Busy? Try One Sentence Journaling Instead

Grow your best self in just two minutes a day

I get it. You’ve tried them all. Me too. Keeping a daily journal is not for everyone. We get so excited when we discover the latest and greatest journaling method. We know we should keep one, but after a couple days or weeks we flake and stop.

I can’t tell you how many new journals I’ve bought, giving each of them a special purpose — and oh, that new journal smell!

I’d take off that elastic band, flourish my favorite pen, and stare at the blank page, like it’s some kind of two-headed dog. I knew it would be soul-cleansing to keep-up the journaling process. Journaling would help me grow as a person, help me track my goals, and allow me to reflect on my gratitude.

But I flaked every time.

If you’re like me you enjoy structure, but not too much. As I kept certain journals, I had to answer the three same questions every day, or check a few boxes, like I was about to fly a plane. I wasn’t making soccer balls in a factory. This conveyor-style of journaling didn’t work for me.

I needed a method that was flexible, fast, and easy to keep up with.

The method I came up with isn’t new. It’s not complicated (as with most successful ideas) and it’s stupid-obvious. In fact, the entire process is in the title of this story.

But before you click-away and roll your eyes, I’d like you to give this journaling method a shot. Try it for seven days. Let me know what you think. There are those who can journal their way to a lifetime of bliss — with the markers, dots, columns, and clip art. These fancy journals are pieces of art-work and I applaud the folks who can keep up with them.

I cannot.

I believe journaling is something we should do for our well-being, like eating, meditating, and exercising. This isn’t something we should brag about or use for social media pictures. A journal is personal. It doesn’t need to be read by anyone. But a journal can also be your legacy.

What a journal is

  • A place of reflection at the end of the day (night journal)
  • A spot to evaluate your growth progress
  • A place to point your day in the right direction (morning journal)
  • A diary of your day (legacy)
  • A log of your best memories
  • A personal therapist

What a journal isn’t

  • A to-do list
  • Your shopping list
  • A list of self-deprecating faults
  • A shit-list (people you don’t like)
  • A dumping place for woe-is-me, self-perpetuating drivel
  • A joke
  • A chore (if it feels like a chore you’re doing it wrong)
  • A waste of time (this is your life)
  • Anyone’s business unless you want it to be

What happened to the journal?

Somehow we moved away from journaling. This happened a long time ago, so we can’t blame the internet, social media, or smartphones. Everyone from statesmen to farmers used to keep some record of their day, be it in little paper notebooks, or the leather-bound treasures of Ron Burgundy.

Journaling is on the rise again, but I worry it’s become so commercial and so show-offy, the core point of the journal is getting lost. Maybe I’m a curmudgeon and everyone’s doing it just right.

At least the journal’s making a comeback. That’s awesome.

The idea is your memory isn’t as great as you think it is. When we take a minute at the end of our day and record the important bits, we leave room to learn from them later.

Life is so short. Why forget those little moments that matter?

Journaling is self-reflection — a paper mirror.

This is about craft. This little book is about taking the time to do something analog — to move a little slower without taking too much time from your day. We all want to be more productive without sacrificing quality. The one sentence journal will help you get there.

I think it’s critical to do as many things per day with deliberate intention. When we operate mindless and float through the motions, one day melds into the next. Yesterday was the same as last month.

Walking on a treadmill is not living. It’s time to operate with deliberate practice.

With a one sentence journal you force yourself into deliberate practice, even if it’s only a couple minutes. Your brain will thank you for it. You’re being analytical and creative simultaneously. You’re lighting up different areas of your melon that get little activity while you scroll your way through the rest of the day.

How to make a one sentence journal

  • Find a blank, special journal you really like — I’ve become partial to ones with dotted pages (versus lined or blank). This is what I prefer. You may prefer something else. Assume you’ll keep this the rest of your life and give it to someone when you’re dead (i.e. don’t pick a 99-cent composition book from the drugstore).
  • Keep this journal separate from all your other notebooks — Don’t use your journal for anything besides journaling. This is not your playbook.
  • Pick a theme for your journal (or don’t) — I like a loose, daily theme. Do you reflect upon something great that happened today? Do you focus on whether or not you’re staying on-track (or why you didn’t)? Do you work through a personal issue and wish yourself well before bed? Do you make it more biographical and mention one thing you did that day so you can look back at your entire year? Do you make it one sentence of whatever you want?
  • Choose a time of day for journaling — Most people do it before bed so they can reflect on what happened. Maybe you want to direct your day BEFORE it happens and journal in the morning.
  • Don’t be a jerk and record this journal in your phone — There’s enough digital stardust out there. You’ll thank me later. Do this by hand.
  • Date each entry — You think you’ll remember when, but you won’t. Add the date (even the time if you want to get fancy).
  • Write a sentence or two — If you’re got a lot to say that day, say more. Give yourself a one-sentence minimum. When you’ve got a tiny daily minimum it’s easier to maintain the habit.

Time to be deliberate

Get started tonight. Hell, get started now. Go out on your lunch break and grab a sexy, fresh journal in your favorite fit and finish. You can get a journal that will last a lifetime for under $15 (US).

Remember, we don’t have much time on the blue marble.

We use the first 20 years to make mistakes, the middle 40 to learn we don’t know as much as we think we do, and the last 20 reflecting on what we did and didn’t.

What if you could go back and re-visit all you learned? I wish I had started this long ago, but the best time to start is NOW. This literally takes a minute or two. If you don’t have a minute or two you can dedicate to your legacy, you’re doing something severely wrong.

You have knowledge no one has. We’d like to learn from that someday. Your family may want to know your thoughts after you pass away. We never share everything on our minds, for fear of sounding silly. This is what journaling’s all about.

If you’re dead and you leave behind something silly, who cares? What if you leave a wealth of knowledge that would’ve been lost otherwise? Let them skim and decide what matters to them later. You don’t have to decide. Your job is to capture and record what matters to you now.

We’re waiting for you. Now quit reading and go find yourself a fresh journal.

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