Jumpstart Your Journaling: A 31-Day Challenge

by Jeremy Anderberg on January 1, 2014 · 67 comments

in A Man's Life, Personal Development

H.G Ponting. Captain Scott+s Antarctic Expedition 1910 - 1912. 7th October, 1911. Profile view of Captain Scott sitting at his desk as he writes his journals in the Winterquarters hut.

There’s been plenty of talk on AoM recently about journaling with our articles on The Diary Habit as well as 9 habits young men should adopt. Seeing a few of the comments confirmed a notion I already had about the practice of journaling: many men would like to, but few men do to the extent that they would like. And the main reason why? A simple lack of direction. When presented with a totally blank slate — that open journal, with pen in hand, and nothing but white pages — we freeze up. It’s been said that constraint actually gives way to greater creativity. When we have clear boundaries, or direction, we no longer have to think about the act itself. We don’t have to think about what to journal, we simply have to journal based on a prompt.

With that in mind, I’d like to present a 31-day roadmap and challenge for your journaling. Doing something for around 30 days is a great way to not only build a habit, but to also explore if it’s right for you. Maybe journaling isn’t for you, and you just have never taken the time to really prove that to yourself. Or maybe you love the practice, and simply haven’t gotten into the habit yet. Either way, I hope this calendar presents you with ample opportunity to take the journaling bull by the horns and experience all its benefits.

All of these can be accomplished in just 20-30 minutes per day, and often less. If you can’t make time for that, perhaps journaling isn’t as important to you as you really thought, and you’ve discovered right there that it’s not for you.

In this roadmap are many questions. In your journal — whether digital or by hand — you can simply write out the question at the top of the page, and answer as if having a conversation. Don’t worry about formality, how it may sound out loud, grammar, etc. Just write your thoughts. It may seem mundane, but there is a magical quality in writing something down that cannot be fully explained. You just have to trust me and try it out.

Note: I am of the opinion that this exercise should be 31 continuous days. However, you can also decide to do it over the course of a couple months, or just on weekdays; remember, this is for you, so if don’t enjoy what you’re doing and are just stressed out by the thought of it, it won’t work.

Day 1: Start with answering the question of why you want to journal, and beyond that, why you decided to embark on this 31-day experience. Write out what you’d like to get from journaling.

Day 2: Continuing to work within that idea of constraints, try to write a 6-word memoir of your life so far. This idea is rumored to have originated from Papa Hemingway. The benefit is that with only six words, you really have to filter your life to what you deem most important. It may take you many iterations, but you’ll end up with something that speaks largely to who you are, if not in toto, then at least in this moment in time.

Day 3: Decide on one positive habit you’d like to implement in your life. Whether seemingly mundane (like flossing) or perhaps life-altering (exercising every day), think of something you’d like to add to your life that will be beneficial. Then, think about the steps you’ll take to get there, and how you’ll keep yourself accountable.

Day 4: Via negativia; today, pick a habit that you’d like to eliminate from your life. Bad habits are like armpits, we all have ‘em and they all stink. Whether cutting soda out of your life, or putting a stop to your porn addiction; either way, as with yesterday, think about the steps you’ll take in order to put the kibosh on that negative habit. And again, also think about how you’ll keep yourself accountable to that goal.

Day 5: Write a letter to a loved one. Chances are high that there is someone in your life that you’d like to say something important to. Maybe it’s a wife, a parent, a grandparent you never really got to say goodbye to…take the time today to write that out. It can be positive, negative, or anywhere in between. The beauty of this letter is that you aren’t sending it in the mail, you’re simply “voicing” something that needs to be said. Should you choose to share it later, that’s okay, but you don’t have to. Doing this can be a great way to heal anger that’s been pent up inside, or to release a pressure valve of sadness we may have been harboring over something lost.

Day 6: Pick a quote from our 80-ish quotes on manhood and reflect on why it stands out to you. Does it reflect a man that you aren’t yet, but hope to be? Does one of them remind you of a great man in your life who you’ve tried to model? If you can’t seem to reflect on a single quote, just take the time to write out a few of them that you like. Doing so will keep them top-of-mind and perhaps lead to some thoughts later down the road.

Day 7: You’ve made it one week! Reflect on what this newfound practice has been like. Getting through the first seven consecutive days is truly the hardest part. Have you enjoyed it? Has it been difficult? Has it been what you expected?

