Keeping a Journal: The Latest 30-Day Challenge Results

Phew. The whirlwind of exams is over, and DreamBigStartSmall is stoking up the idea furnace for the festive period.

But first: a review.

For the past 2-ish months, journaling’s been the name of the self-development game. So if the question “Does journaling deserve a spot on my 30-day challenge bucket list?” has been keeping you awake at night, then friend, this post is for you.

Why Journal? – Look who else did it.

I love A Series of Unfortunate Events. For the yet-to-be-believers, it’s 13 books of childish grinning, following the lives of the three Baudelaire orphans as they try to counter the dastardly Count Olaf and his comical associates. (Lemony Snicket, I love you.)

Like in all self-respecting sibling groups, each child has a unique skill which can be used to counter the plans of evil and tyranny.

In the Baudelaire’s case, Sunny (the baby) is the biter, Klaus, the middle child, is the reader and Violet is the inventor. Put them together and you’ve got a mean, lean, Count-Olaf fighting machine.

Anyway. In the novels, the Baudelaires start using “Commonplace” books, or journals, in which they can solve the riddles of the mysterious VFD, and counter Olaf’s plans.

And journaling doesn’t just stop with the Baudelaires. Go to a book shop, and check out the biography section. Pretty much all of the books about the famous men and women of history are partly based on their own journals.

Che Guevara. Theodore Roosevelt. Charles Dickens. Leonardo Da Vinci. Winston Churchill.

If journaling works for “great minds” and fictional, treachery-fighting orphans alike, then why not us?

The Challenge

The pre-post post-preamble preamble:

Equipment: Small A5 journal (had to be Moleskin, come on people).

What I did: Started off each day by writing down what I want to achieve out of each day. Then I’d also jot down ideas, reflections, and more mundane things, like fruit and veg intake.

Total time commitment: Less than 10 minutes a day.

The Results

First, the downsides.


Ok, and benefits?

1. Start the Day with Intention

If I have more than one thing to do in a day, so… like everyday, then journaling is the perfect start to the day.

When I wake up, I’ll get something to drink, then spend 1-5 minutes writing down exactly what I want to achieve that day.

What’s so great about this?

By writing down your daily goals, you know what you’re supposed to be doing for the day. Does this mean that you’ll always achieve what you’ve written down? Hell no. We’ll still fall adrift and get lost in procrastinating waters.  But starting the day with a clear purpose helps you get sailing in the right direction.

It also doesn’t matter whether you’re travelling as a hare or a tortoise. As long as you’re taking steps in the right direction, then you’re doing something right.

There’s another side-benefit to this too.

Because you know what you should be doing, it’s harder to waste massive chunks of time doing nothing. Fair enough, I might waste 20 minutes here or there watching NBA highlights, but binge-watching Netflix or mindlessly surfing for hours upon end? No.

Journaling makes each day a mission! We ain’t got no time for that!

2. Keeps You Grounded

When I get crazy bored, I do some crazy stuff. Crazy stuff – which here means eating copious volumes of peanut butter with whatever said author can lay his hands on.

Picture the scene. It’s dark outside. An exhausting revision session has finished. The next one looms.

“Iain, a trip to PB delicious land is only one paw-full away….”

“Hmm, that does sound tempting….”

“Revision, or peanut butter and banana?”

*Cue journal.*

Just writing “Man, I’m feeling particularly sloth-like today” cures it all. I acknowledge that peanut butter is, in fact, far more delicious than physics revision, but the revision is what I need to be doing to get where I want to go.

If I still want the peanut butter, then fair play. But more times than not, I’ll horse on and get stuff done. BOOM.

While food is on the discussion table, a journal is a great way to track stuff like fruit and veg intake, or plan meals, or… yeah.

It’s versatile like that. And who doesn’t like options?

3. Opens your mental pores

The key to solving any physics problem is DAD.

Draw A Diagram.

(Or ask your dad if he’s particularly physics inclined.)

Lay out all the facts you have in front of you, see the big picture, then start thinking.

Why not treat every day in the same way?

I mean, how can we ponder life’s biggest questions, and come up with innovative solutions to world problems if we’re thinking about all of life’s mundane tasks at the same time?

