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.
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):
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.
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.
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.
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 900 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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721 Replies to “What My Morning Journal Looks Like”
The Gods winked at me today!
As a fan of The Artists Way, dating back to the ’90’s, I had often wondered if you were familiar. Today I followed a path from your tweet, to a link with the phrase “monkey mind” and read the reference to Morning Pages. I was thrilled to see that you were indeed familiar.
I am once again tickled by the universe and its ability to make me smile.
Thank you for taking the risks that inspire and motivate!
Tim thanks for this post. There’s been so many times I’ve tried to journal or just start jotting down my thoughts or ideas, but somehow I always become anxious or bored with the act of journaling. I struggle almost daily with anxiety and wish this wasn’t the case because I truly feel journaling could be a great help for help for me. How can I make journaling a habit I stick with?
I love this post ! Tim, you are the best. Thank you
This changed my life.
This was extremely useful.
Excellent post! Yes please to more like this.
I’ve gotten out of this practice, and I need to come back to it. I find that now I’m sorting out my thoughts too late into the day. Thanks for sharing this with us, because it’s nice to see this other side of you.
As odd or selfish as it sounds, it’s encouraging to know that successful folk struggle.
Hi Tim, I kept a journal once when I was young. I like the idea, but when I went back later in life and read it, it was like, ugh, painful to read, lol. So I don’t do it anymore, but it’s probably got some great therapeutic value for sure! I do like to get up early and meditate a bit while going through my coffee ritual and any cleanup from the night before, cheers!
I’ve heard of people creating their day spiritually in morning as if it’s the end of the day with those things they wanted and intended to accomplish. I like this post
Yeah this is good stuff Tim. This is exactly the “in the dirt” reasoning I needed to kick me in the ass to really journal regularly. Long time fan – thanks!
Yes! Please keep the coming!
I read The Artist’s Way. But then, I like to procrastinate as much as possible. I am procrastinating as we speak.
Yes please post more like this ! The humanity!!
Just want you to know that although I’m a fan, long reader and believer,.you are now reaching the level of Twitter/email saturation that makes me want to stop following you. You are diluting your brand and slowly becoming a nuisance.
Although it is starting to date a little, I loved reading about what you do as a 5-minute journal in the morning.
The truth is, there are just so many posts out there but we can’t always be sure the techniques or key questions cited have even been used by the blogger.
I think that is what truly differentiates you from others: I trust that what you are proposing is tried and true and I know that you haven’t just randomly decided to do it. You carefully weighed the practice to be sure it would reach your goal and based your decision on research.
Thanks again for sharing!
This is incredibly insightful. Started journaling a month ago (thought to give the Tim Ways a try), and not so silly as it may sound, have begun to understand myself better. I really appreciate you sharing this, & always looking forward to more.
Thanks Tim I’d like more stuff like this
I would like to thank, because of the post is really awesome.
Thanks for the insight! I’ve been a life long procrastinator who has ADHD. I’ve been slacking on the productivity side of my life and it’s been making me go crazy. I loved the analogy with the bullet ricocheting around the skull. I’m going to start writing in the morning to get my thoughts out. Thanks again for the post and would love to see more like it!
Hey Tim, Thapelo from South Africa here
I love the post and would love to read more like this, thank you for everything.
This is blog holds so much value. My ideas bounce in my mind like a bullet ricocheting off the walls in my head. A journal will help. Thank you.
Tim. When journaling, is writing by hand much more important than typing?
Yes I would most certainly like more posts like this, to remind me and nudge me on till I fall to the level of my training. Thank You Tim.
Thank you for this
You become curiouser and curiouser indeed. You handwriting, it’s so much like mine… Sloppy fast cursive racing to keep up with the thoughts. when thought wants to race, cursive becomes print. I like that you posted this, you can see a lot in a person’s writing, it’s sad how few of us still write on paper.
