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After using the Moleskine weekly agenda for a while, I was tired of the thin pages and wanted to try a journal with a high quality heft and thick paper. I tried the SELF Journal starting at the beginning of 2017.
I was intrigued by the daily structured layout, so I went all in and used it as my main planning tool. The journal delivered on its quality promise. I got more than I bargained for because I didn’t fully realize it’s a goal planner and how that’s different from an agenda.
Things to consider before buying any goal planner
The SELF Journal is different from most planners. It helps you focus on one to three top goals that you have for a 13 week period (one calendar quarter). There are a few other goal planners out there, which I’ll mention later. Goal planners are like a daily workbook, and each page incorporates productivity best practices. That allows anyone to make progress on their goals, even if they have never learned about productivity.
Paper planner users who already use a weekly planner may have a bumpy road adjusting to a goal planner. They should be prepared to read all the available material about how to use the SELF Journal before starting to write in it. On the flip side, this daily planning method is more nimble than weekly planning. That could be good for people with busy lives and kids at home because you can quickly adjust your day’s tasks.
Some things to consider before choosing a goal planner are whether you are willing to work within the structure set out, what product quality level are you looking for.
The SELF Journal Review
BESTSELF’s goal planner helps you identify your goals and then break them down into manageable chunks. If you follow the SELF Journal to completion, you will take daily action toward your goal. That means that at the end of 13 weeks, you WILL see progress. The SELF Journal keeps you checking in every day and every week to correct course and make sure you’re working on the right things.
Included in the package, you’ll find a dry-erase goal tracker to hang on your wall. It uses the “don’t break the chain” method to keep you moving forward with daily action toward your goal.
When you purchase the SELF Journal, you get access to several resources. You’ll get a welcome email that lets you join the BestSelf Alliance private Facebook group. New and veteran users share experiences, ask for help, and give encouragement. If you benefit from motivational groups, this could be the most valuable part of buying the journal.
The journal dimensions are 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches. The hard cloth bound cover feels good in the hand. The paper is very thick, and the sewn binding is of the highest quality. The downside of the thick pages is that it doesn’t lay open to your current page, making the bookmark necessary.
You’ll get no bleed through with gel, fountain and felt tip pens. I had to write with a dark Sharpie to get bleed-through.
Who the SELF Journal is for
This goal planner is for anyone who wants to work toward a goal, even if they aren’t clear yet on what that goal should be. The planner appears to be popular with entrepreneurs as well as people with health-related goals.
If you already have a system that’s working for you, the SELF Journal might not provide much benefit. You can download the PDF and see the methodology before buying. Click this link, and you may need to go to “Learn More” to access the download.
- You don’t need any prior experience with setting goals or with productivity practices.
- It breaks down your goal into simple, methodical actions to get you to your goal in 1-3 hours per day.
- Productivity best practices are implemented through features such as daily gratitude and habit tracking sections.
- Cloth binding and heavy pages give it a premium feel that encourages you to use it daily.
- Undated pages let you pick up after an absence.
- There is a community of helpful journal users.
- The setup time is long compared to a traditional weekly agenda.
- The journal doesn’t lay flat opened to your daily page.
- Only one bookmark, and no tabs, so you need to mark your goal, monthly and weekly pages for quick reference.
Features and Benefits
The SELF Journal has a hard cloth cover, thick pages, and a sewn binding. It has a premium feel in your hands that makes you want to pick it up. It all seems a bit overdone for a journal that is only supposed to be used for 13 weeks. However, I believe it creates an experience that makes you more likely to stick to using it every day. That’s important if you want to reach your goals.
Productivity best practices rolled in
The layouts of the workbook-like pages make it almost inevitable to follow well-known productivity practices.
The hourly planning sections encourage you to block times for focusing on your goal.
Morning and evening gratitude prompts help you think more positively. I resisted filling this in at first, but eventually I came to appreciate the reminder to look for the good things I already have.
Each day has three numbered lines for “Today’s Targets” so that you can prioritize what needs to be done for that day. Above that, you write in your goal(s) each day, which keeps them top-of-mind.
Daily “lessons learned” and “wins” sections help you introspect on what you could do better in the future and what did go well. That creates a short feedback cycle so you can quickly make improvements to your goal-seeking practices.
The SELF Journal has space for you to track up to 3 goals per quarter. Goal 1 is in the front, and sheets for goals two and three are in the back. I mention that because I didn’t find the other two until I was almost done with the journal.
The layout, which they call the 13-Week Roadmap, gets specific about how the goal will be accomplished, how you will know you’re on track, and asks you to make a commitment to yourself. This is a powerful layout that incorporates several goal-achieving best practices.
There is a one-page layout for each of the 13 weeks, where you can track your habits, rate how happy you were, and record your wins and lessons learned. These let you frequently course correct, and when you’re finished, you can review your journey at a glance.
Because this journal is undated, the week review pages are in front of the daily pages section. That means you have to mark them somehow to return to them, and you also have to schedule time on you calendar to complete them. I forgot to use them for the first couple weeks. The daily habit tracking is on the weekly page, so I often forgot to use that, as well.
Update 12/31/2107: I was glad that the weekly review pages were grouped up when it came time to do my annual review. Instead of flipping through the whole book, I was able to get just the highlights from the weekly pages.
The layout is flexible enough to let you pivot your goals or skip days. Since you rewrite your goal(s) each day, there is a new chance to refine your goals based on what you’ve tried so far. The undated pages let you start on your goal any time of year. You can work toward your goal on weekends or skip them. You can take a vacation and not worry about it using up your pages. The one downside of the undated pages is that you have to write small with a fine point pen, unlike the rest of the daily layout.
The BESTSELF creators have a positive attitude toward feedback, and they seem to take it into account. One journal reviewer said the quotes were mostly from white men, and now they seem to have changed that. I’ve seen them react constructively to feedback in the Facebook group, too. So if there’s something that irks you about the journal, and it bothers others too, they are likely to fix it.
The BestSelf Alliance Facebook group is active with SELF Journal users helping each other set goals, stick to using the journal, and get the most out of their journals. Here are some examples just from this week.
Alternative Goal-Getting Journals
The main difference between the SELF Journal and these alternative goal planners is that the SELF Journal has a scheduling page for each day. That means each two-page spread is one day. It is one day per page in the alternatives. If you know you like to have your appointments written down, or if you like to time block your day, you might prefer the SELF Journal.
A popular alternative to the SELF Journal is the Productivity Planner from Intelligent Change. I have not used this one, but the main difference appears to be that the Productivity Planner incorporates pomodoro tracking. It’s also a little less expensive.
A newer option, which I also have not tried, is the Freedom Journal from John Lee Dumas of Entrepreneur on Fire. It’s a little more expensive than the SELF journal. It breaks down your 100 day goal into 10-day sprints. It includes a gratitude prompt every day and frequent check-ins like the SELF Journal.
Conclusions – should you buy the SELF Journal?
If you want to reach your goals, you need to define them clearly and then take daily action. That system is built into the SELF Journal, and it walks you through each step. The premium quality feel of the journal encourages you to use it every day, making success more likely. The flexible daily planning layout is forgiving of busy schedules that change frequently.
It takes some start-up time and also some time to build the habits around using the SELF Journal daily. There is excellent support in the Facebook group to help you do all that.
If you are in the minority of people (like me) who are happy with their current system of planning and achieving goals, stick with your system and save your money. It’s not worth the churn of learning a new system if you don’t need to.
The SELF Journal does seem to work for a lot of happy people who reached goals they would not have reached without it.