I met UJ Ramdas at a charity event in Toronto last year, and was really blown away. He's a rare mix of hyper-realist and hyper-optimist — he seems to have a super deep and intuitive grasp on the legitimate difficulty of doing great things in life, while simultaneously being optimistic that we can, step-by-step, get there with diligence and focus.
He runs a company called "Intelligent Change," most famous for making the 5-Minute Journal.
At the start of every year, I refine all my personal systems and do some experiments to set the year up well — so I bought a copy of the 5 Minute Journal and have started using it, and... I think it's so very cool.
Right away, it's very clear that the 5MJ is beautiful. It's just really nicely designed.
After you crack it open, there's about 30 fast-moving pages of some theory and best practices.
If you've studied performance psychology or habits at all, there's nothing too surprising in there — but it's pleasant and enjoyable reading. For someone who hadn't come across these fields and read into them some, it might be a total game-changer.
So... so far, so good. Nothing surprising but all very sound.
But then, where I was really impressed was the initial lightweight guided exercises to ensure you actually use the thing.
With my work, I know most of the theory and it makes sense. But the prompts to actually analyze when you'd use the journal or not, setting up routines around it, etc — these are very smart.
I'll confess to actually being a bit stumped as to what to write for rewarding myself for using it for five days. I normally don't set up rewards for myself — I mean, the work itself is the reward. But that's probably a large part of the value of engaging with a well-designed thing like this. I noted I'd take a "luxurious bath" if I went through with it. I don't know, I guess that's kind of arbitrary, but I'll go one of those sea salts bath things and do it — it's always something I enjoy doing, but very rarely do. Fair enough.
As for changes to make, these days in my role as CEO, there's often 20 things going on ranging from moderate to extreme importance, and often a mix of things that are urgent but low-ish value, and things which are totally non-urgent but will be hugely beneficial to set up for three months from now.
I'm pretty good on systems and performance, but occasionally I get above some "Chaos Threshold" where some measure of distress sets in. I perform well despite it, but it's unpleasant. My big intention for the 5MJ is twofold — getting myself either building systems or doing growth activities every single day, no "routine business as usual days" — and gradually converting distress to eustress if/when over a chaos threshold. I perform well under stress anyways, but oftentimes, it's just a mindset shift to go from "holy **** there's 10 million things going on" to — "whoa, this is awesome, there's 10 million things going on."
So yeah, color me very impressed by the setup work — this thing is built to actually get you to get crystal clear about what outcomes you want, and then to actually use it. I settled on always placing the 5MJ on top of my computer at the end of the day — to journal before I open my computer in the morning — and then placing it on top of my pillow after that, to always do the final debrief before sleeping at night.
Then, the real crux of it is the daily routine —
True to its name, it's under five minutes. And it's quite cool. Here's my first entry —
Of course, I'm running Work Marathon II over at Ultraworking — and I'm moderating for 10 hours straight today. Actually stopping and reflecting on how cool that is, how grateful I am that I get to work alongside some great people... it was a really nice use of just a couple minutes.
I already plan my days pretty thoroughly, but writing again in my own handwriting the goals for the day — shipping an OKR-related doc since we're installing OKR's at Ultraworking as well as upgrading how we track Growth-related projects, and then acknowledging good pacing across the 10 hours — that was... really a quite good use of five minutes.
As technology gets more pervasive, I think there's going to be a trend of engaging in physical tools and systems like this for more groundedness, deliberateness, focus, and well-being.
So far, very impressed with the 5MJ. I'll report back after I've used it some more, but already seeing some benefits in very short setup time.
Seems pretty cool - I'm used to more longer form reflections, less guided... definitely see how a short set of prompts can help you focus and build the habit of becoming a little more intentional each day. Kind of forces a certain amount of reflection as a daily practice - good stuff. Looking forward to checking it out.
Would you say the prompts are mainly focused on goals and gratitude? Or do they range further afield?
The final photo is, like, 85% of the journal. There's some different prompts, but that's the crux of it. I find it elegant in its simplicity, and gratitude as a good primary focus, but YMMV.
Very good. Yes there definitely comes a point when you have a bit too much on the page you lose that sense of focus. There may be some merit in adding a reflective section for yesterday, either things that I missed or overlooked, or maybe branching into a bit more interpersonal space; what was my best interaction today, why, etc. But you'd be blowing up the format at that point. I see this as being good for maintaining positivity and focus, and keep you moving forward towards your goals - what most people want, right ? I will have to play around a bit with making it into a bit more of a comprehensive reflection process. Wonder if I'd be able to get any traction with 'the 10 minute journal.' haha.
Oh my goodness, I'm so excited to finally announce this publicly.
My good friend and oft-collaborator Kai Zau started building a new company, Ultraworking, back in December of last year.
With Ultraworking, we're looking to fill a gap in the lives of people who are highly driven, highly analytical, achievement-oriented.
We're making technology, community, and content for our type of people.
There's a long list of benefits that go along with keeping a journal, but I think most people go about it all wrong.
But hey, wait a minute, I thought only silly people wrote in journals?
If you ain't doing it, you're the silly one, silly.
So first of all, why the heck would you want to journal?
Here's my top reason: the externalization of thoughts and experiences