The Thinking Journal

Thought journal

Most businesses have a system for appraising personal performance. At the very basic level it will include a quarterly review system where you and your boss will evaluate your progress to date, implement necessary changes and plan for future success. The system is created to align individual goals with the main goals of the company.

Why not structure your life like this?

I try to operate my life based on a business model. I believe by behaving in this way I achieve more and lead a more fulfilling life. I addition to creating my own annual and quarterly reviews I also hold a daily review. You may think this is going a tad too far but believe me it is an excellent practice, especially for a writer.

The Morning Papers

My first task when I wake up is to empty my mind. This was a practice I picked up after reading Open Your Writing Mind With the Morning Papers by Iain Broome. I assess my thoughts, remember my dreams and feel my emotions, before emptying them all onto paper. Theoretically, by emptying your mind you are creating more space for the day ahead.

If Nothing Else Happens Today At Least I Would Have Achieved the Single Task of?

This is one goal per day that I set the night before. I write down one single task that I must make sure I complete before I go to bed the following day. Make sure this task is achievable but stretches your ability.

Today I am Going to Create?

Creativity is important to me, so each night before I go to bed I set myself a creativity goal for the following day. Once again the rules are simple; I do not go to sleep until I have completed this task.

Today I am Going to Help?

By consistently helping others you slowly become a much more thoughtful person. A lot of people do this naturally, but I find it helps me to remember whom it is I am helping. I have a think about this before I go to bed and set the goal the night before.


I have a list of daily affirmations that I read each day. It is preferable to read these after you have completed your morning papers, but the main objective is to read them before you go to bed.

The Ray of Light

At the end of every night I think of one person who needs a little bit of help and I write to them. I rarely send them my words but I do write nonetheless. My Nan suffered a heart attack yesterday and so last night I wrote her a Ray of Light. I suppose this is my closest thing to prayer. I think it helps me be more thoughtful.

Rays Of Light (Photoshopped)

The Check-In

This is where I complete my check-in. I always send this to my girlfriend at the end of the night. It is a record of the events of my day.

Today I Have Had

I picked this habit up from the fabulous book Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers. I think back throughout my day and make a note of all the wonderful experiences I have had. I then write them down on a piece of paper and throw them in my “I Have Had Jar” which I have by my bedside. I also keep “I Have Had” mementos like concert tickets. This practice is to remind myself that whatever happens to me I am experiencing some wonderment while on this earth.

How Do I Feel?

I wrote in the blog post Understanding Your Emotions about the importance of feeling your emotions and understanding what thoughts are creating them. Each night I feel for emotion and I write about them. I also send this to my girlfriend each night.

What Do I Need?

After reviewing how the day went and how I feel? I ask myself what I need to improve my life? Maybe I am sad and need someone to talk to? Maybe I need cheering up? Maybe I need to work harder? Whatever I need this is where I write it down.

What Support Do I Need?

Everybody needs a little help from his or her friends. After reviewing what I need I ask myself whose support I need to seek. This could be a therapist, girlfriend, son, family or sometimes no one.

What Work Have I Done Towards My Goals?

Finally, I go through my list of goals, cross-reference with my thinking journal and note down what I have done to move towards them. There should be at least one thing on this list daily. The more you write the more aligned your activity is with your goals. I like to be accountable for my goals and so I send this to my girlfriend as I find it gives us both a kick up the backside should we dare take our foot of the pedal.


You may believe this is a lot of work, but once you get used to it the time flies by. I complete most of this before I go to bed as it helps clear my mind so I can have a restful sleep. I spoke about balance at the beginning of this post. On weekends I try not to work and instead just rest, I do not live my life as rigidly as I do on weekdays. I still complete my journal but it is a lot quicker because during the day I am generally just relaxing and enjoying myself.

What do you think about this process? Let me know your thoughts and please ask questions.


I used to keep a diary when I was in my teenage years and I only stopped when I was around the age of twenty. I liken this process to keeping a diary except it is a lot more detailed. I got the idea to share it with you after writing the blog post Understanding Your Emotions where I discussed the importance of feeling your emotions and linking them to thought.

Photo courtesy of Katelyn Fay  Dmitri. N  webhamster (cc @

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  1. Lee, this certainly sounds like a profitable exercise (or should I say series of exercises?). I never kept a diary as a child and I do very little journaling now. I do write down when I have significant dreams at night and any revelations I receive during times of prayer and reading the Bible, and even that I sometimes forget. But knowing myself so well, I don’t think I would ever get into a lasting routine doing something like this. I’m sure it would be a good thing, but I can’t see it happening if I tried it. I once tried using a daytimer. I was told that if I did it for 30 days the habit would be set for life. That was a joke. I did it for more than 30 days, but then I would forget some days, then more days until I realized I wasn’t using it any more. But I commend you for doing these things so faithfully. I’m sure it keeps you on your toes and understanding yourself better.

    • Lee Davy says:

      Hi Diane,

      I suppose you just have to be careful that the ritual doesn’t take over your life inasmuch as it becomes a chore. This is why it is so important to live your life aligned to your sense of meaning and purpose. By doing so, how can anything ever be a chore?

      I was in Copenhagen last week and a friend of mine is giving up alcohol and using me as an example. Another friend of ours likes a good drink but always complains afterwards how he wishes he could quit. He made a passing comment that we have given up everything that was fun. The funny thing is he couldn’t be further from the truth. Everything I do is fun. I have more fun these days than I did when I was drinking. I participate in activities I wouldn’t have even dreamed of doing when I was drinking. This is because I have found my sense of meaning and purpose. This is why my activities such as my Thinking Journal are so important to me.

      Thanks once again for taking the time to read my blog and to comment.


  2. I really love this idea and I’m going to start my own Thinking Journal. I just signed onto Penzu (suggested by Iain Broome) where you can create your own journal account. I already can feel that I will have less stress by carrying less in my head!

    • Lee Davy says:


      It is really difficult to be disciplined to do it everyday but it really has enriched my life. Good luck with it.

      Lee xx

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