What My Morning Journal Looks Like

History is littered with examples of successful (and unsuccessful) people who kept daily journals. It ranges from Marcus Aurelius to Ben Franklin, and from Mark Twain to George Lucas.

But what on earth did they write about?

Or perhaps you’ve seen examples of their writing and thought to yourself, “Goddamn, that reads like the Gettysburg Address!” and become demoralized.

In this post, I’ll show you what my raw morning journal looks like.

Why?

Because it’s easy to imagine our heroes as unflappable juggernauts, who conquer insecurity with a majestic mental karate chop every morning. This is, of course, an illusion. Most people you see on magazine covers have plenty of mornings when they’d rather hide under the covers all day long.

A while back, I bared my soul in a post about “productivity” tips for neurotic and crazy people (like me). I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of heartfelt comments, letters, and more that I received.

Many of you have since asked about my “morning pages,” so I’m oversharing again…

The Daily Struggle

Nearly every morning, I sit down with a hot cocktail of turmeric, ginger, pu-erh tea, and green tea. Next, I crack open this large-format paperback (pic from my Instagram):

Tim_Ferriss___timferriss__•_Instagram_photos_and_videos

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To be honest, I never read the original Artist’s Way, which was recommended to me by many mega-bestselling authors.

More book consumption didn’t interest me, as I often use it to procrastinate. What I needed was a daily and meditative practice of production, like the tea ceremony. So, voila, I bought the journal. This “companion” provides plenty of context to be used by itself.

But why journal in the first place?

I don’t journal to “be productive.” I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me.

Morning pages are, as author Julia Cameron puts it, “spiritual windshield wipers.” It’s the most cost-effective therapy I’ve ever found. To quote her further, from page viii:

“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”

Please reread the above quote. It may be the most important aspect of trapping thought on paper (i.e. writing) you’ll ever encounter. Even if you consider yourself a terrible writer, writing can be viewed as a tool that you can and should use. There are huge benefits to writing, even if no one — yourself included — ever reads what you write. In other words, the process matters more than the product.

Below is one of my real entries.

I’ve typed out the text below the image, as it’s easier to read.

Evernote Snapshot 20150114 141515

SUNDAY, DEC. 28, NEW YORK

Woke up at 7:30am, before everyone else. Feels great.

It’s a Sunday, so I feel I can take it slow, which is probably the reason it feels great.

Why should Monday or Tuesday be any different? There are still people waiting regardless. Let them wait.

It’s funny how we work and aim and strive to get to a point where people wait for us, not the other way around. Cue Get Shorty!

And yet, when we arrive at this vaunted point, the masses of people (often rightly) incessantly knocking on the door, one after another, causes far more stress than when you were a mere peon (sp)! [I was unsure of spelling]

Is it because of the 100x more inbound, which decreases a feeling of self-directed free will? A feeling that you’re constantly choosing from someone else’s buffet instead of cooking your own food?

Or is it because you feel you must be defensive and protect what you have: time, money, relationships, space, etc.?

For someone who’s “won” through a lifetime of offense, of attacking, playing the defensive game conflicts with the core of who they are.

[END]

So… What’s The Point Again?

There are two ways to interpret the above journal entry, and they’re not mutually exclusive:

1) I’m trying to figure things out, and this might help.

For instance: I’ve realized conflicts between goals (become “successful”) and related side-effects one must manage (100x more inbound). I’ve also noted that my big wins in life have come from being aggressive, much like iconic coach Dan Gable, who’s epic rant here is one of my favorites of all time. But the fetters of even a modicum of professional success makes one feel like they have to play defense, or manage instead of conquer. This runs counter to my DNA, which leads to unhappiness. Therefore, I need to divest myself of assets that require “protecting,” or I need to better delegate this responsibility.

That all sounds pleasantly analytical. Aren’t we smart? But perhaps the real value is that…

2) I’m just caging my monkey mind on paper so I can get on with my fucking day.

#2 is key.

Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.

Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life?

As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes.

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Would you like more posts like this? Or never again? Please let me know in the comments (click here), or I’ll never know. Thank you for reading!

