While the primary purpose of journaling is to get thoughts and emotions out of our head and onto paper, there may be times when you desire to re-read entries.
For this reason, it is a good idea to give some thought to organization before you delve into a deep journaling practice.
I personally subscribe to two different organizational methods. One is to maintain a different journal for each particular subject matter. The other is to journal all thoughts into one notebook.
If money and space were no obstacle, this would be my preferred method.
I am a highly compartmentalized person. I have always kept work separate from family separate from personal hobbies and interests. Sometimes there is brief crossover, but for the most part, these areas remain distinct. I even maintain separate Google calendars for each, and they are color coded for easy recognition.
When I first started journaling, I applied this same compartmentalized process. I had one journal for family legacy notes, one for favorite quotes, one for emotional rants and raves, and still another for brainstorming creative projects.
As you can imagine, these journals began to pile up. While I have not taken a detailed inventory, I would guess I have well over thirty journals strewn about the house. This represents just five years of writing. Extrapolate the numbers and you can see how I can quickly run out of space to store them all.
One Notebook for All:
I resisted this style of organization for quite sometime. I equated it to a junk drawer: a jumble of mismatched thoughts twisted into an unrecognizable form. Such chaos inhibits my writing process.
It wasn’t until I read Lois Daniel’s fabulous book, How to Write Your Own Life Story, that I realized this method could work… with a bit of forethought. (If interested in how I use this resource for memoir journaling, please read this post).
The key to untangling various journal entries is an INDEX.
Whether you designate the first pages of a journal for an index or the final pages… the additional time is well-worth the effort. Three pages should be ample space.
The first step is to pre-number all notebook pages. I typically number odd pages only, in the bottom right-hand corner.
The next step is to somehow identify the journal entry.
I find giving the journal entry a brief title is helpful. Often this does not happen until AFTER I finish writing, as I don’t always know what nugget I will uncover during the session. The title need not be long or detailed. Typically the date gives context and the title offers specificity.
The index itself is divided into two columns. The first is rather narrow – large enough to include the page number. The second, wider column is reserved for the journal title.
Once a notebook is complete, I typically label the spine with the date for easy reference.
While I have not used this method, I do believe it has merit.
This is a nice compromise between using one notebook for each subject – and one notebook for every journal entry.
The Multi-Subject system allows you to organize 3-5 journaling categories into one notebook, which makes it cost-effective.
- one tab might be reserved for favorite quotes
- another tab might designate spiritual journaling entries, such as prayers or scripture verses
- a third tab might focus on expressive journaling… getting deep with emotional issues
- a fourth tab might house personal insights, experiences or values
- the final tab might be good for stream of consciousness journaling – brain dumps to clear the mental cobwebs