“The-One-Journal-For-Everything” System

I have a system that I created in early 2007 and have been using and perfecting ever since to much greater effectiveness.

I call it “the-one-journal-methodTM”

My first mention of it online was in a comment on my Japan-related blog DailyJ

This is basically how it works:

Instead of writing things down on random sheets of paper, napkins, etc. I write everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) down in my notebook.

I use one notebook for every line of thought. This is as opposed to having a notebook for ideas, a notebook for documentation, a notebook for grocery lists, etc.


And I have them in volumes. When I reach the end of one composition notebook (for example vol. 11) I pick up another one and label it as the next volume (vol. 12).

ASIDE: I am as of 9/15/2009 I am up to volume 28. With 200 pages each that is 5600 pages in under 3 years! (not sure if I should be happy about that or concerned…) 🙂

Leonard DiVinci had 13,000 pages of notes. At my current rate I might top him in 7 years but probably only in quantity not quality.


I write every important idea down IMMEDIATELY.  If I am taking notes down about a book I am reading and suddenly I have a new idea for one of my websites, I make a dividing line right there in my notebook and write down the new idea.

When ideas are separated like this I put a “cont’d on page #” to connect the entries. For example I might have a partial grocery list on page 2 and the rest on page 9. I plan to put pictures here soon to better explain it (and maybe an ebook).


I save the first three pages of my composition notebook for creating an index. The index is a list of the page number and title of each notebook entry. This is an important component.


Equally important is numbering the pages of the notebooks. I number all the pages either when I first start a new volume or as I go along. This helps to keep track of where all of the information is.

It also is a big part of the next methodology we will look at that makes this system great for productivity.


The real power of this system manifests itself when it is combined with your calendaring and to do systems.

Let see how that works:

Let’s say you write down some ideas that popped into your head for a project that you have to do in two weeks. On your schedule you would write down the name of the project and write “see notebook #27 page 89.”

With this system all of the details of a project are off of your mind as soon as you have them and into a system where you can recall them later exactly when you need them.

It’s like Google for you thoughts. Google knows the power of indexing. So does your local library.


Many of the great thinkers, doers, and world-changers throughtout centuries past were prolific journal keepers.

I already mentioned Leonardo DiVinci.

Benjamin Franklin (used to create his Autobiograpy and Art of Virtue)

Lewis & Clark

Darwin’s Voyage of the Beagle

Mark Twain (innocents abroad and roughing it)

This list could probably go on forever. In fact, here is another great list of journal writers.

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