In a way I always knew that journaling would be a delightful and beneficial habit. But it wasn't until I made it an easy and enjoyable part of my daily routine that I got the hang of it.
The first person to recommend me journaling was my elementary school teacher. I can't remember the reasons she gave, but I remember her saying that all great men and women throughout history have kept daily journals. Convinced that I was destined for greatness, I tried to follow her advice, but failed miserably. I just couldn't keep on doing it.
The same happened later in my teens and even during my university studies. Perhaps I wasn't motivated enough or perhaps I made it too complicated for myself, each day trying to write a goddamn novel. I had no structure, no routine, and I couldn't keep doing it for long enough to experience any real benefits.
Much later in life, having completely forgotten about journaling, I heard self-help guru and “human guinea pig” Tim Ferriss talk about Five Minute Journaling. He has said that "The Five Minute Journal is one of the simplest ways that I have found to consistently ensure improving my well being and happiness. Both in terms of achievement and actual measurable, quantifiable results."
Having already tried a multitude of different things for improving my daily focus, ability to fall asleep, and stress management, I thought what the heck – I'll give it a try!
Five Minute Journaling is surprisingly easy and as the name implies, it only requires a few minutes of your time each morning and evening. In the morning, typically right after waking up, I write down three things that I'm grateful for and three things that would make the day great. Usually I also write down a daily affirmation.
In the evening, around bedtime, I write down three amazing things that happened during the day, and finally some thoughts about how the day could have been even better. I've found that Evernote and templates are great for the actual writing and most of my entries are made with my iPhone.
I've now been able to consistently journal for 40 days and the benefits are clear. It sets the right tone and focus for the day early in the morning. Thinking about things that I'm grateful for actually makes me a happier person. There's probably a ton of psychological research supporting this, but I'll leave that for another blog post. Finally, I've found it much easier to fall asleep after I've "closed the day" by writing my final entries in the journal before going to bed.
All in all, Five Minute Journaling is the second best life hack I've discovered so far (the best is still sitting meditation for ten minutes twice a day). You can read more about the Five Minute Journal here.