How The PIE Journal Optimizes My Creativity And Self-Awareness

Prompts, ideas and experiences

Photo by Sorin Sîrbu on Unsplash

Keeping a journal and sticking to a budget share much in common. Everyone knows they should do it. Most people try it, but few folks sustain it. Only a small minority follow a structure and remain consistent.

And like sticking to a budget, you need structure and consistency to reap the rewards of journaling.

I understand the struggle. I’ve been journaling every day for three years, but it took me twenty years of failed attempts to craft a workable format.

If you‘ve’ struggled to sustain a journaling practice, it was likely due to these reasons:

  1. It was too difficult to implement or too time-consuming.
  2. The style of journaling you chose produced unsatisfactory results.

The PIE Journal solves both problems.

It began as a tool for generating ideas. It expanded into a reservoir for recording my experiences. It then morphed into a tool for collecting ideas, promoting self-discovery, and taming anxiety.

The PIE Journal — prompts, ideas, and experiences

It’s childlike-simple but effective. I’ve stuck with it for three years because of benefits such as these:

  • I’ve sourced almost every blog post idea — over 1,400 — from my journal.
  • Writing about my worries and anxieties has allowed me to develop strategies to combat these feelings.
  • Examining my experiences and deriving the lessons learned forces me to face positive as well as uncomfortable truths about myself, resulting in heightened self-awareness.
  • The mere fact of knowing I will journal about my experiences compels me to hone my observational skills.

Are you ready to try it? Here is how it works.

The Process

I use a cheap spiral-bound notebook. I bought a bunch for $1.99 each. A 100-page notebook will last you two to three months.

Start your journaling each night before you go to bed. I prefer a nighttime ritual because your daily experiences are still fresh in your mind. Each journaling session should take fifteen minutes.


Begin each session by selecting five of the eight prompts below. Choose the ones most relevant to your experiences of the day.

Prompt 1: I keep saying I’m going to [fill in the blank], but I haven’t done it because [fill in the blank]

There’s a reason we put things off for days, weeks, or months. Some to-do items lack priority or urgency — there’s no reason to waste time on them. Other tasks might cause discomfort, so you delay taking action in an attempt to avoid the pain.

Putting it on paper day after day creates a sense of angst. The frustration builds, nudging you to act to relieve the tension.

Prompt 2: I keep worrying about [fill in the blank] Here’s what I’m going to do about it.

When you put your worries on paper, they seem to diminish in importance. Take it a step further by employing classic risk-avoidance and risk-mitigation strategies.

Jot down an idea to reduce the likelihood of your worry becoming a reality. Then sketch out a backup plan should your worry materialize; this mitigates its potential effect, bringing you peace of mind.

Prompt 3: I let fear get in the way of [fill in the blank]. The worst that could have happened was [fill in the blank]

Fear interferes with your life in subtle, non-obvious ways. You will notice these situations as you develop your observational skills.

Take a situation as simple as not asserting yourself when someone cuts in line at the grocery store. It passes through your consciousness never to be remembered. Journaling about it obliges you to confront your inaction.

The results from this prompt spawned my experimental mindset, a tool for dealing with fear.

Prompt 4: I regretted the way I behaved when [fill in the blank]

In the heat of an argument, you said something you wish you hadn’t. Perhaps an acquaintance of yours needed to get something off their chest. You didn’t want to deal with it, so you lied about a work thing.

Even the best of us experience regrettable moments when life overwhelms. We forget courtesy and kindness. We tend to beat ourselves up later, but neglect to examine the experience. Writing about it brings awareness and learning.

Prompts from my journal

Prompt 5: What was my most important decision?

Pick one decision you expect to impact your life in a measurable way. Or, pick a decision you put off and write why you failed to decide. What does your decision-making process (or indecision) reveal about what you value?

Prompt 6: What am I grateful for?

Making your entire journal about gratitude is a bit much. That’s why my attempt at the gratitude journal failed. It felt disingenuous.

I included gratitude as a prompt in the PIE journal because everyone can think of one thing they’re grateful for each day. It’s not that hard.

Prompt 7: What am I most proud of?

This prompt comes with a powerful side effect. If you know you’re going to answer this each night, you’ll make sure you do something worthy of self-praise.

Your achievement need not be monumental. Consider an act as simple as saying a kind word to someone who needs it.

Prompt 8: Today’s random memory is [fill in the blank]

I don’t recall how this prompt nudged its way into my journal process, but it’s my favorite part of journaling. Pick a year and a season and write about the first memory that pops into your head.

  • What did it mean to you?
  • How have you changed since then?
  • What lesson-learned can you share?

So many story ideas have launched from this prompt. It’s a staple of my routine.


Dedicate three to five lines of your page to idea generation. Once you start writing your thoughts, do not take your pen off the paper. Keep going until you fill up all five lines.

Ideas from my journal

Do not limit yourself to a specific category of ideas: business, fiction, nonfiction. Just write whatever pops into your head.

Read over your ideas the next morning. If any seem promising, you can further develop and refine them. It’s tempting to work on your ideas during your journaling time, but you should avoid this. Just get them on paper.


Next, write down five to ten experiences from your day. The experience could be personal, or something you observe. You might overhear an interesting conversation at a cafe. You might spill a full cup of coffee on your pants in the middle of a meeting.

After you record your experience, write what you learned from it — just a few words. There’s a lesson in everything. Did it teach you something new, reinforce something you already knew, or did it challenge a previously held belief?

Experiences from my journal

Writing about your experiences and questioning what you learned from them helps you to become more self-aware. You learn new things about yourself. You discover unpleasant truths. You’re forced to confront fears, anxieties, and faults. And that’s a good thing.

Strengthen Your Observational Skills

You‘ll enhance your journaling results by strengthening your observational skills. Pay attention to your interactions, conversations, and events that take place around you. Take notes on your favorite app. I email my notes to myself at the end of the day and refer to them before I journal.

As you develop your journal ritual, you attune yourself to noticing intriguing occurrences that currently go unnoticed or register on the periphery of consciousness.

The PIE Journal can transform your life both creatively and emotionally. You won’t experience a daily breakthrough, but every so often that grand epiphany will strike. It’s moments like those that will make this a staple of your routine.

Experimenter in life, productivity, and creativity. Work in Forge | Elemental | Business Insider | GMP | Contact: barry@barry-davret dot com.

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