The Art of Journaling

The Art of Journaling

I’ve gone through an update for this article because Journaling remains important to me and I wanted to share it with you. Journaling is a way for you to get to know yourself, focus, and reflect on your life. It’s the number one thing that’s helped me in my life to become the person I am today. I’ve been journaling for over 25 years now with most of it related to work tasks and notes, but I do write longhand entries as well. It’s always nice to go back to what I’ve journaled weeks, months, and years ago.

Why Journal at all?

I love journals because they’re a book with blank pages that conjures up creative ideas and resolutions to write in them. Too bad the majority of people fail at using them! It takes time and dedication for you to leverage the power of a journal. Why even write about journaling? Simple, you should record what you do, how you do it, and even who you do it with for your chosen goal. It could a work journal, a personal journal, a journal with beer brewing recipes, a travel journal of your adventures, or whatever YOU choose it to be. You have to put pen to paper.

Let the paper and pen write the magic of your life.

Journals are great and I have two of them. One is my classic analog hardcover Moleskine (affiliate link) that I use for work/life tasks and notes and the other is my brew log. My brew log is a digital ledger on Brewers Friend where I store my craft beer recipes and brew sessions. I make it a point to update my journals when needed. My work/life journal gets updated daily and my brew log when I brew or need to record when fermentation ends.


That was is one of my journals, a cheap Piccadilly (affiliate link) brand that works well but tends to fall apart at the binding (see the red duct tape).


Why are these entries important? Because they are great records or clues for what you did in the past. For work/life, it’s figuring out what I did so I can bill clients. For beer brewing, it’s about how and why I deviated from a recipe and what the results were. Did I end up making a better beer because I changed the mash schedule up? Does the beer taste better because the hops alpha acids were stronger or weaker?

You will NEVER get better at something if you don’t measure it. Write about your life, your dreams, and the things that are important to you.

Why do I say “Invest in Journaling?” Because it takes a bit of time now that will pay off later. Writing a journal entry can take anywhere from 5 minutes to an hour. It all depends on what type of entry your writing. For the most part, it takes only 5 to 10 minutes to write or post an entry.

The benefit of journaling occurs after you’ve done it for some time. It happens when you have a stack of filled-out journals or a bunch of blog posts somewhere. The value of journaling happens when you want to look back into the past and remember the details.

We remember in general our trip to Europe or a great tasting wine but we forget the details that made them great. Photos help with the details but they often don’t capture everything. I have a great photo of my Dad drinking a Kriek beer at the Cantillion Brewery in Brussels.

What the photo misses is the great walk we had through the city to get to the brewery. It missed conversations we had with a couple from Oklahoma. It missed their story on how they wanted to start brewing when they got home from their European trip. How they wanted to start a business. It missed the sites, sounds, and smells of this European city. It missed the finer details that only I can recall now by looking at my journal.

One day you will get old and your memory will no longer be as good as it was that day. You owe it to yourself to write it down and relive the past in its most splendid/sordid/breathtaking glory.

Getting started with Journaling is easy and you don’t need to buy a fancy journal! You can use a loose-leaf ring binder or go to Staples to get a cheap bound one. If you want to go the digital route, you can use write type into a text file or start a blog. Analog or digital journaling is inexpensive these days, so pick your medium and go for it.

Once you decided on your type of journal (i.e. analog and hardcover bound), then you have to decide what you want to record. Below is a great video on how powerful journaling is when you make it a routine.

Here are some journals that I’ve used in the past. Nowadays instead of having 3 or 4 different journals, I just carry one and use an Index to find things. Below are three ideas but if you’re just starting, I would default to the Everything Journal. The Everything Journal is exactly what it means, it’s everything from work notes to your grocery list. Still, I wanted to share some other ideas below.

If you like to go to brewpubs, craft breweries, or love new beers, a Beer Tasting journal is a must. You can design your layout if you want but Moleskine has a great PDF template that you can use to experiment with. They also sell a pre-made journal (affiliate link) that’s based off this template for about $18.

You’ll need to bring this journal whenever you go beer tasting, just make sure not to spill any beer on it! :)

Another great idea is to start a wine tasting journal! This type of journal is great to put in your glove box when you drive around a wine-growing region. You can get a pre-made Wine Tasting Journal on Amazon too!

Some people like to make a travel journal where they put their entire trip into them. That would include food, drinks, sites, sounds, etc. This makes more sense to me because you can capture one entire trip (or many) in one journal. I haven’t done this religiously yet but I think I will start once I go to China again this year. I am considering getting a Midori journal for travel because they’re made of soft leather and appear to be highly customizable. They are a bit more expensive ($32) (affiliate link) but you can refill them over and over again.

This is where I default too. I use my journal for everything! Mostly work but for my life as well. I create a health tracker, lists, notes, etc. I slap things together, it’s messy and at times very chaotic BUT it has dates and page numbers. I started making an index so I can find things faster.

The Everything Journal is just that, you can put everything you want into it. This guy’s video shows how he breaks up his $10 journal. That works for him and your journal should work for you.

Keep your journal simple but keep it active. Just start recording your brew sessions, your beer tastings, wine parties, and your travels now. You will thank me one day.

Note-taking is a big part of my journal life. Whether they’re notes related to work, my grocery list, investments, or whatever. I use a quasi bullet journal method with a Cornell note-taking style. You will need to figure this out for yourself, how you log important information.

For your viewing pleasure, I provide the Bullet Method video and the Cornell Note Taking Method with Visual Tags video. I hope it’s helpful!

I’m a big fan of the Reddit groups r/notebooks and r/journaling. I suggest you check them out.

Recently I started using Muji notebooks instead of my regular Moleskine. I ordered the pack of 5 from Amazon and they only have 30 or pages in them. I will give a detailed review once I’m done with the first one.

Last Page of my Journal June 1, 2021, (c) Thomas Ott

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