Streamline Your Journaling: The Only 3 Time Horizons You Need to Consider

Streamline your journaling by focusing on only 3 time horizons: past, present and future. Journaling helps improve mental health, self-awareness, problem-solving, memory, creativity, goal-setting and personal growth. Keep track of progress, recognize patterns and make plans for the future.

Streamline Your Journaling: The Only 3 Time Horizons You Need to Consider
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I don't know about you, but I once thought maintaining a diary was ridiculous.

I did not see the use of talking to myself or recording events in writing. Moreover, I saw a particular risk in putting my ordinarily private thoughts on paper and releasing them into the open.

Still, if you're concerned about self-improvement, you cannot avoid the topic:

  • Numerous publications, instructions, and morning rituals include the "journaling habit."
  • Best practices for the most influential leading questions are shared on social media.
  • Dozens of popular apps facilitate increased self-reflection and provide the necessary user interface.

Journaling promises benefits

There are many benefits to maintaining a journaling habit for you. Some of the most commonly cited benefits include:

  1. Improved mental health: Journaling can help you process and understand your thoughts and emotions, which can lead to reduced stress and anxiety.
  2. Increased self-awareness: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can better help you understand your motivations, values, and beliefs.
  3. Better problem-solving skills: Journaling can help you identify patterns and connections in your thoughts, which can be helpful in problem-solving.
  4. Improved memory: Writing down your experiences can help you remember them better.
  5. Greater creativity: Journaling can be a way for you to explore new ideas and generate new insights.
  6. Better goal setting and accomplishment: Journaling can help you clarify your goals and track your progress towards achieving them.
  7. Personal growth and development: Keeping a journal can allow you to reflect on your experiences and learn from them, leading to personal growth and development over time.

Lastly, keeping a journal can be a means for people to reflect on their experiences and learn from them, leading to personal growth and development through time.

Reading in a meadow
Photo by Ben White / Unsplash

I started keeping a journal at the start of the first lockdown at Corona and have continued doing so for the past three years.

I can no longer tell you the trigger why I downloaded the DayOne journaling app and started writing daily. The root cause is apparent: I had significantly more time than usual during the lockdown months because my weekly business trips were cancelled (I was 60.000km/yr on the road previously).

And I finally had time to resolve internal conflicts I'd been putting off for years.

During that period, I engaged in numerous self-improvement endeavours, such as improving my Health and Fitness, engaging in my long-desired passion projects and rebuilding my social network, stunted in the previous years because of too much work.

The benefits of journaling mentioned above have translated for me over the three years as follows:

  • Writing down what happened every day - whether in the morning, evening, or both - challenges me to confront myself and my time management. Time kept slipping through my fingertips. Keeping a journal helps me slow that down a little.
  • The same technique causes me to be more deliberate with my focus. Do I want to write in my journal that another day was wasted, or do I want to be able to record actual progress?
  • Due to the necessity of being explicit, writing helps clarify concerns. Thoughts are frequently abstract, hazy, and not fully developed in mind. Writing things down must result in a logical sequence with a helpful conclusion. This is excellent for problem-solving.
  • The journal facilitates emotional management. Grief cannot be cured by writing it down and pouring it into a journal, but it can be eased.
  • My app displays each day my entries from the same day in prior years. It's always good to see progress, but it's also beneficial to recognise alarming trends and vicious cycles. Sometimes, with distance, many issues appear less significant than they did. In addition, I have noticed for myself, for instance, that certain bad moods may result from the fall/winter weather. Such a correlation would never have occurred to me otherwise.

Last but not least, journaling is an excellent time to clarify the Next Steps and the plan for the day ahead and to record this information in bullet points succinctly. Once the activities are written down, they no longer require mental juggling.

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Photo by Prophsee Journals / Unsplash

Your journal does not have to consist only of long texts.

Film and television have influenced how people perceive keeping a diary. Unconsciously, one imagines a troubled adolescent scrawling in his book while sitting cross-legged on the bed.

But in reality, I have a different experience. My journaling is organised as follows:

  • Choosing a location or app to write your journal is the first step. It might be digital or analogue. It's a good idea to use note-taking apps like Evernote, Obsidian, or Roam if you already do. But for two reasons, I decided to utilise a different programme (DayOne). The first reason is that it contains unique diary features ("One Year Ago," "Templates," etc.), and the second reason is that I appreciate the concept of separating the diary content from my operational notes.
  • Adding journaling to your routine is the second step. I've made it a practice to write in my journal for 20 minutes every day after getting out of bed and before checking social media and the news.
  • Investigate your chosen writing procedure in step three. For me, it seems as follows: I first photograph myself (I have 3 years of daily pictures of this - Funny to see the change over time). (2) I browse through the photo archive for additional images from yesterday that I may share, (3) I review identical-day posts from earlier years, and (4) I use guiding questions to write in my journal (see below).
  • The fourth step is realising that keeping a journal doesn't need you to type out lengthy essays. Short voice memos to yourself, pictures taken with your phone camera, or scribbles made on an iPad can all be intriguing additions.

A dedicated diary app, such as DayOne, allows you to record additional information, such as the day's forecast, schedule, and whereabouts.

My favourite journaling app is

Guiding questions: Don't make it too complicated - you only need to think in three horizons.

In reality, you need to consider only three time horizons when journaling, despite the common belief that you need to answer a million different prompts each time.

  • Past: What happened yesterday/the past week
  • Present: How am I? What do I feel? What are my most pressing struggles and things I'm grateful for?
  • Future: What are my plans for tomorrow / next week / next month?

If you prefer more sophisticated prompts, use these:


  • What did I learn from my past experiences?
  • How did my past experiences shape me into who I am today?
  • What do I wish I had done differently in the past?


  • What am I currently struggling with?
  • What am I grateful for in my current situation?
  • What steps can I take to improve my current circumstances?


  • What are my short-term and long-term goals?
  • How can I work towards achieving those goals?
  • What can I do today to move closer to my future aspirations?

By focusing on these three-time horizons, you'll gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your life and make meaningful progress towards your goals. Give it a try and see for yourself!

If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.
A good book to start the day
Photo by Callum Shaw / Unsplash


In conclusion, I cannot stress the importance of keeping a journal enough. I wasn't sure at first if it would be helpful to put my inner monologue and personal reflections down on paper. But as I've been at it for the past three years, I've discovered that writing has many positive effects on one's life.

It's an excellent essential tool for mental health. Writing has helped me deal with stress and worry by allowing me to examine and make sense of my inner experience. Moreover, by recording my thoughts and feelings in a notebook, I've gained a more profound comprehension of my motivations, values, and worldview.

My problem-solving abilities improved, which is a significant plus. Putting my ideas and feelings on paper has been an enormous help in finding solutions to issues I've been having.

In addition, I've found that keeping a notebook is a fantastic way to foster my imagination. It allows me to think freely and come up with original concepts. Keeping a journal has also assisted me in defining my objectives and monitoring my development towards them.

Finally, writing in a journal has helped me gain insight into myself and improve over time. This has been a way to finally deal with deep-seated issues that have been building up for years. In addition, I've discovered that reading my old entries is a great way to reflect on my development and identify trends in my life. Keeping a notebook can significantly aid insight into oneself and future planning.

The advantages above have significantly impacted my quality of life, and I couldn't be happier about my decision to start the journaling practice.

Feel free to add your tips and thoughts to this page's comment section, Twitter or LinkedIn!

Best regards,
-- Martin from