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What’s the difference between a diary vs. a journal?

A journal and a diary are similar in kind but differ in degree. Both are used to keep personal records but diaries deal with the day to day and journals with bigger picture reflection/aspiration.

How do you write a journal vs a diary?

A diary is typically arranged chronologically. The events, thoughts, or emotions written are more or less contemporaneous to the activity. Diary entry example: It was snowing on March 1st. I had to shovel the walk before leaving for work.

A journal, on the other hand, might be used to map out a general direction, perhaps partly based upon reflection on diary entries, of where one sees life going so they can determine if a course needs to be changed or if it's full sail ahead.
Journal entry example: It is with a profound sense of relief that I talked to my boss and let her know that I intend to leave the company at the end of this quarter. I like the company and my co-workers but no matter what I tried, work left me unsatisfied. I needed a change of pace and think switching career paths is the right thing for me to do. As Jobs said to Sculley, "Do you want to sell sugar water for the rest of your life, or do you want to come with me and change the world?"


Difference between a diary and a memoir?

Think of a memoir as a sort of curated diary with reflective pauses. A memoir may delve into the events of a particular day but goes deeper into what eventually made that day important. Memoirs attempt to connect the dots in a life - attempting to find patterns in the day to day to form plot personal lines.

Here's what Virginia Woolf had to say on the topic: "Here I come to one of the memoir writer's difficulties — one of the reasons why, though I read so many, so many are failures. They leave out the person to whom things happened. The reason is that it is so difficult to describe any human being. So they say: ‘This is what happened'; but they do not say what the person was like to whom it happened.

Bullet journaling vs journaling

The difference between a journal and a bullet journal is the difference between cuisine and a diet. Food from a cuisine reflects history and tradition. The tastes, flavors, and techniques are developed over time. A diet is a way of eating designed to facilitate a goal; weight loss, optimal muscle development, etc.

A bullet journal is very specific way of recording information that falls into the contemporary desire to “life hack” - any trick, shortcut, skill, or novelty method that increases productivity and efficiency. The Bullet Journal method of personal organization was developed by designer Ryder Carroll and focuses on his concept of “intentional living” - weeding out distractions and focusing your time and energy in pursuit of what's truly meaningful, in both your work and your personal life. Think Marie Kondo, but instead of your drawers it’s your tasks and time.

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, we recommend you check out Carroll’s guide on the subject and if you feel like giving it a shot, looking at our purpose made bullet journal.


What's right for you?

Your results will vary, but that's true of many things including journalling. Give various methods a go. Some people are very detail-oriented and enjoy keeping a diary. Others like to reflect on things more and prefer to keep a journal. Chances are you'll do a combination of both. No matter what you try, enjoy the journey either takes you.

Further reading / inspiration

The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future by Ryder Carroll

Virginia Woolf: The Complete Works

Bridget Jones's Diary: A Novel by Helen Fielding

The Diary of Ann Frank

Reflective Journals and Learning Logs


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