The TIL (Today I Learned) Journal:
Learn something new every day.
Don’t worry if it’s an embarrassing question to ask.
It doesn’t matter if it’s something you should have known years ago.
Just learn it, and write it down.
Why I Started
I began my daily practice of TIL journaling as a way to confront my fear of failure.
And for me, ignorance was one of the worst kinds of failure.
It was a label I put so much of my energy into avoiding.
To the point that—ironically—I led myself right into it.
It would start with being asked a question I didn’t have an answer for.
That’s fine, right? We all have such moments, because no one knows everything.
But instead of accepting this little gap in my knowledge,
my fearful brain would default to a different response:
- Flood self with anxiety, and let self-esteem plummet.
- Be so distracted by the humiliation of the moment, that actually attempting to learn the answer won’t even come to mind.
- Embrace a false sense of security as I later avoid the topic altogether.
- When said topic inevitably returns one day, repeat the cycle.
- And most importantly: Never just learn the thing!
This reached its peak when I moved to a new country.
There, I tied my self-esteem directly to my ability to speak a difficult language fluently from the start.
(What could go wrong?)
Every tiny mistake brought me deeper into paralyzing anxiety.
And as a result, my ability to actually learn anything became stunted.
It didn’t matter how encouraging everyone around me was.
This was a self-made trap that only I could break myself out of.
The Messy Start
So I decided to just confront my ignorance a little bit at a time.
Take baby steps to becoming more comfortable with asking questions.
And after some trial and error, I finally developed this into a strict, daily commitment on January 1st, 2021.
Finally, I was consistently practicing the terrifying act of facing one of the most monstrous things I know—my own ignorance. And I chipped away at it just a little bit every day.
Why I Still Use It
Gradually—painfully so—I saw an improvement in my relationship with ignorance.
Rather than looking at the unknown with overwhelming anxiety, I began to approach it with curiosity, and even eagerness to learn.
I started accepting myself, ignorance and all.
Because now I was stacking up—day by day—small pieces of proof that I can improve.
I’d learned, through experience, that imperfection isn’t as bad as I made it out to be.
And that seeking out those knowledge gaps and filling them in doesn’t have to feel so embarrassing.
This journaling practice not only helped me learn a language, adapt to living in a different country, and expand my areas of interest.
It also helped me to treat my mistakes as lessons rather than miserable failures.
It brought me back to actually enjoying my lifelong love of learning!
This process has been so dear to me, that I’ve loyally kept at it every day, with a streak of—so far—over 660 days.
This is not an article claiming “How to Eliminate All Your Anxieties with This 1 Crazy Trick!”.
I still have anxieties to deal with, and so much more to learn.
But this routine has been life-changing for me.
And there are surely people out there who can benefit from it as much as I have!
Taking on a habit of TIL journaling doesn’t have to be fueled by extreme issues like mine.
It doesn’t even have to be serious, lifelong commitment.
It’s just a journal!
Whether it’s for school, hobbies, work, or your own personal development and curiosities..
Really, it doesn’t matter your reason. You don’t owe anyone an explanation.
If you want to start a journey of daily learning, you are welcome here!
How to Start
Above is a picture of part of my own TIL Journal, which I keep in Notion.
Although I provide a free template in Notion for you to keep your own organized TIL journal, you can also start out with the simple pen and notepad method.
Learning a new language? Then maybe start with looking up some new words.
Are there things you’re embarrassed to not know? There’s almost certainly an article or Youtube video out there for you.
There are no rules for what topics or research methods you choose.
Whatever it is, just learn something, and write it down.
And good luck!
If you want more structure and organization, I provide a free TIL journal template on Notion.
This way, you can keep all your daily entries in categories, with a pleasing layout.
Click here if you’d like to read my tutorial on how to use the template.
If you found any of this helpful and plan to start your own TIL Journal, feel free to share in the comments.
Thanks for reading, and happy learning to you all!