Digital vs Paper Journaling

Digital Vs Paper Journaling

Are you stuck between traditional paper and digital technology? Which option is the best one for a long-term journaling habit? Paper-based or digital-based?

While some might prefer the comfort of traditional paper and pen to express themselves creatively while others might prefer the handy digital apps with numerous features and privacy options to maintain their journal.

This might seem like an overwhelming first step on your journey to creating a good journaling habit and you are in the right place to decide! Let’s dive deep into the various aspects of both types of journaling!

Paper Journaling:

To all those who grew up before the digital age, we must have years of fond memories of writing in notebooks and paper. 

“Many studies suggest that the pen is mightier than the keyboard”

So let’s quickly analyze the various benefits of Paper-based Journaling

  • Improved information processing and memory: In a study, students who took notes by hand had better recall of information which proves that paper-based journaling helps with deeper information processing.
  • Improved Focus: A study in “Applied Cognitive Psychology” proves that participants using pen and paper were less susceptible to distractions when compared to those using laptops. This means that paper-based journaling offers more focused and mindful writing.
  • Better Creative Expression: Some studies have shown an interesting link between handwriting and creative expression. It is said that the act of writing on paper can improve our creative self-expression as it activates different parts of our brains. This means you can be more creative in paper-based journaling.
  • Paper-based journaling experience: Paper-based journaling experience can be grounding & calming. It promotes mindfulness and focus. We live in a hyper-connected world and being able to disconnect and introspect is essential for journaling.
  • Personalization: With paper journals, the possibilities are infinite. You get to personalize your journal with decorations, stickers and endless symbols and drawings based on your mood. Think about it as an ultimate self-expression tool!

Digital Journaling:

Now let’s discuss the various benefits of using digital journals. I have to confess, I prefer digital journals over physical ones despite the various amazing benefits they provide.

Let’s see why:


The most important reason we journal is to be true to ourselves and to express our deepest fears, desires, imperfections, and mistakes. 

If we need to be 100% transparent in our journals without any censorship, we need to make sure it’s absolutely private and no one can access and read it. Right? 

With physical journals, there’s always a chance that someone would get their hands on it. So I believe digital journals have the best privacy for us to be completely transparent.

Accessibility and Convenience:

Our phones are our digital journals basically. So we get to carry our digital journals with us everywhere which makes digital journaling more accessible and convenient.

Personally, I love journaling on the way to work or the gym so the time spent in the commute doesn’t go to waste.

Other benefits of digital journaling:

  • Better organization and editing options: This might not be very appealing for journaling beginners but journals usually offer better organization and editing features. For instance, I have separate files for gratitude journaling, and self-reflection journaling with prompts loaded in them. This helps me see my progress over time and set benchmarks and goals for different aspects of my life. 
  • Leverage Gamification: With digital journals, we can leverage Gamification elements like streaks, milestones, achievements, leaderboards, and point systems to make the process more interesting. This will help better with habit formation
  • Journal analysis and more: As technology improves, we get more and more analysis features that can provide insights based on our journaling data. Let’s see where AI and technological developments take us with time. 
  • Collaborative journals: With digital journals, you can easily collaborate with your partner, best friend, or a journaling or accountability buddy. Makes sense right? 
  • Possibility of AR integration: The future of journaling with technology has endless possibilities. The possible integration of AR could create a richer and more immersive experience of life.

Finding the right fit – Importance of Personal Preference:

Despite all the points mentioned here, at the end of it all, personal preference matters the most. Go through the questions below and understand your personal preference for this matter.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • What is your journaling goal?
    • Your goal could determine which features you’d prefer. 
  • What sensory experience resonates with you?
    • Like writing with a pen? Go for physical journals
    • Prefer typing? Go for digital journals then.
  • How organized are you?
    • If you are very organized, then digital journals would be like Disney land for you.
    • If you aren’t organized, then physical journals would work better for you. 
  • How private do you want your entries to be?
    • Now privacy can mean two things: Privacy from your family, friends, and other people in your life or the idea of “digital privacy”
    • If you want privacy from friends and family, then use digital journaling.
    • If you are worried about digital privacy, then use physical journaling.
  • How much time do you realistically have to dedicate to journaling?
    • If you are a busy person with very little time to spend on journaling, then digital journaling is the best option for you. 
    • If not, you can go for physical journaling.

The Hybrid Approach – The Future of Journaling:

A hybrid approach, wait what? How does that even work?

But think about it, wouldn’t you want to combine the benefits of both physical and digital journals? 

