How to Write a Reflective Journal with Tips and Examples
A self-reflective journal helps you to create your life with intention.
Photo by Pepe Reyes on Unsplash

What is a Reflective Journal?

A reflective journal is a place to write down your daily reflection entries. It can be something good or bad that has happened to you that you can self-reflect on and learn from past experiences.

A reflective journal can help you to identify important learning events that had happened in your life. The events include your relationships, careers and personal life. By writing a reflective diary, you can find the source of your inspiration that defines you today. A reflective journal also provides a better understanding of your thought process.

Reasons to Write a Reflective Journal

  1. To understand the things that have happened.
  2. To reflect on why it happened this way.
  3. To align future actions with your values and lessons learned from your past experiences.
  4. To share and get your thoughts and ideas out of your head.
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How to Reflect Effectively

According to Schön, there are two types of reflection, one during and one after an activity or event.

Reflection In-Action

When you are thinking about or reflecting while you are in an activity, you are using reflection in-action. Some reflection include:

  • Experiencing
  • Thinking on your feet
  • Thinking about what to do next
  • Acting straight away

Reflection On-Action

You can do reflect-on-action once the activity has finished based on what you can remember about it. Step back into the experience, explore your memory and retrieve what you can recall. Reflect and understand what has happened and draw lessons from the experience.

  • Thinking about something that has happened
  • Thinking what you would do differently next time
  • Taking your time

Examples to Reflect Effectively

Flow chart of reflecting effectively from before to after the experience.

Before the Experience
  • Think about the things that could have happened.
  • What are the things that you feel might be a challenge?
  • The things that you can do to prepare for these experiences.

During the Experience
  • Observe what is happening at the moment, as you make a particular decision.
  • Is it working out as expected? Are you dealing with the challenges well?
  • Is there anything you should do, say or think to make the experience successful?

After the Experience
  • Describe your thoughts immediately after, and/or later when you have more emotional distance from the event.
  • Is there anything you would do differently before or during a similar event?
  • What are the takeaways from this experience/lesson?
Start your digital journal - download Journey app today!

How to Write Reflectively

Use the three "W"s to write reflectively. The three "W"s are What, So What and What next.

Reflective journal circular flow chart

What (Description)

Recall an event and write it down descriptively.

  • What happened?
  • Who was involved?

So what? (Interpretation)

Take a few minutes to reflect and interpret the event.

  • What is most important / interesting / relevant / useful aspect of the event, idea or situation?
  • How can it be explained?
  • How is it similar to/different from others?

What's next? (Outcome)

Conclude what you can learn from the event and how you can apply it next time.

  • What have I learned?
  • How can it be applied in the future?

Reflective Journal Prompts

Side view of young woman is writing in notebook.

Here are the 10 writing prompts to guide you in self-reflection and self-discovery.

  1. What makes you unique?
  2. Name someone that means a lot to you and why?
  3. Write a letter to your younger self.
  4. What is something you can do to focus more on your health and well-being?
  5. What makes you feel at peace?
  6. List 10 things that make you smile.
  7. What does it mean to live authentically?
  8. What is your favourite animal, and why?
  9. How do you maintain your physical/mental health? What can you do to improve the methods of recovery?
  10. List the things that you want to achieve this week.