YES! More. It seems that morning journal is something very close to trying to explain a problem or tangled thought to someone else – once you start doing that, you get the answer from yourself. There have been times (quite often) when a task has been torturing my mind and it feels that it’s not possible to solve, but once I break it down (reverse engineer) the task in to step-by-step action plan it clears out. And 20min the task is done. It’s weird.
I know I am a bit late to comment, came across this post of yours today via LinkedIn.
On a totally different note, I would say and request not to share your handwriting with everyone. Reason being, I am a graphology novice and I could tell so many things about you just by looking at the handwriting.
For instance, yours days are well organized with enough time between activities. In the evening you like to relax and generally dnt do much work. You like to take actions quickly, sometimes feel that you have not achieved as much as you have hoped for and that you dnt mind bending/tweaking rules to get things done, otherwise you very much like to stick to the rules.(Obviously things must have changed now and depending on the situation right now your handwriting must have changed(a bit)).
I do not know why I felt like sharing this, but here you go. Tried to drop you a mail but could not find your direct mail address.
By the way, I am not here to advertise anything, just felt like sharing.
I hope you find graphology subject interesting and do some research here as I have really admired your work and your detail oriented approach.
Do you think doing it in a a foreign language (assuming advances level) (Japanese in my case) has the same effect?
onyx note might help with the archiving of handwritten material – but you probably knew that already
typing down worries and sorting the lines in their proper order went well too.
and solutions do pop-up easier with written text (make worries more specific while writing them again).
taking the smallest step forward – also helps
Very helpful and has motivated me to take up journaling again and be more consistent this time.
Incredibly helpful information. I am a huge fan of your posts and podcasts; I wish I had writing skills even close to yours. A few of your books are part of my book list for 2019. I am in a rebuilding phase of my life after spending years of making bad, often detrimental, decisions.. and all of your content has helped me thus far. And it will keep helping me, and others. So please continue to bless everyone with your knowledge, insight and advice.
Thank you, I love writing and self-therapy so this brings it all together with that lovely journal I will be getting. Woke up this morning thinking I need a new journal and as reading your four hour work week for the first time come across your blog and then find this entry as I’ve asked the universe to help me integrate what I’m learning in your book! Voilà – ask and you shall receive – Cheers mate 🙂
Thanks a lot for your help, Tim. Your blog contains priceless information and what I see as a therapy for my soul.
Tim, I started listening to your podcast 3 months ago. You are f’ing brilliant and my mind has been exploding with a million thoughts/ideas because of your incredible interviews. I love that you shared this… please keep it up, and thank you.
I really need a way to put the junk in my head away when I wake up. I would like to see more of this, I have never wrote any journal and find myself wanting to but seems like some force keeps me from getting it on paper. I am trying and I just bought your new book I seen on Instagram. Thanks for the push I know this will be a great thing
Thanks for sharing, Tim. You continue to be a practical inspiration to millions.
Yes more like this. Enjoy the insight.
Lead to this by the internet yellow brick road meaning “rabbit hole” after tough morning. I noticed your journal entry I don’t know or mind what year is my birthday. Needed wake up call. Spent 6 hours complaining about shit I can’t control. The one thing I can control? My writing. My thoughts. Put together they’re a saviour. Thanks, Tim. Only 4 years after you posted it but words last longer than podcasts sometimes. Love yours but you’re a good writer too. Have a great day all 💜
More of this please !!!!
Just starting to journal again after a 32 year break. I am a retired cop now college teacher and community safety consultant, also trying to write a book. I have always had heros, Stephen Covey was one, my father and now Tim Ferris. Thanks for sharing your incredible gifts and insights. Through the lengthy podcasts that get into real stuff, I feel as though I know you in a small way. You create access to the worlds greatest minds and it feeds my heart and soul, making me a better person. You create great meaning in this world Tim so thank you for your tireless work!
Thanks so much for sharing your morning pages Tim.I started writing a while back and it really helps me clear my mind and is helping me get more focused on my day.
