~ By Sara Wolbrecht
Sometimes, I just suck at prioritizing my time. It is one of my greatest challenges in both my home and work lives. Every day I go to bed with 181 things left undone in both arenas. To top it off, although I am a fairly disciplined person and a huge proponent of self-care, practices like prayer, reflection, and mindfulness get lost in the shuffle.
Yet for the last two months, I’ve found a daily practice that has helped bring focus and better self-care in the regular rhythms of my day. You still won’t see me on Oprah’s SuperSoul Sunday as the latest Time-Management Joy Guru, but this is a life hack that has made a noticeable shift in how I parent, lead, savor my day, and find myself more present in the moments of my life. Who doesn’t want that? And here’s the thing: it only takes five minutes.
Here’s the hack: I’ve been using The Five Minute Journal (www.thefiveminutejournal.com). I know, I know, don’t clench up when you read the word journal. I love journaling, in theory. Even journaling in practice – but there’s never enough time to write ALL THE THINGS, so I end up writing, well, nothing. This journal, however, is different. There is just one small page a day with five short questions to answer. You write in the date, so it is not bound to any time period – or even strict daily use. Ahem.
Wisdom from ancient and modern times teach that the beginning and end of the day is a time to think, evaluate, and correct course. The journal is rooted in this wisdom with a thorough explanation of the science behind the carefully chosen daily writing prompts. There are three brief writing prompts in the morning, and two at night, meant to be engaged with as the very first and last experiences of the day. Here are the prompts:
- Today’s Gratitude List: I am grateful for… (Three Things)
- Creating a Better Day: What would make today great? (Three Things)
- A Statement of what you want in your life: Daily Affirmations. “I am…”
- The Amazing Three: Three amazing things that happened today…
- Making the Day Better: How could I have made today better?
When I wake up, some days it takes a lot of time to feel grateful for three things. As I head to bed, some days I make it the Amazing EIGHT because there were so many good things I want to remember and savor. But generally, these prompts only take five minutes. Total.
In the first week of using this journal I noticed a small but meaningful change in how I perceived events in my day. I find myself looking out for opportunities to celebrate things which may have passed without recognition before – and I savor them more fully in the moment.
Within a few weeks I had a good handle on one way I could make it a great day; making good choices with food, exercise, and even making time to meditate put me on the trajectory to head to bed with satisfaction and joy. Because: when those three were on my list (usually as one item), and when I could get them done most days, I was more present and positive throughout my day.
Prioritizing my food choices, exercise, and meditation has led to small, significant changes in my patience and playfulness with my kids, being more open-hearted with my spouse, more deeply connected to what matters to me, and able to bounce back from the inevitable frustrations in my work and parenting life.
To be clear: I’m by no means perfect in my practice, nor is every day sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. I write in the journal four to seven times a week. Sometimes there are blanks – I just can’t come up with anything. But I have a greater sense of what needs to happen at work and at home – and I am enjoying my life just a little bit more. That’s a click in the right direction.
The subtitle for the book is: “The simplest, most effective thing you can do every day to be happier.” I don’t know if that is scientifically provable, but this is one journal, and five minutes a day, that is effecting change in me, my level of happiness and my priorities.
What kinds of daily practices keep you moving in the right direction?
How do you (do you) set goals for what you want to accomplish in the day, the week? Which of the writing prompts might you try to incorporate in your own beginning and end to the day?
How might five minutes a day lead to significant change in you?
Sara is mom to a 7yo and 3yo, and parents and works with her husband, Jason. She leads a new church on the Eastside of Seattle, Salt House (www.salthousehcurch.org), a growing, Jesus-focused, socially progressive, and radically inclusive community that likes to eat and grow. Together.