Day 8: Take some time today to reflect on your career. Jot down a timeline of it, including all the ups and downs. What was your best experience? And the worst? What would you like your future to look like, in terms of your career? If you’re a young man and haven’t started in yet, focus on that future part. What do you want your work to look like?

Day 9: On this day, simply write about your day. This may seem especially boring, but write out the events of your day. What time you woke up, what you had for breakfast, what your commute was like, what you did during at work, how you spent your evening. If you’re journaling in the mornings, write about the previous day. The beauty of this exercise is that you may discover something that you hadn’t realized. Maybe you weren’t very productive at work, and reflecting on it can allow you to analyze why. Perhaps you finished a big project on the house when you got home; you can think about what motivated you, how it made you feel to finish something big, etc. Don’t discount the seemingly simple task of writing about your day.

Day 10: Take a look at the hero’s journey, and identify where you are in that journey. Doing so can help you better understand where you are in life, and help you figure out where to go next. You can take it in the context of your entire life, or you can take it in the context of a certain phase of your life. Either way, you can be sure that you’re part of a greater journey, and knowing what comes next can help guide you along.

Day 11: Memento mori. “Remember that you will die.” Admittedly, this isn’t the most pleasant topic. There is, however, great benefit in meditating on the reality that at some point, you will in fact die. It motivates you to live the life right now that you want to be living. Meditate on this, and write out your thoughts. Does death scare you? Does it motivate you? It’s okay to be honest.

Day 12: Give stream-of-consciousness writing a try. This is where you basically just write out whatever comes into your head at the moment it comes into your head. It can feel bizarre, and it’s certainly not structured, but it can lead to some valuable insights into what’s going on in your mind. I’ll give you a 10-second example from right now, while looking out my window: “Boy, I have a nice-looking grill outside and the weather is beautiful…just what we need after all this cold and snow. That cloud looks like a ship from Star Wars… it makes me want to be outside.. maybe I need to spend more time outside and appreciate the fresh air. Perhaps I’ll open a window!” Random? Absolutely. Offering some helpful insight about my desire/need for fresh air? Affirmative. Try this out for 10-15 minutes. You may uncover something — no matter how small — you hadn’t previously realized.

Day 13: Perform a mind dump of everything you’re worried about. From the leaky dishwasher to your family member’s poor health — get it all out. Dwight D. Eisenhower did it, and it significantly helped him manage his stress. Just as your body needs to…cleanse itself of waste, so does your mind every once in a while. Getting all your stressors on paper may alleviate some of that pressure. Use David Allen’s GTD trigger list to help you out.

Day 14: Write a review of some form of entertainment you recently took in. Whether book or movie or TV show or Broadway play, write out what you liked and didn’t like about it. Was the acting/writing good? Could you follow the story? Is there anything you can take from it about life, or was it purely entertainment? This is often one of the most enjoyable entries to write, as it’s especially fun (and quite nostalgic) to go back and read these in the future. I can imagine that 10 years from now I will thoroughly appreciate my thoughts from this week on Roy Baumeister’s Is There Anything Good About Men?.

Day 15: Come up with your own Cabinet of Invisible Counselors. There are innumerable great men from history who we can learn from today. When thinking about your life or pondering some question or problem, yes, go to actual mentors and friends, but also take in the advice of men of yore. Write out who you would have on your list and what you admire about them. Having trouble coming up with a list? The comments in the post should offer plenty of ideas.

Day 16: Imagine that someone has decided to write a book about your life, just up to this point. What would the cover blurb say? Be honest here. Is it kind of boring? Are you happy with it? Now imagine what you’d like that blurb to say at the end of your life. What changes need to made for that to happen?

Day 17: Hop on the internet and search for the biggest news stories in the year you were born. Infoplease is a great resource for this. Think about how these news stories, or even statistics, may have shaped your childhood or who you are today. For example, the year I was born, it was discovered that 98% of American households had at least one television set. I could write about how television influenced my generation, and continues to do so today, either positively or negatively.

Day 18: Identify one project you’d like to complete with your hands. There’s something special about a man doing work with his bare hands, and most men today have lost that. Maybe you want to start a garden, or build a workbench in your garage. Maybe you’ve been meaning to upgrade your bathroom on your own volition. Once you identify that one project, write about what you have to do in order to complete it. Detail the steps, the resources, the help you’ll need, etc. Then, set about doing it. Come back to this entry as motivation when you see yourself wavering.

