This Is the Journaling Template for People Who Don’t Have Time to Journal

With ‘Four Corners Journaling,’ there’s no fancy lingo, no obscure writing prompts, no fluff

Photo: Javier Zayas Photography/Getty Images

I’ve heard that journaling is rocket fuel for self-improvement, which is why I tried to start the habit while I was unemployed during the pandemic. One night, I brought out a small notebook and jotted down my thoughts. I will never forget what happened the next morning: I woke up in an extraordinarily good mood!

It was easy for me to journal religiously — until I started my new job. My days quickly filled up with work, chores, exercise, and writing. With less time and energy, it became difficult for me to take the time to sit and reflect. Days, sometimes even weeks, would pass between entries.

Maybe you’re like me and are having trouble fitting the task into your daily schedule. Or maybe you want to journal but don’t know where the start. (Anyone else overwhelmed by the multitude of writing prompts out there? What are you grateful for? Did you learn something new about yourself? What does your future self look like?) Recently, I came up with a method to make the habit more manageable. It’s called Four Corner Journaling.

The one-page template consists of — you guessed it — four corners: gratitude, goal commitment, and a daily review (what went well and what didn’t). Here’s what it looks like for me:

Photo courtesy of the author

Gratitude corner

The upper left corner is where you apply The Three Good Things — a count-your-blessing practice that can improve psychological wellbeing. Simply start with “I’m thankful for…” and then list at least three things you’re grateful for that day.

“Future you” corner

The upper right corner is where you remind yourself of who you want to become or what you want to achieve. Research shows that the more you clarify and feel connected with your future self, the more you’re “willing to make choices today that may benefit [you] at some point in the years to come.” In this section, write “2021 [your name].” Then write down what you hope to become by the end of the year.

Daily review

The most brilliant advice I’ve heard on how to manage myself came from a former boss. He said, “Pause for five minutes at the end of every day and just think about what happened that day.” While working at that company, we evaluated every initiative using two columns: What worked and what didn’t work?

I loved the framework because it was intuitive and straightforward. Best of all, it required us to focus only on the things that were within our control.

Apply this framework to journaling and you’ll be forced to think about your behavior — what was it that you did that day that worked or didn’t? For example, maybe you folded your laundry while listening in on a Zoom seminar. This kept you from scrolling through Twitter, so you successfully paid attention to the meeting and ticked off a household chore. That worked. But maybe you also intended to hit 2,000 steps after lunch. Instead, you delayed it to after your work day. Your last meeting took longer than expected, leaving you with no time to go for a walk. That did not work.

Journaling doesn’t need to be fancy, complicated, or long-winded. What’s important is that it does the job and is done regularly. Find what works for you and feel yourself becoming closer to the person you want to become, one page at a time.

Fun-sized Filipina. Recovering Type A | I’ll send you my greatest hits here:

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