I came across a reference to “The Five Minute Journal” and had to take a look. I love journals, and paper and pens, and have kept a diary of assorted varieties since I was seven years old (I love that there was a “lock” on one from elementary school — as if it would keep my sister out of my diary), and I’m always looking for ways to tweak my daily routine. So when I saw “Five Minute Journal” my curiousity was piqued.

The idea is that in five minutes a day (yes, just FIVE MINUTES A DAY) you can journal and become a better person. Or something like that.

The gist of it is: in the morning, write down three things you are grateful for, then three things that would make the day great, and then your affirmations (if you’re into that). Then in the evening, you write down three amazing things that happened to you that day, and then a note about how you could have made that day better.

In many respects it’s genius — a few minutes in the morning to set your intentions, and then a few minutes in the evening to note what happened and reflect on improvement. All of this fits on one sheet of paper, and if you buy the actual “Five Minute Journal” you get daily inspirational quotes and a split-sheet effect with the morning section on lighter background and evening section on darker background.

I’ve been trying the morning section to settle my mind down before getting to work. Most mornings I have a zillion ideas running through my head, which range from the Terribly Important and Must Do Today to mundane silly things that Aren’t Important and Will Add No Value to My Life But Dammit I Want to Know More (like who is on the new cast of Dancing with the Stars, or what the reviews look like for a recently published academic book on the Japanese tea ceremony). Trying to sort through the mess and triage it often has me heading down rabbit holes (and usually of the mundane and silly) before I ever get to determining the important and timely stuff to do.

So I’m liking and using the “three things grateful for” and “three things that would make the day great.” Just three things. I think I can manage that.

For the evening I’m still preferring Lynda Barry’s “Daily Diary” format that she describes in her book Syllabus. You take a composition notebook, and each day note seven things you did that day, seven things you saw or noticed, something you overheard, and then draw a picture from some aspect of the day (a self-portrait is okay, esp. if expressing emotion). Something like this*:

daily diary format

Rough daily diary format from Lynda Barry
(my handwriting is nearly illegible, hence the print version here)

I can’t draw (really, I can’t), so it’s been a struggle to even attempt to draw something that vaguely resembles reality, but when I look back over my diary entries, it’s the pictures that stick out, like the one of the guy in his car flipping me off through his open sunroof, or the outline of mountains under clouds, or a day I was frazzled and have the self-portrait to prove it.

This is a far cry from Julia Cameron’s “Morning Pages” and takes less words and penmanship than a standard diary, but it’s working well for me for catching the highlights of the day and pushing me to render them visually. It also takes less time than long-form writing, which means I’m more likely to do it, and it means I get to my bedtime reading much sooner.

*I draw the kanji for “picture” because, well, it’s a picture of a picture and I have to have some Japanese content in whatever I write.