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How to close out a full journal

Updated on September 3, 2015

You've filled a whole journal! Now what?

If you're just writing and filling, then you can just start a new one and keep going! But if you're interested in finding information and looking back over old entries, then there's some other things you can do when you reach the end of your pages, and before you move on to your next notebook.

Make an Index

Indexes make it SO MUCH EASIER to find things! On the last few pages, or on a few pages you can add into the back of the book, or in a separate notebook that's just for indexes, do the following:

  • Make a list of all the topics you cover in your journal--be general, to make it simpler: "braindump" rather than every thing on that list, or "venting" rather than all the subjects of those vents.
  • Decide on how you'll index--This can be as simple as just listing page numbers after the topic, or as complicated as a reference book's, with subcategories and everything. I usually list the topics down one side of the page, and then put a mark on the edge of the entry's page lined up with the topic list so that I can just look at the edge of the book and see what's where.
  • Test your index, and make modifications for the next book--or ditch it all together, or come up with some other way of noting where things are, if indexing doesn't work. Maybe tabs are your thing, or folded corners, or whatever.

This is your book, so your method should suit you!

Move or copy things you'll need in your next book

If you have phone numbers or addresses, quotes or prayers or inspirations, lists of things you'll need to reference later--basically any sort of information that you'll need regularly, move that to your next book.

  • You can copy it directly--copying things multiple times is often useful for setting that information better in your memory...but it can open things up to transcription errors. Also, after a while, you might wind up with many many pages of transcribed stuff before you even get to your new entries!
  • You can just tear out the page and move it forward--quick and no-fuss, but it can make the old book less sturdy and prone to falling apart later.
  • You can make permanent copies on loose page or cards, and move them forward each time--one fuss to get ongoing use out of the information, but you might need something to make sure they don't fall out of your notebooks when you move them around, a pocket or an envelope glued in or a paperclip to hold it in place somewhere.
  • You can move the still-useful information to a separate book that holds everything under that theme--organized, but could lead to hundreds of in-process notebooks.
  • You can move it to your computer or some other electronic way of storing and accessing the info.

Evaluate your journey

When the book is full, you have a record of what you've been doing and thinking about for the span of that book. For me, a composition book is filled every one to three months; for others, one book will last a week or a year. It depends on what you're using the book for and how often you update it. But once it's done, you can look at the big picture of your life.

  • What were the things that kept coming up? Is there any insight you can give yourself from looking back?
  • What progress have you made in any of your projects, personal or public? Did you realize how much progress you'd made before you looked back?
  • What can you expect looking forward?
  • What went well and what came out differently from your plans?
  • What have you learned about yourself, your goals, your work, and your life in this time?
  • Which goals and plans need re-evaluation, and how will you make them now? How will you enact these goals and plans?
  • What aspects of your life have you been paying too much attention to? Not enough attention to? What will you do about it?

Evaluate your process

  • Which parts of how you kept your journal did you really enjoy, and will keep doing in the next notebook?
  • What did you get from them?
  • What parts of how you kept it didn't work? Why? What will you do instead?
  • Are there any new techniques you've read about or seen or heard about that you'd like to try out? (NOTE: It's often fun to go online every few months and look for new ways of doing things, and keep a note of the ways you discover)
  • How did the various things you were keeping track of interact and overlap? Is there a way you can personalize or simplify your process?
  • Is there a way you can modify one of your processes to be easier or more inclusive of what you're trying to do?
  • Do you need to spend more or less time worrying about this stuff next notebook? How can you make that work?

Decide what you're going to do with your filled journal

Will you name it? Date it? Keep it somewhere specific?

I do all of the above, but I know people who don't do any of that. It's up to you what works for you. Here's my process:

I number all my notebooks as I start them, and as the time in their pages plays out, I look for a short quote or word or concept that speaks to me as a name for that particular notebook; not all of them get named, but most do. I put that name on the cover somewhere.

When they're full, and I've done all the shifting and evaluating, I put the From____to____ dates on the cover or on the top edge or the spine somewhere.

Then I put it next to the last notebook on a shelf, as if it's another book--because, essentially, it is. It's a record of what I did and thought and felt and wanted to talk about over the course of the time between the cover and the cover. It's satisfying, to me, to see proof that I lived and did things during that time, and to see the shelf getting more and more full as I fill notebooks and make progress and improve my life.

How do you use your notebooks? How will you use them when they're full?


Submit a Comment

  • B. Leekley profile image

    Brian Leekley 2 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

    I'm impressed that you use journaling for self-development, as described under "Evaluate your journey." Now I'm considering trying journaling.

  • greenmind profile image

    GreenMind 2 years ago from USA

    Hey I'm big on journaling and I totally identify with this hub. Really nice thoughts.