The Tim Ferriss Show is one of the most popular podcasts in the world with more than 500 million downloads. It has been selected for "Best of Apple Podcasts" three times, it is often the #1 interview podcast across all of Apple Podcasts, and it's been ranked #1 out of 400,000+ podcasts on many occasions. To listen to any of the past episodes for free, check out this page.

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687 Replies to “What My Morning Journal Looks Like”

  1. Thank you for the reminder, Tim. The Morning Pages ritual rules. After years of journaling my life in real time rants, I found more relief and yes clarity at the start of my day after reading Cameron’s description of the purpose of writing these pages. The image of the foamy, slimy bubbles at the top of the pot after boiling potatoes always comes to mind…word slop easily slapped down in 5 minutes of writing making for a more peaceful mind for the rest of the day. In other news, I’m a few chapters in 4-hour work week and thank you. Shits about get real for me. Infinite blessings to you and thanks for being born.

  2. I really enjoy your posts, and the interview of the Iceman very Fascinating. I make time to here something from your program once a week.

  3. This could indeed be fun to test out for a month or two to test the effects.

    But i imagine, that you wouldn’t really feel the difference until you go back to your old self or?

  4. Hey there Tim! I’ve come to your podcast in a roundabout way, but am so glad i did. I’ve only been listening for a few days but already you’ve given me many useful suggestions, thoughts, ideas, etc. I took a course on The Artist’s Way. Our instructor suggested we write 3 full pages, and without punctuation. Just a scrolling prose, if you will. Just let the thoughts pour out and write as you follow where they take you. It could be a dream that works itself out on the pages. Ifound this technique less distracting than having to think about periods and commas. She also suggested that we do them before we get out of bed.

    Anyway, Thank you for your generous and insightful sharing of your life.

    Laura

  5. Just listened to podcast on the 5 morning rituals- Journaling peaked my interest. It was always my goal to journal but never followed through. I have been focusing on morning rituals and realized these habits are the strongest and healthiest I have. Practicing journaling in the morning makes sense.

  6. Tim, you are inspiring and your posts and interviews are incredible. Thank you for sharing your time, energy, wisdom, creativity and experience with us. It’s very refreshing and inspirational to see posts like this and to listen to your podcasts with other amazingly talented and special people. Thanks again. Kim

  7. Great article, I often wake up frustrated or stressed about things.it’s these days that seem to be the least productive for me as I’m preoccupied with these thoughts. I’m starting a morning journal today and see how it goes!

  8. Tim

    I have tried journaling I struggle to maintain it daily, when I do complete the process it does feel good. your point regarding releasing the negative energy prior to starting my day has made me want to start again.

    I agree the aggressive direct approach seems to drive best results

    Great post

    Thanks for the motivation

  9. Great post!

    I consider journaling as daily reflection in paper.. It gives us tremendous amount of introspection into the nature of our behaviour, our responses and the like.

    The key I believe is consistency and it is where most of us fail. I have been trying my luck to build this routine and created a simple 3 minutes journaling exercise in the beginning and the end of the day. Given the tiny-ness of the routine, I am slowly able to build moment and now has become almost a habit..

    [Moderator: link removed]

    I would like to hear how others have build this momentum in creating continuity among their journaling habit?

    Thanks again for reiterating the message.

    Regards,

    Sathya

    [Moderator: link removed]

  10. Hello buttercup,

    Yes, please share more thoughts. It helps us (me) more than you will ever know . I appreciate you very much.

    Thanks helpie helperton 😉

    Lisa

  11. I have cancer. Non Hodgkins Follicular Lymphoma. I’m not going to do chemo or radiation period. They say. .. 10-12 years with treatment ( Am 3 years into the diagnosis ). I call bullshit. If you don’t already have a human cancer guinea pig but might be interested in having one, please pick me and my monkey brain. Just a thought. Have a great day and thanks for everything you do.

  12. I like your post about journaling. Thanks for sharing what you wrote. That’s the tough part and the example helps. It’s something I need to do to clear my mind, but need to be more disciplined about it. Your podcast on meditation was also good. Between the two, I think I could slowdown my brain also. Your posts and podcasts are excellent. Keep them coming.

