Self Journal


I gave myself really specific goals for a lot of my first 6 weeks of the Best Self Journal, and in so doing I found myself being incredibly productive on very specific, concrete projects. I was able to meet deadlines, get things graded, and have positive encounters with family and friends. However, as I wrote about earlier this week, I’m hitting some undesignated time in my schedule; not ‘free’ time, since things still have to get done, but definitely less structured and with fewer things due on specific days. It’s more like everything must be done before my departure for holiday travel.

For that reason, I’ve split up my daily goal section into a concrete and a vague goal for each day; one is about a task and one is about an attitude. Sure, I still have my “targets” section, which is always brimming with concrete tasks, but if I have one particular thing I’d like put to rest by the end of the day, it can get top billing in the goal.

Today, for instance, I want to get a little bit less flighty (settle down) and a little more rapid in my task completion (speed up). Some days, I’m sluggish and still slogging through work, but today I feel the opposite: amped up, ready to go, but somehow still not getting things done at any kind of speed. We all have those days!

My concrete goal is actually one that can be split up over a few different attempts (30 minutes, for instance, to sort the dreaded stack of papers, 10 minutes to create new folders I need, and 10 minutes to actually file everything? Maybe too optimistic…) but I really want it done before I walk out of the office. I’m even bribing myself a little by planning to go to a networking meet-and-greet this evening if I can just get a few things done today!

Do you prefer vague, concrete, or a mixture of goals?

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Guys… it’s been 5 weeks of Best Self Journaling! In that time, I’ve run a 5K, resisted some substantial piles of unhealthy food while aiming for tons of veggies and fruits, and written more than 50,000 words on articles and blog posts. It’s been a landmark 5 weeks.

That being said… I’ve fallen off the wagon a few times. My ideal usage of this journal is for an initial 5-minute entry in the morning, a couple of notes all day, and a 5-minute entry in the evening. Those aren’t big time commitments, but especially while I was travelling, they were hard to fit in.

I’ve now passed my first cringe-y milestone: two full days without writing, returning only in time to work on the third day’s goal setting and gratitude.

What I realized is that these kinds of moments are not where goals go to die: they are where goals are actually forged. We all start projects all the time; it takes a serious person to get back on the horse after falling down.

So that’s what I’ve done: rather than dwelling on two days of not getting my work written down, I push myself to write on the future pages. I push myself to write on whatever is relevant now.

A small silver lining I’ve found is that, once every week or so, I’ll be BRIMMING with gratitude. More than 3 items. More than the 3 items for my next morning or evening session. So what am I doing? I’m putting gratitude in all the empty spaces in my journal. It is a nice metaphor: filling the parts of my goals and plans that are currently empty with the things that are filling me up at the moment.

I’ve only begun to think about how the Self Journal could help me after I have completely filled it, but this seems to be one of the ways: I want to be able to look back and see what simple things gave me happiness and contentment during a time when I was very busy.

Those future looks back? Just might be worth the frustration of not quite measuring up in the moment when I get behind on my journaling. Alright, time to get back on that horse.

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I would argue that the March Madness has nothing on the December Madness: somehow, people think it’s a good idea to put ALL the parties, all the merriment, and all the travel into this one, ice-slick month and hope that we will still be able to finish up a school semester in our free time. It’s bonkers.

That’s why I am grateful that, in between the goal-setting pages and the gratitude questions, my Self Journal has some regular old monthly calendar pages, and they aren’t labeled. This journal can be started at any time, and let me tell you: having December as the “middle month” of my challenge is nothing if not exciting.

Having the many engagements that are coming up written out makes me a little less frightened that by tomorrow, the month that has Christmas in it will be upon us. I can note which days I have not commitments and thus save them for baking or shopping or wrapping presents. Despite my love for Buy Nothing Day,  I am definitely a holidays participant, and I want to make sure I’m doing my share of giving if I will be receiving from my generous friends and family anyway.

That being said, I also want to be able to focus on my goals, and the only way I seem to be able to fit the writing, the exercising, and the healthy cooking in are by noting the big picture rather than just my daily schedule. Having this wider view on the page helps me note which weeks are worst and make sure that I have a few slow cooker freezer meals at the ready before I get there, rather than approaching each week as if it will be equally busy.

What is your preferred mode of monthly calendar: email, online, physical on the wall, in a planner? Regardless, I think somewhere to put the weeks-out commitments is totally essential to my sanity.

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Happy Thanksgiving! I know that most of you are busy eating and watching football and hopefully going for a nice afternoon waddle with your dear ones to work off all that tryptophan… or just napping on a comfy couch! I thought, though, in the spirit of gratitude, I’d share what the weekly pages for the Best Self Journal look like.

(Just a quick reminder: I don’t get anything from you checking out the Best Self Journal or buying it; I just really like it and am finding it useful!)

It took me a couple of weeks to get the hang of the top section of this page, where you choose activities and how often during the week you want to do them. I remember to do my daily pages but end up, often, catching up on these logs of activities later on in the week. One benefit is that, for instance, if I realize I only did yoga or went for a run 2 times that week, I can redouble my efforts for the next week. It’s a way to look back at more than just the one daily page.