Day 19: Reflect on your romantic relationship(s), and identify one area in which you’d like to improve. Be it your wife, fiance, or new girlfriend, there’s sure to be something you can do to make the relationship even better. If you don’t have a romantic partner in your life, perhaps you can identify past failures that you’d like to improve in your future relationships. You can choose to talk about this with your partner, or not. Either way, you’ve now put your relationship top-of-mind and will be more attuned to being intentional about keeping it healthy.

Day 20: Think about the period of your life in which you have the greatest nostalgia for. For me, it’s definitely college. Staying up late with friends, being forced to be creative with date ideas because I didn’t have any money, doing nothing but learning all day long…it was fantastic. Once you identify that time period, think of why you’re so nostalgic about it. There’s a good chance that there’s something from that time that you’d like to regain or recapture. Maybe you realize the importance of having close friends, or perhaps you’ll come to understand your desire to be a lifelong learner. Nostalgia can be healthy if reflected on and not obsessed over. You may not be able to recapture the past exactly (see Jay Gatsby), but there are elements of it that may make you a happier fellow.

Day 21: Take a look at our excellent series on the four archetypes of the mature masculine. Read the descriptions, and think about which archetype you most strongly resemble, and that which seems to be your greatest weakness. Write about how you can achieve better balance between all four archetypes and identify the specific ways in which you can strengthen your weaknesses and harness your perhaps overpowering strengths.

Day 22: Imagine you’ve been provided with a livable income for the rest of your life. You have no need to work, but aren’t rolling in money either. How would you spend your time? Your answer will say a lot about you and what your passion may be. Perhaps this discovery confirms your career choice, or maybe it makes you realize you’re not actually where you want to be in life. If it’s the latter, think about how you could make money with that passion, and even draw up a game plan for getting to that point. As much of our lives are spent at work, to dislike what you’re doing will not only drain you of energy and willpower, but also leave you looking back and wondering why you didn’t do anything to change it.

Day 23: Make a list of things that distract you. Every man deals with distractions, whether at work or at home. It could be the internet in general, it could be a specific website, it could even be something that’s actually beneficial, and yet distracts to some degree from something that’s important to you. Making a list creates awareness, and you can better slay those distraction dragons.

Day 24: In modern times, men have become more spectators than doers; more consumers than creators. Yet one of the marks of a mature man is being someone who doesn’t just consume the culture around him, but actually helps create it. Think about all the ways you consume the world around you, and the time you spend doing it. Next, think about the ways you can reverse that, and start to actually be a creator. That’s an intimidating word to some, so come up with ways that you can get off the couch and do something productive instead of just mindlessly intaking.

Day 25: There comes a time in every man’s life where he just feels…meh. He’s not happy about things, but he’s not depressed either. In fact, it’s probably a place where many men spend most of their lives. Take a look at the 5 switches of manliness — the things that ignite passion within us to live fully. Which of these is missing from your life? It’s not likely that all five are fully present, so take some time to jot down ideas on how you can better integrate these switches into your life so that you can have the motivation to seize each day as it comes.

Day 26: For three days, we’ll work from AoM’s “Craft the Life You Want” series. While many things in life are out of our control, there are more things than we often realize that are in our control. Most often, we simply don’t realize that we have the power to change things in our life when we aren’t happy. Today, work on crafting a life plan. It can be a long process, so if you’re short on time, start by defining your various roles as a man, and your ultimate purpose and goals within those roles, including specific action steps.

Day 27: The importance of where you live: our home and environment have a tremendous impact on our lives. Take a look at the eight factors that should be considered when choosing where to live. Maybe you’ve never actually chosen, and you’ve just ended up where you are by default. Take the time today to think about the idea and importance of place. You may determine that where you are is perfect, or you may realize that you belong somewhere else.

Day 28: Finally in this three-day journey, you need to gather the tools necessary to make your life a masterpiece. Take a look at the article, and define the various tools that you will need and use to work towards those purposes and goals you laid out a couple days ago.

Day 29: Try writing out your own personal manifesto. I’d describe the benefits and the how-to, but this short post does it much better than I could.

Day 30: Jot down a list of all the things you’re grateful for. It could be as simple as “Family, Job, Home…” or as detailed as “The bacon I had for breakfast, the weather being warm today, the chance to sleep in this weekend…” When we aren’t feeling chipper, thinking about what we’re thankful for can help get us in the right mindset. No matter how down and out you may be, there is always something to be thankful for.