  13. Write-on, Tim! As a “recovering creative” myself, I regard Julia Cameron as one of my heroes, although I, too, never read Artist’s Way. Why? Because my wife did, and I can see how it has changed/is changing her life over the past decade. Plus, the practice resonates with my own experience of using writing as a clearing process.

    Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones, Long Quiet Highway, et al.) is another fountain of literary wisdom that your readers should know about if they are attracted to writing as practice.

    Thanks for the post, Tim.

  14. Even though this is one of the shorter posts I’ve read on your site, it’s one of the most inspirational. I think it’s a very interesting dilemma, you are describing: How do you protect yourself (and your present success) from becoming an obstacle for further success? I guess you nailed it yourself: It’s about getting rid of the obligations that is not doing any good for your further proces. Now the challenge is how to do that 🙂

    Regards,

    Nicolai Kostakis

  15. My wife has read and re-read and re-read (you get the point?) Julia Cameron’s book for years and ‘cleared her windshield’ every morning. Truly therapeutic. Thanks for sharing Tim.

    TJK

  16. yes more please. * benefit of hard copy vs an app like Evernote? you aren’t concerned w privacy — securing the hard copy — and schlepping it around when you travel – or it stays at home? Are you a doodler?!

    1. I had the same concerns, so combined the two. I write on paper, scan it to a password protected section in OneNote. I then shred the original. I didn’t want to worry about having to keep tabs on a physical journal, both for privacy reasons, and just fear of losing it. I don’t doodle much, but I definitely get more out of my head when I write on paper than when typing. I tend to do too much editing on the computer, which is counterproductive to journaling.

  17. I really enjoyed this post. It has been something I struggle with, not only for the reason of not knowing what the goal of the writing should be, but also that I am a poor writer, which is ironic because this activity will improve my writing skills haha.

  18. Hey Tim, I have been practicing morning pages for about 4 years now and I really believe it does change your life! I gift the book and a journal to start morning pages to my close friends and family. I call it “taking a mental dump first thing in the morning” and I really believe that this book and this ritual were a starting point to huge changes in my life that followed!

  19. Fascinating. I write down my morning “revelations” because, if I don’t, by noon I forget those pearls of wisdom. Great backup reminder that helps expel daily conditioning (annoyances). Cheers!

  20. Love that post. Your delivery on your podcast and writing style always make me chuckle- think it’s the swearing;) I relate to the ‘monkey mind’ and getting random or chaotic thoughts out on paper. You’ve inspired me to start doing that again…rock on!

  21. Hi Tim, I’ve been reading your posts for a while now, and they make me feel great. You to put into words thoughts I’ve been having but have never developed so far. Your morning journalling ritual is something I like very much, I like very much your comment: “…Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.

    Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life?

    As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes….”

    I’m going to try it myself too!

    Thank you, Tim!

  22. This is good stuff Tim. We all struggle with this “monkey mind” syndrome and utilizing a journal seems to be a great tool to help guide it into a calmer place. Morning rituals have become a huge part of my life and I highly recommend folks look to add a few into their lives.

  23. Tim,

    I absolutely love the 5bf and the podcast ! All this crazy shit you do isn’t actually crazy at all- it’s brilliant! I learn allot from what you say and as importantly ” what you don’t say” in between the lines. thanks Myron

  24. It’s so rare to see someone put it out there like this. Nice to see the raw format too.

    This is priceless;

    “Could bitching and moaning on paper for five minutes each morning change your life?

    As crazy as it might seem, I believe the answer is yes.”

  25. Hello Tim,

    Where do you buy your Teaware from? I know that you are a big fan of Rishi Tea products, but as for things like Tea baskets, teapots, etc. Do you have a preference?

  26. This plus exercise or rebounding, I used to do yoga at eve time stillness works wonders. But family life is not symbiotic with spare time. So five minutes journal entry it is.

  27. I always enjoy your views on things, also about journals. I don’t always agree with you, but you push me on where I stand. Enjoy your podcasts and have learned lots of new stuff. Thanks Tim. Keep it coming, new thoughts, different thougts.

  28. Yes, love all the insights as to how you craft a productive and fulfilling day! I also love it when you ask these type questions of your podcast guests.

