Messy? Unproductive? Need to dismantle your privilege? There’s a guided journal for that

From tough love titles to budgeting manuals, guided journals are no longer the domain of niche and self-help publishers. Jenny Valentish puts some to the test.

The rise of the guided journal

Bianca Jafari is a product development executive at Thames and Hudson, focusing on gift products: puzzles, stationery, games, and, in the pipeline, guided journals.

She says journals are no longer just the domain of niche or self-help publishers. The bigger publishing houses are basing journals on their bestsellers, such as Michelle Obama’s Becoming: A Guided Journal for Discovering Your Voice (Penguin).

“Producing a guided journal is a no-brainer because they can use content that they already have,” says Jafari. “For example, the Michelle Obama journal is a big win for Penguin because they already own the images. They’ve already got data that says that the content is a bestseller. There’s already an audience that exists.”

Journals to clean up specific areas of your life

“Some journals are interest-based to help you practise a craft, like astrology, or manage your veganism or gardening,” says Jafari.

Since none of those are areas of concern for me, I unearthed some that are applicable to many of us as a new year begins.

Collective Hub, from Australian publisher Lisa Messenger, puts out books and journals aimed at entrepreneurs. Know Your Numbers is one such product. A chunky hardback that works hard for the money with budget templates, saving tips, start-up launch advice, and income tracking tables.

Several publishers offer journals dedicated to going alcohol-free, including Sober As F*** (based on Sarah Ordo’s memoir); the 90-day journal Dear Alcohol, I’m Breaking Up With You, and the Alcohol Experiment Journal, based on the bestselling book This Naked Mind by Annie Grace.

Goal-oriented journals

The line between habit-tracking books, such as bullet journals (which focus on to-do lists, logging completed tasks, and the steps towards achieving various-sized goals) and guided journals has blurred to near indistinction.

One such hybrid is the Australian creation The Resilience Agenda. A “mental fitness diary” that provides strategies for achieving said fitness; though your main task is to identify each day’s three top priorities to help you reach your goals.

James Clear’s bestselling Atomic Habits has been turned into the Clear Habit Journal. Adelaide United’s football club captain Stefan Mauk has created the Inner Game, to help athletes with goal monitoring and preparation.

I tried out Mindset. Reset, from Perth-based finance professional turned life coach Alisa Pettit. Promising to focus on “the non-fluff emotional stuff”, she’s delivered a generous amount of theory among the exercises. There’s still plenty of scribbling to do, and I find this the most productive journal yet.