6-minutes journal - Why you should write one (with free template)

6-minutes journal - Why you should write one (with free template)

Published
February 1, 2023

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The 6-Minute Diary from urbestself.de has already sold over 1 million copies. It is a simple and effective tool for more gratitude, mindfulness, and joy in life. With this free Notion template, you can use it for yourself. The following information from the book is summarized, mixed with my personal experience with it.

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Reasons to Keep a Journal

For 2.8 million years, humans have been living on this planet and have developed a survival mode. This was crucial in the past to survive or be killed. Today, however, this attitude is no longer very helpful, as our brain constantly looks for threats and automatically perceives negatives more strongly than positives. The journal helps us to outsmart this evolutionary negativity by feeding our brain with positive impulses.

The book is based on scientific findings. It has been scientifically proven why we should ask these questions daily and that positive psychology actually helps.

Statistics show that 92% of people who want to quit smoking fail, and 88% of people who start the new year with resolutions don't follow through. So why should the journal work?

With the method of daily questions, we are not trying to find ourselves or completely change our lives. With minimal effort (3 minutes in the morning, 3 minutes in the evening), it is easy to maintain this routine. Various books, such as Atomic Habits, describe that success comes from small habits, not from suddenly changing our entire lives overnight.

"Nothing is particularly hard if you break it into small tasks."

Henry Ford

The Roman poet Martial said: "He lives twice who enjoys both past and present." If you're feeling down, you can flip through all the positive memories. With the journal, you create your own work of happy memories.

Theory of the 6-Minute Journal

Gratitude

It is impressive how clear the findings of positive psychology are. Normally, there is a counter-theory for every theory. Scientifically based counterarguments for the core statements of positive psychology cannot be found.

The following core statements have been proven by positive psychology:

  1. Gratitude is of fundamental importance for personal well-being.
  2. Material factors such as wealth or social status are not decisive for personal happiness in the long term.
  3. The relationship with other people is of monumental importance for personal well-being.
  4. Happiness can be learned. You can work for happiness and it is not just a matter of fate.

The 6-Minute Journal p. 36

Habit

95% of our daily decisions do not reach our consciousness. They take place in our subconscious and are guided by routines and automatisms.

(Zaltmann, Gerald (2003): How Customers Think: Essentials Insights into the Mind of the Market)

"By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart."

Confucius

We humans are creatures of habit. It takes an average of 66 days to establish a habit. So the change will not come within three days. Doing 100 push-ups every morning? How long will that work? But 2 every day? There is no excuse not to do it. Thus, the hurdle to do something is minimized and probably more will be done than planned. Imagine a ship crossing the Atlantic. Just a 2-degree correction in the course and the ship ends up in a completely different place. It is the same with simple daily routines.

Willpower

Willpower is a limited resource and every decision, such as resisting temptations or choosing clothes, affects the willpower muscle. The consequence of this is that the willpower of many people decreases over the course of the day. To avoid overloading the willpower muscle, routines and habits can help automate decisions. That is one of the reasons why Steve Jobs wore the same sweater every day or why Barack Obama always wore the same suit.

Self-reflection

Through high-quality self-reflection, people can achieve positive effects in many areas of life. They are more disciplined, better at planning, better at dealing with emotions, and make thoughtful decisions.

The Numerous Benefits of High-Quality Self-Reflection – Schaw, Gregory (1998) Promoting General Metacognitive Awareness.

In daily stress, we experience so many impressions that it is hardly possible to answer questions properly. Therefore, it is helpful to fill out the journal right after waking up in the morning. You are free from external influences like social media or notifications on your phone.

The morning routine, the most important of all routines

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The morning routine in the diary leads to dopamine release and charges your batteries with positive energy, making it the most important routine, no matter when you wake up.

The first hour of the morning is the rudder of the day.

  • Barack Obama starts his morning ritual 2 hours before his first appointment. He exercises and takes time for breakfast with his family.
  • Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, works 16 hours a day and still takes time to meditate and jog every morning.

So take the time, write in your diary. Even if you are too tired or have woken up too late. And try not to say, "I have to," but "I want to take the time for it."

