The leader of a Facebook group recently asked a question similar to the following, a question which might be a great journal prompt:
What is something that you have done which would have impressed the you of five years ago?
That’s a mouthful.
This prompt is meant to help you understand the progress you have made in life. Have you done something that five years ago you didn’t expect to have done? Have you accomplished something that, five years ago, seemed out of reach? Have you altered your life in ways that you had not even considered back then?
Contemplate it and record your answers.
This prompt can also be used to get your ideas flowing for what’s next. What might impress you in the next five years?
Ten years ago I would give away paper journals to relatives and friends, hoping they would join me in recording their lives. They often did not take me up on the offer.
Enter the touchscreen phone/smartphone, the tablet, etc. Now they record their lives in more ways than I do, through Facebook, Snapchat, and other applications online.
There are many different ways to journal now, even if people do not call it by that name. I still love my paper journal the best, but I am thrilled that so many people are finding the way that suits them to record their endeavors.
I recently came across a video by online entrepreneur Roberto Blake called, “I’m No Instagram Model, But…”. In it, Blake notes that he had not found a way to use the photo app Instagram in a way that fits his personality. Then, he says,
“I decided to turn Instagram into a public journal where I can express what I’m thinking and feeling as a creative person, as a human. And so I can look back on that myself and know exactly when I felt something, where I was at that time – both geographically at the time and just where I was in my own head.”
He’s journaling on social media! But then again, so are most individuals who are on the app. He’s one of the first people that I’ve heard use the word “journal” to describe what he’s doing with it.
Recording your life and thoughts can be done; sometimes it’s a matter of finding the tools that work for you and your life. Perhaps the journaling tool that best fits your life has not yet been invented. (Perhaps you should invent it.)
If your journal also houses your to-do list, then efficiency in creating those lists is necessary to get the job done.
One of the biggest culprits of to-do list failure, of not achieving the goal, is the tedium of having to write and rewrite your list on tasks to complete on a regular basis. Delay writing burnout by creating templates.
If you know that you will create a to-do list every day or every week in your journal, it might be a good idea to type a list template that you can print and affix to your paper journal.e.g. If you have a weekly to-do list for the foreseeable future that has as its focus Housing goals, Blogging goals, and Financial goals, then type those headings in a simple table, leaving blanks for you to write in the specific goal each week.
If you are using a digital journal for your list, create a to-do list template that you can copy and paste every day or every week.
Continue tweaking your journal and your lists until it fits your life. Pay attention to what fatigues you about your writing and what brings you a sense of well-being.
And remember that what worked for you in a different phase of life might need to be tweaked for your current phase of life.
Use the writing implement or medium that works for you and your journal. If a Visconti Rembrandt fountain pen makes you eager to write, go for that investment. If a store brand pen which you can buy in packs of 50 gets your creative juices flowing (because you’re not worried about someone “borrowing” it), then use that inexpensive pen.
Sometimes you’re not even using a writing implement. There may be times when you glue an image to a page to speak for your mood instead of words.
The pen (or other medium) you should use for the journal is the one that serves you.
When Tim Ferriss mentions his daily writing routine in Tools of Titans, I was intrigued. He calls the routine the 5-Minute Journal.
The 5-Minute Journal is a series of writing prompts that Ferris uses every day – morning and evening- to recall daily highlights and to improve himself for the next day.
These are the 5-Minute Journal Prompts:
- I am grateful for…
- What would make today great?
- Daily Affirmations
- 3 amazing things that happened today
- How could I have made today better?
I have incorporated the 5-Minute Journal Prompts into my daily writing routine for ten days. There is already a weekly goals list incorporated into my journal; I was searching for a way to remind myself daily of the tasks that should be completed by Saturday. The 5-Minute Journal Prompts bend to this purpose.
Early on, I would often write in the Evening Questions section that nothing amazing has happened today. It was then that I realized that I associate the word “amazing” with momentous and often unexpected occasions. I substituted it with the word “awesome,” which I associate with any size event or occurrence. That prompted me to change the wording in other places in the prompts to fit my life and the way that I speak. I would encourage you to do the same.
After a few days, writing the same questions over and over became tedious, so I typed the questions, leaving a space for writing underneath each one. I then printed out a bunch of the pages to glue one every day to my journal. Then I start writing. That has been so much better than handwriting the questions every day.
Of course, if you’re already digital journaling, this series of prompts can more easily fit into your daily writing without so many steps, and without the tedium of writing the same words every day. Just copy and paste.
What do you think of the 5-Minute Journal?
What has prevented you from reaching your goals? Is part of it fear? Fear of what? Writing it all down in private, in a journal (paper or digital) helps to process what’s going on internally. From there, you have a better stance from which to address the issue.
A journal can also help you to understand your patterns of fear as well as the things you continue to say that you want, the goals you continue to claim will be completed. Following the patterns of behavior recorded in your journal can help you understand what you fear, at what points you tend to fail and why.
Reading my old journals where I would write that I plan to do X, Y or Z, and then seeing how little of that I had accomplished was devastating. I determined to discover where I continue to fail. A lot of it was allowing fear to make my decisions, or just not making a decision at all (which is a decision by omission).
Use your journal to help you understand what you would do if you were not afraid.
How many of you use a table of contents in your paper journal?
While it is perfectly possible to enjoy the benefits of journal writing without labeling each entry, a table of contents or an index will help to skim the journal for an entry that you will want to re-read later.
Plus, a table of contents gives you a summary of your year (or whatever time frame in which you used the journal). Sometimes you look back in wonder at all the thing you have done (or didn’t do) in a year, just by looking at the table of contents.