8 Minutes

We all dread a bodily paralysis, and would make use of every contrivance to avoid it; but none of us is troubled about a paralysis of the soul. - Epictetus

I think journaling can be split into two catagories

  • Pretty Journaling
    • Neat and clean
    • Uses highlighters, rulers etc
    • Usually has todo lists and calendars etc that you draw
    • Usually too big to carry
  • Dirty Journal
    • Goal is to offer most of the benefit for as little effort as possible
    • Doesn't care about condition of writings etc
    • Quick and functional
    • Notepad should be pocket sized
    • Write with anything you can get your hands on, have preferences but anything will do, pencil, pen, marker, felt tip doesn't matter so long as it writes down information

I don't think one is better for everyone but I want journaling to be as quick and functional as possible.

Why Journal?

  • Memory
    • Human memory is dogshit hella bad and memories change over time 1 2
  • Understanding the self
    • Journaling is private self expression, expressing the self and reflecting upon it allows you to better 'see' the self and understand it
  • Reflection
    • Memories that never change offer greater chance for self reflection and insight
    • Reading through events after time has passed allows a better level of reflection
    • Allows you to see more progress, changes happen bit by bit but looking back at a journal from a previous birthday you'll see drastic changes because you're viewing it all at once
  • Guidance
    • The habit of journaling allows you to shape who you are a bit more, by setting up a journaling system that works toward your goals

Paper vs phone

Since I mentioned I focus mostly on functionality and minimal effort for maximum gain I thought I'd explain why I pick pen and paper over my phone, since the phone allows syncing, embedding pictures, geo location data etc etc. the reason is simple I write on paper faster than I type on phone, I like drawing diagrams, pro con lists, decision trees and things like that so taking notes on a phone would add some functionality but it'd make uses I use a lot more difficult.

I also use voice notes to supplement my notes, if I'm on a walk or want to ramble of a "journal entry" quickly a voice note on my phone which I later transcribe into the paper journal, photos I usually have printed then store in the same box as my journals and put an identifier on the back, I can also write down gps location if I want to. So for me pen and paper with my phone as a supplement is ideal.


I journal for a couple minutes in a morning and a couple more at night, with some done throughout the day if I feel like it, I always do the morning and night habit which is outlined here.

add an index page with page numbers and rough topics as you go, not every page should make it into your index, this allows you to quickly know what page what thing is on so when you look back on a journal you can quickly reference it or skim read it.


  • Brain dump
    • Allows you to get thoughts out before the ego wakes up and you start lying as much as usual 1 2
    • Short concise bullet points
    • Example
      • Should plan more money wise
      • Been talking about learning to play guitar for too long
        • Convinced myself I'd fail before trying
        • Should just get on with it
  • Something I'm looking forward to today
    • After one year of doing this every day you'll have proven to yourself that every single day you have something to look forward to
    • Doesn't have to be big or extreme
    • Examples: Going on holiday, Going to eat some ice cream later
  • Something I'm grateful for
    • Similar to above, it'll prove to you everyday you have something to be grateful for
    • If you notice one thing repeatedly coming up (e.g family) you'll know that thing is worth preserving and maintaining
    • Doesn't have to be extreme can just be ben and jerrys vegan cookie dough ice cream you recently bought
  • [ ] Nice thing you could do for someone
    • The goal with this and the other checkboxes isn't to do them 100% of the time it's to build a certain mindset and habits
    • Over time you'll begin thinking about ways you can do nice things for people as a habit
    • Can be as simple as check in on a friend, tidy up a shared space, help a stranger with something, give money to charity etc.
  • [ ] An act of self care you can do
    • Don't worry too much about doing it
    • Goal is to think more about self care (maintaining positive states & traits whilst minimising negative ones)
    • If you get stressed your journal now has handfuls or dozens of self care tips
  • [ ] A topic to reflect on
    • Don't worry too much about doing it
    • Most people don't think about things, they'll describe themselves as kind but be unable to explain what makes a person kind, meaning they don't know they're a kind person, they know they want to be perceived as a kind person
    • Doesn't have to be really deep, can reflect on an argument you have, a relationship you have etc.
  • [ ] A vice you wish to challenge today
    • Don't worry too much about doing it
    • This helps you understand that a vice isn't always a vice, this week if you haven't been gaming at all having a night gaming will be an act a self care, get rid of some stress, but if you've been gaming a lot the next week maybe it becomes a vice, then an act of self care again