I also like the 1-10 scale that it gives me to rate how I “did” this week. Sometimes I write about external factors, like good news from my editors, or internal factors, like feeling alert with less caffeine in my life during my quest to master my coffee addiction.

The rest of the questions are like a compendium of similar questions I ask myself every day, and I’m already starting to notice and say to myself, “this isn’t just a win, it’s a weekly win!” or “This is not a great circumstance, but I’ve definitely figured out my “lesson learned” for the week.” For this reason, I’m glad that once every 7 days I have an extra step to my Best Self planner.

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Another week has gone by, and I wanted to share something interesting about the Best Self Journal. In the beginning of the book, there is a page to fill out about your big, 13-week goals, and I really liked one question more than others: If I complete this goal by my target date, I will reward myself with:

I have always been eager to bribe myself to do things, offering an unhealthy treat or a night of relaxation watching television to myself in exchange for productivity. The problem was that I always spent so much time dreaming up a bribe that would be motivating, that by the time it came down to be productive… I just wanted the bribe. And me being me, I wasn’t good at keeping me from taking the bribe first.

So this question was harder to answer than I thought it would be. I needed something motivating, but also something that I realistically couldn’t give myself ahead of time without having some kind of consequence. I am really happy with the resolution I came to, which was a 10-pass at my favorite yoga studio and a trip somewhere, most likely with Husband.

This combination works well, because I usually try to do yoga on my own at home, but it is lovely to be led through vinyasas by a trained professional – in my case, I’m also becoming friends with some of the yoga instructors, and so that time builds relationships too. I don’t usually commit to yoga, and it is cheapest when bought in “bulk” with the 10 pack, so this reward is both large but also satisfyingly prudent.

The trip is a nice addition, because I would actually be fine giving myself a 10-pack of yoga classes any time I desired them, since it spurs me to do more yoga. The trip is something that Husband knows about, and he knows how much I like to plan ahead, so he can hold me to not purchasing anything for a trip until I have accomplished my goal. What’s more is that the act of planning the trip will make me more and more hungry to accomplish my tasks (healthy eating, caring for friends/family, writing more) over the next 3 months!

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Wondering how my Best Self Journal is going so far? I’m so glad you asked!

  • Gratitude: Since I first began enjoying coming up with three different things to be grateful for each day, I have had some harder days. These actually make me like the Best Self journal more: on my really bad days, the need to come up with something to be thankful for actually can be what breaks a terrible mood.
  • Daily Goals: I am realizing that I have very similar goals every day; things to do with eating healthy, actively exercising, and writing and working well. However, it has been interesting to notice that I’m starting to see other goals emerge on different days: some days, I just want to make a real impact on my coworkers and students, and on other days, I’m focused on overcoming my sleepiness and making sure I still see some successes in the events I have to do.
  • Wins: I love this section! It’s making me so much more positive about myself, and it is functioning as a bit of a continuation of the lessons learned section, since I can look at the other days when I had wins and remember them. For instance, I started using the Forest App for focusing on different tasks, and I wrote about it as a win. Hopefully, looking back at the days prior will remind me to use Forest on other days.

I’m not yet making full use of the daily calendar or the Targets (smaller goals within the daily goal), but I’m working on it! It’s been really nice to have at the beginning, middle, and end of each day, especially during a week when I’ve got a lot of work to do. It can be hard to feel like these busy work days are valuable, but taking a few minutes for mindfulness is so helpful. Makes me feel quite a bit more alive.



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I’ve been thinking for a while that I needed an organization strategy that wasn’t just my pile of to-do list… and I think I’ve found one to try. The Self Journal is my new project, and I’ve already seen some awesome results.

The organization of a Self Journal isn’t about just structuring one’s daily and weekly and monthly schedule. It organizes you toward goals. At the very beginning, I set some major goals for myself: I want to do a better job of keeping in touch with and caring for my friends and family, I want to increase exercise and healthy eating, and I want to up my game in my writing work. The journal helped me identify sub-tasks, motivations, and even rewards for when I accomplish these things!

The journal lasts for 13 weeks, and I plan to make a post every week about what I’m experiencing and seeing from the journal. It is very different from all my past yearly planners, but I hope to pay better attention to the goals of this planner and really try the system.

Already, I’ve noticed that I love having a morning and evening moment for coming up with things to be grateful for. I also love the “lessons learned” and “wins” sections each day. I normally don’t take enough time to focus both on a productive framing of my failures – i.e. what they taught me – or on a moment of my own success. For me, unfortunately, most successes just manifest as a moment of relief before I move on to something else, and already I’m noticing that I am more grateful for my successes and more excited about doing better each day.

I’m also recording more memorable moments – things like my co-workers dressing up as witches and making me smile as they give candy to the rest of the staff today – and that is something I’ve never done well enough. I hope to be able to report more progress on my 3 goals next week because of this experience, but for now, feel free to check out the SELF journal at this link!

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