5 minute journal – taking time to reflect

5 min journalIn my last blog I looked at techniques I use to increase my productivity through mindfulness, meditation, and journalling.  Here I will talk about a further journalling technique that helps me to take time to reflect – the 5 Minute Journal.

Spending time in your distant past is not helpful, but taking time to reflect on your immediate past can be.  It is about looking at the here and now, not about ruminating on a time long since gone.

Reflecting on the here and now helps you to be mindful, to be rooted and invested in your present.  Doing this helps you to be more aware, to react positively to the world around you.  And in so doing, you can then plan ahead in the correct frame of mind.

5 Minute Journal

As the name suggests, the 5 minute journal just takes 5 minutes a day.  The guys who came up with the system have published a physical journal you can buy if you wish.  The format is a simple template to be completed daily, which is as follows:

I am grateful for
What would make today great:
Daily affirmations.  I am…
3 amazing things that happened today
How could I have made today better
As you can see, it is split in to morning and night sections.  The creators of the journal recommend writing it long hand (and, unsurprisingly, to use their book).  I prefer to type it up, and have the above saved as a template on my Evernote.  Each day I copy and paste it in to a new note, title it with the days date, and go from there.


You do the morning section at the very start of the day.  You begin by writing three things you are feeling grateful for that day.

Starting your waking day in such a way really does make you feel positive.  You can put whatever you feel like.  Sometimes I write something that can feel so minor, like having a nice cup of coffee, but it doesn’t matter.  It’s whatever you feel grateful for at that time, and may change or repeat over the days, there is no set requirement for you to stick to.

Next you write three things that would make the day feel great.  Again, you don’t have to worry about something being ‘too big’ or ‘two small’, you just put what you feel.  This gets you reflecting on your day ahead in a nice, manageable manner.

Finally, you write out a daily affirmation.

I have been resistant to affirmations for some time, as they do smack of new world nonsense.  As if just repeating a mantra will simply make it so.

It won’t, but what is wrong in reminding yourself of something every day.  It could be something connected to a long term goal, or a reminder to yourself to be positive in some way.

My current affirmation is:

I am going to push myself to improve, but also care about myself so I don’t burn out

I feel this is worth reminding myself about each day.  It’s easy enough to coast by in life, and to not take on any challenges.  This affirmation is reminding myself, so it is at the forefront of my mind throughout the day, each day – push yourself to improve.

Take on the challenges, make the hard decisions.  Do not simply go for the path of least resistance.

But the second part is just as important – care about myself so I don’t burn out

Whilst I have been guilty of major procrastination in my past, I have also at times tried to take on much more than I can handle.  It’s not about avoiding the big things in life, but it is about planning for them properly.  To care about myself.

This process is just a few minutes at the very beginning of the day, to get yourself going.  It wakes you up, gets your mind working, but in a positive manner.  At the end of the day you do the final part of the journal.


This is for the end of the day.  It may not be best to do it immediately before bed, as ruminating over things could disturb your sleep.  However, an hour or so before bed, as part of a evening routine, is fine.  Indeed, instead of ruminating on things being an issue, it helps to put things to bed before you need to go to bed!

You start by noting 3 amazing things that happened that day.  Do note, it is not asking did all three of the things you wrote under ‘what would make today great’ happen?  Perhaps they did, perhaps they didn’t.  If some of them did and the outcome was positive, great, write it down.  Or don’t, it’s up to you.

After all, I have genuinely written in that section that it would be great if Bournemouth won!  It is no reflection on me if a football team do not win (no matter how much I sing and cheer them on).

It is keeping things positive – 3 AMAZING things that happened that day.  Again, big or small, it doesn’t matter.  Someone giving you a slice of cake that you weren’t expecting, through to being proposed to, they all count!

Finally, you make a note answering the question how could I have made today better?  It could be any number of things.  This is not a time to list a whole barrage of accusations against yourself, but to just be honest with yourself.

What I have found useful with this last part is regarding minor issues, but through the process of journalling I realise they are quite repetitive.  I realised recently that I was often noting that I could have gone to bed earlier.

When you write that three days running you start to realise that yes, maybe there is an issue that needs addressing.  The solution?  Oh, I don’t know… perhaps go to bed earlier?

It’s not rocket surgery (although it is brain science).

Simplicity is genius

And there you have it.  It is really simple, and yes, it really does just take 5 minutes a day.

Out of the various techniques I do to be more mindful and to take time to reflect, I would recommend this possibly the most, because of it’s brevity if nothing else.  Everyone has 5 minutes to spare in a day, and to make it even easier, you’re splitting that time in half over the day!

A simple action like this, as part of a routine, can have quite an impact over time.  If you’re giving it a try, or have an alternative, let me know.