Day 31: Reflect on the last 30 days of journaling. Did you enjoy the experience? What did you learn about yourself? What was most difficult? Will you continue the practice? If so, take some time to map out how you’d like your journaling habit to continue. It can be entirely up to you; don’t worry about following a set of rules. Maybe you want to write every day, maybe you’re okay with a slightly longer session every month or so. Just make sure it’s something that you want to do.

{ 67 comments… read them below or add one }

1 James McCarty January 1, 2014 at 4:13 pm

A suggestion that might make your journaling more enjoyable: use a fountain pen and good paper. Neither has to be expensive. Remember, this is the kind of pen your granddad, and maybe your dad, used every day. Your handwriting will improve, and you can add character by using different pen nibs and inks. A good source is gouletpens.com (no financial interest, but I am a satisfied customer). They have all kinds of advice and videos for beginners.

2 Lukas January 1, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Honestly, I think that is a grand idea. I tried writing a journal once, during my university exchange in Venice, but failed miserably. I think that even if writing a journal would not be good for me it is a chance to learn how to practice something :d

3 Josh January 1, 2014 at 4:43 pm

I just set my January Field Notes notebook up to take the “Be a Better Man in 30 Days Challenge” which I have yet to see all the way through. I really like the themes for the journal entries. It looks like I will be using two notebooks this month. Be A Better Man Challenge will be a Field Notes: Drink Local Pale Lager Notebook and the 31 Day Journal Challenge will be a Field Notes: Kentucky State Fair

4 Jason Koscinski January 1, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Perfect thanks.

5 dan January 1, 2014 at 6:09 pm

this is great! I had a journal that i started years ago, but stopped writing in it. this is the motivation to get me started on it again! thanks AOM!

6 Jesse January 1, 2014 at 6:51 pm

Well done! I’m going to give this a try.

7 Gabriel Brenner January 1, 2014 at 7:35 pm

Thank you this list is amazing. I am looking forward to beginning this challenge. I am just about to go into college and journaling is an amazing habit i want to start.

8 Skyler January 1, 2014 at 7:56 pm

Happy New Year and welcome back! I’ve thought about keeping a journal but never actually done it. (I think a lot but accomplish little). This sounds like fun and I accept your challenge kind sir. Huzzah! I’m gonna be a writer!!

9 j January 1, 2014 at 8:06 pm

I just got a set of Field Notes from my wife for Christmas and I was wondering what to do with them. Your post came just in time, Day 1 had been entered into the first journal. Looking forward to the next 30 and beyond. Thanks for the encouraging post.

10 Robert Ricamo January 1, 2014 at 8:20 pm

I’ve been wanting to recommit since I started.

Great article. Day one, here we go.

11 Ms. Smart January 1, 2014 at 8:42 pm

Love this! Most excellent. Thank you for taking the time to think this through, write it down succinctly and share it.

12 Paul January 1, 2014 at 9:01 pm

This is great. Thank you for sharing!0

13 Travis January 1, 2014 at 9:39 pm

I’ve always been bad at keeping a journal. However, what’s worked for me is answering questions if I’m short on something to write about. I searched the internet for journal questions, pulled some form self-help type books, business books, TED talks, etc. I have over 100 questions in the front of my journal now and a number randomizer on my phone.
Simple, effective, and sets a habit!

14 Jarod January 1, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Just what I have been needing. I have tried unsuccessfully to be an ardent journal writer, but the habit has never stuck. This particular challenge will be completed in January. Thanks for the swift kick in the pants.

15 Mike Sweeney January 1, 2014 at 10:26 pm

I second using a good pen. Something that is special to you, not your everyday “bic”. Many writers have a special pen they use. Nothing magically about it other than it helps them mentally.

16 Count January 1, 2014 at 10:43 pm

Any opinions on writing these on an online document rather than on paper?

17 Alex L. January 1, 2014 at 10:54 pm

I just want to second the comment about a fountain pen and good paper…there’s something about sitting down and watching the ink flow from the pen to the paper that makes your thoughts feel “fluid” and makes the whole overall experience more enjoyable.

18 Mark Smith January 1, 2014 at 11:09 pm

I am sorry, but writing a journal, is like returning to your own vomit.

19 volitilevoid January 1, 2014 at 11:13 pm

ok, i’m in. just did my first entry. i’m not new to journaling, i’ve done a lot, but i fell out of habit. i want to get back into it. let’s see if i stick with it this time. thanks for this.

