Looking at a journal sitting next to a notebook on the shelf, it can be hard to tell them apart (and it doesn't help that some notebooks call themselves 'journals', just to confuse matters). On the surface, they're basically the same, but when it comes to deciding which one you want, it's what's inside that counts.

 

What's a notebook?

At its simplest, a notebook is just a bundle of pages stuck together. There are a bunch of different sizes, and you can choose the layout that suits you, but when you get right down to it, a notebook is all about possibilities. A notebook gives you all the freedom that comes with a blank page, a notebook invites you to fill it up however you see fit.

Ruled notebooks are perfect for writing prose, so if you're working on the first draft of your novel, that's the one for you. Plain notebooks give you an unrestricted space that's a great home for artistic endeavours like sketching or illustrating, while grid notebooks are the layout of choice for product designers. And then there's dot grid, with a balanced layout that's both freeform and gently structured, which is why bullet journalers love it.

Maybe you'll explore your creativity, handwriting the first draft of your screenplay or sketching some new character designs. Or maybe you have something more practical in mind – recording minutes from your meetings, or keeping your to-do list up to date. A notebook has no boundaries beyond the edges of the page, and that can either be freeing or paralysing depending on how you look at it. Journals, on the other hand, have a little more structure, and that's what really sets them apart.

 

What's a journal?

Essentially, a journal is a notebook with a goal in mind. It trades the endless possibilities of a notebook for a format that directs you, giving you prompts and guidelines to get your brain focused on what matters to you.

Because journals are designed with a purpose in mind, there are plenty of options to help you do everything from setting goals to sharing family recipes. And if you just can't find the journal you're after, you can always make your own!

The most common journals are simple daily reflections, like diary entries that you write at the end of each day. You can focus your journal on a theme, like a record of your kids' young lives or a log of how a creative project is going, or just jot down the events of the day. There are plenty of benefits to journaling, from fostering good mental health to sharpening your skills as a writer, but the quiet act of taking the time to check in with yourself is a reward in itself. An undated diary like this one from Studio Milligram gives you a daily view to help you keep up with your regular reflections, or try the Undated Diary Refill to make your Traveler's Notebook even more useful.

Traveler's Notebook Undated Diary Refill, shown open with grid pages on display. At the top is a grey bar for the date.

The Traveler's Notebook is the Swiss Army Knife of journals

 

Those handwritten journals can also act as a time capsule, so you (or even your loved ones) can look back on a period of your life and experience it in a whole new way. Imagine your kids, all grown up, looking back on the Raising You journal that you'd filled in through their childhood, reliving those memories captured in your unique handwriting – what a wonderful moment that would be. Or you can honour your older relatives and carry on the cooking traditions that bind your family together by writing them down on paper. Spend a day with the family chef, and preserve their recipes for posterity (maybe even in their own handwriting) in a Cook Life Journal so future generations can look on those lovingly-written instructions and keep those traditions alive.

A Studio Milligram Cook Life Journal with a handwritten recipe for mushroom and pancetta pasta

What family recipes would you want to remember?

 

If your regular reflections have you wanting to make some changes in your life, MiGoals specialises in achievement-focused journals that can help you build better habits. Their Progress Journal, for example, is designed to keep you focused on the progress you've made so you can chip away at your goals over time, and reevaluate your strategies as you go. The Gratitude Journal works in a similar way to help reframe your thinking, and focus on the positives that can sometimes be hard to keep in mind.

A look inside MiGoals' Progress Journal, with the daily view inviting you to consider your goals, your daily priorities, and what you're grateful for

A look inside MiGoals' Progress Journal, which invites you to consider your goals, your daily priorities, and what you're grateful for

 

Which is right for me?

Notebooks offer total freedom, making them a great creative companion. Even if you're just going to write shopping lists or interesting phrases you come across, you're the one who gets to decide how you use your notebook. Check out our range of notebooks to get started.

If you want a little help or guidance, take a look at our range of journals to support you along the way. And if the journal you're looking for doesn't exist yet, create it! Grab Ryder Carroll's original book, The Bullet Journal Method, and build a journal customised to what you want with his expert advice.

And if you're still not sure, chat to some of our expert staff in store, or drop us a line and we'll help you find the right one for you.