Journaling the Journey: Do You Chronicle Your Thoughts, Goals, and Ideas?

20 August 2020 | 7 Comments

A month or so into the pandemic, I theorized to author and book publisher Todd Sattersten that book sales were up. He confirmed that in general, yes, people were buying more books. But there was one category that was doing extremely well: Guided journals.

In contrast to traditional journals (lots of blank pages), guided journals use a variety of prompts to, well, guide you. Sometimes each page stands alone, but sometimes the journals have a sense of progression to them as you chronicle an ongoing series of thoughts, goals, and ideas as you work towards a specific goal.

I’m fascinated by this genre, so today I thought I’d highlight a few guided journals that have caught my attention. Also, before I forget, I think these types of guided journals make excellent gifts, which is great marketing.

Fail Faster by Jay Cormier: This playtesting journal is actually the only guided journal I own. It’s not only an excellent resource for game designers looking to hone their prototypes and log data and thoughts from playtests, but it also serves as a scoretrack, a gamified progress chart, a ruler, a mechanism generator, and more. A version of it is featured in the current Kickstarter by Gabe Barrett for the Board Game Design Starter Kit, which also includes a number of prototype components and a guide about designing board games.

The Hero’s Journal: What’s better than a goal? A quest! This beautiful journal showed up in my Instagram feed, and I was instantly hooked. It lets you treat your path as an adventure, letting you define your quest, consider and confront the perils ahead, and celebrate small and large treasures along the way. I love the tone and illustrations, and I like that it can be applied to any type of goal.

Burn After Writing by Sharon Jones: This guided journal, currently the #15 bestselling book on Amazon, is basically the opposite of social media. Instead of sharing your thoughts with the world, this journal is designed for you to privately declare your thoughts, ideas, and feelings for yourself alone…because when you’re done with it, you burn it.

Good Days Start with Gratitude: I love the idea of starting every day on a positive note, and that’s what this guided journal is designed for. It asks you to begin your morning by writing down three things you’re thankful for. It includes inspirational quotes along the way. It’s a relatively simple concept, but I like it.

While I haven’t created a guided journal myself, I have written a guide to crowdfunding, so I’ve considered the idea of writing something more along the lines of these journals. I’m a little torn between a focused guide (i.e., for crowdfunders, publishers, or entrepreneurs) vs something more open-ended. I love the adventurous feel of The Hero’s Journal–there’s an element of escapism to it. I also like gamification.

If you have any additional recommendations, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments! Have you tried a guided journal?


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7 Comments on “Journaling the Journey: Do You Chronicle Your Thoughts, Goals, and Ideas?

  1. I also use the “Fail Faster” journal – and like it a lot. I’d be interested in a guided journal that is more in the game design process space. Akin to something that I heard about through Emma Larkins – #gamedesigndaily. I am currently using a blank paper journal to track my daily game design work. This is apart from ideas and game-specific things – so I record what things I’m consuming (listening to podcasts, reading rulebooks, participating in collaborative discussions on game design, reading scholarly papers, etc.)

    The #gamedesigndaily journal is sort of a meta-take on my process and it keeps me mindful of maintaining things; staying in that headspace. Since I also need to maintain a full time job to support this game design habit, staying in the design mindset can sometimes be a challenge. A very useful side benefit is that the journaling records what sorts of things are more productive than others so I can change habits to help my game design time be the best it can be.

    I also sort of “journal” ideas using another book and/or Evernote. I then track the progression of the ideas in a spreadsheet – but that’s different, I feel.

    1. I should add that I set design goals and have done mini-challenges for myself in the journal as well: come up with 20 games, brainstorm five games that use the worker placement mechanic, etc. I also try to set prototyping challenges as well. Get “X” idea into first draft prototype over the week-end. Play test by X date, that sort of thing. Then track how well I do and what I learn. The deadlines are often short and difficult. Which helps me.

  2. This one has saved my mental space’s life several times. It’s based on the way of the monk, how they live and act and order their days. Section for Month, Week and Day planning with super simple guidance on how to process it.

    I personally hate journaling. The monk manual changed that overnight.


  3. Great article! I have “Fail Faster” and hope to put it to use soon (I’m a natural at failing lol) and am actually reading your crowdfunding book right now. I will check out the other suggestions, too as they sound very interesting.

    A guided journal I used in the past is The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. It was immensely helpful to me when a friend gave it to me many years ago. In fact I think I may get another copy and go through it again!

    1. Hey Jamie, FYI, Google is now putting these into the ‘Social’ tab. When I move it over, it asks if I want all correspondence from “” to be moved. Of course, I don’t, but I think a lot of your stuff is going to get dumped into subfolders for some reason now.

      1. Thanks for the heads up! I’m not sure if there’s a way to avoid that (other than a critical mass of people telling gmail that it belongs in the main folder), but I’ll mention it to our web dev just in case.

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