20 Greg January 1, 2014 at 11:17 pm

I started keeping a journal about 1.5 years ago. In my opinion, the first journal should not be anything fancy. You want the lowest barrier to writing as possible. I would even suggest using good ballpoint pens on yellow quarter-sized legal pads–the kind where you tear the pages off the front one by one. If you buy something nice right away, you’ll be afraid of putting something stupid in it and ruining your purchase.

The goal for the beginner is only to get into the habit. The more you make it a ceremony or pressure yourself, the less likely you are to actually write anything. So start with something informal but comfortable. I was in the habit of trying to solve my problems at work on paper on yellow legal pads, so I just kept one pad aside and put my personal observations and events on it. That’s journal number one.

Later, I wanted something a bit better, so I bought a better journal. But to be honest, I don’t like it even as much as the legal pad, and would probably write more on the legal pad.

Don’t buy a nice journal just because you think that’s how journaling is done. I would recommend for the beginner not to try to use a fountain pen if you don’t use one now. Don’t try to practice perfect penmanship, perfect grammar, or perfect spelling. Don’t pressure yourself to write a compelling narrative, or to have insights in every entry. The very act of journaling is enough, and adding extra layers of complication to the process will make it a non-starter. A lot of people never pick up new habits because they can’t focus on one thing at a time. For them, it’s not just eating out less as a goal. It’s eating out less and cooking low-carb and learning new recipes. No no no, one thing at a time. With journaling, don’t try to start journaling and learn poetry and learn calligraphy and penmanship. Some people start their journals on scrap papers lying at hand and tuck them into a folder. Their first entries say “Jan 1 – Slept til 9AM. Ate BBQ for dinner. Good day.” Just start. Don’t wait to acquire a set of nice new pens and leather-bound journal to start recording your life.

Journaling has helped me gain perspective and remember the good and bad events of my life in a better way. When my best friend died last year, I was able to record my feelings about the issues and memories about him in my journal. Now they won’t be lost. I go back and read them every few weeks and experience those memories all over again. It’s worthwhile. If you read any biographies of good quality, you’ll be struck by how much information is quoted from personal letters, correspondence, and journals. These documents are important for having a memorable life. This habit is absolutely crucial for anyone who is getting serious about living a life worth remembering. I hope the readers of this article will pick up the habit.

One last thing from the soapbox–don’t try to keep your journal on your computer. I did–several times. It doesn’t feel right, and you won’t do it often. Don’t even try. Pen and paper is best. I think pretty much everyone who has journaled for a while will agree.

Listen to Jim Rohn’s audio program “How to Use a Journal.” Someone uploaded it onto YouTube (probably illegally) for free, but the information is exactly what you need if you’re thinking about getting started.

21 Connor January 1, 2014 at 11:48 pm

This is a fantastic idea. I’m going to give it a try.

22 Sion January 2, 2014 at 2:31 am

Challenge accepted. Thanks for adding this to my other resolution: reading more. It complements very well.

Hurray for AOM, keeping spirits high, also in 2014. Best wishes for the New Year!

23 Ken Bellows January 2, 2014 at 5:19 am

I’ll be positng my journal every day at http://kenaom31.blogspot.com if anyone cares to follow it. This should be a lot of fun.

24 Jonathan Chase January 2, 2014 at 5:49 am

I’ve been keeping an almost daily journal for many years. They not only record history, they keep me organized & help make decisions. I use Word in Microsoft Office so I can insert pictures I’ve taken along the way. For me, they bring my journals alive.

25 Matyas M. January 2, 2014 at 6:41 am

Alright, I am up for the challenge!

I started (sort of) to journal about a month ago, but did not really get too far, thus I believe this challenge is for me.

26 David January 2, 2014 at 8:49 am

I started writing a journal in August 2013. I used to write with a random pen, but I recently found a beautiful fountain pen from grandfather (who died 12 years ago). I am writing about what I did, what I thought and something like this. I often forget to write the entries in the evening and sometimes I write the entries for a whole week of missed entries at once. This works fine for me and I have time to reflect about what happened.

27 Joey E January 2, 2014 at 9:04 am

I’ve been keeping a journal since college (almost 20 years ago). Always looking for ideas to keep it fresh. Will print this list and keep it in my journal, and use this year.

Thanks!

28 F. Martin January 2, 2014 at 9:12 am

I’m going to give this challenge a shot!
Recently purchased a little note book and have pasted in little mementos from trips and events I’ve attended.
This challenge will fill it up in no time.

