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. 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!

  2. 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?

  3. 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.

  4. 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!

    Chris

  5. 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

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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!

  11. Hey Tim, Thapelo from South Africa here

    I love the post and would love to read more like this, thank you for everything.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. Hey,

    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.

    Regards,

    Babita

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. 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 🙂

  19. Thanks a lot for your help, Tim. Your blog contains priceless information and what I see as a therapy for my soul.

  20. 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.

  21. 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

  22. 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 💜

  23. 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!

  24. 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.

  25. 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!

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  28. 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.

  29. 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

  30. 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.
    Many thanks,
    Lonna

  31. 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!?