  • Rough chronology
    • A list of events with a limit on emotion
    • Examples
      • Meditated
      • Yoga
      • Did some editing
      • Wrote blog post
      • Argument with x about y
  • A good thing that happened
    • Similar to the morning ones, goal is to show you every day something good happens, can be minor.
  • Something nice you did for someone (can be a stranger)
    • Knowing at the end of each day you'll have to write down something nice you did for someone or that you didn't do a single nice thing for someone so you'll be more likely to be nice to others (unless for some reason when you look in the mirror you want to say to yourself I'm a bad selfish person)
  • Someone nice someone did for you (can be a stranger)
    • Can be minor
    • Similar to morning helps remind you every day
    • You might notice one person consistently does nice things for you
    • You might notice people do nice things for you that're more than what you do for them
  • Something you could have done better
    • Each day you can do something better
    • Helps with perfectionism
  • A way in which you're better at the end of the day
    • Similar to the morning ones, goal is to show you every day you improved in some sense of the word, can be minor.
    • Example
      • Cleaned a window
      • Don't usually clean windows so I improved by paying more attention and care to my environment
      • Doesn't mean I'll clean it tomorrow


  • [ ] Evaluation statements
    • Similar to a brain dump
    • Good for self analysis/reflection
    • Roughly once a month or at times of stress
    • brain dump statements with checkboxes then reflect and evaluate which are true
    • Example
      • [ ] All my friends hate me
      • [ ] I have no personality
      • [ ] I care deeply about how people percieve me
      • [ ] I waste all my money


These should be done as and when you feel like it, habits with no clear timing or anything.

  • Write down details about a stranger
    • Helpful for improving observation
    • Example
      • Tall guy
      • Wearing sandals
      • Looked annoyed
      • Walking pretty fast
      • On the phone
  • Write down a strangers conversation
    • Good to watch conversations from an impartial view since it gives insights into how you conduct yourself in conversations
    • Example
      • X1: You're so fucking annoying when you keep nagging me constantly What do you want me to do?
      • Y1: Why do you always do this I'm just trying to help and you constantly make me feel bad about it
      • X2: because you just constantly act like you know better than me
        • X1 should have avoided the personal attacks and just asked in a nice tone, what do you think I should do?
        • Y1 should have avoided saying "you always do this" and instead should have just said I'm trying to help and you're making me feel bad
        • X2 assumed the entire point and will now have a potentially false perspective based on an assumption
        • Both should try and better express themselves
  • Something worth investigating
  • Similar to a topic to reflect on
  • Should focus on actionable things
  • Example
    • When I spend time looking out window throughout the day I feel better
    • Possible reasons:
      • Looking at nature throughout the day makes me feel good
      • Taking a break from computer on a semi regular basis makes me feel good
    • Possible actions:
      • Read through journals to see if it's consistent
      • Try not looking out window but just taking regular breaks from computer and see if it continues
      • Graph mood & number/frequency of breaks to see if theres a clear pattern


My rules for formatting are pretty simple, text color indicates ink color.

Content goes here

Misc entries: Black ink.


Below you will find some youtube videos, none are perfect, none are ones I agree with completely (and some I don't even agree with in part) but you should have a wide and all encompassing view of how some people journal to help you decide how you want to interact with journaling, these links aren't endorsements. I've also included video durations and what speed you can comfortably watch the video on.
//Youtube videos to give a wide view of journaling:
What I Learned by Journaling for 30 Days // 7m; 1.75x speed
7 Ways Marcus Aurelius Will Help You Journal Like A Pro | Ryan Holiday | Stoicism // 12m; 2x speed
How to Journal: Start Here | Kati Morton // 7m; 1.5x speed
How I Journal and Take Notes | Brainstorming + Focusing + Reducing Anxiety | Tim Ferriss // 19m; 1.5x speed


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