29 Guru The Second January 2, 2014 at 9:31 am

I have always felt like I was the second part of a wonderful story, the good friend and not the leading man. I accept your challenge and with the wonderful prompts listed here hopefully will be successful. Its time to dedicate to it and get to it.
Up the hill and over it, boys. No one lives forever.

30 Chris Lynn January 2, 2014 at 10:37 am

Journaling has been a habit for many years for me. What I have changed for this year is what time of day I journal. I have determined to not watch the local news first thing in the morning, but rather to enter the day by reading something positive and encouraging, then journaling. Positive thoughts generate the positive…..at least for me.

31 fazli January 2, 2014 at 10:57 am

I have been journaling on and off since 2011 and stop doing it for a long time. I have been thinking of starting it again this year.

Thank you for this article. I will follow the day to day ideas and form this good habit again.

32 Matthew January 2, 2014 at 11:23 am

A very appropriate post. I am glad I saw this. Thank you!

Reviewing my journals from the past scare the crap out of me — actually, they make me feel really good–to not be there anymore :-)

33 Spencer Richard January 2, 2014 at 1:59 pm

I am up for the challenge as well. Got a beautiful leather-bound journal as a wedding present in October and now I’m finally going to use it.

34 Edward January 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

This is great! Going to be starting this tonight! Much support to all the other men starting as well!

35 Mark January 2, 2014 at 4:40 pm

Great advise!

36 Ken F. January 2, 2014 at 5:56 pm

Excellent post! I, too, accept the challenge. Journaling is not only a great way to remember things, but also to actually “free up” valuable mental space and resources. And, when practiced consistently, journaling truly reveals one’s thoughts, dreams, fears, and inner soul…Magic.

37 Joshua Gentry January 2, 2014 at 7:18 pm

Challenge accepted.

38 Joshua Jordan, KSC January 3, 2014 at 12:18 am

“Mark Smith January 1, 2014 at 11:09 pm
I am sorry, but writing a journal, is like returning to your own vomit.”

Well, I kept so many journals over the years; I look at them and wonder who the hell the fool who wrote these things thought he was. I’ve decided that keeping scientific notes of operations and working with personal manifestos is preferred to keeping a journal.

Marcus Aurelius wrote the Meditations as a personal manifesto; lucky for us, we have most of what he wrote in publication today.

AoM has an article on manifestos somewhere. I encourage anyone who has not written a journal to keep one; most people I know like the experience but they’re pretty static people.

See what works for you; being static is not necessary bad — consider it as stability. It just isn’t who I am and what works for me may not work for you. But, I’m certain one or two readers are not going to find what they want from a journal.

39 Tyler Mathews January 3, 2014 at 1:43 am

Bring it on. Day 2 is very revealing.

40 Keith January 3, 2014 at 2:40 pm

This is a great idea! I do wish you had posted it a couple of days earlier, so I could’ve gotten started on January 1. I may play catch-up, so my day falls on the day of the month (easier to remember).

I’m looking forward to it.

41 Keith January 3, 2014 at 2:47 pm

Interesting tidbit: I just started reading a biography of John Quincy Adams and learned that his diary totaled 14,000 pages, stretching “from the eve of the Revolutionary War to the eve of the Civil War”! Wow!

42 Caleb January 3, 2014 at 7:30 pm

I believe journaling is a valuable thing for a man to do. The proof is simply this: Would you like to have your father’s, grandfather’s, great-grandfather’s, or great-great-grandfather’s thoughts in written form? And someone someday will feel the same about you one day.

If you stick with it you will end up enjoying it. I really believe that.

Journaling is historical. Important men have always left memoirs and journals behind. You are an important man to someone.

Grammar and punctuation are not important. Perfect penmanship is not important. Getting a really fancy journal isn’t important, but I do think one should buy something that will hold up for a couple hundred years.

Plug: I use the leather journals from Renaissance Art in Sante Fe, NM. Pricey but old world quality that is worth it.

Bottom line: Find paper and pens that make you want to write, and then write. Often.

I very much look forward to my nightly time with my journal. A couple nights a week I’ll enjoy a pipe and a pint with my journal. I either write by candle light or soft lamplight at an antique writing desk. These simple things don’t cost a lot of money and they make life more beautiful.

