How to Journal Everyday – Build a Hobonichi Habit

I can’t believe it’s been over a year since I’ve embarked on this journaling adventure with my Hobonichi. Every single page of my A6 English Planner was filled to the brim with doodles and writing. I couldn’t be happier.

How does she do it? 

Many of you might wonder how much time I spend each day journaling? How do I go about writing in each page and fitting in illustrations? In this post I’ll be breaking down my journaling process for you, and hopefuly it’ll be a motivation for you to start writing in your Hobonichi today!


The size of the Hobonichi Techo may seem small (A6), but on days when you don’t have the time or motivation to write, that gridded space could be pretty daunting. This realization is more apparent this year since I’ve switched to the A5 Cousin size Hobonichi. Moreover, I’ve challenged myself to make time and journal in those pages EVERY SINGLE DAY, because I know how lazy impulses can turn into two days or even weeks very fast. With the larger space of the Cousin, I would feel more guilty if I have to flip through blank pages. Then again, I don’t want to turn this into an assignment. Journaling is fun! This is definitely a time I look forward each day to play with my ‘toys’ (stationery, art supplies). The most important thing is to enjoy the journaling process and eventually it’ll become a habit.

Journaling is a time of reflection and enjoyment. It’s not a timed task where you’re rushing toward the deadline. 


Step 1: Setting up your journaling space

There’s a Chinese proverb that says: A workman must first sharpen his tools if he wishes to do his work well. I guess this speaks dearly to all of us stationery addicts’ heart (turns to look at my hoard of stationery items). You’ve bought all those stickers and pens and decorative washi tapes over the holiday, now put them to use!

On my desks are three party cups. They hold my pigment pens for doodling, fountain pens for writing, and colored markers and highlighters for coloring or lettering. If I don’t display all my pens on my desk, I’ll end up neglecting them for months. Having an assortment of pens to choose from allows me to play with variations in my journaling style.


It’s funny how journaling in the old days used to be just pen and paper. With the creative invention of Japanese stationery and talented illustrators out there, we have so so much more journaling accessories now. I recently moved all my collection of washi tapes into a clear plastic apartment (bought from the Container Store). The clear compartments makes it easier for me to pick out the washi I need, and so that I don’t neglect them as well. The colorful rolls also make a nice decorative item for my desk. In a multi-compartment medicine plastic box I store sticker flakes or pictures I cut out from magazines for collage purposes.


Other accessories I keep on the table are scissors (I bought a fancy one from toolstoliveby, because, you know, just because), tape runners, a Winsor and Newton watercolor palette, and an ink stamp (just in case I’m in the mood for stamping).

Finally, the most important item to have in your journaling space: YOUR HOBONICHI! I keep my Hobonichi Cousin on my desk all the time. Whenever there’s an impulse to write, it’ll be within reach!

Step 2: Find a comfortable time to write

My favorite time to journal is in the evening, usually after dinner or before I get ready for bed. Since my Hobonichi style is more of a journal log, I prefer to write the day’s events down before I forget them the next day. Since I’m also on this daily challenge to journal everyday in 2016, I would not be tempted by laziness and end up skipping a day. I know some friends who prefer to journal first thing in the morning, so she can reflect about yesterday’s events in an objective point of view.

Think of journaling as a relaxing leisure. You’re rewarding yourself to a moment in the day to play with your stationery and accessories. You are writing and creating and journaling pretty things. It’s a nice treat, and you don’t want to miss out on doing that each day. Put on some favorite music while you journal. Make a nice cup of coffee or tea. Reserve that time to put you (and your stationery) first!


Once you build up a routine of journaling, you’ll eventually develop your own style of writing. Journaling will come easier each day and take up less time. When I first started journaling, it took me 30 to 40 minutes each daily. Now I only need 20 minutes/day in my A5 Cousin! (excluding painting with watercolor, that is another artistic practice for me lol).

Introducing Penguin Creative’s (April’s) Hobonichi style 

If you are familiar with my Instagram feed (@penguinscreative), you might already notice my style of journaling consisted of four elements: DrawingsDecorations (washi tape and stickers), Writing, and Analogs (photos, movie tickets,..etc).

So, continuing with…

Step 3: Plant down the Big Picture: doodles or photos

How to navigate the beautiful grid space of a Hobonichi page? I always enjoy flipping through magazines and observing how text and pictures flow around each other. My favorite hobby would is doodling, so I would always start the page with some drawings or sketching. I would draw the highlights of my day: food, the places I visited, or something interesting I see. Sketches and doodles take priority in my journaling, so I’m not stingy with space. I’ll be using my pigment pens (Sakura Microns, Uni Pin fine-line, Uchida) with these drawings, so that I can color them in later. I’ll put in captions or bold headings around my drawings, making them the focus of the page.


Step 4: Frame your writing space with washi tape

I’m not that good a writer, and the thought of having to fill up the space of my Cousin daunts me sometimes. Therefore, my second phase would be decoration. I’ll pick washi tapes to fit the theme of the day, and use them to build up the borders or section up my page. My amazing instagram friends back in Taiwan are all super talented with creative washi bordering. They are artists, arranging stickers and washi strips as if they are putting together a vase of flower. I’ll add stickers to brighten up the page sometimes. Some of my favorite stickers are tiny illustrated figures from Korea, cute animals from Japan, and sticker flakes from Taiwanese illustrators.