I know that if I don’t write things down, my head feels cluttered with all the daily flotsam that needs doing. My mind has to spend precious mental RAM on just thinking about washing clothes, or peeling carrots, or going shopping.

We ain’t got no space for that!

The solution? Writing everything that needs doing in the journal. It’s medidative. Therapeutic.

If mental pores were a thing, then journals are a mean, lean, mental-pore unclogging machine. MACHINE!

Write down everything, and give yourself a nice clean drawing board to start the day. Engineer your day right, folks.

4. Walk’n’Journal – A Beastly Way to Soup up Idea production

The simplicity and effectiveness of this 1-2 combo is immense. Try this: sometime after dinner, go for a walk.

Nothing too arduous. We’re talking a night-time stroll. A wander. An amble. Hit up the beach, soak up some of that star-light, and do some quality pondering.

Try as you might not to do the aforementioned pondering, you will, almost definitely, stumble upon a pondering state-of-mind. It’s as nature intended.

When you get home an hour later, your legs feel warm and fuzzy, and your mind has some freshly brewed ideas for you. Now, do the following:

  1. Prepare your hot drink of choice.
  2. Open your journal.
  3. Simultaneously drink said drink, and write down whatever comes to mind.

Do this, and don’t let another great idea go to waste.

Also, walking is a great time to reflect. Did I take a step closer to becoming my ideal self?

Writing down areas for improvement, and acknowledging areas that you courageously strode through is powerful stuff.

 “Had a 30 minute conversation with a stranger on a bus. Learnt tons! Well played!”

“Said ‘maybe’ when I should of said ‘no’ – what you playing at?!”

In this way, you’re constantly pruning and directing your journey to your ideal self.

Does it mean that we instantly become our ideal-selves? No. Of course not. But it does illuminate the areas where you can grow stronger. And knowledge is power.

At this point, I have to throw in a disclaimer.

Does this mean that my journal is full of deep insights and great ideas?


Most of my journal is comprised of daily goals, and mundane things, dotted with sporadic deep thoughts, inspirations and ideas.

The thing is, you can’t uncover the gems unless you make it a habit of collecting the coal. And the coal does the job of firing the beast in the first place. Know what I’m saying, brapp?

5. Convenience

But that journaling… bit inconvenient. Isn’t it? Lugging it around, and writing and such like.

That’s what stopped me journaling. And my former self deserves a good face punchin’ for it.

Because journaling is amazingly convenient. It’s amazing! Just buy a tiny journal, get into the habit of starting your day with it, and BAM. You’re now journaling my friend. (Does that make you a journalist??)

“And the time commitment?”

What time commitment?


6. Satisfaction

Keeping track of your daily goals, writing down your moments of inspiration, staying true on the road to your ideal-self… Life is just more satisfying with a journal.

Whether it’s knowing that you’re on top of things, or simply knowing what date it is. Man, it’s good.

And in the future, (read: 30 days later) you can look back at all the bizarre, utterly ridiculous, and sometimes genius thoughts that you’ve amassed with a new-found wisdom.

Wasn’t I so young and naïve back then… *Cue hearty chuckle of satisfaction.*

It’s a bit like looking through your 4 year-old-self’s holiday scrap books. Aren’t those feeble attempts at joined up writing just adorable?


So. Concluding.

Journaling In a Nutshell

First off, keeping a journal is discombulatingly convenient. More convenient than I ever would’ve imagined.

Second, it’s a slammin’ way to start your day. It helps keep you focused on what’s important. It keeps you true to yourself, and I feel it’s easier to make progress in life. BAM.

It also keeps you grounded. It won’t stop you from procrastinating (peanut-butter related or not), but in my opinion, it reduces overall procrastination because you know what you should be doing.

Never letting those nuggets of insight and ideas go to waste? It covers that base too.

Ultimately, journaling lets you stay true to your course in life’s turbulent waters, and puts YOU in control.

Friends, become the master of your fate and the captain of your soul. Go out and buy a journal!

FINAL VERDICT: What a freakin’ great habit! Keeping a journal is definitely a habit to keep. Give it a bash!


As always, Dream Big Start Small!

Love you all,