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"Not another day..."
That was my first thought waking up.
Every day in 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, I felt burned out. I could have blamed many things: the pandemic, a failed startup, or too much work. The root of the problem was... I was not taking care of my mental health.
The Five Minute Journal changed my life
The first time I saw The Five Minute Journal by Intelligent Change in a Tim Ferris YouTube video titled How I Journal and Take Notes | Brainstorming + Focusing + Reducing Anxiety, I thought "This is what I need. It will only take me five minutes. I can easily do this every morning". And I did. Every day since April 2022.
I ordered it from Amazon and received it in three days. On the first day, it took me more than fifteen minutes to fill out. I wasn't sure what to put in each section. I had to think about it for a moment. The next day it took me around three minutes. I got used to it quickly.
Day by day, I felt better and better. I woke up more and more with a positive frame of mind. Within three weeks, that poisonous thought had disappeared. "Not another day..." did not cross my mind ever again. I woke up thinking "Thank you for another day of life".
The journal is pricey. Why should I buy it?
You can pick a blank piece of paper and write every day. You could get a cheaper notebook. I think what makes The Five Minute Journal worth it is its simple structure, daily quotes and weekly challenges. It has pages to last for 6 months.
The words you tell yourself every day
If you wake up every day and tell yourself that you hate your current situation, it's an indication that you need to change it. Repeating your actions will reinforce what you think. Your thoughts will influence your actions and what you say to yourself. It is a feedback loop.
The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is one of my favorite books on this subject. Be Impeccable With Your Word, is the most relevant agreement of the four. It's about the impact that your words have on yourself and the people around you.
Be Impeccable With Your Word
Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
~ The Four Agreements - Don Miguel Ruiz
The actions you repeat every day
I am a big proponent of daily practice in small increments. Atomic Habits by James Clear is the book that changed the way I think about habits, repetition and its compound effect on learning. In the same way, your repeated frame of mind has an impact on your mental health, every day and it compounds over months. That is why depression can be very insidious. It starts small and builds over time.
Every action you take is a vote for the person you wish to become.
~ Atomic Habits - James Clear
Filling out the journal every morning
The Five Minute Journal allows you to start every day on a positive note. This is the structure for one day. Remember, it is so easy. It takes less than five minutes. But it has a huge impact on the rest of your day.
3 things that you are grateful for
3 things that would make your day awesome
3 highlights of the day
3 things you learned
PyFiveMinuteJournal: A simple Python application inspired by the physical journal
After 6 months, I ran out of pages in The Five Minute Journal. I decided to create a Python application inspired by it. These are some of the features.
1. It gets the current date and time
This part is simple but very important. The date is used as the generated file name.
2. It generates a random quote
It requests the Zen Quotes API (zenquotes.io/api/today) to get a random quote. That quote is saved in your daily journal.
3. It prompts questions for the morning
It detects when you are filling the journal the first time. It assumes it is the morning and prompts you with the morning questions.
4. It prompts questions for the evening
It detects when you are filling the journal the second time. It assumes it is the evening and prompts you with the evening questions.
5. It stores each day as a Markdown file
The date, the quote of the day, and the questions and answers are all stored in a Markdown file each day grouped in a directory by year.
2022/5MJ-2022-12-31.md 2023/5MJ-2023-01-01.md 2023/5MJ-2023-01-02.md 2023/5MJ-2023-01-02.md 2023/5MJ-2023-01-04.md 2023/5MJ-2023-01-05.md
The markdown file.
Five Minute Journal | Wednesday, Jan 18 2023 > Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them. > > ~ Marcus Aurelius, Meditations --- 07:55 AM ### I am grateful for... 1. My family 2. My incredible friends 3. The warm bed that a sleep in ### What would make today great? 1. Walk around the park 2. Go to the coffeeshop 3. Publish this blog article ### Daily affirmations 1. I traveled to Portugal 2. I am grateful for everything I have 3. I am a better Software Engineer than yesterday --- 09:05 PM ### Highlights of the day 1. Had breakfast with family 2. Met a friend at the coffeeshop 3. Practiced Portuguese with my language partner ### What did I learn today? 1. New Portuguese vocabulary 2. Completed an AWS hands-on lab 3. Studied for AWS Certified SysOps Admin Associate
To Do: Journal Stats
I might add this feature later. I would like to run a
stats.py command, parse the journals for a given year and get some statistics like those shown below.
$ python3 stats.py 2023 -------------------------- 2023 JOURNAL STATS ------------------------ JOURNALS COMPLETED 246 of 365 days TOP 5 WORDS MENTIONED - Family: 178 - Friends: 109 - AWS: 83 - Portugal: 64 - Study: 52 PLACES MENTIONED - Portugal: 64 - Spain: 33 - Puerto Rico: 11 AVERAGE SENTIMENT BY MONTH January: 0.9 positive February: 0.7 positive ...
I traveled to Portugal
No. I haven't traveled to Portugal yet, as of the date I published this article. I write this affirmation almost every day. Most of the things I have accomplished, I have affirmed for months as if they had already happened.
Affirmations are timeless and powerful. You can affirm where you see yourself in the future. Or you can affirm where you are today compared to yesterday.
Be careful not to think "I have not achieved enough"
Be careful not to turn affirmations into expectations. That can lead to feelings of disappointment. Things take time and hard work. Treat affirmations loosely as a state of mind. Let your daily actions take you a step closer to your goals.
I fill out the journal every day
Consistency is key. It felt great to complete the first journal by hand. I might buy it again. There is something very satisfying about opening the journal in your hands and looking back at six months of pages full of transformational gratitude, optimism and affirmations turned into reality. For now, I've been using the PyFiveMinuteJournal Python application.
It is NOT the be-all and end-all
Some people pray.
Some people meditate.
Some people go for a run.
Some people fill out a journal.
Some people combine all these things.
Find the way that is best for you. The important thing is that you start every day on a positive note. Make your bed, no matter what happened the day before.
I highly recommend it
If you are a developer, you can clone the PyFiveMinuteJournal from the GitHub repository and start journaling on your computer. If you are not into command-line applications or you prefer writing by hand, then order The Five Minute Journal from Intelligent Change. It might change your life.
Find the repository here. Take it for a spin.
Take care of yourself
If this article helps just one person, then it would have been worth writing. Be your best friend. Step back from it all. Take a breath. Make time for yourself. And get back to work in a way that is in balance with your life.
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