Step 5: Write in your journal!

Writing is actually the best part of journaling. This is when you put down your thoughts, record the things that you did, jot down quick quotes, all with beautiful fountain pen ink! Another lavish rabbit hole stationery addicts must beware of are fountain pen and ink…I’ll get to that topic another day. Anyway, I’ll pick my preferred ink of the day and just dive in. I’ll fill up every space there is on my fully decorate page, making words flow around pictures and doodles. The end result is a filled page of happiness.



Oh, and to make my page look even fuller, I’ll doodle meaningless penguins. They exist for the sole purpose of dominating my journaling world.

Step 6: Add finishing touches

If I happen to have a museum ticket stub or a photo that I printed out with my Canon Selphy printer for that day , I’ll stick that into my page with washi tape. I’ll layer my analog item on top of my page so that I can flip it up to see what I written underneath. It’s a simple matter of saving space and bulking up your Hobonichi (who doesn’t want a fat Hobonichi by the end of the year?


What happens when you get Stuck?

There are always days when there’s nothing special to write about. This happens to me a lot since I’m back in graduate school and most of my days are filled with internship and evening classes. Especially on those exhausting days that there is the greatest temptation to delay the journaling to the next day. One of my greatest challenge is to just channel those last few minutes of energy into my Hobonichi before I fall into bed. Here are some ideas for those ‘stuck on a blank page’ days:

  • Write about your interests – I’d usually go into details about recipes or my meals. I would also note down favorite artists and their styles.
  • Draw your favorite things – I love following dogs and cats on Instagram and Facebook, and I would use this opportunity to draw them on my Hobonichi!
  • Find a good quote to take up space – Is there a certain song stuck in your head? write down the lyrics! I would often refer to “Word Porn” on Facebook to find really inspiring and lovely quotes.
  • Practice lettering – I wish I am better at lettering. While I can’t seem to grip my pens in an efficient way to make those beautiful variations in strokes, I can only practice and practice and practice…
  • Think about gratitude – Write about little things to be thankful each day. Write about your best friend, your family, something nice you encounter during the day. I love recording positive things in my journal.
  • Join the Hobonichi Challenge – a few Hobonichi enthusiast friends and I have started a Hobonichi challenge on Instagram. Here are the prompts for February and your an share them with us with the hashtag #hobonichichallenge



This pretty much sums up my Hobonichi experience so far! Hopefully this will help you in your Hobonichi journey in 2016~ Meanwhile, a complete flip through of my first month in the Cousin Hobonich is here in this video!

What are some of your styles? What’s your favorite way to journal! I would love to hear about them in the comments. Or, share them with me on Instagram by tagging #HobonichiHabit and #penguinscreative!

25 thoughts on “How to Journal Everyday – Build a Hobonichi Habit

  1. Laura says:

    Is a fab post, I have to say your Instagram feed gave me the final push to placing my order for one of the journals, a little late…given its now February but heck, better late than never! I need a new challenge and I think this will be good in a cathartic and creative way. Totally bookmarking your site!


  2. Mina says:

    I am in awe of your beautiful pages and how much variety each one has! Definitely saving this – you just gave me a new purpose in my journaling journey 🙂 Thank you!
    Oh! And I’ll be following you from now hence. Have a great weekend and, again, thanks for the tips! 🙂


  3. Dionne the Tea Priestess says:

    I have an A5 Hobonichi and last year I used it as a mandala journal and drew a new one every day but I found in just keeping that I missed *just* journaling. This year I went with an A5 again but was feeling kind of stuck around how to lay out the page in an interesting way rather than a laundry list of what I did. You’ve really got me thinking of making my pages more visually appealing for myself and using up the stickers I love to hoard!


  4. May says:

    i love your journaling styles. i also put analogs in my journal but i really wish i can doodle/sketch like you. i’m in love with your urban sketching on instagram. you’re a fantastic artist while i, on the other hand, cant really draw. it’s not natural for me because i dont draw in general and if i do, i have to search up a clipart image and draw it that way. i just got my midori TN not long ago and my bf just brought me a hobonichi. i definitely have options now to use whichever for journaling. i do think i will use my midori more of an scrapbook and hobo for journaling whenever i feel like jotting something down.


  5. rosegoldfoxblog says:

    I really loved this post ❤ I love the way you journal and how you decorate your pages so I was very happy to read your entry! I recently ordered my Hobonichi and am hoping to get it this week and start my own Hobonichi journey! I love reading your blog and hope you continue doing posts like these ❤

    Rosegold Fox


    • aprilwu72 says:

      I’m glad I could help! I know there’s this great magazine with lots of great arts and craft material, it’s called “Flow”. However, it’s not easy to find though…


    • aprilwu72 says:

      Are you referring to the beautiful night skyline washi tape? I have NO IDEA! This was given to me by a friend in a washi sample. I would love to get my hands on a physical roll myself!


  6. Shon says:

    Thanks so much for this post. I am trying to pick up the habit of Journaling everyday and your words have been immensely helpful. I plan to pick a Hobonichi to encourage that daily habit. It is lovely seeing your beautiful layouts.


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