Journaling My Way
Using Custom Templates I Created and Methods I’ve Learned to Journal
I want to show you the different custom templates I’ve created using CustomJournal, the app I use for journaling. I have created tutorial videos on how to get started with CustomJournal, as well as customize it so that you can create a journal that works exactly the way you want it to. In this post, I will go over the different journaling methods I use and how I use these templates to do my journaling. Hopefully this will give you an idea of how I journal and give you some ideas to make your journal more effective going forward.
To use any of these templates, open the link by clicking on the image of the template you wish to use below using your phone that has CustomJournal installed. You will probably be asked how to open it. Choose to open it with the CustomJournal app, not the browser. This will automatically install the template into the Manage Templates section of CustomJournal. Note, if you have CustomJournal installed on your Chromebook as an Android app, these links will not work properly. You must open them from your phone. Once there, you can use the sync or backup feature to have them appear in your Chromebook installation. If your phone does not ask you how to open the URL, you probably have it set to always open URL links using a default program. You’ll have to change this until you get your templates installed.
I want to note here that I had a discussion with the developer about how this works. I was concerned about how the link looks like it goes to CustomJournalApp.com, but it really doesn’t. My concern was that templates were uploaded to his server without consent, but this is not the case! The link is actually data itself. CustomJournal, the app itself, interprets the data in the URL in order to recreate the template in the app. It could say any other URL and CustomJournal would interpret this data and still create the template. However, if someone were to open the URL using their browser, it links to a page at CustomJournalApp.com that gives you instructions on how to properly import a template to the app. It’s very clever.
That being said, let’s take a look at the templates I use in my journaling process!
The first template I add on January 1st is my Symbols template. This is a list of symbols I use in my journal so that anyone reading it could interpret the symbols I use. These symbols are basically the standard Bullet Journal symbols, with a few exceptions. Instead of crossing out an irrelevant task, for instance, I change the symbol to a tilde to show the change in status.
If you don’t like these symbols, want to use different or add new symbols, you can always edit this template.
The second template I add on January 1st is my Index. This is a list of important pages in the whole journal, sorted by date, so I can easily find the collections I use in my journal. This, again, is a standard Bullet Journal practice. As you can see, there are a few entries that are standard. These are going to be the same in every journal, so I placed them there in a Text module. I have the Symbols, as well as the Index listed on January 1st. I get that these are both visible on this page, but it’s about the practice, the habit, not the visibility.
I also list Monthly Logs on the first day of every month, symbolized by the XX for the month number. And I list the Daily Logs on the first of every month, symbolized by the XX for the day number. Yes, I do these date listings sort of backwards because I think in computer system date stamps: year, month, day. Underneath that, I put in a question box that simply states “Collections”. For this, I left it at one response and turned on the ability to add additional response lines. This way I can list a collection and then do the two digit day and two digit month for each entry.
The third template I add to January 1st is the Future Log. It should be noted that, although this is on January 1st, this will be the only entry for this template in the whole journal. It’s meant to give an overview for the year at a glance. This is a list of question modules with the month being the “question”. Each Question module is set to one response with the ability to add additional response lines. This gives me the ability to add a two digit day on a line and then an important event scheduled for that day in the month. These should be only the very important things that are scheduled, not a daily thing. Again, this is a standard Bullet Journal practice. It gives you a great overview of the year.
The fourth template I add to January 1st is the Monthly Log. This one, I will use on the first day of every month. Just like the Future Log, this is a list of Question modules where every day is the “question” in the form of a two digit date. I did make this template with 31 days, because some months have it, but when I get to a month with 28, 29, or 30 days, I enter a series of Xs into the line to block them out. Again, each Question module is set to one response with the ability to add additional response lines. This gives the ability to add a symbol, like a task or an event to each line, and then a short description of that task or event.
This template is sort of like the Future Log, but I allow myself more entries here. All entries in the Future Log do appear on my Monthly Logs, but not all entries on the Monthly Log appear on my Future Log, so I’m kind of doubling up. I often put things like birthdays and holidays on here so that I can see them when I try to get an overview of the month to come. I spend more time looking at this than I do my Future Log.