There are two scientific backings to support hybrid journaling:

  • Dual Coding Theory: This theory suggests that combining visual and verbal cues can improve memory and learning. This is what the hybrid method offers.
  • Fragmented Mind Hypothesis: The type of media used would determine how our brains would process the information. This would mean, a hybrid approach is preferred over paper or digital journals.

“The hybrid approach allows for personalization. Some people might find paper journaling better for emotional processing while using digital tools for brainstorming or tracking specific goals.”

Dr. Meredith Brusco

Benefits of Hybrid Approach:

  • Multisensory Experience: With the hybrid approach, we can combine voice recordings, drawings, and written and typed content together. This multisensory experience helps better with emotional processing.
  • Biohacking journaling future: With the rapid growth of technology, you should soon be able to track your moods digitally while you journal on paper, and integrating both could lead to endless possibilities. Combining biological signals with 
  • Finding a balance between Technology and Physical journals: Technology in itself causes many distractions and stress in our lives. So to reduce the reliance on technology, a hybrid approach would be perfect.

“The multimodal nature of hybrid journaling could be particularly beneficial for stimulating divergent thinking and fostering creative problem-solving.”

Dr. Michael Graziano, a neuroscienist

Challenges of the Hybrid Approach:

  • Integration Issue: Having to juggle between physical and digital journals can be hard to organize and integrate together. 
  • Intentionality and Balance: Integrating both methods can be challenging and requires intentionality and balance to avoid feeling overwhelmed.
  • Overloaded choices & Information: People don’t fare well with choices and a hybrid approach will come with a lot of choices and options that could easily overwhelm and demotivate people.

Power of Haptic Technology and Haptic Feedback:

Haptic technology allows us to get the perception of a physical journal using digital pens. Many studies have shown that haptic feedback gives similar memory, learning, and processing abilities as paper-based journaling.

Many of us might be doubtful about this and think, it’s an unnecessary waste of time/investment trying to use digital pens on our phones to create an illusion of physical writing on pens that we are used to!

So yes there are some challenges to adopting and integrating haptic feedback for our journaling habit. So yes, there are challenges here but with some more advancements in technology, I believe haptics could be an amazing tool for hybrid journaling. 

Related Articles About Journaling:

Digital vs Paper Journaling Overall Table:

FeaturePaper JournalingDigital Journaling
ExperienceTactile, sensory, groundingClean, accessible, portable
OrganizationLimited (unless using bullet journaling or similar methods)Powerful search functions, tagging, easy categorization
PrivacyHighly private (unless shared physically)Privacy depends on app security
CostVaries depending on notebook qualityCan be free (with ads) or require subscriptions
CreativityEncourages artistic expression (drawing, collaging)Can integrate multimedia (photos, audio recordings)
BackupVulnerable to loss or damageEasy backups to cloud storage
AccessibilityNot always readily availableAccessible from anywhere with a device
Focus Less distractingPotential for distractions (notifications)
Long-termMaybe less distractingDigital record may require future migration

Suggested Apps for Digital Journaling:

Day One: 

This app is great for capturing daily reflections and memories. It has a clean and simple interface, and you can add photos, videos, and audio recordings to your entries.


This app is similar to Day One, but it also has some social features, such as the ability to share your entries with friends and family (with privacy controls, of course).


This app is a good option for people who are looking for a secure journaling app. Penzu uses military-grade encryption to protect your entries, and you can also set a PIN or password to lock the app.


This app is a more versatile option that can be used for journaling, task management, and more. It has a lot of features, so it might be a bit overwhelming for some people, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for an all-in-one app.

Grid Diary: 

This app is a combination of a diary and a planner. It has a calendar interface that allows you to view your entries by day, week, or month. You can also add photos, videos, and audio recordings to your entries.

Suggested methods for Paper Journaling:

Physical journaling has endless possibilities and methods. I would recommend you start freely and just focus on expressing your entire thoughts and emotions there.

 Here are some other recommendations:

Art Journaling: 

  • If you are into expressing yourself visually you can consider Art Journaling.
  • Consider creating a mindmap of your general thoughts and emotions so you understand yourself better.

A separate physical journal for Gratitude:

  • If you manage to maintain a gratitude journal for a year, you can look back and understand everything that makes you happy on a day-to-day basis.

Quote section in your Physical Journal:

  • Have a few pages at the end where you document inspiring quotes, poems, and phrases from books you read or just the ones you come across. 
  • This will work as a great affirmation section to find motivation and belief whenever we feel low.

Section of Journal for Habit Tracking:

  • Journals are an amazing space to explore and track your habits!

Value and Goal Mapping:

  • I am a strong believer in the fact that everyone needs to be aware of their values and goals.
  • Journals are a beautiful space to explore this side of yourself


Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *