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Journaling Challenge Day 1: Find Your Medium

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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!

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.

Discover the 1 Lifehack of Highly Successful People

This one lifehack led to the biggest breakthrough of my career. People like Steve Jobs and Oprah have used it to catapult their success, and now you can too.


Posted by James Gaus  | December 10, 2019 at 1:08PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Brianna  | December 28, 2015 at 12:31AM | Reply

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!

Posted by Bluez  | December 16, 2015 at 10:02PM | Reply

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.

Posted by mafis  | December 16, 2015 at 2:03PM | Reply

I’m in, too. Digital with my own platform i’m working on at the moment.

Posted by Ian  | December 16, 2015 at 10:29AM | Reply

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.

Posted by Dave  | December 16, 2015 at 8:59AM | Reply

I’m in! My medium is paper, although I occasionally use a digital format if I need to write something down in a hurry.

Posted by Duncan  | December 16, 2015 at 12:14AM | Reply

I’m in. Just bought Day One.

Posted by Randy  | December 15, 2015 at 11:38PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Andrew  | December 15, 2015 at 10:12PM | Reply

I am in

Posted by Stan  | December 15, 2015 at 4:52PM | Reply

I’m in… no doubt… really great idea… greetings from Moldova

Posted by Mary  | December 15, 2015 at 4:03PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Manuel  | December 15, 2015 at 2:47PM | Reply

Great start!!!

Posted by Doan  | December 15, 2015 at 1:27PM | Reply

Great idea, I’m in.

Posted by Stienie  | December 15, 2015 at 1:15PM | Reply

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….

Posted by Jenn  | December 15, 2015 at 12:16PM | Reply

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!

Posted by Janeira  | December 15, 2015 at 11:13AM | Reply

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!

Posted by Lynn  | December 15, 2015 at 9:20AM | Reply

Oops, forgot to confirm yesterday. Yes, I’m in. And paper. puts me in a different head

Posted by Janice Rensi  | December 15, 2015 at 7:32AM | Reply

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.

Posted by norfickchick  | December 15, 2015 at 6:08AM | Reply

I’m in too! Paper for now in my gorgeous Midori Travelers Notebook, but I just had a look at DayOne and it looks very cool:-)

Posted by CaffeMezzo  | December 15, 2015 at 5:06AM | Reply

I like RedNotebook, synched across all platforms with Dropbox.

Posted by Sunil  | December 15, 2015 at 3:13AM | Reply

I’m in! I’m thinking I’ll go digital, it’s easier to spot patterns and get analytical..

Posted by Alexey  | December 15, 2015 at 2:55AM | Reply

I’m in! Let’s try )

Posted by roy  | December 15, 2015 at 2:02AM | Reply

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.

Posted by Susan  | December 15, 2015 at 1:48AM | Reply

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!

Posted by Steph  | December 15, 2015 at 1:23AM | Reply

I’m in.

Posted by Matt  | December 14, 2015 at 11:36PM | Reply

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

Posted by Dan  | December 14, 2015 at 11:24PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Romulus  | December 14, 2015 at 11:07PM | Reply

Yeaaaa buddy! Apple Notes App for now, may longhand write down main points for a weekly review later.

Posted by Dan  | December 14, 2015 at 10:36PM | Reply

I’m in! Using paper for now since I really need to decrease my screen time.

Posted by Jonathan D. Golden  | December 14, 2015 at 10:32PM | Reply

I am in! Good Stuff!

Posted by Taylor  | December 14, 2015 at 10:21PM | Reply

I’m all in! Starting a journaling habit during finals won’t be easy, but I’ll be grateful in the long run.

Posted by Tina  | December 14, 2015 at 10:09PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by michael reyes  | December 14, 2015 at 10:04PM | Reply

I’m in. I’ve been inconsistent with my journal habit. I hope this make this stick.

Posted by Ed Moy  | December 14, 2015 at 9:55PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Janeson  | December 14, 2015 at 9:46PM | Reply

I’m in! Paper for me.

Posted by Sanja  | December 14, 2015 at 9:35PM | Reply

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!

Posted by Mike Irwin  | December 14, 2015 at 8:42PM | Reply

I’m in. I do like the idea of using both and storing a copy of the paper in the electronic journal.

Posted by Jane  | December 14, 2015 at 8:32PM | Reply

I’m in! This should be an awesome challenge!

Posted by Sam  | December 14, 2015 at 8:30PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Mardi  | December 14, 2015 at 7:50PM | Reply

I’m in. Starting digital, but will also do longhand when I can. Like the idea of both.

Posted by PJ Cartier  | December 14, 2015 at 7:48PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Sze Ching  | December 14, 2015 at 7:24PM | Reply

I am in, using dayone

Posted by Marc Meadows  | December 14, 2015 at 6:55PM | Reply

I am in with Day One and laptop/ipad/iphone!

Posted by Daryl Barker  | December 14, 2015 at 5:51PM | Reply

I’m in… longhand and pen!

Posted by Theo  | December 14, 2015 at 5:45PM | Reply

In! Looking forward to writing even just a little bit each day.

Posted by Willie Kate  | December 14, 2015 at 5:41PM | Reply

I’m in! (Better late than never!) I’m going to use Day One as my journal.

Posted by Michael Hanzalik  | December 14, 2015 at 5:36PM | Reply

I’m in the the fun begin

Posted by John Winstanley  | December 14, 2015 at 5:27PM | Reply

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

Posted by Kat Jojhnson  | December 14, 2015 at 5:14PM | Reply

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.

Posted by DaleP4J  | December 14, 2015 at 5:05PM | Reply

Count me in. Will begin to use in earnest DayOne.

Posted by BigJoe  | December 14, 2015 at 4:51PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Steph Goad  | December 14, 2015 at 4:38PM | Reply

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

Posted by Charles  | December 14, 2015 at 4:20PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Bruce Gudmundson  | December 14, 2015 at 4:13PM | Reply

I’m in! I’ve used DayOne sporadically and want to bemore consistent.

Posted by Tor-Einar Rogn  | December 14, 2015 at 3:53PM | Reply

I’m in !

Posted by Sam Le  | December 14, 2015 at 3:33PM | Reply

I’m in! And I’m looking forward to making journaling a daily habit!

Posted by Nick Powell  | December 14, 2015 at 3:32PM | Reply

I’m in and looking forward to it

Posted by Arian  | December 14, 2015 at 3:31PM | Reply

I like it, I’m going to jump in!

Posted by Lynnoc  | December 14, 2015 at 3:09PM | Reply

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.”

Posted by Larra  | December 14, 2015 at 3:08PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Jeanie  | December 14, 2015 at 3:00PM | Reply

I’m giving it a try. The idea that I will have 7 little ideas by the end of the week is a great motivator.

Posted by Leslie  | December 14, 2015 at 2:52PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Kelly  | December 14, 2015 at 2:52PM | Reply

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.

Posted by Amy Smith  | December 14, 2015 at 2:47PM | Reply

I am in. Loved the podcast today with Kendra Wright. Although I am not a “tag” person, I thought her idea of tagging life categories was great.

Posted by GT  | December 14, 2015 at 2:44PM | Reply

I’m in

Posted by Diane  | December 14, 2015 at 2:25PM | Reply

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 :)

Posted by Luciano Schirmer  | December 14, 2015 at 1:58PM | Reply

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!

Posted by Heather Godfrey  | December 14, 2015 at 1:53PM | Reply

I’m in. This comes at exactly the right time for me, thanks!

Posted by Peter  | December 14, 2015 at 1:52PM | Reply

Up f a new challenge

Posted by Larra  | December 14, 2015 at 1:46PM | Reply

I’m in. Thanks for not making it a 70 day challenge!

Posted by Jofen Kihlström  | December 14, 2015 at 1:39PM | Reply

I’m in, can’t wait to get into Journaling

Posted by Mike Burch  | December 14, 2015 at 1:35PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Cmesoar  | December 14, 2015 at 1:14PM | Reply

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.


Posted by Donna Woodwell  | December 14, 2015 at 1:04PM | Reply

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).

Posted by Donna  | December 14, 2015 at 12:59PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by JJ  | December 14, 2015 at 12:48PM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Bob  | December 14, 2015 at 12:41PM | Reply

This is perfect timing. I just started focusing on my journalling through your recent posts. So I am in!

Posted by Arcangelo  | December 14, 2015 at 12:33PM | Reply


Posted by Jane  | December 14, 2015 at 12:30PM | Reply

I’m in .

Posted by Jeff Madison  | December 14, 2015 at 12:27PM | Reply

I’m in. I’ll be using Day 1.

Posted by Becca  | December 14, 2015 at 12:23PM | Reply

I’m in. Starting with paper, although I’d like to move to digital at some point…

Posted by Dani  | December 14, 2015 at 12:16PM | Reply

I’m in! I’m launching a new business and wanting to track the journey.

Posted by Enwongo  | December 14, 2015 at 12:10PM | Reply

I am in. Will be going digital. Not sure of which app.

Posted by Susan  | December 14, 2015 at 11:40AM | Reply

I’m in.

Posted by Carl Schulz  | December 14, 2015 at 11:35AM | Reply

I am in.

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


Posted by Barbara Thomas  | December 14, 2015 at 11:16AM | Reply

I have NEVER tried this but always up to “learn new tricks”! Bring it on…

Posted by Rick Farris  | December 14, 2015 at 11:14AM | Reply

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.

Posted by Gabriel Orozco  | December 14, 2015 at 11:13AM | Reply

I am in!

Posted by @ThatDwayne  | December 14, 2015 at 11:03AM | Reply

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.

Posted by Aretha  | December 14, 2015 at 11:02AM | Reply

I’m in. I’m choosing digital for grammatical and spelling check. Plus I need to learn to type with two hands.

Posted by Laynie  | December 14, 2015 at 11:00AM | Reply

I’m in!

I just started using the Day One app so this challenge came at a perfect time!

Posted by jaime  | December 14, 2015 at 10:55AM | Reply

I’m going to write in paper, then send a picture to Evernote.

Posted by Adrienne  | December 14, 2015 at 10:47AM | Reply

I am in.

Posted by Chris  | December 14, 2015 at 10:35AM | Reply

I’m in! Thanks asianefficiency!

Posted by SoCalBonnie  | December 14, 2015 at 10:26AM | Reply

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.

Posted by Peter E. Graves  | December 14, 2015 at 10:12AM | Reply

I’m in as well. Paper and fountain pen for me.

Posted by Louise  | December 14, 2015 at 10:10AM | Reply

I’m in, and it’s paper for me. :)

Posted by Clemens  | December 14, 2015 at 10:07AM | Reply

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.

Posted by Stephen  | December 14, 2015 at 10:05AM | Reply

I’m in I used to keep a journal while I was working but quit when I quit.

Posted by Steve  | December 14, 2015 at 9:59AM | Reply


Posted by Briana  | December 14, 2015 at 9:57AM | Reply

I’ve struggled with this choice for years; time to pick something and stick with it! Maybe I’ll start with both and see which feels better…?

Posted by Karen Stringer  | December 14, 2015 at 9:54AM | Reply

I’m in :)

Posted by Dale Tadlock  | December 14, 2015 at 9:49AM | Reply

I’m in. Will have to decide on the medium. I love the idea of a paper journal, but the electronic makes a lot of sense for me. Hmmm.

Posted by Kraig  | December 14, 2015 at 9:49AM | Reply

I am torn between paper or digital, maybe I will…. ok digital so I can read what I entered with know problems.

Posted by Dr.Amrita Basu  | December 14, 2015 at 9:42AM | Reply

I think I will start using evernote to journal.That’s a good habit no doubt.

Posted by Chris  | December 14, 2015 at 9:41AM | Reply

Very helpful information and an excellent idea. Thank you!

Posted by Fatemeh  | December 14, 2015 at 9:40AM | Reply

I’m in too

Posted by Josh Rensch  | December 14, 2015 at 9:35AM | Reply

I am in….

Posted by stephanie miksis  | December 14, 2015 at 9:35AM | Reply

i’m in! i choose paper; excuse me now… i have to go learn things so i can write them down :-)

Posted by Marc  | December 14, 2015 at 9:32AM | Reply

I have been using DayOne for the past 60 days and want to develop a more focused routine.

Posted by Max  | December 14, 2015 at 9:29AM | Reply

I’m in!

Posted by Stienie  | December 14, 2015 at 9:21AM | Reply

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…..

Posted by Andy Pigott  | December 14, 2015 at 9:16AM | Reply

I’m in! Looking forward to it.

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