Tips and Tools to Start Journaling in the Year 2021

With the best intentions, sometimes I purchase beautiful blank notebooks intending to journal or write down the silly things my kids say. But unfortunately, most of these journals remain blank. Sitting down to write in a journal became another uncompleted task in my day. That is, until I realized journaling shouldn’t be a chore, but a habit that I enjoy. I just needed the right routine and the right tools to do it. 

You may be thinking why even bother attempting to journal in the new year since 2020 brought us many events that we would rather block out, but research shows journaling during times of stress may reduce anxiety. And for me, the ability to look back on the past brings me satisfaction. With young kids, it feels important to me to preserve these little moments in one form or another. My grandmother left behind an extensive journal that documents day to day moments in her life that she probably saw as insignificant, but I see it as such an incredible gift to read her thoughts and experiences with motherhood, since I no longer have the opportunity to ask her about these things in person. 

Luckily, we have technology at our fingertips that can make documenting or journaling our lives so much easier. Below I will share the tools that I found work best for me, in addition to other apps that will help you start preserving your own memories in 2021. 

Collect – Photo Journal, Diary (Paid – $2.99)

I have used this app for several years now. It started as an idea to help me improve my photography, but I have kept using it because I just love how easy it is to look back over the years at a glance. The gist is you take a photo a day, and the app automatically organizes your photos into a calendar format. And if you forget to load your photo for the day, you can always go back, click on the date, and the app pulls up the photos you took that day. You can export the images, create collages, and even create videos. I love looking back and seeing how my babies have grown month-to-month. At the end of the year I print out the monthly collages so I have a photo journal for each year. 

Google Docs (Free)

No fancy app required. Just open a blank Google doc and start writing. Currently, this is how I journal. I love that it is already synced anywhere I pull it up – my computer or my phone, and saving automatically as I write. I take screenshots from funny text conversations I want to remember, or drag in photos. I don’t write on a daily basis, but it is easy enough to pull up when I have some downtime for me to jot down thoughts and memories when I have just a few minutes. (Pro tip for when your journal starts to get long – hit command, or control on Windows, and the down arrow to jump to the bottom of the doc.)

Day 1 (Free and Paid Version $2.92/month)

Day 1 is a beautiful and simple-to-use app. In the free version you have no ads, unlimited text entries, one photo per entry, and the ability to export to PDF, among other great features. The subscription allows you to sync across devices and the ability to upload unlimited video and pictures and tons of other great features. 

Five Minute Journal (Paid – 4.99)

I know this one doesn’t have a free version, but the one-time payment of five bucks is a great deal. This app is a great way to build healthy habits, since it is based on the research-backed idea that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness, and it takes little time to complete your daily entries. You can also upload photos, so it can be used as a photo journal as well. With the ability to export to PDF or dropbox, you can also print your journal to make a book. 

Project 365 (Free)

Project 365 provides an easy way to start a photo journal. Not an app but a website, Project 365 comes with the benefit of a supportive community. Participate in themed photography contests, or follow others for inspiration and learning. 

1 Second Everyday: Video Diary (Free and Paid Pro Version available)

Document your life in 1.5 second video increments and create an incredible video that documents your year. Simple and easy to use, this is a great option for those who don’t want to write to keep a journal. Low commitment, but a spectacular end result when you see your own personal movie at the end of the year! 

Most importantly, remember there are no rules when it comes to journaling. Find the routine that works for you, and before you know it, you will have a year’s worth of preserved memories. Happy Journaling!

Drawn by family connections, hill country living, and the friendly culture, Lauren and her family moved to San Antonio in 2017 from Houston, Texas. This Texas Aggie (whoop!) is passionate about kids, learning, and quality instruction. After teaching middle school history for several years, she most recently worked as an instructional coach for social studies teachers all over the San Antonio area. When her daughter made her debut in 2018, Lauren decided to pause her career and become a stay-at-home mom. Now a mom of two littles, she spends most of her time feeding her newborn and preventing her toddler from jumping off the couch. It is her most rewarding job yet. When she finds a minute to herself, she enjoys reading, hiking, and photography.