A Digital Journaling Setup: Where to Journal?
The last several years have not been easy. One peaceful constant for me has been journaling. I’ve journaled daily since 2019. But deciding where to journal has been challenging. I’ve used several apps, mediums, and materials. I started with digital journaling, transitioned to analog, and have ultimately decided on a hybrid journaling system. One part of my digital journaling process is digital handwriting with the iPad, Apple Pencil, and GoodNotes app. Below, I discuss why I use GoodNotes for focused digital journaling and how it fits into my journaling process.
Analog vs. Digital: A Perpetual Question
Choosing between an analog and digital journaling is a difficult decision. I’ve spent longer than I’m willing to admit on this question. While most of my journaling is done using traditional paper notebooks, I integrate analog journaling with digital mediums.
Many others also use a hybrid journaling approach. “That Journaling Guy” gives an excellent talk through on analog and digital journaling on YouTube. This article by Dave Gauer is one of my favorite walkthroughs of a hybrid journaling system. He gives a comprehensive explanation of the way he journals and gives real world examples.
In short, I’ve decided to integrate analog and digital journaling instead of choosing one over the other. In some cases, I reflect more deeply on traditional paper. Other times, I need the flexibility of a digital platform. Given the current technology, digital journaling apps do a decent job of mimicking traditional paper. The GoodNotes app is one such platform for digital journaling that gives an analog-like feel.
Why is GoodNotes Good for Digital Journaling?
There are two reasons. Digital journaling in GoodNotes comes with many benefits over paper, and it facilitates focus.
1. Handwritten Digital Journaling: An Analog-Like Feel With Benefits
I think of GoodNotes as an analog-like journaling solution with digital benefits. With an iPad and Apple Pencil, you can write in a similar way that you would with pen and paper. However, instead of writing on paper, you’re writing on a screen. The benefits of digital handwriting include easy access to multiple pens, automatic line straightening, effortlessly changing templates, and searching handwritten text. The search capabilities in GoodNotes are excellent. One feature that I appreciate about about searching in GoodNotes is the preview of each instance the handwritten text is found within a notebook.
While journaling in GoodNotes is great, it’s not pen and paper. The feel of it is analog-like. To mimic the pen and paper feel, I made several modifications to my iPad and Apple Pencil. First, I added a Paperfeel screen protector to add more texture to the iPad screen. I also use a folio cover to improve the feel of holding the iPad in my hand while journaling. For similar reasons, I use a silicone grip on my Apple Pencil. It helps me write more comfortably. I also added a silicone nib to the Apple Pencil tip to mimic the feel of writing on paper. Although this setup isn’t perfect, it comes pretty close to writing with a traditional pen and paper.
2. Goodnotes Settings for Focused Journaling
The user interface in GoodNotes is made for focused writing. There are a few features in GoodNotes that I particularly appreciate when I want to focus. One is the toolbar placement. There is an option in GoodNotes to position the toolbar at the bottom of the screen. I prefer the toolbar placement at the bottom of the screen as compared to the the top because it helps me focus on what I’m writing instead of the tool options. I rarely switch my writing instruments when journaling in GoodNotes. For example, when I want to emphasize a section of text, I might draw a box around it or write in capital letters. I try to avoid getting too concerned with what the app can do and try to use the simplest features that work for my writing style.
Another feature is to hide the status bar of the iPad. This is a simple, but underrated feature of the GoodNotes app. Hiding the status bar removes all of the information that you don’t need when writing. It strips away, the time, date, battery indicator, and all other icons that aren’t within the GoodNotes app. With the toolbar positioned at the bottom of the screen and the status bar hidden, GoodNotes lets you immerse yourself into your writing. Just make sure you’re in a place where you can journal freely without time constraints or set a limit (e.g., use a timer) before you start journaling!
In addition to changing the settings of the interface, using the zoom window may also help with focus. The zoom window is often mentioned as way to improve penmanship. It helps with handwriting because it lets you write in a bigger window while preserving the size of the text on the page (as demonstrated in the video below).
The reason that I like using the zoom window in GoodNotes is because it helps me to deeply focus on my writing. Specifically, it lets me write without worrying about where I am on the page or how much I’ve already written. I think about the zoom function like the “typewriter mode” in Ulysses or other apps with a true focus mode. The zoom function in GoodNotes is like a focus mode for handwriting.
I am all for tools and systems that help with clear, focused thought. GoodNotes is one of those tools for me that helps with reflection.
How I’m Integrating Digital and Analog Journaling
I use both traditional and digital forms of journaling. My journaling medium depends on context. My default journaling space is in my Traveler’s notebook, but it’s not always easy to jot down quick thoughts there. If I’m out and want to quickly log a thought, I use a shortcut to trigger a digital journal entry in Craft Docs. If I can’t type, I do a short voice recording. I sometimes transcribe voice recordings later by sharing them to Drafts. Both the transcription and audio file can also be copied over to Craft Docs.
When I need more flexibility and fewer constraints than in my analog journal, I use GoodNotes. I might need to erase writing or easily move writing around. GoodNotes allows this type of flexibility. GoodNotes is also the better choice for writing in moving vehicles, like buses, subways, or planes. The iPad setup provides more stability than traditional paper.
Although my journaling process is messy, I have a central space where important information lives. Craft Docs is where I summarize reflections on events, friends, and family members. Using Craft Docs as a central space helps organize the messiness of my journaling process.
I’ve learned not to fixate on journaling in a specific place every day. I don’t worry too much about where I journal or writing streaks (which, I think, can be a dark side of habit tracking).
I reflect every day, but I do not limit myself to only reflect in one space. If I leave my physical journal at home for a few days, I might do a summary of the days that were missed in the journal. While I’m away, I log the entries elsewhere. I use several tools to capture my thoughts. Journaling this way helps me clear my mind. Admittedly, my journaling process is a mess. But I like to think of it as an organized mess. And it works for me.
If you found value in this post and want to say thanks, here are a few ways to support the blog: