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Today is day 1 of our 7-day journaling challenge. Thank you for joining!

There are hundreds of fellow AE fans from all across the world taking this challenge. We are looking forward to sharing this journey with you.

During the next week we will be posting one new tip each day. The tips are quick and easy to implement. Just follow along and you will be well on your way to a consistent journaling ritual that will help you get your thoughts, ideas, ponderings, learnings, gratitude, actions, values and intentions out of your head and into a trusted holding ground.

The benefits of journaling are numerous. The price of admission is low.

Who is this challenge for?

This journaling challenge is for people who:

  • have always wanted to start a journaling ritual and don’t know where to start
  • have a journaling practice but are looking for a few more ideas to up their game
  • journal but can’t seem to do it as consistently as they’d like
  • worry that journaling will take a lot of time

If this challenge for you, commit now. Research shows that committing to friends and family about a new ritual helps with follow through.

Tweet: I’m starting my #AsianEfficient journaling challenge! Tweet: I'm starting my #AsianEfficient journaling challenge! https://ctt.ec/41Fwv

Now let’s dive in with the first journaling challenge.

Challenge #1: Decide on the medium (paper / digital) and then answer the question: “What did I learn today?”

A lot of people wrestle with the question of whether to keep a traditional paper or digital journal. Both formats have their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

Is one way to better than the other? I don’t think so. It’s a matter of preference.

Going with paper and pen

The strongest reason for the traditional route I’ve heard is from Asian Efficiency nerd Thanh Pham.

Thanh keeps a paper journal because he enjoys the different context his physical notebook gives him. For Thanh, journaling is more free form and reflective in nature. As someone who works all day on his computer, he associate the computer with work. The work mindset is not the best way to pull ideas and feelings out.

Some other advantages of keeping a paper journal:

  • Portability: No need for electricity or internet
  • Durability: It will never crash or have software glitches
  • Customizability: Freedom to draw, write or sketch without restraint
  • Quality: Long hand notes tend to be processed a bit more deeply than typing

Going digital

I personally use a digital journal. I find writing digitally is the way I can keep most consistent.

Some other advantages of keeping a digital journal:

  • In Sync: Sync across multiple devices
  • Efficiency: Faster entry
  • Shareability: Can be shared on a blog or social media
  • Flexible: Spell check, grammar check, bullet points, copy and paste are all ways to make your thoughts or ideas more clear
  • Security: Password protection and automatic backups
  • Reviewability: Easier to see patterns with tags, search, date and location stamps
  • Multimedia Options: Can include photos, video or audio


Weigh the pros and cons or go with your gut. Either way, make a decision about where you are going to put your thoughts down. You can always change your mind later if you feel like another medium actually suits you better.

Once you’ve made your choice, answer this one question before the end of the day:

“What did I learn today?”

The learning question is one of my favorite structured journaling prompts because when you capture what you’ve learned you are also capturing what has had your attention that day.

Did you learn the next move on the salsa dance? Did you learn that taking breaks in the afternoon actually makes you more productive? Did you learn an interesting historical fact?

Ask yourself this question every day this week and you’ll have at least 7 new ideas that can potentially serve you or someone you know. In addition to an archive, taking the time to capture your learnings will allow you to remember the idea more clearly.

Here’s an example of 3 things I learned last week.

journaling tip 1 weekly learningI send out a little weekly newsletter to family and friends as a way to keep in touch and hold myself accountable to my weekly journal review (but more on that later).

So pick your medium, write down what you’ve learned today and check back tomorrow for challenge #2.

Let us know in the comments if you’re in!

Update: Challenge #2 is next.

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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  1. Great article, Zach! Journaling is something that has been on my “get around to it “ list for…well, for a long time. I was reading AE’s posts and listening to the podcasts about journaling and came across this challenge and thought about trying it! In deciding which format to use, your comment about Thanh (”As someone who works all day on his computer, he associate the computer with work”) hit home. I totally need separation from my computer at the end of a grueling workday, so I’m going try paper and pen for a while to see if it is a good fit.

  2. LOL! i’m thinking paper would be best for all the ‘good stuff’ the positive things i want to journal about – just in case curious eyes happen to find my journal, or find it after i’m gone.

    And use the digital method for the ‘bad stuff’, the negatives – so it stays private away from being accidently found and wont hurt anyone’s feelings!

  3. I’m in. Wasted more time between deciding paper or Day One, so this helps me to get off the dime. Day One it is, and away we go.

  4. I’m in! I’ve been journaling somewhat inconsistently for a few months now and this is just what I needed to get me on the right track.

  5. I am totally in. My medium is paper, rhodia journals, and my fountain pens. Like Thanh I work at the computer all day and like the change of paper for journaling.

  6. I’m in (paper, too, please!). Yesterday I learned what a true procrastinator I am. Planned to start journaling for months, then decided to accept the challenge. A day late.

  7. I have also decided to use Evernote, gives me the freedom to use paper if I feel like it and then just import it into Evernote. Also I can add photo’s, drawings, etc to my journal….

  8. Count me in, too! Interestingly, paper vs digital has been my longstanding roadblock in getting stared again. Yesterday, I finally decided on paper. Thanks for the nudge!

  9. I’m in! I’ve recently started journaling (thanks to AE) in Evernote but may switch to paper for the same reasons Thanh cites. Zack, I *love* your idea of emailing highlights of what you learned to your family and friends. Great way to stay connected!

  10. Yesterday I learned that I have to stay focused and let others wait until there time arrives in my time blocking calendar.