I enjoy your stuff so much, you regularly appear in my journal entries — Timbo is my affectionate nickname for you. To that end, Timbo, you’re one of my all-time favorite, most trusted, and most inspiring thinkers, experimenters, and writers (and you share my personal list of such people/awesome humans with some true heavyweights — and yes, I feel you 100% belong in their company; you’ve more than earned your spot). All of which is me saying I loved this post and would love more like it. Any post, however personal or obscure or experimental, in which you discuss or otherwise share your thinking and/or writing processes would, at least for me, be fully welcomed and appreciated (not to mention enjoyed and most likely remembered and reflected upon many times for years to come — as the post that prompted this comment will no doubt be). Take care!
you are a constant inspiration for me. give me great joy.
Yes, Id like to see more. It’s interesting to read writings that aren’t meant to entertain but do anyway. I’ve been a wannabe journaler for years, but I procrastinate and find other things to do–afraid, maybe that the future me reading my present-day writings will be disappointed and/or embarrassed. Yet when I do read some scribbled scrap from years ago, I’m always pleased to see what I was thinking about, what was consuming my untrained mind in that moment.
Yes! Love this post. I have been doing morning pages off and on for 10 years and when I forget or don’t have time, my monkey brain takes over TOTALLY. Great reminder of the validity of this proven method. I needed this today.
Wow, that hit home!
Your large journal. I bought a small one as I thought a big one means I had to write a lot!
Hell yeah to more open, insightful, self-analysis Tim.
It’s like you are I my head 🤯 Thank you so much for helping the rest of us 🙏🏻
Hi Tim, yes please. Always more!
I don’t completely understand what this particular type of journal is for. Especially given that it’s a morning exersice. Wil you explain please?
1) Is it about writing down *all* of your thoughts, plans, feelings, worries *and things to complain* about?
2) How can a person complain about something after he’s just waken up and begun his day? Nothing bad has happened yet this day.
Thanks for this. Needed a kick in the ass to reboot my AM planning and journaling routine. Lately I’ve had three different journals for dif things and it makes me anxious even thinking about using all of them ha. Salud! TT
Thanks so much for this information on the morning pages. It’s very helpful to see your example. I tend to overthink a little when I am writing or journaling. I just got the book The Artists Way and started the morning pages two days ago.
Please keep doing these! They are so helpful for my new morning pages book! You inspired me to make my own and im running out of ideas to write! Please continue!?
this one, in particular, about Morning Pages,is super helpful for me. Thank you.
This was helpful. I’m am trying to get this process started, but I feel as though I need an assignment. I’m just not sure on the getting started. Thanks for sharing.
“But the fetters of even a modicum of professional success makes one feel like they have to play defense, or manage instead of conquer.” reminds me about the Fixed mindset shackle us from breaking our bubble of success and restrict us from learning. (Mindset by Carol Dweck)
Thank you for expressing your thoughts in such a clear & crisp manner. Your honesty is appreciated. Simple & effective. Good work!
Thank you, Tim!
Morning pages helped me to overcome (at least a little bit) the idea that all writing I do needs to be about some deep insight. Sometimes my brain gets sick of itself and a good old brain vomit into my journal is such an incredible relief.
Its never enough hearing from you! Ofcourse we need more posts like these and more insights into your productivity hacks
Ok but have you still not read the artist’s way? Its so worthwhile and opened up a whole new world to me of creative ambition.
I have been typing since I was sixteen. I am now 82. Professionally my work is fully scanned and digitised. But I handwrite my Morning Pages. Unlike Tim, I don’t use paragraphs. It is purely stream of consciousness. I use a spiral bound A4 Visual Art Diary with 120 pages and a Papermate Profile a ballpoint pen. I am on the sixth volume and have lost count of the pens. The paper is heavy and unlined. For some reason I dislike and feel constrained by lined paper and never use it. I like to lean into the writing exercise. Hence the heavy paper. I don’t regard Morning Pages as a Journal. I have never read what I have written. I doubt that I ever will. That is not the point for me. It is an exercise not a record. Diffr’nt strokes. These are mine.
