.

Writing Prompts

Instead of feeling like I have to fill page after page of a journal with my woes and joys I write a few lines about my spiritual development and goals within my trusty to do list.  I write about thoughts that came to me during my morning meditation and time with God.

My favorite writing prompt right now is the 4 G’s.  It allows me to keep track of my big picture priorities, reflect on the day, and set a goal for the next day.

The 4 G’s stand for Good, Grateful, Glitch, Goal.  (I write my to do list the night before so keep that in mind as I explain this writing process.)

I write something Good that happened that day.

I write something I’m Grateful for from that day.

I write about a Glitch (only one!) or something that didn’t quite go as planned.

I write a Goal for tomorrow.

Favorite journal prompt
Along with the 4 G’s I write about my meditation for the day.  This is usually just one or two lines about my morning quiet time or something that has been on my mind that will help me develop spiritually.

The thought that kept coming to me today during my morning meditation:

Journal Meditation

This is the way I set up my to do list journal.  When I look at my notebook I see my spiritual life on the left and my diary on the right.

For me, both are essential because I need to stinkin get places on time as well as have some deep thought now and then.  🙂

Journal Writing Prompt

Other notebooks I’ve used:

I go back and forth between a hard bound journal and a school spiral notebook.  I guess it depends on my mood!  Here’s a quick look at the types of notebooks I’ve used in the last few months and a link to the one I currently use on the left from Target.  Although you have to buy that specific one in store.

My journals the last few months

How to actually develop that habit

Let go of perfection.

Letting go of perfection gave me the ability to develop a habit.  If I am often quick to give up because it can’t be “just so”.  Developing healthy habits becomes possible when I stop comparing myself to others and focus on inching forward.

As a planner at heart it is easy for me to put together elaborate lists of ideas, print out amazing worksheets and pin funny writing prompts like crazy on Pinterest, but it is another skill set entirely to actually use those tools to make my life more productive.

A beautifully designed goal sheet might make my heart pitter patter, but it doesn’t do the work for me!  Darn it.


That’s where the simplicity of the 4 G’s comes into play for me.

I have written them for every day for almost 2 years.  As a result I am more focused on my goals, find myself complaining less, and best of all have a grateful heart for the beautiful life I’ve been given.

I have a saying that I adapt to fit almost any situation-

(Fill in the blank) done imperfectly still blesses my home.  I first heard it from flylady.net when she was talking about housework.

I apply it to everything!

Writing in a journal done imperfectly still blesses my life.

Eating healthy done imperfectly still blesses my body.

Parenting done imperfectly still blesses my children.

And to quote Fly Lady- Housework done imperfectly still blesses my home.

Just Start!

Just start where you are!  It doesn’t have to be perfect. Don’t let some picture you have in your mind of what a journal “should be” get in your way today.

Anything is better than what you had yesterday- which was probably a big fat guilt trip.

Enough of that!  The point is that we are trying- 4 G’s at a time.

 What’s your favorite writing prompt?

Just for fun here is a printable to do list to get you started.


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3 thoughts on “Want to be better at keeping a journal? Try this one simple writing prompt!

  1. Jeanne Ruckman

    Thanks so much for sharing your jounaling ideas. I like your page setup. I’m going to give it a try and see how it works for me. I think i will need more space for my food for the day. I’m wondering what size your journal is.

    1. Dereth Post author

      You are welcome! I love my journal/diary/to do list! My journal is 7″ x 10″. I got it at Target for $8. I’ll add a link in the post for the exact one I’ve been using this month, but I noticed you can’t buy it online. My previous journal was much larger and I use a simple school notebook a lot too. I go through about one a month or every 6 weeks so I refuse to spend more than $10 for a journal. My personal preference is spiral bound so I can easily see both sides of my life- To do and spiritual. Let me know how it goes!

  2. Pingback: Free! To Do List Printable | Bird with a list

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