This is how I set up a new Book to be my bullet journal. I know this makes the entry for January 1st long, especially since I haven’t yet added in my daily entries, which we’ll get to in a minute. Because of this, I have asked the developer to look into the ability to add an Index page to each Book, which would allow me to put these entries on a page not affiliated with a date. But, until he figures that out, this works well and is consistent. I suppose I could put these entries on December 31st in the new book, but I don’t like the idea of looking to the last page of last year when trying to move forward into the new year.
Now let’s look at the templates I use every day to journal. These templates are the majority of my journal because I use them nearly every day.
First up is the Daily Log. This is, again, a standard Bullet Journal practice called Rapid Logging. In each day, I put a list of important things, tasks, events, etc. into my Daily Log. Tasks that are completed get their symbol changed to reflect that. Tasks that are not completed are migrated to the next day or a day on which they’re scheduled. They are not erased, they are copied and have their symbol changed on the current day. This forces one to be mindful, to decide whether the copying and symbol changing process are worth it. If a task isn’t worth the hassle, it’s marked irrelevant and I stop copying it. This keeps me in check, keeps me mindful of the tasks and events to which I commit.
Again, this is one Question module with no actual “question”. The Question module has one response and the ability to add additional response lines. This is because I don’t know how many tasks, events, etc. that I want in each Daily Log. When I mention in videos that I journal on my phone throughout the day, this is the template that I use the most. It’s my planner, my schedule, my task list, pretty much everything I use during the day.
The next template is one I use most days, but not all. It’s called Stoic Reflection. This is not a Bullet Journal practice, but one from the practice of Stoic Philosophy. The idea is to ask yourself three questions:
- What went well today?
- What didn’t go well today?
- What could I have done differently?
During reflection, asking yourself these three questions allows you to analyze yourself and how you could improve. Small improvements daily make for large changes over time. This process has taught me a lot about myself and what I consider important. I have used this process to improve myself over the past six months or so. It has been invaluable, so I try to do it most nights when journaling before bed.
This template has three Question modules, each with the question listed, one response, and the ability to add more response lines.
Memories of the Day
The third module I use daily is my Memories of the Day. This is where I mind dump. At the end of the day, right before I go to bed, I use this module to write down a synopsis of my day. Not every detail or every event, but enough that I can go back and remember the important parts of the day. Going back through my old journals, which used to be made up of just this entry, has been enough to evoke emotion or trigger memories from events that happened months ago that I had forgotten. This is why I suggest that everyone start here. If you take one journaling method from me, this is the one I recommend.
Again, this is simply one Question module with one response with no ability to add additional response lines. Very simple, yet very effective.
The next three templates I made are only used when I need them. They are for tracking different things. The first of the three is kind of like a digital bookmark, meant to keep track of where I am when I stopped in a class or book. The second and third are part of collections I use for Bullet Journaling.
My progress tracker, as I said above, is like a bookmark. When I do work on a class, like Spanish or the Management class I’m currently taking, I will add this template to my entry for the day. I mark which class it was, that I completed it for that day, and where I stopped. This way, when I go to pick it up in the next day or three, I can quickly flip back in my journal and see where I need to pick up again.
As you can see, this template consists of a Question module with the question being “Tracking” and one response line. This is where I write what class I’m tracking. There is a checkbox module with the word “Completed” so I can have the good feeling of checking it done for the day. And it has one more Question module with the question being “Stopping Point”. This is where I write which module and lesson I stopped on so I know where to pick it up again.
Book I Consumed
Book I Consumed is a module that acts as a review. Whenever I complete a book, I like to write my own short review of it. I don’t really review it as a book for other people. I just like to write down my thoughts on it so that I can recall what I read later.
