My morning journal routine is one of the first things I do at the start of the day. After getting up, I make the coffee, feed the dog, and then take fifteen minutes to set intentions for the day. Over time I have developed a journal format that works well for me, and I wanted to share.

Where to journal

I have found it helpful to establish this routine to have a “place” where I do my journaling each day—a drawer beside my chair in the family room where I keep my morning journal. Then, as I settle down in my comfy chair to enjoy that first cup of coffee, I take my journal from the drawers and start to write.

What to Journal

I limit the journal writing to a single page in my notebook and fifteen minutes. I roughly divide the page into two columns and four sections. The four sections are Daily mind sweep, gratitude & great, request & reciprocity, and dream notes. More on each of these sections a bit later in this post. Ultimately you need to find a format that works for you.

Morning Journal Sections

  • Daily Mind Sweep
  • Gratitude & Great
  • Request & Reciprocity
  • Dream Notes
  • How I format my morning journal

    I always start my journal from the top of the page and work down. Then, I use the sections outlined below to capture my thoughts and frame my intentions for the day.

    Resource – the 5-minute journal has had the most significant influence on my journaling habit. I love the format. However, I found I wanted something just a little different. Whatever form you decide on has to work for you. I highly recommend checking out the 5-minute journal if you are starting journaling.

    Daily mind sweep

    Daily mind sweep is the first section I write each day. The idea is to get everything on your mind out on the page as quickly as possible. I write the header daily mind sweep at the top and do two columns of five bullets each. The mind sweep bullets are my quick list of things I want to do today in no particular order. I have found over time that ten bullets work well for the mind sweep.

    Resource – David Allen of Getting Things Done describes the mind sweep in his book. The mind sweep in the book is more a longer-term and infrequent exercise done. I have modified the format a bit so that this is an exercise you can do every day. Getting what is on your mind out of your head and on paper is a great way to help calm your thinking each day. “Mind like Water”

    Gratitude & Great

    Gratitude and Great is the next section. Again, I do three bullets for each of these.

    Gratitude – think of three things you are grateful for and write them down. The gratitude section is a slow-go and reflective. The intention is to think of what you are grateful for and reflect on it before writing it down. Then when you have reflected on how grateful you are for the item, write it down with that thought in mind. I have found gratitude to be one of the most significant positive impacts on my thoughts.

    Great – While it is wonderful to get you’re to-do thoughts down on the page in the daily mind sweep, my experience is that the odds you will do everything on that list is extremely low. The three bullets in great is a paired down to-do list from the daily mind sweep. Of the ten items in the daily mind sweep, which are the three that are most important. Great is your daily to-do shortlist.

    Resource – A great resource for journaling is the Bullet Journal. I like the format and the fact that it is so quick and easy to do. The Bullet Journal was another significant influence on my journaling format.

    Request & Reciprocity

    Request and reciprocity go together like peanut butter and jelly. The request list is what you are asking the universe for, and the reciprocity list is what you will do today to achieve that request item. I use three bullets for both request and reciprocity. First, the item in the request list corresponds to the item in the reciprocity list.

    I use three bullets for both request and reciprocity. I tie the three requests bullets back to my long-term goals and keep them consistent from day to day. However, the reciprocity items can be different each day. This way, the to-do you are working toward leads you toward your longer-term goals.

    Dream Notes

    Dream Notes is a section where I write down my dreams from the night before. I collect all of the dreams quarterly and review them. I have found that over time, you start to see themes and patterns emerge in your dreams.

    Final thoughts on my morning journal routine

    If there were one piece of advice, I would offer my younger self. It would be starting a journaling habit. I like the format described in this post and find it works well for me. So if you are looking to get started with journaling, the two best resources I could recommend are the 5-minute journal and the bullet journal to establish your habit and play around with the format and figure out what works for you.

    Ian Paul Graham