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Quinn McDonald : One-Sentence Journaling

Too Busy to Keep a Journal? Try One-Sentence Journaling

By Quinn McDonald

Lifehack Example
A simple example: I ride the Metro and often don't get a seat. I always carry a paperback with me and spend the time reading. That alone is worthwhile, but I soon discovered a simple way to hold the book open if one had is hanging on the Metro strap.

I purchased a small, clear plastic ruler with a hole in one end. I put a rubber band through the hole using a lark's head knot. So far I had a great bookmark that also held the book shut so carrying it loose in my bag wouldn't destroy it.

But there is a bigger advantage. When I open the book, I swing the ruler so it lies across the bottom of both pages of the open book. In this way, I can hold the book comfortably open with my thumb on the ruler and the other four fingers supporting the book, leaving my other hand to hang onto the Metro strap so I don't fall over while the train jerks from stop to stop. You turn the pages quickly, preferably while the train is stopped or rocketing along a smooth section of tracks.

It started by accident. Which is how a lot of creativity gets a foothold in the brain. I'm a lifehack fan — finding ways to make dreary aspects of life easier. (See the sidebar for a lifehack example.)

While reading one of my favorite sites on lifehacking — diyplanner.com — I stumbled across a comment from a busy reader who said, "I wish I could keep a journal. But I don't have time. I'd have time to write one sentence a day, and that wouldn't work."

Now, I am a big believer in daily writing. And I began to wonder if one sentence a day would work. So for a month, I kept a journal using only one sentence a day. And to make it easier for me to find patterns in my topics, I wrote each entry on a 4" x 6" index card.

At the end of the month, I did notice patterns — topics that repeated, days that I felt cranky, a certain thing that pushed my buttons, and the need to be grateful for running my own business — which, incidentally, also makes me feel cranky from time to time.

I had included other information on the cards — simple things that I thought might affect me. And it turned out that there was a connection between, for example, the headline on the newspaper (which I read at breakfast) and the music I listen to.

That was a lot of information to get about yourself in a month. So I took the next step: research. I broke down the basic elements into three kinds of writing that gets to the heart of the matter. And then I created a class. To go with the class, I created a checklist/question worksheet, for the participants to use. And there it was: One-Sentence Journaling.

What did people learn? That one sentence a day can reveal a lot about moods, motives, what sabotages you, what motivates you, what a goal looks like from the day-to-day view. That things we have no control over (like the weather) affects things we do (like the music we choose.) That we repeat patterns, and if they affect our goals, it's good to know how to enforce one pattern and break another. The class learned how to be aware of the small parts of our lives. We learned about the intensity of language, the importance of getting down one sentence, not a perfect sentence, and the value of using all our senses when we write.

One-Sentence Journaling creates a sort of GPS for your soul. It tells you at a glance where you are, and what direction to take if you don't like the current path.

After the class, I wanted to create a way to help people keep going after each class. I developed a set of cards — 4" x 6" index cards — with two parts — one part was a checklist, the other a question to help you think through the day. I created 10 questions and put 3 sets together to create a month worth of cards. Paul Lagasse, a lifehack friend of mine who also took the first course, made a few suggestions and then offered to produce them for me.

One-Sentence Journaling was ready to go, and keep going. And once I started creating classes, I decided that there were two more journaling classes that would be useful — so I added Journaling for Perfectionists and Wabi-Sabi Journaling. There will be more. Because once I learned something from One-Sentence Journaling, I knew there was more.

© Quinn McDonald, 2007. All rights reserved.

Quinn McDonaldQuinn McDonald is a writer, artist and certified creativity coach. More »

6/19/07