‘The Five Minute Journal’ Review:
The Best Guided Journal?

I started writing The Five Minute Journal on September 23rd, 2016.

At that point, I didn’t know I was about to start a habit that would become… a part of me?

Fast-forward to today, 4 years later, and I still write in my Five Minute Journal every day.

I’ve tried other journals, but every time I’ve found myself going back to The Five Minute Journal

Why?

Because The Five Minute Journal works.

It’s fast, easy, and fun.

I have filled out 5 Five Minute Journals (currently on my sixth) for the past 4 years.

This is my review of The Five Minute Journal 🙂

Let’s go!

My Five Minute Journal Review in 24 seconds

I’ve found The Five Minute Journal the perfect tool for coping with my thoughts.

Not only has it reduced my stress levels, but it has also made me more grateful and present.

The Five Minute Journal is one of those (rare) things with zero downside and unlimited upside.

The Five Minute Journal itself hasn’t changed my life, but journaling has.

The journal has been a fantastic companion, and I plan to keep on doing it indefinitely.

If you’re even the slightest interested in journaling, I can’t think of a better place to start than with a Five Minute Journal!

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Who uses The Five Minute Journal?

According to Intelligent Change’s website, The Five Minute Journal has sold more than 900,000+ copies!

Also, there’s certainly no lack in celebrities using The Five Minute Journal.

Here are a few people, you’ve probably heard about, that uses The Five Minute Journal:

  • Tim Ferriss (Pictured above. More on how he uses the journal later)
  • Emma Watson
  • Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income
  • Ben Greenfield
  • And many more…

So, you can rest assured you’re in good company 🙂

Let’s briefly look at why journaling works!

Benefits of journaling

Before zooming in on The Five Minute Journal, let’s zoom out for a minute and ask…

Why does journaling work?

In The Five Minute Journal, there’s a ~30-page introduction to how, and why, the journal works.

One of the interesting studies they cite is a 2003 study by Emmons and McCullough.

This study found that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to:

  • Better sleep
  • Reductions of physical pain
  • A greater sense of well-being
  • A better ability to handle change

Quite the benefits from a few minutes of scribbling if you ask me!

“Writing in this journal each morning and night is the closest thing to a magic pill.”

Now, I won’t spend a ton of time explaining why journaling works.

Looking for more information on why journaling works?

I recommend the following resources.

Personally, I’ve found the ritual of writing in the journal spilling out into other areas of my life.

For instance, I’m more likely to write down my thoughts in general (which I highly suggest).

Journaling is a zero downsides activity with unlimited upside.

It’s cheap, fast, and fun.

It really is a no-brainer to try out 🙂

Let’s see how it works!

How does The Five Minute Journal work?

Before you write your first entry, there are ~30 pages of introduction.

In the introduction, you learn how to use the journal.

You also learn why the journal is structured the way it is, plus a couple of exercises.

From there, you have 180 days’ worth of entries.

With The Five Minute Journal, you write every morning and evening.

Let’s double-click on both the morning and evening part for a minute.

Part 1: Writing in the morning☀️

You start off every morning with:

  • Today’s date
  • A motivational quote
  • 3 things you’re grateful for
  • 3 things that would make today great
  • An affirmation

*I’ve implemented 2 hacks to make the journal even more awesome, more about that later!

Here’s the morning template

November 12th, 2020
“Your biggest commitment must always be to yourself” – Bridgett Devoue
I am grateful for…
1.
2.
3.
What would make today great?
1.
2.
3.
Daily affirmations. I am…
Blank

Part 2: Writing in the evening🌙

Then in the evening, you write 2 things:

  • 3 amazing things that happened that day
  • How you could’ve made today better

Here’s the evening template!

3 Amazing things that happened today…
1.
2.
3.
How could I have made today better?
Blank

And that’s it!

Let’s look at a sample day from my journal…

Sample day: Let’s see a daily entry!

Here’s how my morning entry looks.

Click to enlarge or read the entry below.

I am grateful for…
1. My son
2. Having had a fantastic mom
3. That I’m only 31
What would make today great?
1. Eat 2600 calories
2. Meditate 10 minutes
3. Close all rings on my Apple Watch
Daily affirmations. I am…
I, Mikkel Sciegienny, achieve anything I set my mind on

On to my evening entry!

Click to enlarge or read the entry below.

3 Amazing things that happened today…
1. Lots of walking
2. Read ~50 pages in the evening
3. Great steak for dinner
How could I have made today better?
Everything was great today!

