A photo of my journal on my desk.

So the last month or so I’ve been journaling a little bit different. A while go, I ran across a video that went over the idea of the Five Minute Journal, and I was intrigued.

The idea is you answer a few simple prompts:

  • I am grateful for:
  • What would make today great?
  • Daily affirmation. I am:
  • 3 Amazing things that happened today:
  • How could I have made today even better:

…and I did that for about a week before I felt it lacked a Stoic-seasoning, and so I worked and re-worked that format until I landed on a format that has both accomplish the goal of making journaling a little easier and getting your Stoic practice in.

I would recommend giving this a read before you look into the morning and evening prompts below.


Morning Prompts

I am looking forward to:

This prompt is like “I am grateful for” but it aims to make sure you look forward to something during the day. All to often we wake up and head right into doing things in a todo list, but identifying those things which you are looking forward to doing (note, that doesn’t have to be something in your todo list) makes the outlook for the day that much better.

Example

  • Hanging out with my kids tonight
  • Being productive (insert specific important task today)
  • Reading time

How can I make today great?

Much like “What would make today great” prompt from the classic form, I found this to be really powerful when I was working with the five-minute journal idea. The focus, though, is on how you can make today great and what you are in control of, which are your actions!

Example

  • Sticking to my diet so I feel better about myself today
  • Not letting other people’s opinions and actions bother me

Note, these get written as tasks, because later on I will check off the one’s I honored throughout the day as a part of my evening review.

What can I do towards my weekly goal?

Every week I choose a verse/concept from Stoicism to focus on, for instance this week was:

Reverence & Service to Others

FYI, this is a positive quality Marcus associated with his mother.

But, then I choose a few actionable things I can do to put this into practice today, and I stick to the theme all week with new things to put it into practice everyday.

Example

  • Serve someone who doesn’t deserve it
  • Show respect to your children

What can I do to improve today?

Here I choose a couple other qualities I want to improve on (often these repeat throughout the week) that I struggle with.

Example

  • Stick to my diet
  • Don’t be harsh with my kids when they get out of hand

What will go wrong?

This is where I take all the above aspirations and I think about what could go wrong, and what I would do.

Example

  • I may be tempted to eat the donuts someone brought home this morning
    • Meditation on how good you will feel if you unhinge yourself from this temptation
    • Drink a glass of water w/ salt
  • Kids may get out of hand and get crazy
    • See this as a part of nature, kids will be kids

I get really deep on this and go through every aspect of my day that I can, jotting down what might trouble me or not meet my expectations and develop a plan for as much as I can.


Evening Prompts

The first thing I do in the evening is review my morning prompts, marking off items I stuck to and items I did not sick to as a primer for the content I will write below.

A humbling moment

This plays into the practice of negative visualization, and I either take a moment from the day (for instance I saw a homeless man today having trouble dragging his cart which had a broken wheel across the street) or I imagine one and reflect on it, putting myself in their shoes and noting how I would be a good stoic in that situation. Though this practice is a preparation, I find it serves (more practically) as a gratefulness practice.

Great things that happened today:

This comes right out of the five minute journal. Remembering and taking note for the great things in your life cultivates contentedness.

Example

  • That my children are healthy and beautiful
  • That the weather was nice at the park today
  • That I have time to read about Stoicism

What went wrong (and what could I have done better)?

Yes this is really two questions, but here I jot down, what went wrong. That’s either via external circumstances or actions I did not do well. I also note what I could do better. I take lots of care here to note what I am and not in control of.

Example

  • I got harsh with Lexie when she was screaming while playing

Kids will be kids (you are not in control of what they decided to do ultimately), and they have a lot of learning to do. My bodily response to this (frustration) does not control that I could have chosen to speak softly and kindly about what they should do, and shouldn’t, and why.

If you died today, will you have died well?

This is something I have always written on at the end of my day, and so it had to be adopted into this format. I think the best gift a person can give to themselves is a good death, but that can only be done by being happy with yourself.


Conclusion

And that’s it! I have had a wonderful time with this format vs. some of the others I have done in the past and I have felt it has helped be both prepare for my day, and end my day well. If you try it out, let me know how it goes!