@Mark Smith:
I am not challenging you, and I think I see your point. Some people see journaling as merely writing down one’s deepest sorrows (i.e. whining). While some people do this, I rarely write anything sad, depressing, or anything resembling vomit to be revisited; rather I write down the events of the day, thoughts I’m pondering, what I’m reading and what I’m getting from it (a lot of this), what music I’m currently enjoying, films I’ve just watched, things my children did or said, etc. I have found that there’s so much more to write about than what makes me sad. In fact the very act of journaling takes away my sadness more times than not. Just another perspective.

@Greg:
I really enjoyed your post. Thank you.

43 Joshua Gentry January 4, 2014 at 12:03 pm

Day 4, addiction has set in. I have already gone off about things that have been bugging the hell out of me. This is a far better outlet than video games.

44 Josh January 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm

My sister (randomly) got me a journal for Christmas and said, “I don’t know if you journal or not, but I thought it might be a good idea.” A week later this post comes up. I have tried journaling before but it was solely a place to vent and really about 95% negative. Here’s to learning the art of journaling and improving myself through it! Thanks for the article!

45 Jarod January 5, 2014 at 11:55 pm

On Day Five, I have done a twist. I plan to write more letters to my loved ones, but for the official 31 Day Challenge, I written my future spouse. Being single, it is a woman I have not met yet, but I found that it was an amazing way to get my thoughts on paper, certain promises and my ideas and so forth.

46 David Carboni January 6, 2014 at 3:51 am

I use Twitter for journaling. I set up a “private” account about a year ago (tweets protected, no followers) and I use it to record what’s happening. Keeps it short (so I’m more likely to do it) and it’s easy to find and review.

47 Cutler Fortner January 6, 2014 at 5:16 am

I just started a journal today, and while I don’t think I’ll use every one of these in the exact order, a lot of them definitely look like things I should try to think about and get written down. They’ll come in especially useful on days where I just can’t come up with something to get started, which I know will happen to me. My first entry was the stream of consciousness mentioned above; everything passing through my head from my current personal problems to my new jeans went in there and I highly recommend it to anyone else (the stream of consciousness, not the personal problems, although the jeans are good too: Levi 501s from a place selling hammers). I barely allowed myself to edit so I could force myself to include the ideas that seem irrelevant or unpleasant. Currently it’s just a Notepad document, but I plan to pick up one of those splotchy black and white covered composition books (that pattern just feels right to me, I don’t know why) and use the wood-and-brass pen I lathed in Woods Class (ballpoint, but I made it which I guess balances things out). Thanks for the great post.

48 EPG January 6, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Moleskine sells a great series of notebooks. Probably about middle of the road in price. Decent quality.

I have been journaling for about 5 or 6 years, but plan on using this list as a framework for the next 31 days (so I am trailing the rest of you guys). Should afford the chance to jumpstart what I have been doing.

Excellent post.

49 Thomas January 7, 2014 at 11:30 am

So I have been doing this from the start as part of my New Year’s Resolution, and I can honestly say it is helping my life already. I lost my Father this summer(a minister who was shot while trying to stop another fatality from occurring). I had been doing really well in my life to that point and had even lost 80lbs over the course of 6 months and then everything in my world halted and i turned to a very dark place. I was angry, hurt, a raw ball of emotion that often turned into me lashing out at people for no reason, and gained back a lot of weight and became depressed. This has given me something to use to process my feelings as I have no desire to go to a counselor concerning it, I am just not that comfortable opening up like that.

I have been looking for other resources though to continue on past the month as I want to have a head start getting them gathered up without it being a last minute thing. I don’t need a topic for every day as I have several I have been writing down for myself, but some to guide me on days when i just don’t know what to write would be nice. However, I am not having much luck except very girly concepts, or very meaningless topic ideas. Does anyone have recommendations for journal topic locations geared towards men or at least ones that have something behind them rather than “my favorite color is…” or “I drive…” If you have any resources I would greatly appreciate hearing about them.

50 Chris January 8, 2014 at 10:13 am

I just found this article a couple days ago. I’m now on day 3.

I was one of those people that assumed journals and diaries were for high-maintenance women and such.

Having started to keep a journal, I find it a liberating and calming experience; one well worth keeping up.

Thanks for the great articles.

51 Festus January 11, 2014 at 3:55 pm

Will join at once. The handholding guide will be of great help to first timers like myself. I do hope to continue even beyond the 31 days. thanks AOM !

