How to write a journal for self reflection

Journaling is one of the most effective tools for self-reflection and analysis. It’s extremely simple, yet highly effective. All you need to do is to write down your thoughts, feelings, emotions and plans on a regular basis.

Thousands of people ask how to write a journal to make sure it helps them discover themselves. When I heard about journaling as an effective method of self-discovery a few months ago, I got curious as well.

Warning: Journaling works only if you actually do it

To make sure journaling helps you, the key requirement is doing it regularly. It’s not enough to just write something one or two times and then abandon it. It’s not enough to think like you’re going to start journaling at some point in the future. The only condition to make journaling work is to actually do it.

And just like with every habit, it’s very important to pick a convenient and reliable tool that helps you achieve the goal of establishing a habit of writing your thoughts.

I tried multiple apps in my Android smartphone – and none of them worked well enough. They’re paid, they have ads, or they are not customizable enough for me.

In this post I wanted to share the setup I found helpful for me. It’s free and easily customizable. It’s not unique – I’m sure lots of people use something similar. But I didn’t use it in the past, until discovered this approach.

So, I’m sure that if even 1 person will find this setup helpful and start actually using it, – this post will reach its goal.

How to write a journal with Google Forms

In the past, I already shared my Google Sheets setup for Habit tracking. This time I decided to leverage a well-known Google app for collecting responses, called Forms. To give you a better idea on what exactly the form looks like, I made a few screenshots from my Demo setup.

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Besides that, I share the Demo setup link here as well (will open in new tab).

This is what my Google Form Journal looks like. It's a demo, but you can get the idea how it looks on Desktop
This is what my Google Form Journal looks like. It’s a demo, but you can get the idea how it looks on Desktop

As you can see, the form has multiple questions – all of them are aligned with my goal to write something about my day regularly. This is my demo setup, you can customize it easily. 

The best part of it is that it’s cross-platform as well. All you need to do is just share the link between your devices (mobile / smartphone). You can do it with Google Task, for example.

This is what my Journal with Google Forms looks like in mobile
This is what my Journal with Google Forms looks like in mobile

In fact, the best thing about journaling is that there is no perfect setup for writing stuff. You can do it in a way that you feel works better for you, asking your own questions.

How to store results in Google Sheets

If you ask me about the place these responses will go – I will show you this picture 

A journal powered by Google Forms can be saved into Spreadsheet like this
A journal powered by Google Forms can be saved into Spreadsheet like this

It’s a spreadsheet created by Google and synchronized with this form automatically (free of charge). Every response left by you in the form will get into this sheet eventually.

You’ll be able to open this spreadsheet and analyze, see your thoughts from the past, re-visit your concerns from the past and recall on the ideas, feelings and emotions you experienced.

The best thing about this approach is that Forms and Sheets are both part of Google ecosystem, so they’re instantly linked in one click. You don’t need any tech setup at all.

How to create a Journaling Form

So, if you like the inspiration I shared – let’s dive to the question of how to create a journal using Google Forms. To start, type ‘forms.new’ in your browser, or press this link. You’ll immediately see a form creation flow. Let’s go over a few basic functions you can do here.

1. Start with the First question

How to write a journal with Google Forms
How to write a journal with Google Forms

Once you start working with your Google Form, it invites you to create a first question. Start by something you want to ask yourself every day. In my demo, I used a question to express gratitude: “What were you grateful for today?”.

To make sure you can type freely (or with points – the way that works better for you) -> you should use the ‘Paragraph’ type of field.

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2. Create more questions

More questions in your Form can be created just by clicking the ‘Plus’ icon. Again, it will ask you to select the type of the field. You can use ‘Paragraph’ for text-based responses, or ‘Linear scale’ for number-based ones.

3. Duplicate questions

What I like about Google Forms, is that when you made a question, you can easily duplicate it and change the label. In my demo form, I shared more examples what can be asked.

However, there are so many variations and ideas of what you ask yourself when writing down your journal. What happened with you today, what you feel good or bad about, what you dream about, what’s your week goals, etc can be asked here.

4. Customize form view

Finally, Google Forms allow you customize the view too. You can select different color schemes, fonts, font sizes to make it look better. Don’t forget that the form can be filled in your smartphone too.

In fact, I find it even more convenient to use in mobile, compared to desktop.

5. Create a Spreadsheet

A crucially important step to store your responses for future and to be able to analyze them is creating a spreadsheet. You can do it by going to ‘Responses’ tab and clicking the green Google Spreadsheet icon.

It will open the Spreadsheet and you’ll be able to rename it and customize its view. I shared my example of the Spreadsheet here, so you can also take a look at how it looks like.

The Spreadsheet can also be customized. For example, I prefer having it this way (when you have the row height fixed to standard, but the top window is expanded enough, so you can see the results in full):

This is how I customized my Sheet, to make sure I can read my Journal easier later
This is how I customized my Sheet, to make sure I can read my Journal easier later

How to make Journaling with Google Forms a habit

When your Google Form-based Journal is ready, and you tested it with your first dummy response, and it works – time to setup our habit.

Since Forms is a cross-platform web application, you can fill it both from your mobile and desktop. I prefer using mobile version even, because you can do it form anywhere.

Now you need something to remind you to fill this form and a place to store the link. I use Google Tasks in my Google Calendar. I just put a link into the description of the event, so whenever it pops in my phone, I just click it and get to my form.

Another way to do it is to save link into your “Saved” chat in the messenger you use on a regular basis. This will ensure that you can access it quickly every time.

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I started journaling on a daily basis recently, so I don’t have any recommendations on the frequency too. But I encourage you to try daily basis as well, and then decide if this is something you enjoy doing.

Conclusion: How to write a journal in Google Forms

There is no difference how to write a journal. Someone says it can be just a plain notebook and a pen. Other people advice you to download a fancy app & buy $3.99 subscription to commit to doing it. And someone, like me, encourages you to use the good old Google Forms, following the quick guide above. It’ll take you no more than 5 minutes to setup all of it, believe me.

No matter which path you follow – just remember the goal itself. You want to find a way to share your thoughts in a single place, which will be protected, but available for you at any time.

Besides that, while writing your journal, I encourage you to experiment with questions too. I found tons of different prompts for journaling, and I realize that not all of them would be helpful to me.

Anyway, if you haven’t been journaling yet – this is your sign. Start today and enjoy self-reflection on your path towards self-improvement. Good luck!