Your first duty is to make yourself happy. If you are happy, you make others happy too.

Ludwig Andreas Feuerbach

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The 3 questions in the morning

I am grateful for...

  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. ...

What would make today wonderful?

I will do ______ (Small Action) because I want to feel ______.

Positive Self-affirmation

I am, I have, I control...

Here you will be explained why exactly these 3 questions are chosen.

🙏🏽 I am grateful for...

Gratitude is one of the few topics on which atheists, scientists, and followers of all religions agree. Gratitude does not necessarily have to be expressed; studies show that it is enough to write it down for oneself.

Oprah Winfrey, the host of one of the most successful talk shows, said in 2012 about the gratitude journal: "This was the most important thing I have ever done."

Studies show that people who keep a gratitude journal and write down positive experiences are happier than they were before the test, after one week, three months, and six months, even though they only wrote for one week. This shows how sustainable the long-term effect is.

Dr. Philip C. Watkins comes to the following conclusions in his work "Gratitude and the Good Life":

  1. People like particularly grateful people.
  2. Gratitude helps in a unique way to build and maintain relationships.
  3. Gratitude promotes prosocial behavior in yourself and in your environment.

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Tip for the gratitude question

At some point, your answers will repeat themselves, for example, health, family, etc. Be more specific and pay attention to smaller things. Here are a few examples:

☀️ What would make today wonderful?

Describing our motivation for our actions can help. We should focus on the positive and not the negative. Instead of saying "I won't eat chocolate today", we should say "I will eat healthy today because I want to feel fit".

Actions don't have to be earth-shattering, but small enough that we can actually implement them. Here are some examples:

  • I will work on my project today because I want to feel productive and self-directed.
  • I will meet friends today because I want to feel connected.
  • I will exercise because it makes me happy.
  • I will meditate to feel good.

🧘🏾‍♂️ Positive Self-Affirmation

The goal of this section is to program your subconscious with self-affirmation. There are two different approaches. Find out what works for you.

Approach 1: Hammer Approach

You write a positive self-affirmation that you repeat every day.

When Jim Carrey was unemployed and unknown, he wrote himself a check for $1,000,000 for his acting performance. And he wrote, "I am a really good actor, everyone wants to work with me, I have many great movie offers."

With or without a check, you can choose this method for yourself.

✍🏼
Example

The coolest customers want to work with me and I will become a successful Notion consultant.

Approach 2. Hummingbird Approach

You set a new self-affirmation daily, depending on your feelings and goals.

✍🏼
Example
  • I am competent and articulate. This presentation will go well.

Regardless of which approach you choose, it is important that it is truly positive. Avoid using negations. We all know the example: Don't think of a pink elephant. What are you thinking of now? Since your subconscious mind absorbs emotions and not words, it is important to pay attention to your feelings. It is even more important to try to empathize. So take some time for that.

Do you want to learn more about morning routines? I can recommend the book summary "Miracle Morning" by Blinkist.

The Evening Routine - Reflect and Recharge for the Next Day.

We sleep about a third of our lives. Therefore, sleep is an important part of our lives. An evening routine helps us leave the stressful everyday life behind, switch off and reflect on the positive. Create your suitable evening routine for yourself.

I kept my rules quite simple and noted them on three post-its in the bedroom. Even if I don't always follow them 100%, it still helps me to remember them and try again. From the book "Off to Bed" by Katharina Kunzmann, I learned that routine is the most important thing for a good sleep. Therefore, I try to fall asleep and wake up at roughly the same time, even on weekends.

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My personal evening routine looks something like this:

21:00 - No more work from now on.

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Folgende Fragen kannst du dir am Abend stellen:
  • What good thing have I done for someone today?
    1. …
    2. …

Why these 3 questions?

🤗 What good have I done for someone today?

People who like to help others feel happier themselves than those who don't*. Although eating sweets or having sex also makes us happy, it has been proven that the positive effect on giving people lasts an entire day.