52 Chris January 12, 2014 at 10:05 am

I keep my journal in my phone, it works just as good to me. Much more convenient

53 Dave January 12, 2014 at 10:32 pm

I’m conflicted about “journaling” for several reasons. One is that it seems to me that keeping a diary is awfully self-invovled. Not lomng after C.S. Lewis became a Christinan he abandoned his diary keeping because he thought it was a asign of pride.

54 Caleb January 13, 2014 at 12:04 pm

@Dave:
I’m a reader of Lewis and remember him not seeing much point in writing down daily happenings, etc., but I’ve never seen this reference to pride. I guess I’ve just missed it, and I would enjoy seeing it in its context.

But in regards to pride, it could be argued that writing a book that very few people will ever see (a journal) vs. writing books for the very purpose of many people reading them, as Lewis did, would surely be a greater showing of pride. Either way, there is no getting away from it: we all suffer from pride and always will to some degree. Journaling can be a very real way of seeing ourselves getting beyond at least some of our pride and growing into better men.

55 Tim January 14, 2014 at 10:33 pm

Just hitting Day 10 – The Hero’s Journey. My first impression was negative and thinking here’s one I can skip and do something else instead. Wow. Once I got past that initial reaction and into the process, I started to see a couple of these different threads going through my life. Really revealing to go from feeling stalled to seeing a story in progress.

56 Eternityroad January 14, 2014 at 11:08 pm

I have kept journals for over 40 years. Didn’t write everyday. Some days I wrote many pages. Now I am on the brink of retirement and have begun to read them. I have over 80 volumes, from loose leaf to steno to leather-bound. I am looking forward to “catching up”, seeing how I have changed down through the years. Hopefully there will be some insights that will prove fruitful at the close of life. As for this exercise, I am being faithful to it. I like workshop-type exercises…primes the pump. Good journey all!

57 Willaim January 15, 2014 at 5:32 am

I am quite enjoying this process thus far. I haven’t seriously written in a journal since grade school (and then it was compulsory), I’ve made this part of my morning routine and I plan to keep it that way. Thanks for outlining this 31 day challenge!

58 Jostein Nilsen January 16, 2014 at 7:20 am

Excellent! I have kept journals on and off, but this year, I started a year-long quest to wisdom (complete with a yeard, if everything goes according to plan) with journal entries every day at onoldage.wordpress.com. I found this blog post just now, but I’ll sure use some of the tips here going forward.

59 R. Stefani January 17, 2014 at 3:10 am

I’ve kept a daily journal since 2011 in America and am continuing to journal in the PeaceCorps (Health sector, Rwanda). Don’t get bogged down with what you need to write, just write. some days I just write what I did that day, some days its a personal refection, and some days its me word vomiting a problem down on the page. I try to write at least a page a day and tell myself if cant fill a page I need to do more in the day.
Keep at it and don’t stress!

60 Sebastian Karwowski January 17, 2014 at 12:59 pm

I have a journal starting back in 2007, at first it was awkward to write but after few months it became natural, most important thing is persistence.

61 woody January 24, 2014 at 4:54 pm

It would great to see finished products of this submitted by readers.

62 Connie B January 29, 2014 at 12:39 pm

Can’t believe it’s coming to an end. I’ve tried keeping a journal before and it didn’t work out that well. I think this was a great idea and even more so, great topics! I can’t believe it’s almost over. Definitely plan to continue journalling.

63 JT January 31, 2014 at 7:02 pm

1-31 from 1-1 to 1-31, some days i had to play catch up but i made it. Congrats to all those who did to!

64 Darren February 2, 2014 at 4:38 pm

Finished!!. I thought this was a great challenge and really enjoyed it. Learned a little about myself and who I want to be during this

65 Gary February 8, 2014 at 11:10 pm

I just finished the challenge. I chose to use my blog to journal. I got some great feedback from friends and family. I recommend it for anyone.

66 Ben February 19, 2014 at 12:54 pm

I’m currently in the middle of it and find it very revealing! I’m doing it on my blog so feel free to check it out :)

67 Mike W April 4, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I can highly recommend journaling. When I was a kid I tried keeping a diary and I would manage a couple of months but by March it was usually history. Then much more recently I started again as post-depression therapy and it has made such a positive contribution to my life that I am hooked.
I would suggest NEVER put it on a computer – fountain pens and good paper make the writing a pleasure and something of a ritual. And maybe one day when I’m gone, my kids will pick up the books and read what their Dad was really thinking, so it is both a legacy and a personal history. Just do it!

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