    Thanks for sharing a snipet of your life with us.

    Jessica

  29. yes, yes, yes please tell me more because I have owing to stress and pressure walked out of my busy scheduled and extremely well paid job or before I die with mental exhaustion. It bounces off my head when I walk in the door at night and I don’t get a wink of sleep like last night. Today is my second last day in the job and I can’t wait for the next six months to start. I believe this journal which I’m going to start writing right now on an old college notepad will be the start of something new for me.

  30. My ‘journal’ is a mixture of lose leave papers with scribbled thoughts (mostly stored in a box), and a collection of blog posts (mostly not-yet-finished blog posts [‘stubs’ as I call them], and a few completed and ‘published’ posts).

    For me it’s also about figuring things out and caging the monkey (I often have to caging the monkey before I go to bed (otherwise I risk not being able to sleep, with ideas bouncing around my ahead), hence the scribbled thoughts on loose leaf paper – sometimes I wake up in the morning to find crazy scribbles in incrementally smaller ‘fonts’ and annotations using all remaining available margin space (reminds me of the film ‘A Beutiful Mind’)

  31. Is it better to journal at night or in the morning? I’m a bit of a night owl, so I would naturally be more awake at night as opposed to setting my alarm earlier in the morning, but if it seems more beneficial to journal in the morning, please let me know! I’m guessing it’s good just to journal whenever you can, but just curious if your days have been different journaling at night vs. in the morning. Thanks!! 🙂

  32. This post helped me answer the Q why we need to do morning rituals..I’ve been doing it on a less consistent basis.

    it was very interesting how you illuminated your thoughts on this particular journal entry of yours.

    This morning, by penning down my thoughts, it helped me be more self-aware…

    TY so much for your transparency, Tim.

  33. Thank you Tim – I love your blog and everything you do especially stuff on everyday struggles. I shared your piece on suicide with others you were/are with me at prestigious universities (oxford, Cambridge, UK: pressure cookers like you said) it’s helped them a lot. I’d love more post like this one. By the way I’m impressed by all the things you have done. Business, writing, podcasts, blogging, tango??! What a gem you are please keep up the superb work x Sabine

  34. I start my journal today. I have so many online apps but I feel that I needed a book so I purchased one few days ago. When I found out that you used a book it cystallised my own position. So thanks for that! I’ve just did a Google search to see what you write in your journal so thanks again for the transparently. I really appreciate it!

  35. Thank you for sharing. I usually start my day ironing my business shirt, allowing my mind to think about what I want and need to do. I could do this at night before I go to bed, but I have found it beneficial. I sometimes read an insprirational or spiritual quote. BUT now I like your idea of journalling first thing in the morning to clear my head and feel energized. Thank you again for sharing as I am going to start journalling.

  36. Tim thanks for sharing the original copy with us it s so genuine and conveys emotions.i like the contrast between your own analysis (almost surgery)and the beauty of that essential gesture of creating thoughts through your hands.thanks

  37. In a word yes. The monkey mind is a recurring theme with me as we load too much into the hopper of life, whoa was that a bat, and struggle to manage what matters most. Hmm I will just check the score.

    Anything that helps tame the beast is helpful. Hmm I think I smell coffee.

  38. Fabulous post. Loved the journal entry you included. Definitely agree we need to get rid of muddy thoughts before we can write, think or act more lucidly the rest of the day. I’m giving it a try!

  39. Yes! These are perfect wake up in the morning, look at your phone, kind of posts. This was one of the first things I saw when I woke up and decided to read after your post about a morning cocktail that’s better than coffee (I wouldn’t totally make it right now if I had the ingredients, but I’m lazy right now so I’ll have a coffee)

  40. Definitely focus on your passion and your primary relationships and delegate the rest. When we start out it seems like we have to do everything, but as success comes our way, we can focus more and more on what’s most important. Best Wishes!

    Mel Waller

  41. Yes please… more posts like this Tim. Insightful if not dangerously personal. Helps me not feel so ‘manic in my mind’ and freedom to just write that shit down. Thanks for sharing!