  • Prosocial people tend to be happier - Lyubomirsky, Sonja / King, Laura / Diener, Ed (2005)

Do you know that feeling when you don't want to accept help from others because you don't want to be a burden or think it makes you look weak? There is nothing wrong with accepting help from others. On the contrary, it shows strength when we recognize that we don't have to do everything alone. In addition, other people can also become happier by helping, as they feel needed and do something good.

How do you feel when you can help someone? Good, right? Do something small for your fellow human beings and accept help from others.

Since I often have trouble accepting help myself, I tell myself: Every time we deny someone the opportunity to help us, we deny that person the chance to become happier.

💪🏽 What will I do better tomorrow?

We constantly compare our inner life with the outer life of others. This has an impact on our decisions. Am I going to the gym because I want to or because Instagram tells me everyone should be perfect?

Ask yourself what you want to do better tomorrow. Still try to focus on the good and appreciate small progress.

If you want to be happy all the time, you must often change your way of life.

Confucius

Example Answers

  • Tomorrow I will first plan my day to be able to work focused.
  • I will also take more time for myself and take breaks.

🖤 Great things I experienced today...

Usually we start conversations with friends or roommates by telling them about negative experiences at work. But how we start a conversation often influences the further course. So why not break out of this pattern and first tell three positive things?

Here are three great things you can write down. If the day was really difficult, focus on the small things:

  • Despite the difficult day, I was kind to my fellow human beings.
  • I did my best today. Even if it only means that I got out of bed.
  • The phone call with my mother gave me joy.
  • I was mindful on the train to work.

The reviews

Every week and month, there is a review in which you reflect on the past week and highlight the positive experiences. The goal of the weekly review is to reinforce one's own perception of positive events and to look at difficult situations in a new light.

The weekly review questions in the 6-Minute Diary vary. Here are some examples:

  1. What was good this week?
  2. What made you happy?
  3. What could you have done differently?
  4. What have you learned?
  5. What are you grateful for?

In addition to the weekly review, there is also a monthly review, which is structured similarly. The goal here is to reflect on the past four weeks and review positive experiences. The monthly review is intended to help you focus on progress and achievements and promote your own development.

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Advantage of digital templates: You can customize the properties for yourself.

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My personal experience with monthly and weekly reviews

Personally, I don't use weekly reviews often. I prefer to focus on writing in my journal daily. For me, it's too much to also do a weekly review every week. But you can use it as it suits you. What I like to do is record thoughts and insights on the monthly review page.

Important tips for using a diary.

  • Find a fixed location for your diary. This will make it easier to stick to a routine. If you use a digital diary, set reminders.
  • Go into detail. Feel what you write down. Take your time. Neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson showed that negative experiences go straight into long-term memory. Positive experiences are held in the conscious mind for around 10 seconds before making it into short/long-term memory.
  • Describe 3 situations that could distract you from filling out the diary. And for each situation, provide 3 concrete measures to overcome them.
  • Be creative! You can write a question as a title or draw a smiley face after a perfect day.

Book or Digital?

I spend a lot of time in front of the computer and I want to use the time for reflection offline. That's why I used the book for 2 years. When traveling, I have been using the digital version for 7 months. The advantage is that it's always with me. In addition to journaling, I can also keep track of other topics in Notion, such as learnings or goals. You can customize the questions in the template at any time.

Digital diary

👍🏼
Advantages
  • You always have it with you.

👍🏼
Disadvantages
  • Since I can't put it next to my bed, I often forget to fill it out.

Paperbook

👍🏼
Advantages
  • Paper, just feels good.

👍🏼
Disadvantages
  • You always have to carry the book with you

Ultimately, the choice between paper or digital format depends on what works best for you. Some people prefer the flexibility of the digital version, while others prefer the tactile experience of writing on paper.

And finally, my favorite quote that fits the book:

You will never change your life until you change something you do daily.

John C. Maxwell

Free gratitude journal template to download

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Free 6-Minute Diary Notion Template
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Beli Löw

Beli is an IT project manager, tool enthusiast, entrepreneur and has organized his whole life with Notion. His news sources are release notes from tools. There is (almost) no feature or shortcut that he does not know.

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