    Most times they will figure it out on their own. When I am available to them in an instant then it is easier for them to just shoot off an email to me instead of trying to figure it out on their own…or to read the original email again that tells them exactly what to do.

    Like herding cats.

  11. Just found you guys vía Pocket, I am not only onboard, but I am going to encourage my wife and children to come onboard also. Thank you! This is something I have often thought of doing. Now, let’s roll.

  12. Maybe this will get me back on track. I’ve journaled off and on for years but haven’t bee too good about it recently. Like the questions you ask. Pen and paper and a cup of coffee or tea!

  13. I keep a moleskin notebook, but my structure is still developing. I’m very excited to take this challenge and develop a journaling habit!

  14. I’m in.
    It’s like the 100 Day Challenge, except I have trouble finishing that one.
    I’m pathetic if I can’t finish this one.

  15. You guys got me excited about journaling!
    I’ve been wanting to try it for quite a while now, but I was stuck at the paper or screen dilemma. Thanks for reminding me that it’s okay to change your mind!
    I actually was journaling (very) occasionally, but didn’t realize it at the moment. It was usually while I was away on a trip somewhere, so it was both a journal and a travelogue. I’d write down what I did, but also what I was thinking and feeling at the moment. I also recently found some notes with what I called at the time “my random thoughts”. The things you can learn from your past self… And you can see how much you’ve changed. Writing this, I became even more motivated to journal. Thanks, and I am so excited to be sharing this experience with so many people!

  16. This is pretty great. I already keep a pretty diligent Bullet Journal (paper and pen), but it tends to be more lists and less reflective journaling. More prompts for how to synthesize my day would be perfect.

  17. I’m in. Paper and pencil. Keeping a Franklin-style journal now [for most of 2015] and will add ‘What I learned today’ to my Happy/Smile/Gratitude listings end of day.

  18. I’m in! Using Journey for Android and Chrome. But will record bullets on paper during the day to allow entire to be comprehensive

  19. I’m in! Will be using a combination of a Bullet Journal & Evernote. I really struggle with remembering to take the time to journal so I am hopeful that this challenge will help.

  20. I am in! Using Evernote.

    If anybody is looking for a journalling app on Android have a look at Diaro, I’ve tried it and it works quite well as DayOne isn’t available on Android.

  21. Definitely in. A natural reflector who hasn’t been giving enough for reflection. Great challenge. Will start digital ….

  22. I have been using DayOne inconsistently for a good while now. I love the program and hope to develop a more consistent and focused routine.

  23. I’m in!! I’m using my “bullet journal” for this journaling challenge –I finally (in September) started putting absolutely everything in a bullet journal, including notes from classes, all reminders, things I have to do by month, week and day, (meaning “next actions”), planning projects (they might get separate pages) etc. My Omnifocus “lists” got overwhelming, moving away from digital for now at least, putting everything in one place is, thus far anyway, working. My bullet journal is perfect place for this “journal.”

  24. I’m in. Thank you for not making it a 70 day challenge! I usually prefer paper and pen, but maybe this time I’ll try electronic to see if I can be more consistent with my journaling.

  25. I struggle with choosing because I like both – very rewarding to write on a quality paper with a good pen – yet the convenience and accessibility of electronic is appealing. I have several paper journals and too many digital journaling apps. For the next 7 days I’m going paper.

  26. In here!
    I really would like to use pen and paper to reflect and be away from the electronics but I have gotten back in to using day one which is in easy reach of phone, tablet or laptop so will stick with that.
    I’ve been ok at the three things I have done today for the last months or so, so will add in what have I learnt today as well :)

  27. I’m in! Evernote is my choice. I started journaling 3 months ago, but I’m not very consistent and structured yet, so that’s a great opportunity!

  28. I’m in – and have decided to do both for now, at least,

    My thinking is that I gain the benefits of both with only a little bit of additional effort (digitizing the paper into my digital diary and printing the digital diary).

    Have tried to journal in the past with limited success, so this will be an interesting challenge.

    Obviously time will tell and I will be sure to post an update at the end of the challenge.


  29. I have a stack of journals dating back since when I was 11. And now my daughter is 11. You bet I’m in!

    P.S. Paper please. I spend more than enough time in front of the dread machine (even if she is a shiny macbook).

  30. I am in.

    Trying to leverage both digital and paper by using a Livescribe Pen and a Moleskine notebook that automatically syncs with Evernote.


  31. I’m using Day One. I try to journal “three things that happened today,” and it’s partially successful. I’ll try something I learned today.

  32. This is a great way to get started – thank you! I have used paper in the past (Moleskine journals) but recently started using “Day One” on the Mac – I love it for journaling and you can set it to remind you every day.

  33. I tend to flip, starting with one medium and ending up with another, then flipping again.

    I like digital because it’s easy to search for my journal entries. I only ever write my journals in .txt files, with a date as the prefix in this format: YYYY.MM.DD. Text format makes it all easy to review and search. A long time ago I used a journal software but it no longer exists and I lost everything I put into it.

    But when I’m stressed I find I go back to paper, not so much to write down thoughts but to make goals, daily/weekly plans, to do lists, affirmations and etc.

  34. Very good idea to take part.
    I use DayOne for daily journaling “electronically “. The haptic part is paper, that I write on. Than it’s scanned in Evernote and linked to DayOne.

  35. I am so excited about this, have been wanting to journal for years, but after a day or 2 I usually feel I don’t have anything more to journal about, and then I stop….. So can’t wait for this…..

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