But it didn't stick. Some days I'd forget to bring it with me, other days I'd get too busy to spend the time to write. I recognized the importance of regular reflection & planning, but I couldn't always get it to work for me.
Then I tried a digital journal.
The app was simple - every day (or week), I'd receive a notification in my email inbox encouraging me to reply.
I'd add a response over email. It was super simple to use, and the habit stuck!
This made me realize that digital journals have massive benefits, especially if you need help establishing the habit.
In the rest of this post, I'm going to share a list of the best digital journals or journaling apps that you can use to kickstart a regular habit of reflection & planning.
ClickUp is a powerful productivity platform designed to manage everything—tasks, goals, ideas, roadmaps, notes, and even your entire workflow, all on a single screen. Whether you're new to bullet journaling or simply looking for a reliable app to reflect on your personal growth, ClickUp is packed with hundreds of intuitive features to enhance your creativity in and outside of work.
Maintaining the practice of regular journaling can be difficult without the proper tools to hold yourself accountable, and ClickUp's unique organizational Hierarchy is ideal for cultivating that healthy habit. When it comes to bullet journaling, ClickUp's private Lists, tasks, subtasks, and Checklists can break down any idea into a clear structure, while Custom Statuses and its Goals feature help you track your progress every step of the way.
Also among ClickUp's list of reliable features is a dynamic document editor for all other personal journaling needs. ClickUp Docs are connected directly to your Workspace so you can easily open, update, and capture ideas at any time. And since all of your Docs are automatically saved in ClickUp, you can easily manage or refer back to your journal entries via a simple link or tags—even from your mobile device.
ClickUp Docs make digital journaling convenient and enjoyable with customizable features including:
Cost: Free Forever to access ClickUp Docs and other powerful digital journaling features. Gain access to additional productivity tools with paid plans starting at $5 per month.
The Five Minute Journal app is based off the bestselling physical journal. In the morning you receive specific prompts on your iPhone/iPad or Android such as:
Then in the evening, you can answer questions like:
Additionally, you can add a photo to your post and you'll receive a daily quote that you can share on social media. This is an effective structure and covers the key aspects of journaling. It's ideal for beginners who are trying to build a regular habit of journaling, but if you're looking to customize entries, prompts, and the cadence; you may need to look elsewhere.
Day One is a personal journaling app that is available across the entire iOS ecosystem (including iPads and a Mac app) and Android. This app is much more free-form than structured apps like Friday or the Five Minute Journal; it's a bit more like an open-ended digital diary.
There's quite a few useful features you may like in Day One:
You can see more in this video review below:
The only downside to Day One is that it's open-ended, so you will need to come up with your own journaling prompts. For beginners, staring at an empty page can be intimidating.
Next up, we have Penzu, one of the earliest digital journaling apps available (founded in 2008!). Penzu is very similar to Day One, as it's more of a freeform diary app vs. being a structured journal. It boasts more than 2 million users.
Penzu offers a free version, and two paid offerings. The free plan offers unlimited entries, access to mobile apps, and basic font options. Yes, the reminders are included in the free plan.
Unfortunately, the app seems to have lost a bit of its luster over the past couple of years - it looks like only one founder is still working on the project (see LinkedIn company page). The app currently has a 4.3 star rating on the iTunes store and 4.3 stars on the Play store.
The paid offerings have features like:
Friday might be an interesting alternative worth considering.
As I mentioned in the beginning of the article, I used to use Ohlife before it shut down. Dabble.me is the closest alternative I've found to the email-based journaling method. As I mentioned before, this app delivers an email on a regular interval. All you need to do is reply via email. You can see in the screenshot below, it will also show a past update:
If you live in your email inbox, this is worth a second look. The free plan offers restricted functionality, like the email notifications are sent every other week.
The paid offering unlocks the following features, such as:
If you are looking for a simple way to start journaling, Dabble.me is worth a look, or you could consider an alternative.
Daybook is another journaling app similar to Day One or Penzu. The user experience is extremely minimal (see example below), but it bills itself as a free cloud-based journaling app.
Journey is the new kid on the block and appears to be the most popular regular journaling app in this list, with over 65,000 reviews on the Google Play store and nearly 2,000 reviews on iTunes. Once again, it's pretty similar to Penzu and Day One, but it looks like Journey is a newer, more up-to-date version work exploring.
Similar to other apps, the free plan offers basic journaling capabilities, but you will need to upgrade to access advanced functionality like:
This pricing isn't obvious from their website, which is a little disappointing and a bit sketchy. With that being said, they seem to have many happy users.
