Sticking to it
Three months with the five minute journal 🤓
“The five minute journal — The simplest and most effective thing to do every day to make your life happier.” As I was reading the words, a real skepticism came over me. I held the book in my hand as I listened to my friend Steve P. Young. He talks about how important this book had been to his own success and shared a few of his early notes. He gave one copy to each of the participants at his App Masters Retreat conference in Santa Cruz, a conference for app developers and marketers. He challenged us to give it a shot: “Try writing every day for one week and then make up your mind about continuing or not.”
I gave it a shot, and three months later I’m still doing it. I’m a firm believer in the power of smiling and focusing on happy things compared to being pessimistic. Have a positive outlook to life and positive things will come your way! If you ask me whether I live in the past, present or the future, my answer would be that I live somewhere between present and future. I don’t spend much time dwelling on what’s done, but rather what I learned from it and will do going forward.
By writing in the five minute journal, I started the day on a positive note by thinking of things I’m grateful for. Then I would answer what would make today great, followed by my daily affirmation. At the end of the day I would reflect on the amazing things happening, and what I would have done different if I had the chance of a do-over.
How to ensure that I’m following through
Whenever you try something new, you have to make it a habit for it to stick. There are different schools of thought to this. The five minute journal asks for five days, others for 30. I knew that the most important thing would be to set myself up for success by not changing too much of my daily habit. Rather incorporate it into my daily routine.
Another important aspect about making a new habit is how you deal with the days you don’t follow through. Have I written every day? No, but close to it. If I forgot one day I didn’t beat myself up about it. I 🤷♀️ and continued the next day looking forward rather than backwards.
I also got my boyfriend a copy. That made us accountable to each other. He wasn’t super eager at first, but I asked him to try for one week, and then I wouldn’t bring it up ever again if he wasn’t up for it. To help him I put our books next to the toilet. As most of us visit the toilet right after we wake up and before going to bed, this was the ideal place to ensure we would follow through. Yes, this may not be the most hygiene place, but let’s be real, neither is your phone.. 🤭
I believe in challenging status quo and questioning the default. Now, three months in to writing, I’m asking myself: Should the five minute journal continue to be part of my life? To answer this, I reviewed my notes and came to a few realizations.
What am I usually grateful for?
Waking up and immediately asking myself what I’m grateful for is the best way to start the day. It tricks your brain into a positive mood. Reviewing my notes, there’s a few things I keep bringing up:
- Something my boyfriend, friends or family have said to/done for me
- Opportunities that I’ve created or come my way
- Something special I get to experience through my entrepreneurial journey
- The San Francisco weather (hey, after two years I still haven’t seen this bad weather I hear everyone complaining about!)
- Things that we shouldn’t take for granted
What would make today great?
This section has been a work in progress. At first I wrote very unrealistic things that sounded nice, but would not be accomplished in 24 hours. Then I started to use the section to write down the things I was putting off doing, in the hopes to be able to follow through.
“Today I want to start the day with the most important things to do” 09/20/2017
After a while, these became more realistic and actionable. The more more actionable they are, the easier it will be for me to follow through. Now, I usually write two work-related activities and one personal, like exercising.
When I write it down in the book, it becomes sort of a commitment. Most importantly, to push myself to not only do what I like to do, but what is necessary and often uncomfortable. Reading this post was a great reminder of that.
Another challenging part about this section is to remember what’s going to happen that day. Usually, my head isn’t calibrated right after waking up. I’m usually a bit disoriented, and trying to remember everything is hard.
I use this section to put words to what’s most important and often uncomfortable, and remind myself to plan for that to happen.
Does the daily affirmation work?
The daily affirmation is writing the same thing every day. I actually didn’t understand what this meant at first. I tried a few different ones before ending on:
- extremely resourceful and work smart
- always arrive 5 min early
I don’t think there’s a right and wrong answer to these, or a limit to how many to address. Whatever works for you… I use the affirmation extremely resourceful and work smart to help me through tougher times of the day. It reminds me that I am resourceful and that I have to work smart. During tough times, it’s easy to bring yourself down. By writing this every day, I increase the chance of actually keeping this in mind through the day to bring my best solution-oriented self to the challenges we face.
