I know, I know. I’ve heard all the arguments for journaling.
It’s reflective. You learn about yourself. It keeps your life in perspective.
But frankly, it just wasn’t doing it for me.
Whenever I write, I want it to be moving toward something. Even if I know I’ll chop a lot in the editing process, it at least feels like progress.
Journaling never felt like progress. I could never do it consistently, and if I had to write one more feeling about myself, I would have thrown up.
So instead, I tried something different…
If you’ve gone through a similar experience, I suggest something I call “micro-journaling.” It takes a lot less time and effort and still gives me the mental boost I need to get started.
This, far and away, is the number one thing I’ve done to improve my focus throughout the day.
Here’s how it works.
Step 1: Write the date.
For a while, this was the only type of “journaling” I could muster. Recording the day is very important to me. A while back, I went through some awful stuff where I neither knew nor cared what day it was. They were all passing by in one bland, homogeneous mess.
Do not skip this step. By listing every day out, you remind myself you are alive, you are being intentional, and you acknowledge you will never get another chance to live this day.
Love! This is for everyone!!! https://t.co/62MZ4YT4ta
— Heidi Job (@heidi_job) September 10, 2015
Step 2: Make a list of 10+ things
Lists make terrible news articles, but great morning brain stretches.
You can either start with a category in mind – “10 reasons I love my job” – or you can start by writing down a statement you’ve been thinking about – “College is too safe” – and try and come up with reasons that complement that.
The “college is too safe” statement didn’t end up as a category, but a part of a list that was eventually titled “Reasons people stay in school too long,” which will make a good article.
If you’re worried about what to write, here’s the fun part. It doesn’t really matter what the list is made of. The whole point, really, of any intellectual morning routine is to make your brain go “hmmm.” When the brain goes “hmmm,” you move from instinct to higher level thinking. Honestly, the number of things you list doesn’t really matter either. Do whatever it takes to get to the “hmmm” moment. If you list 10 colors, and you didn’t once have to try and remember one, the activity is a worthless. However, if you’re me, and can only think about 4 colors at any given moment, this would be a challenge.
If your prompt happens to be “Things that could improve the American political system,” you might hit the “hmm” right away.
I wouldn’t know. I am much too afraid of this topic to try a list on it.
Step 3: Write one thing you are grateful for
Again, what you’re going for is the maximum effect with the minimum amount of time. I don’t want you to think about it, I just want to you write one thing that comes to mind.
I’ve written “Kate” on several of mine. You can also find such loquacious excerpts as “roof” and “food.”
Gratitude is critical. If you can’t be thankful for something you already have, you will not be thankful for anything else you achieve that day.
Here’s a look at the final result:
— C. Foster (@Fosterthis) October 8, 2015
Step 4: Quit journaling and get back to your life.
That’s seriously it. The whole process takes anywhere from 3 to 10 minutes, depending on how many things you actually end up writing and how big your “hmmm” is.
I’ve tried a lot of different elements in my morning over the last couple of years, and this is definitely my favorite.
Let me know how it works for you!
(And if you want a head start, don’t forget these prompts!)