So, that’s how a day in The Five Minute Journal looks like 🙂

I’ve written 1000+ entries in my Five Minute Journals…

… here are the top-3 things I love about it!

3 things I love about The Five Minute Journal

3 things I dislike about The Five Minute Journal

Not any of these are deal-breakers. It’s just that they don’t work for me. They might be your favorite things about it 🙂

Having written 1000+ entries in my Five Minute Journals, I’ve implemented 2 hacks to make it better.

Let’s take a look…

2 hacks that make The Five Minute Journal 50% better

While The Five Minute Journal uses a proven framework, I’ve created 2 “hacks” that make it a lot better.

These are my top-2 hacks to improve the journal.

Speaking of “hacking” and optimizing, let’s see how Tim Ferriss uses The Five Minute Journal!

How Tim Ferriss uses The Five Minute Journal

Tim Ferriss is the one who made me aware of The Five Minute Journal.

In this 9-minute video, he goes over how he uses it.

1:13 Tim writes down his location at the top, in this case, “Hotel Ranga” (in Iceland).

02:00 Tim is grateful for the expectation of “getting a dog soon!”.

04:03: Tim circled the daily quote because he particularly liked it.

04:45: Sometimes Tim does the night part of the journal a few days later.

05:14: At the top of the page, Tim has written: “State -> Story -> Strategy” (something Tony Robbins explains in Tools of Titans).

07:00: To make today great, Tim wrote “Stretch (or not)”. After writing down the 3 things that’d make today great, he realized his schedule was packed. Adding a “(or not)” was a reminder to himself, that the day could still be great if he didn’t do all 3 things.

*Here’s another (more elaborate) video on how Tim Ferriss approaches journaling.

Alright, so you’re amped up about journaling and getting started?

Awesome!

Here’s my number 1 tip for making journaling a daily habit you can stick with for years…

How to make journaling a habit

So, you got the journal and you’re ready to write.

How do you make it a habit?

This could be a blog post in itself (I wrote one about creating a habit here), so I’ll keep this short and actionable.

My top recommendation is: Keep the journal in the same spot near you.

I work from home, so I keep my journal at my desk. Before I start my workday, I write my entry.

In the evening, I sit down at my desk once again and do the evening entry.

That’s it!

So: make sure that you place your journal in a place that’s visible. That’ll automatically remind you to write in it.

Protip: Write the evening entry before you’re too tired. Sometimes I’d write in it minutes before bed when I was really tired, say 11 PM. These days I write the evening entry at 9 PM where I have more energy and focus.

Alternatives to The Five Minute Journal

The Five Minute Journal is what you call a “guided journal” (that took me some Googling to figure out!).

Below, I’ll give you 3 alternatives to The Five Minute Journal (guided and unguided).

1: Use The Five Minute Journal App [Guided]

Not a fan of paper? Then get the app instead!

It’s for iOS and Android, and free.

I’ve tinkered around with it myself, but I prefer writing physically big time.

What’s great about the app though is that you can attach pictures. That makes it come much more alive.

So, if you doubt whether The Five Minute Journal format is right for you, try using the app for a few days. If you like the app, you’ll love the journal.

2: Use a regular, blank, journal [Unguided]

This is the old-school way. I’ve tried it myself a few times, but it’s never been a success for me.

I find myself going “what should I write?”.

One approach you can try is to write down any stream of thought you have. It’s also referred to as “morning pages“.

I’ve heard many people finding great enjoyment in writing in a Moleskine notebook.

In my opinion, this approach is for people already experienced with journaling. Fill out 1 Five Minute Journal before experimenting with a blank journal.

3: The Daily Stoic Journal [Guided]

Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman created “The Daily Stoic Journal: 366 Days of Writing and Reflections on The Art of Living”.

In it, you’re asked a different question every day. I love this format.

I completed my Daily Stoic while also writing my Five Minute Journal.

It’s a very different way of journaling. I consider it an add-on to The Five Minute Journal or a legit alternative.

Not looking for an alternative, but sold on The Five Minute Journal?

Finally, let’s see if I think you should get The Five Minute Journal…

So, should you get The Five Minute Journal?

YES!

I highly suggest you get The Five Minute Journal if:

  • You want to improve your life
  • You want to be more present and grateful
  • You want a way to cope with all your thoughts

Start by picking up just 1 journal and see how that goes.

Be serious about it and write in it every day.

There’s nothing to lose (except for ~$25) and unlimited upside.

That’s pretty rare, so give it a shot and let me know what you think!