Pre-Review of the Best Self Journal

I am one of the happy backers of the “Self Journal” – a tool that seemed to want to be the Everlasting Gobstopper of journals. At first their mission – “to create something that lends itself to making success inevitable – through planning, execution and measurement” – seems pretty in line with my own efforts at personal development, and when they showed their stack of books they used for inspiration, I saw a lot of my own favorites there – Ferriss, Pressfield, Covey.

I was curious, in that experimental life-hacking sort of way, to see how I might like it. As a side note, if you’ve not explored, you should. It’s a way to feel part of the American Dream – watching someone go from Idea to Product, see their trials and tribulations, and (hopefully) end up with a product that you didn’t just buy, you helped make. It doesn’t always work out – but when it does, such as with the Self Journal, it makes it an even more enjoyable experience.

This is a three-month journal, so that’s why I call this the “pre-review”; it’s a first-reaction kind of thing.


  • The pages combine several methods that I’ve already used successfully, such as gratitude journaling morning and night, “MIT” (Most Important Tasks), a plan similar to T. Harv Eker’s Life Makeover System, a daily calendar, and even space and pages where I can do sketchnotes.
  • The construction of the book feels nice. I suspect that they used the same manufacturer of the Baron Fig Confidant, because it feels almost identical – and that’s a good thing. In fact, it feels even better, because it has the elastic band, beloved of Moleskine users, that is missing for the Confidant. Opening the box felt like you were opening something valuable.
  • All of this adds up to the book being an easy space for daily practice of planning your day. I’m on day three right now, and I am liking the way it works.


  • Zero-based calendar“. This is a big one. The theory behind this comes from zero-based budgeting, and the idea is that you “leave no time unplanned.” If you’re planning on sucking on the Gravy Hose (i.e., Facebook) then plan it. This goes very much against my belief in the necessity for slack, and it’s the hardest thing for me to try out.
  • They use a lot of hyperbole – “inevitable success” and “maximize productivity”. I don’t much care for that kind of corp-speak (I tend to think it’s destructive). I’ve come up with my own phrases – for example, I’m hoping this book will enable me to “create joyous flow” in my life. Dance, Don’t Scramble.
  • The fact that it’s only three months is a little annoying…but I also know that I can easily replicate it in my own notebooks, so this is a minor complaint. Also, if it works well, it’s easily worth the $29 to buy another – and how awesome would a bookshelf full of these feel?
  • The one big disappointment was the three-month wall calendar that came as a “bonus”. I do like erasable wall calendars – but this one felt cheap and tawdry compared to the high quality of the rest of the book.
  • There is an obvious old white guy bias in the inspirational quotes that accompany each daily outline. It takes some looking to find a quote from a woman, and even then they tend to be women from contemporary pop-psych books. I wish they’d made a little more effort to draw wisdom from multiple cultural and demographic sources.

Don’t let the fact that the “cons” list is longer than the “pros” fool you: I’m liking this book. I’ll write more about the process later, but in the meantime, if you’re looking to start your own journaling practice (a common thing to decide this time of year), why not try out the Five Minute Journal to just get things started?

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