What is the first thing that you do in the morning when you wake up?

  • Do you check your smartphone? Look at instagram? Reddit? News feeds? E-mails? Whats app messages?
  • Do you work out? Stretch? Go for a run? Lift weights?
  • Do you take a shower? Cold bath?
  • Do you pick up a book to read? Drink coffee? Look at the newspaper?

How would you like to be incredibly clear in your vision for your life? Use the power of your subconscious mind to realize your biggest goals and dreams? Get incredible focus and clarity on the day ahead? Be proactive (and not reactive) about what happens during your day? Understand whether you are making progress towards your goals and correct your course if needed?

Believe it or not, none of the activities I described above will help you do that. So what will?


I learned about this habit first from Tim Ferriss’ book The Tools of Titans. Journaling is one activity that Tim saw many top performers, entrepreneurs and business leaders doing. Although it was interesting and I did do some journaling through the five minute journal, it wasn’t something that I enjoyed doing. I felt like it was a burden writing down using the same prompts every day and so I ended up stopping.

Recently though, I picked it up again and I can remember the exact moment that I decided it was worth picking up again: it was after reading Benjamin Hardy’s Willpower doesn’t work. I read a passage about how journaling was a keystone habit that enabled other habits to be even more effective.

Here are a few things that happen when you journal first thing in the morning:

  • You unlock the power of your subconscious mind to work for you (similar to how if you want to buy a specific brand of car, you will start to notice that brand a lot more as you drive or walk around)
  • You gain clarity on what you need to do to make progress towards your goals
  • You write down your goals (which studies show, makes you more likely to achieve them)
  • You become proactive about what you want to accomplish (either that day, week or month) rather than being reactive to other people’s demands
  • Over time, you are able to understand how your specific actions have got you to where you are that day and how you can adjust your actions to change where you want to go or what you want to be (for example, Tim Ferriss has for years, recorded his exact workouts, diet and weight and so if he wants to reach a certain weight, all he has to do is go to his journals, repeat those exact workouts and diet and get to that weight)

If you’ve read this far, hopefully it means that you’re convinced that journaling is one of the best things that you can do in the morning. I prefer to do it first thing in the morning because you can allow your stream of consciousness to help you be more honest in what you are feeling and what you want to do today. All I do is take a notebook, write down that it’s a journal entry, the date and then I write down the answers to the following prompts (the prompts are ones I decided on a whim but it really depends on what you want to focus on and track):

  • What I feel – I don’t rate myself on a scale of 1 – 10 but maybe I should. I write down exactly how I am feeling at that moment (though sometimes I think about the past day as well). Am I feeling tired? Happy? Excited? Energetic? Anxious? Why? What are the things that are happening in my life to cause me to be in that state?
  • My specific actions today that will help me reach my long term goals – for example, one of my long term goals is to become a best selling author so every day, I want to write at least one page whether it’s on my blog or in a new book that I’m developing. Other actions could be exercising, sleeping eight hours, spending time researching customers. These short term goals help me achieve my long term goals, which I review on a monthly and quarterly basis, which then help me achieve my even longer term goals (5 – 10 year horizon).
  • My work activities – work at times can feel like I’m in meetings all day so while I’m not able to skip all the meetings I am invited to, I do make sure that I know what is the most important thing I need to do for work and then make sure that at the very least, I work on and complete that task. For me, I can’t do that unless I know all the tasks I need to do. Brainstorming in this way can help me get clarity on other dependencies that I am not aware of.
  • What I am grateful for – countless books, articles and studies have told me that one key to becoming happier is to practice gratitude. I like to write down a few of the things that I am grateful for – there are some obvious things like my health or the fact that I have a good job but I also try to expand into the not so obvious things like the pen at the hotel I’m staying at or my blue light filtering glasses.

For me, the journaling is not a timed exercise. I take about 5 – 10 minutes writing down these things and I try not to censor myself or edit as I am prone to do when writing something more formal like a page in a book. After that, I get on with my day. I’m now starting to think that I should journal at night too.

Thoughts on journaling as the first thing to do in the morning? Do you have recommendations on prompts that you use that you think are worthwhile?