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The Lazy Guide to Journaling in 10 Minutes or Less

Is “tomorrow” your favorite day of the week?

If you put off journaling because you’re strapped for time, I’ve got the solution right here. Below are four ways to capture the daily essentials in under ten minutes a day. These tools will also come in handy if journaling just sounds like too much dang work.

You’ve got ten minutes, right?

Well let’s get down to it. The clock is ticking.

1. Vertical Journaling

Vertical Journaling is a great tool for those suffering from timus constraintitis. The set-up is easy: choose a tall, college-ruled notebook or blank journal. We’ll use one page per month. Number the lines, one for each day.

Each day, quickly write only the most important tidbits of information you’d like to mention. They’ve got to fit one line.

If you use Twitter, you’re familiar with forced efficiency when communicating in 140 characters or less. This journaling tool is similar.

Vertical journaling creates a handy visual timeline you’ll return to. The whole month can easily be scanned in one glance.

I actually use vertical journaling in the front of all my long-hand journals. I’ll write a five page entry, but fill in the single line in the front of the notebook just to keep track of high level topics. I’ve found this enormously useful throughout the years, especially when I’m trying to pinpoint the specific date of an event.

There are beautiful journals set up to accommodate this kind of daily journaling, like the One Line a Day journal I reviewed awhile back.

2. Nutshell Journaling

The nutshell journaling method is similar to vertical journaling, but it’s geared toward the more visually-inclined. Nutshell journaling can be images, words, or a combination.

The key is to pick a journal that easily provides you with a good structure. Choose a giant wall calendar or a tiny pocket-size journal. I love little square hardbound blank books for nutshell journaling.

Allot one page or block per day, and fill it with whatever your heart desires. Photos, ephemera like movie stubs and parking receipts, drawings, or simply words. Some days you may feel more wordy, others more image-centric.

It’s fun to create individual nutshell journals for each month or each season. I’m a big fan of boxed sets, and this tool is a perfect use for them. Four notebooks with 100 pages each perfectly accommodates one page per day, one notebook per season, and a box for the year. But then, I have OCD and that degree of order is an aphrodisiac for me.

One of the visual journaling books I have showed a fabulous exercise an illustrator did with a desk blotter calendar, drawing a single picture in each daily block, using the days as a frame. It was a beautiful way to capture the month all on one page. Later you can bind them all together if you want, or frame them and hang them on the wall.

The guidelines are just suggestions to get the ball rolling. The idea is to break daily journaling down into little manageable chunks. It’s easy to fill one single page. It’s not overwhelming, so it’s easier to find the time and energy to do it daily.

If you feel like stretching it out to multiple pages once you’re working on it, go for it!

3. List Making

This easy journaling tool is self-explanatory. List making is great because it’s fast and simple, and you don’t have to worry about sentence structure. With the pressure of sounding witty or creative off the table, you’re free to just write the facts, m’am. Of course, if you want to get witty or creative in your lists, it’s a free country.

To keep things interesting, vary the list each day. The subject of the list communicates just as much about your life as the contents.

I kept a list journal for awhile. It even has a table of contents with the date and the title of the daily list. They are funny to go back and read, and illustrate simply where my head was:

7 Things I Ate Today that I Probably Shouldn’t Have
15 Reasons Seattle Couldn’t Possibly Build a Subway System
4 Painful Conversations I Endured Today
Top 10 Items on My Universal Wish List
3 Ways I Escaped Certain Death This Morning
12 Complaints About My &#@%ing Stella Scooter
8 (Ironic) Reasons I love My Job

4. The Five W’s and the H

Journalism school teaches future reporters the inverted triangle style of writing. This format has them answering six questions in the first paragraph: Who, What, Where, Why, When, How?

Historically, the inverted pyramid was used because articles were often sliced short to make room for advertisements or breaking news. Covering all the absolutely essential information in the beginning meant that any news piece could have a paragraph or two hacked from the end without ruining the storyline.

This method of journaling is perfect for those who suffer from journalus interruptus. If you’re never sure how much time you’ll have to write before the baby cries, the boss calls, or the timer dings, this tool’s for you.

Hammer out the 5 W’s and the H, inverted pyramid style, and then — if you want and have time — flesh it out. If you’re stopped at any point after the first paragraph, you’ve still got a coherent journal entry with all the essentials documented. When you’re handed an extra twenty minutes by some miracle of fate, you can keep writing.

So if you’re lazy or just filled to the gills with life, you can still enjoy the powerful practice of daily writing.

Go get started – you’ve still got six minutes left!

3 comments

  1. Loved this, Kristin! Talk about great ideas! Most of it I have never even considered. I happen to be long winded in my journal entries most of the time. But I love the ideas of keeping it to a sentence per day or a box per day. It certainly simplifies things.

    This post is worth book marking. Thanks!
    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    JournalWriter Freelance

  2. Thanks Dawn! I am totally long-winded most of the time, too. Anytime I’ve used these methods, it’s been in addition to my normal daily longhanded “braindump” (as I affectionately call it). I’m currently using the Nutshell journaling to warm up to drawing, which I’d like to do daily but I presently suck at.

  3. Same here – in fact, I can pretty much guarantee that I’ve edited this post no less than 3 times in order to be more efficient, and less long-winded. How am I doing? (Just kidding!)
    I’m always suprised by folks who are able to convey information quickly – in 2-sentence emails, for example. I have long envied the ability they seem to have grasped about keeping things so short and sweet! And, granted, sometimes the point is to “get it all out”, and I rather enjoy the whipping sound of page after page being turned when I write at warp speed. But while reading these prompts and explanations, I seem to be coming around to a place where I might also enjoy 2-sentence entries without feeling guilty for not pouring out my guts on paper. Merci, as usual!