P.S. - if you're looking for an alternative to Journey.cloud, we might be able to help.
Ok, here's an interesting pick. Daylio: a "micro diary and mood tracker." I've been using it for a couple weeks and have found it to be an interesting alternative to the traditional journaling apps.
Unlike traditional journaling apps, you are prompted to journal with "labels" and short snippets of text vs. being a pure "writing" app. You also share your general mood/sentiment on a regular basis.
This breaks down the barriers to journaling because it's so easy to use. This app boasts a crazy number of reviews on the Google play store - over 250k! Additionally, the iOS app has over 20k reviews.
The free plan restricts certain feature and is ad-supported. The premium plan offers the following functionality:
Overall, I really like the approach Daylio is taking, especially for people who are looking for a new digital journal app. With that being said, I think there is immense power to spending some time writing things down in a structured way. Sentiment tracking is only one piece of the puzzle.
This is called 750 Words and it's based on morning pages from the book, The Artist's Way. The general theme is that you should write in a stream of consciousness. The process can be therapeutic. 750 words will keep track of your word count, sentiment, and how frequently you write, which can be helpful to know.
You can see a bit more of the user experience from this video:
If you are a writer or someone who wants to write more often (like me), you should check this out. If you are a beginner, this habit takes quite a bit of effort to stick.
If you're a visual thinker and you need more than a text-only journaling system, take a look at GoodNotes. A stand-out feature to GoodNotes is how flexible it is. You can quickly take notes with shapes, different highlight colors, and even in your handwriting. Customize the flow of the pen.
Create shapes, move them, stretch them.
Even add photos to your day's events.
It works as a Mac app, on your iPhone, or iPad.
Others use it like a digital bullet journal system, and its flexibility makes it easy to do so. Because of its wide-open format and design, it positions itself both as an Evernote alternative and a digital journaling app.
It's simple to do both, especially with their Notebook feature, which is essentially a filing system. There are different canvasses, including a blank page or grid-style. Can more than 4.8 stars with 17,000+ reviews be wrong?
Momento is an app where you can capture everything that you do in your life. It’s a multi-purpose private journal that can benefit you as a personal life journal, a work journal for keeping track of your tasks, and much more. Memento has many different templates that you can choose from, depending on what you want to journal.
This app is available for all iOS devices on the App Store and was even awarded App of the Year Runner Up in 2011.
Some cool features Momento has includes:
Overall, Momento is a great app to “capture everything in the moment”. Due to its ability to sync with your social media, you’ll be able to bring in all your different activities and updates all in one app.
Cost: Free for basic version, Premium monthly subscription is $2.49
Grid Diary is a combination of keeping a diary while also incorporating planner features to help keep you on track when writing about your day. You have many different prompts you can choose from to help guide you through your journaling process. Spend less time worrying about what to write, and spend more time getting into the habit of reflection and insight.
Grid Diary includes the following features, such as:
Diaro is a journaling/diary app that allows you to organize your entries in ways that make sense for you. You can organize them by date, add tags to the entries, set a location, and even place them in different folders.
Some great features Diaro includes are:
Cost: Free, $2.99-9.99/month/per item
When looking for a digital journal application, here are some features you may want to consider:
User-friendly interface: Look for an application with a clean and intuitive interface that makes it easy to create and organize entries.
Security: A digital journal can contain personal information that you may not want others to see. Therefore, make sure the application has appropriate security measures, such as password protection or encryption.
Customization: The ability to customize your journal entries can make them more enjoyable to create and review. Look for an application that allows you to choose from different fonts, colors, and backgrounds.
Search and tag functions: Being able to search for and tag entries can make it easier to find specific information or themes in your journal.
Integration with other applications: If you're looking for a journal app to help you with project management, you may want to consider a tool with multiple integration capabilities.
Online sync and backup: Check if your digital journal app offers a way to back up and export your journal entries which can be accessed from multiple devices
Some digital journal applications offer additional features, such as the ability to add photos, and voice memos, or integrate with other apps. Consider other additional features that you may need.
In conclusion, there are a ton of various journal apps to choose from. We recommend focusing on establishing the habit first - the various features won't make a huge difference if you don't make journaling a regular habit.
That's why you should try ClickUp (get started for free). It is the only fully customizable tool available, which means that you can mold the software to fit your needs instead of trying to create new behaviors that confirm how the app functions.