Even if you don’t know who he is, which is highly unlikely considering how big of a name he’s made for himself, you’ve probably heard of Wall Streetand New York Times best-selling author Tim Ferriss. His list of achievements is long and impressive: his book, The 4-Hour Workweek, was a big hit back in 2007—and so are the other four that followed. His interview podcast is also one of the most popular in the world: The Tim Ferriss Show has over 800 million downloads and is constantly ranked #1 across all Apple Podcasts time and time again.
Aside from the typical achievements we often see when it comes to personalities like him that get featured in Inc. Magazine, Newsweek, Fast Company, and Fortune, Ferriss has other achievements that are a bit more “uncommon” in nature. For instance, he’s a national Chinese kickboxing champion, a horseback archer (called yabusame) in Japan, and is a Guinness World Record holder in tango—the first in American history. In fact, there are so many others to list down that it’s safe to say Ferris has become quite an expert especiallyin productivity, efficiency, and decision-making.
And no surprise that one of the routines that help him in daily life?
No matter how busy he is, Tim Ferriss finds time to add journaling to his daily ritual. In today’s article, let’s take a look at how he utilizes the art of journaling to help him succeed in his endeavors.
1. On brainstorming: Lists
A lot of us journalers want pretty similar things whenever we journal, and one of them is to reduce the clutter in our heads. This could be for a number of reasons: some of us don’t want to worry about unnecessary things so we can go about our day thinking about and doing what’s important. Others simply want to get rid of what’s useless up there to have more room when it’s time to find their best ideas.
The solution that Ferriss has come up with is to keep a notebook where he can list allof his ideas down—not just the good ones mind you, but also the “absurd.” The key is to list down each and every one of them quickly, no matter how crazy or implausible, to get everything off your head. But if the idea seems impossible or weird, what’s the point?
In his own words, Ferriss shared: “... perhaps out of all those terrible ideas, you’ll find one that will productively stretch your mind enough that you find a solution you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.”
But how many of us bother to write down what’s considered a really terrible idea? The truth is, not a lot. We’re so easy to dismiss what we think won’t work, and in the process, we waste time chasing after onewonderful idea—only to realize later on that it’s been hiding underneath all the bad ones the entire time. Just think of it this way: unless you’re reallylucky, you don’t come across a precious gem out in the open. Often, you’ll have to dig through layers and layers of rock to find just one. If you dig deep enough, you may end up finding more than one gem.
Ideas can come anytime and anywhere, so always be prepared with the Pocket Journal! Small, compact, and easy to carry, you’ll always have something to write on when inspiration strikes.
2. On reducing anxiety: Morning Pages
“I don’t journal to “be productive.” I don’t do it to find great ideas, or to put down prose I can later publish. The pages aren’t intended for anyone but me.”
This is something that Ferriss has said about journaling, and yet, looking at everything that he’s accomplished so far, keeping a journal seems to have yielded great results in the very areas (and more) that he claims he’s not doing it for. The explanation for this is simple: yes, his journaling practice isn’t intended for these things, but it doesn’t change the fact that it has a positive effect on them.
This is even more apparent when we look at one of the journaling methods he uses: Morning Pages by Julia Cameron, a daily practice of longhand, stream of consciousness writing that are three pages long. To quote a passage from Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, that Ferris himself mentions in one of his blog posts:
“Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts [nebulous worries, jitters, and preoccupations] on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes.”
In essence, what Morning Pages helps with is taking away anything that can distract us, whatever they are, and putting them elsewhere—in this case, on paper. In doing so, they don’t fester inside our minds where they can steal away our focus, which can prevent us from concentrating on the things that matter or need attention.
To oversimplify: we erase what we don’t need from our computer’s memory to ensure it runs smoothly; think of Morning Pages as doing the exact same thing, this time on our mental clutter. We take away what’s unnecessary so that our brains have enough space to accomplish what needs to be done.
3. On focus: the Five Minute Journal
Different people use different methods to help themselves acquire the mindset needed to complete tasks and other amazing things. For Ferriss, another effective way is through the Five Minute Journal, which he uses “for improving focus and execution.”
If we look at its format, the Five Minute Journal is pretty simple, but this is the reason why it works: it’s straightforward and to the point, with a clear, predictable structure to help anyone get started—and, more importantly, keep going. There’s a daily quote for inspiration and spaces ready to be filled out with various things: prompts, what you’re you’re grateful for, daily affirmations, amazing things that happened for the day, and how you could have made the day better.
To some people, this type of journal may seem like answering a test, but to avid journalers or those who can’t seem to start their own journal: have you ever sat down, ready to begin your journaling session, only to realize you have absolutely no idea what to write?
It happens even to the best of us and it’s enough of a deterrent for those who are just getting into the practice not to go through with it. Meanwhile, for the more seasoned journaler, it may cause stress and even setbacks.
But if you’re in a pinch and have writer’s block, the Five Minute Journal definitely has your back: its structure ensures you have a starting point so that you can keep moving forward.
Journaling is not the only method we can use to help pave the road to our own success, but it’s undeniable by now, no matter what we’re trying to accomplish, that it’s a very useful practice. The main takeaway here is that Tim Ferriss doesn’t limit himself to just one type of journaling method and we definitely shouldn’t either; in fact, it’s probably best to try what we can to see exactly which ones will work out for us.
What combination of journaling methods have you tried that helped you with productivity, creativity and self improvement? How has it changed your life for the better? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear more about it!