  42. Just thank you! More and more I found myself looking for your posts and great wisdom I must say! I am deeply truly touched and I will follow for sure your suggestion about writing as well

  43. Great post. Thank you for giving us a glimpse of your pages and a personal part of you. I am a reserved person and I’m learning from your genuine openness.

  44. When I am consistent with my morning pages I have a much better day. I usually spend a little more time on it though. Try to get three pages as Julia Cameron recommends. D you find less is more effective?

  45. Thanks for sharing this Tim. Definitely has as influence on my lifestyle. Even today morning i was thinking of so many things while exercising. May i’ll stat my morning journal soon!

  46. Thanks for the vulnerable share. Needed that today. Too often, I see other people, especially you, as having figured it all out. “The Daily Struggle” – great headline. Also, just by chance, I wrote this morning to get stuff out of my head. Very effective. THEN I read your post. Confirmation. thanks.

  47. Thanks Tim for echoing some of my own internal dialogue on keeping a journal and helping to rationalise a it’s purpose… “Morning pages don’t need to solve your problems. They simply need to get them out of your head, where they’ll otherwise bounce around all day like a bullet ricocheting inside your skull.”

    Starting my Journal today 😉

  48. Delighted that I stumbled across Tim when doing some research for developing our online business, it’s so refreshing to stumble upon someone like Tim. Thank you, Tim, I look forward to the journey ahead.

  49. Hey Tim,

    Thank you for sharing. I’ve been fighting a journal since 1999 and find out so useful. I even read old ones from time to time to remind me of how far I’ve come.

  50. My Dear Timcilius,

    I received your recent posting with great joy and a glowing sense of pride in what an accomplished communicator of personal ponderings you obviously are. To divulge ones thoughts so freely is not an aptitude shared widely on my own craggy little island. Please do continue with this type of writings. It’s a welcome break from the grey cloudiness. Keep your chin up and chest out.

    Farewell.

  51. Yes please – really value these practical ideas/ experiences. I bought the original The Artists Way about 15 years ago (showing my age now!) – so will have to read it! I started journaling again this year. Thanks for giving me permission to talk all kinds of shit on the pages every day cos I was wondering if it was helpful. Is it weird that I even need permission from a stranger in the first place? Even though it’s the fabulous Tim Ferriss?

  52. Short, on-point, raw and honest. Your unique way of expressing yourself is very useful, so yes! I would love to read more posts like this.

  53. I am on day 54 of this practice, I cannot seem to get past one page. It all seems very bland and not very creative. I haven’t had any sort of breakthrough or discovery. I plan on not breaking the chain for a full year, so I have time to experiment. I am open to suggestions.

  54. Hey there tim im from kuwait and i thank you so much for helping us people change their lives.

    If there is a list of subjects podcasts you did or interviews on YouTube like let’s say 10 to 20 to 30 subjects you advise us to listen to let’s say your top 20 what’s with those big thanks so much again and have a great day.

  55. I call it “Brain Vomit” – it is the header to so many notebook pages I probably don’t even need to write it anymore. I still do though, because it gives me an excuse and reminder that it’s okay to make a mess of a page with stuff my head has had trouble digesting.

    To extend the kind of gross analogy, my brain vomit pages are a confrontation of my brain hangovers – tired, anxious thoughts that keep my mind from the clear, concise functioning I know it is (sometimes) capable of.

    Thanks for the post!

  56. EXCELLENT advice Tim!!! You have reminded me to do this again 😀 This is something I was doing and then stopped and forgot about. I just started doing something similar to what you advised here again and it has helped me tremendously! Yes writing by hand is a must for this to be optimally effective as healingpilgrim mentioned! Just releasing that annoying negative voice which belongs in the “garbage” can feels sooo liberating!!! Now I can focus on the important things for my evolution!!! Thanks again Tim!

  57. Tim,

    I really enjoyed seeing your raw journal because it gives me perspective into how I do my own. I also really like how you mention a battle you have with sometimes taking a defensive stance as opposed to a offensive one. I am 17 and am struggling to finding balances between working to hard and not enjoying and not working hard enough and feeling lazy! The journal gives a lot of perspective. I would love to see more

  58. Very helpful, thank you for sharing!

    Anything other than looking at some screen first thing in the morning sounds good to me!