Sharing how you journal is more helpful than reading about how to journal. Thanks
Tim, do you think “bitching” / venting on paper is, in some sort of a way, like hard coding those feelings? People say you remember things better when you write them. Do you think it’s good to codify these feelings instead of venting them verbally and forget about it ?
I like the idea of getting the noise out of your head and onto the page, better out than in.
Hey Tim, this is Veronica. I noticed that you enjoy also the magic of tea ceremonies. I stone mill Imperial and Ceremonial grade matcha fresh in Florida. Contact me if you would like some!
Yes, well something of providence beyond me has brought your post to my social media feed this evening! So thank you. It’s 11 years since I did the MP’s and assessing my current state of mind/spirit/life it’s literally a something has to give/change moment or I’ll be certifiable by August! Given that it’s your Independence Day, you might just have created one here in Ireland for me. Freedom from the doom of heavy thought. I I have the workbook (not previously used—- saving it 🙄 NO MORE!) just about to sign the contract. Thanks Tim.
I have been journaling every morning since my daughter was born. I write to her. And now to my some and to my two step kids. I set my timer for 3-5 minutes and spill my guts or just say what I did yesterday. I want them to know me. I lost my dad as a teenager and I don’t know anything about him. My kids will know me as I was when they were born and all the things I thought as they grew. My daughter is now 21 and I have several books. I have always written to her as if she will read them as an adult. It gives me freedom to share. It’s my favorite time of the day. I value these books more than anything I own because they contain my life.
I love this. I’m not nuts after all! I have journaled for many years. Just for my own sanity and my own eyes. I seldom go back and read anything I wrote. The point, as you say, is to get it out of my head. Whatever “it” may be.
Love this. Spiritual Soul Bro!
This was so helpful. Thank you so much for sharing.
Buber two makes so much sense to me and is the only reason I need to start doing this.
Also would love more detail on the tea! 🙂
Yes please! It’s helpful to know what other people’s routines look like, and deeply helpful to know about the substance. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks for revisiting this. My best friend gave me the artist’s way when I was 6 mo post partum and didn’t understand why I couldn’t do it. I think it’s time now!
Yes, share more of your journal with us. You have given the inspiration to restart one that I had kept going for years. Thank You.
You’re a tremendous inspiration to me! You have no idea! THANK YOU
Love these kind of posts. Read your 5 bullets every Fri and always find at least one thing of value to my current situation.
What do you do with your old journals? Keep them, throw them away..burn them?
This was helpful. Confirming what I am doing. It is a confidence booster. Thank you
I agree with your interpretation of the purpose for morning journaling. I have also found that writing the “monkey mind” down just before bed can help my sleep.
Thank you for sharing a piece of your mind. I been meaning to written my thoughts, Putting them on paper so I can put distant from them out of head and not be so emotional about them. I believe that way, I will deal better with thoughts and feelings and make better decisions. Another Benefits, have more room and energy in my brain and feel lighter throughout the day! You know calming the changomind!
Living your life in public like you do takes great courage. I, for one, really really appreciate it.
Thank you Tim. I have been your fan for many years and would rather listen to your podcast more than once and miss any other podcast. I started journaling since I started following you and although tried both digital and hand written pages but eventually have settled on hand written one. Writing with hand does bring more ideas, flow and calmness. Keep doing the best work you are doing. You have enlightened many through your podcast and writing.
I read the Julia Cameron’s Book at beginning of lockdown 12 July 2020 and did the prescribed 12 weeks and just continued on
Now it’s part of my daily routine
The recommendation came from one of your books! Thanks for sharing the idea
It’s a therapeutic exercise if nothing else
I needed to hear this today. Thanks.
Thank you for the view into your morning pages. I just found them yesterday and started today for the first time. I was wondering is this what is meant by Morning Page. Your exampled has helped.
In the spirit of collaboration and a great deal of respect for what your writings have done for me and my life, I’d like to share a theory I learned about in my undergrad studies. It’s the Conservation of Resource Theory. I think you’ll find it fascinating.