As you can see, this template consists of a Question module for the title of the book, one for the author of the book, and one for thoughts. Each has one response line, none of which allow for more responses. Also included is a Rating module allowing for five stars. In this template I don’t allow half stars. I don’t think I’ve ever given something half a star. And, at that point, why not just do ten stars? Whatever, that’s not the point. You get the idea.
Class I Completed
Class I Completed is essentially the same as Book I Consumed. I think I even just copied the template and just renamed it and gave it a different color. But what I will say here is that both of these templates are considered Collections in my Bullet Journal. Whenever I use one of these templates in a journal entry, I go back to my Index on January 1st and add the date to the Collection listed in the Index. This way I can look at the Index, see where I finished a book or class, and see all the dates. I can go to those dates and look at the reviews or I can just look at the Index and be proud of all the things I accomplished that year. I could see modifying this to have the date and the title of the book or class in the Collections list, but I haven’t decided on that yet. I may start that in the new year, but I’m not going to change how I did it in the past. Journals should evolve, not be edited…
The next set of templates are tools I use for different reasons. They are fairly different, but the tools I used to make them should be familiar by now. It should be noted that these are also collections in my Bullet Journal, so they get added to the Index as well when I use them. I really just want to mention them because they are handy tools that can help you.
The Learning template I created takes a look at something I want to learn.
This template is fairly simple with three Question modules, each with one response line and no ability to add more responses. It asks three questions:
- What do I want to learn?
- Why do I want to learn it?
- How will I go about learning it?
When I decide I want to learn something I want to look at it like a goal, which means it needs to be analyzed. I hate that I sometimes say I want to learn something, start learning something, and then get bored with it so I quit. It means that I really didn’t have a good reason for learning, not a strong enough WHY. So, I created this template so that I could analyze that WHY before I even get started. If it’s not a good reason, I don’t bother. But I don’t delete the template from the entry. Again, I don’t think journals should be edited. I went through the exercise and that should be reflected in the journal.
Deconstruction is a tool used to get to the root of an issue. It’s a tool I use, sort of like analyzing what I want to learn and why.
Again, this template is fairly simple. It consists of a Question module with one response and no ability to add more. And then two Question modules, each with five responses, and no ability to add more.
The method is to state a problem, ask five consecutive WHY questions, much like a child, and then give five responses that will form your plan of attack. It kind of goes like this:
- What’s the problem? I’m getting terrible grades.
- I don’t study enough. Why?
- Because I don’t have the time. Why?
- Because I work two jobs to pay for school. Why?
- Because neither job pays enough. Why?
- Because neither requires special skills.
- Form your plan of attack.
- I need to learn better skills so I can get paid more.
- I need to study more to get better skills.
- I’m going to wake up an hour earlier to study.
- I’m going to stay up an hour later to study.
- I’m going to watch one less hour of TV a day to study.
Writing down goals and writing down what you’re going to do to achieve them significantly increases your chances of actually achieving them. It seems that writing down your goals is seen by your subconscious as a sort of contract and it will help you follow through.
I would say that the last template I use is Gratitude, but it’s something that I have yet to actually put into my journaling routine. But I have created the template. It’s a copy of the Memories of the Day template, which I already explained how to use. The purpose is slightly different, though. This is a practice of looking at the positive things in your life. And, if you do it right, telling yourself that you can’t repeat the things for which you are grateful, it forces you to look deep once you run out of the obvious and superficial things. Once you get past the “I’m grateful for my family” and “I’m grateful for the roof over my head” things, you have to start looking deep inside for things, and that gets hard. But if you keep going, you’ll find some really profound things. Again, I haven’t started the practice, but I have started thinking along those lines, and it really gets you thinking.
So, these are the templates that I use and how I use them. Not only did I have fun creating them, they have turned my journaling experience into something I love to do. This not only includes the Rapid Journaling I do throughout the day to keep track of things, but also the mind-dump I do at the end of the night to quiet my mind. Using the tools and trackers has allowed me to have a record to analyze my life and helps me keep things in perspective. CustomJournal has been key to this transformation and I’m grateful to the developer for creating it and letting me be a part of its evolution.