For everyone who knows me and reads this, always arrive 5 min early, is far from the truth. I’m notoriously five minutes late. It’s like my internal clock was set with a 5 min delay. When I began writing this affirmation, I paid a lot of attention to my ability to arrive on time. I would plan my day backwards to increase the probability of showing up on time. It worked when I focused on it, but after a while I stopped backwards planning and now I’m back to scratch. My main motivation is to be respectful of other people’s time. I’ve already accumulated 3 “respect 🍺” (or penalty beers) for showing up late to our internal meetings this week. Thus, work in progress!
Three amazing things that happened today
I like this part as it helps me reflect on the day. At first I would write general events. Later I started being more specific: received a compliment from X for doing Y, or pushed myself despite lacking motivation for Z.
Other things I’m writing are:
- Daily happy events like eating dinner with the boyfriend or meeting up with friends
- Creating opportunities for something
- I receive/gave a compliment
- I turned something around
What would I change at the end of the day?
The last question is the most important one to answer for me: if I got to do the day over, what would I change?
I try to tell myself several times: be more realistic. Like I mentioned above, I need to be more realistic in my planning. Not approach it as: this is everything in the world that I want to do. Rather: What is the most urgent and important thing that I’m able to make progress on today? How much time will that take and is it realistic to get other things done as well? On the days I plan for too much I also get more beaten down at the end of the day if I was unable to achieve it. Becoming more aware of what I’m able to achieve has been a valuable exercise and something I work on every day.
With so much focus on productivity I often reflect on weekends being the time to accept that it’s ok to not have an agenda and just relax. This is definitely work-in-progress!
“I want to be more supportive and recognize the greatness of those around me.” 10/09/2017
I wish I would be better at making the day better for those around me. I want to smile more to my colleagues and strangers. Give more compliments to others and acknowledging their strengths.
Sometimes a day can take a bad turn because you don’t feel like fixing something basic. Often because of the sunk cost fallacy. A few times I’ve forgotten my reading glasses at home. Instead of going back to get them (~1 hour), I work through it, building up a headache and not being as productive. In retrospect, I should ensure that I don’t forget them in the first place, but secondly, just go home to get them. It’s much better with 3 hours productive work than 6 hours of headache and mood swings!
“I should have engaged in conversation with the Dots & co playing woman sitting next to me at the flight to learn about her gaming habits.” 10/25/2017
Other times it’s the opportunities I didn’t take. We all regret not doing something as opposed to actually taking action and failing at it. When opportunities arises, I need to reach for them and make the most out for them! Stop caring about the uncomfortable.
One lesson from Megacool has been reflection around how to improve working as a remote team. I work on moving written discussions on Slack to verbal to avoid confusions.
I’m sure many people will familiarize themselves with this one: time spent on social media vs. other things (like reading). I’m pretty good during the day, but then the evening comes and I’m tired and I tend to procrastinate on social media to avoid going to bed. I’ve attempted to reduce this by deleting Facebook from my phone and moving Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram to a folder called “Distractions”. As motivation, I track the days I spend less than 15 min on apps from this folder. It hasn’t worked out that well yet, but deleting Facebook was really nice. I haven’t really missed it and can check for important things via the browser instead. Sometimes it goes days between checking facebook, and the world still stands!
The big question is, will I continue writing in my journal now that I’m halfway to the end. Yes! The five minute journal works great to ensure positivity and summarizing the day. Yet, it doesn’t give much context to the day. To meet this need, I’ll restart writing my regular long-form journaling. This is something I started with when I became an entrepreneur and I used it to capture learnings, observations and my mood. It takes more time than the five min journal, so I’m not going to do it every day.
One of the main reasons I’ve been able to stick to the five minute journal is that it actually doesn’t take any longer!
Another observation I’ve made is that the five min journal has helped to remind me that my challenges/concerns are small in the bigger picture.
I’m doing a writing challenge where I’m writing something new every day for a week. If you want to read what’s next, subscribe here, and read what my partner in crime is writing on her blog. You can also help me figure out what to write about by posting questions in the comments or on twitter.
Are you also doing the five minute journal? I’d love to hear your experience with it, or any questions you may have after reading this.