Personal Growth

Journaling for Dads

by Scott Schulman

hands holding a journal and pen

Back in 1998, one of my favorite Christmas gifts (other than The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the LEGO Sonic Stinger from the Insectoids line) was a notebook and a bunch of gel pens. I’ve always enjoyed writing down my thoughts on paper. I also love to doodle, though I don’t do that much at all anymore. I remember the small spiral bound notebook I got. It had a picture of a $100 bill on the front. I don’t know why my parents thought that would be what I liked, but there you go. The cover didn’t matter, nor did the quality of the paper. What mattered was what I put in there.

I would journal daily as a kid. I would miss a day here and there, but most often, I wouldn’t forget. I remember at one point drawing one picture and then writing what happened that day, every day. I was really big into Pokémon back then, and I specifically remember drawing some of them. They didn’t look great. Spoiler alert: I did not turn out to be an artist. But I still loved drawing and penning my thoughts on the day. I would get it out every once in a while and read what I had written in the past. I always enjoyed doing that.

Then, like most children, I made a stupid mistake. During one of the times I was cleaning up my room or maybe when we moved from Minnesota to Colorado, I threw out my journals (I had acquired at least three by this time). I won’t be able to read those again, and the worst part is that I can’t show my horrible drawings to my kids to make them laugh. Now, I did get another journal when I was in junior high, and I do still have that. But my kids aren’t seeing that one until I’m dead.

Over the years, I have journaled off and on. When I have done it, I’ve loved it. It’s been helpful to get my thoughts onto paper. When I haven’t done it, I have found that I wander more in my life. I don’t live with as much purpose or as much drive. Journaling helps me to focus on what’s most important: my relationship with God, my wife, my kids, my church, people in my life, and my job. And I’ve finally found a way to do this in a consistent way, thanks to a buddy of mine.

Picking Up Journaling Again

Several years ago, Chris Pennington told me about this app called DayOne. It’s a free app you can get on your iPhone, iPad, and Mac (also available for Android).1 It’s a simple, clean journaling app. I used it a couple of times a few years ago, but I didn’t jump in and get the subscription to it because I wasn’t sure I really saw the value in it. So it just sat dormant for a while.

Fast forward to this past spring. My family was going through a time of major transition. We were considering moving, changing jobs, and changing churches, all at once. I was in desperate need of God’s wisdom and guidance and hyper-aware of my never-ending need for God’s wisdom and guidance.

I was diving deeper into the Word than I had in a long time, and I really wanted to get my thoughts out on paper. But I’m much more of a digital person than a paper one. I use my computer and iPad all the time, and that’s just what has worked best for me. I can’t remember if Chris told me I should journal out my thoughts during that time or if I thought to do it, but either way, I bit the bullet and bought a yearly subscription to DayOne.

Building a New Journaling Habit

The first morning, I got up at 5:00am, got a shower, got ready, made my coffee, and sat down in my chair. I read my Bible, journaled about that, journaled about the previous day, and journaled about the day ahead. Then I typed out a prayer for the morning. And I have done that pretty much every day now for 250 days.

Some days if I was traveling or had stayed up really late the night before, I would get back to it later, but that’s probably only happened less than ten times in that span. This is a habit that has been life-changing for me.

Personal Benefits to Journaling

Journaling has helped me in so many ways. Here are just a few.

1. Discipline.

I am naturally a very lazy person. I’m not sure if there are people that are naturally diligent, but if they exist I’m certainly not one of them. But getting up at 5:00am on a daily basis has been so helpful for me. I don’t even feel groggy in the morning anymore. I just get up.

On Saturdays if I’m not running camp (I’m a Christian Camp Director), sometimes I’ll sleep in. And by “sleep in” I just mean that I don’t set an alarm and I wait for one of my four children (ages 0-7) to wake me up. Then as soon as they do, I get a shower and start my routine. This has allowed me to start my day well and be more disciplined in other areas.

2. Memory.

I’m a nostalgic person. I still have my Nintendo 64, and I relish teaching my kids how to play the good old games that I grew up on. When I found out we were having a son (now almost seven years ago), one of my first thoughts was excitement that I would be able to give him all my old LEGOs and then get to play with them again myself.

I love journaling because I believe looking back into the past is encouraging. I can see how God brought me from one place to another not—just physically but also spiritually. And I have that for as long as the DayOne servers exist. Hopefully for my lifetime.

3. Focus.

I always include a “Today” section in my journaling. I say what I’m going to do for today. This is helpful because if I don’t know what I’m doing before I journal, sometimes I figure it out during the journaling. And then I’ve got a plan. If I have a plan, I can execute it. If I have no plan, I’m aimless.

4. Pictures.

One other thing that I’ve done every day is include a picture, mostly from the day before. It’s really fun to look at the calendar view in DayOne, and on every day of the month it shows the picture from that day. I’m looking forward to getting to my one year anniversary of this because I know DayOne shows you what you journaled on that day in the past (like many social media sites). I’ll have one entry per day this year, and I’ll have two the next year.

I’m excited to see the growth in myself and to see the growth in my kids. Most of my pictures are of my kids, though there are some recent Patrick Mahomes stat lines in there too if I’m being honest. Go Chiefs.


If you’re not currently journaling, I would highly recommend it. The practice has been so helpful for me in so many areas. One other thing that’s been probably more helpful than anything else is that I journal what I read in God’s Word that day. I just write a brief summary of what I read. It’s not fancy. It’s not long. But it’s something. And I have this now to look back on next year.

Journaling has helped me to push forward and be consistent in my Bible reading. Whether you choose to use DayOne or buy a notebook and stick to that, do something. And stay the course. You won’t regret it.


  1. But, if given the choice, why would you want anything but Apple!?

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