What is the difference between a journal, diary or planner? Many people use these terms interchangeably, but are they really the same?
The words for journal, diary and planner imply that there are differences in the meaning and use of these items. In short, a diary is normally used to log daily events, while a journal can be scribbles relating to many random things. A planner is used for planning ahead for the next day, week or month. Let’s look at each of these in more detail to determine if there is a difference between a journal, diary or planner.
What is a diary?
The word diary comes from the Latin word “darium”, which can be translated to daily allowance. This is an accurate description as a diary contains information about your daily life. The practice of keeping a diary started hundreds of years ago. One of the earliest diaries belonged to Samuel Pepys. Samuel Pepys kept a diary of events such as the Great Fire of London, the Great Plague of London and the Second Dutch War. His diary also included personal insights and accounts of these events, making it an invaluable source of information about these events.
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Many diarists confide to their diary in the same manner they would to a best friend. One of the best-known diarists, Anne Frank, called her diary Kitty and wrote in her diary as if she was telling her friend, Kitty, all her secrets.
A diary can be used as a daily log of experiences. Diary entries are normally done chronologically. To use a diary optimally, daily entries is best, but this is a habit that requires significant self-discipline. A diary entry should focus on events by considering the following pointers:
- what happened,
- who was involved,
- how did it happen and how did it make me feel,
- where did it happen and
- when did it happen?
Diaries are used to remember important personal events, but the focus is usually more on internal perceptions and feelings. Diary entries can be long or short, depending on busy a day was. Many people start their diary in the order their day unfolded, for example, they first write about their mornings, then afternoons and finish with their evenings. Other people only record the most important events or feelings of a day. A diary entry is similar to a newspaper report on an event, except it covers a day in your life! Diarists often complete their daily diary entry at the end of the day or the next morning.
I’ve kept a diary since I was 11. It’s a way of taking stock, almost meditative, trying to make sense of stuff because life is chaotic.
Richard E Grant
Keeping a diary is a simple practice and requires no special skills. Since you are the only intended reader, you need to make sure you can read your handwriting. Many people keep a diary to
Many online diary facilities exist – here are some examples:
What is a planner?
Planners are tools for planning ahead. They are tools to organize your life. Most planners come with calendars, months, weeks and days – sometimes even hours for each day. The intention of a planner is to keep track of appointments and to make planning of tasks easier. Planners help people be more productive since they plan their daily lives. A planner can help you prioritize, plan and execute. Two of the most famous planners are the Happy Planner or the Passion Planner.
I’m a planner, an organizer. I write things down because you can visually check them off and see progress. Writing things down is a lost art. I’ve got sticky notes all over my apartment.
Planners come in a range of sizes and layouts. Some cover an entire calendar year (January to December), others are focused on academic years (August to August). The layouts of planners can be a daily, weekly, monthly or annual layout.
There is a planning community focusing on decorating planners with stickers and Washi tape. Decorative journaling is a passion for many people who like pretty and productive planners.
Online planning facilities are available and include:
What is a journal?
A journal is more creative than diaries and planners. Journals are empty notebooks that the owner can customize and use to their own liking. Journals are not focused on any specific topic and often cover multiple topics. A journal is not linked to a specific time period and can be used over several years. Journalists use their journals on and off and don’t have a specific schedule as with a diary or planner.
The starting point of discovering who you are, your gifts, your talents, your dreams, is being comfortable with yourself. Spend time alone. Write in a journal.
A journal can include a variety of items, such as ideas, memories, doodles. It can also contain drawings, clippings from magazines and quotes. People also use their journals for beautiful lyrics, inspirational quotes or pretty items they come across in their daily lives.
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There are so many different types of journals. Some examples of journals include:
- Some people use their journals for goal-setting. This involves deciding on an overarching goal and then breaking it down into small and manageable steps. From here the steps can be transferred to a planner where they are scheduled for a specific day, week or month.
- Another use for journals is travel journaling. This is a fun way to take note of all the sights you visit when travelling, what you experienced and ate at a specific destination. What makes it even more fun is adding tickets, brochures, sketches and photos from your travels.
- A dream journal is used to write about your nightly dreams whenever you have a memorable dream.
- Other journals that exist include a gratitude journal and a gardening journal.
- You can also do a food journal or workout journal.
- One of my favorite journal ideas is a recipe journal where you can track what recipes you cook daily.
If you like the idea of journaling but are not sure what to journal about, there are many different types of journal prompts to inspire you to get writing. Journaling can serve many purposes and can be therapeutic. There are even courses on journaling as it is a skill that can be learned and improved to maximise the benefit of journaling.
Online journal facilities exist as well. Some examples of online journaling tools are the following:
What is a bullet journal?
For me a bullet journal is a combination of a diary, planner and a journal. A bullet journal can be done in any blank notebook. The owner can decide on their own spreads and may include a calendar and monthly or weekly plans. A bullet journal can include collections that include daily logs, habit trackers, doodles and different types of lists. A bullet journal is a creative planner and can be customized to the owner’s own preferences. There is a methodology for bullet journaling based on a system developed by Ryder Carroll.
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Is there really a difference between a diary, planner and journal?
Based on the purpose and uses discussed above, there is a difference between a diary, planner and journal. There are also overlap between these concepts and nowadays people tend to combine their diary, planner and journal in a variety of ways. Some people combine a diary and a journal by combining a recording of events in their daily lives with notes, quotes and scribbles. Other people combine their planner and journal by having a weekly or monthly calendar with notes and sketches. ven the online apps that are available for diaries and journals are often the same, while planner apps also allow for note taking and lists. The possibilities are endless and should really be individual-specific.
The most important thing is that writing and recording your life, feelings and plans for the future is important in living optimally. Writing about your day, your plans and your future helps with stress relieve and setting and meeting goals. Writing is good for your overall wellness.