The Five Minute Journal: What I Learned After Using It for Four Years

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This post contains affiliate links. Read the disclosure policy.

Journaling is one of my favorite things to do in the whole world.

At the moment, I keep 6 different types of “journals” between day planners, travel notebooks, and agendas.

Why, you might ask, would I do such a thing?

Because writing down memories and goals signals to my brain “this is important”. And I use each journal with a different purpose. For example, I use a lightweight notebook when I travel to record fun facts or anecdotes, and I write on the Productivity Planner to focus on my work tasks.

Fact is, journaling has so many benefits that even high achievers like Tim Ferriss, Oprah Winfrey and Andy Warhol used it as a tool to improve areas of their careers.

Journaling is like whispering to one’s self and listening at the same time.
— Bram Stoker's Dracula (Mina Murray)

No journal or planner of mine is alike, so today I’m reviewing one of my favorites: The Five Minute Journal.


What Makes The Five Minute Journal So Special

I’ve been using The Five Minute Journal for four years now.

It’s a gratitude journal, very aesthetically pleasing, created by Alex Ikonn and UJ Ramdas (the same guys from the Productivity Planner). 

It’s funny that they market it as “a journal for people who don’t write journals” because I love the product and I don’t fit in this category at all. But that’s because of its simple design.

The journal is broken up into two parts: a morning routine section and a night routine section.


During the first weeks of using it, I had a love-hate relationship with the questions because they are always the same:

  • What you’re grateful for

  • What would make today great

  • Daily affirmation

  • 3 Amazing things that happened today

  • How could you have made today even better

Thinking of new things to be grateful for every day without repeating was a bit hard. So I decided to get specific.

Instead of writing a general gratitude like “I am grateful for the weather”, I’d write  “I am grateful that the warm weather in Columbus reminds me of my home-town in Barcelona.”

See what I did here? :) The more specific your gratitude, the easier it is to connect with the emotion.

It’s pretty obvious once you think about it!


What I Learned After Using The Five Minute Journal

I was excited about this journal since the first time I got it, but it was after using it month after month that I realized how much it’s benefiting my life.

Here’s a look at the four most important things I learned after using it for four years: 

1. Be more grateful

As a gratitude journal, The Five Minute Journal is created with leading positive psychology research.

Gratitude is the experience of counting one’s blessings. The feeling in your body that makes you smile at strangers.
— Alex Ikonn

That’s why you have to name three things you’re grateful for as soon as you wake up. 

I really like this because it’s so easy to get caught up with the things in our lives that we sometimes forget what we already have. 

Plus, being grateful immediately forces me into a positive mindset for the day - which is so nice.


2. Become a better thinker

Have you ever heard that great writers are great thinkers?

Writing is thinking. To write well is to think clearly. That’s why it’s so hard.
— David McCullough, Two-time Pulitzer Prize Winner

This is because writing requires observation, reflection, analysis, and an artful presentation of information. 

I’ve seen how by keeping a journal → I’ve improved my writing → I’ve become a better thinker.

It really is that simple.

3. Clarify your feelings

To me, the most challenging question from The Five Minute Journal is: “How could you have made today even better?”

Sometimes my days have been so good I’ve answered “absolutely nothing”. Other times, I’ve needed more space to write down what disappointed me and get it off my mind. This is a big deal. 

Write hard and clear about what hurts.
— Ernest Hemingway

Good news is that even the worst days only have 24 hours. So I try to be as specific as I can to identify exactly how I feel and why

The process of writing it down does help me clarify my feelings.


4. Strengthen your self-discipline

Setting time aside to write, whether 5 or 10 minutes a day, is an act of discipline. 

And here’s the thing: Discipline begets discipline. Like a muscle, the more you exercise it, the stronger it becomes. 

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.
— Aristotle

I believe that’s the beauty of The Five Minute Journal

It makes it super easy to be more self-discipline because of the structure of each day, and it lowers the bar for you to actually do it - removing as many excuses as possible.

Bringing It All Together

The Five Minute Journal is popular for a good reason – it's one of the best guided journals out there.

It's one of the simplest ways that I have found to introduce a daily gratitude practice in my life, and more importantly, to maintain a positive mindset.

I like to keep it with a nice pen attached right at my bedside. That way is the first impulse when I wake up, and the final impulse before I go to sleep. 


If you'd like to give it a try and see if it works for you too, download The Five Minute Journal Quick Start PDF for free.

Here’s to journaling, and to improving every day!

With gratitude,

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