Every morning at our house could be the same.

Alarms go off to stir us, but we ignore them for a bit. Getting up and out of bed sets off a routine of blending smoothies, grinding coffee, feeding dogs and a cacophony of other noises to chase off the last feelings of sleep. This routine consists of 12 minutes of focused expending of energy while the wife showers and readies herself for a day at the office.

On weekends, especially in the winter, after the dogs are settled I may retreat back into bed with that day’s paper and three notebooks.

Yes, three of them. It’s all a part of a journaling process I’ve committed to for a few months now.

The Books

The first notebook is a thick Moleskine daily planner. Every day is accounted for, marked out, perfectly fine and pretty. The pages are thin enough so the book isn’t too much of a burden. This year is a hardcover; last year’s was soft. I’m not entirely sure which I prefer just yet.

The second notebook is a blank, hardbound book that cycles through whatever I have available. I like these to be durable since they are books I’m hanging onto indefinitely. Moleskines are always nice to have but can get spendy. Currently, I am experimenting with the Amazon Basic’s version of it. I also have two other designs waiting in the wings and am usually on the lookout for others. I’ll make a lot of very weak justifications when it comes to buying blank notebooks.

All of this, of course, can be done with the $1 spiral notebooks which are readily available at any back to school sale. I used to like those woven composition books until they started falling apart. Maybe the quality declined, maybe I’m a lot tougher with how I write on things.

The third book is usually something expendable and light enough to go everywhere with me. I process through two or three of these books each month. I like the Fabriano – smaller, squarer. The staple-bound lay flat, the spiral-bounds hold together really well.

Seeing all of this written down – for something that composes 20 minutes of my morning – I seem like I am a lunatic. This observation isn’t a total surprise.

The Process

Book One – the planner – gets five minutes at the most. I use it to fill out the page from yesterday. I stole this idea directly from Austin Kleon as a way to finish processing yesterday and to put it all to bed. Places I went, errands ran, things I saw, ate, drank, and otherwise enjoyed (or hated!) and a way to capture the general mood I was riding that day. This is the kind of book where concert and airline tickets get stuffed into the binding.

I have been getting the 2018 book ready since the beginning of December. After all, it is going to be with me on a daily basis for the rest of the year. On the first page are various little quotes, tidbits, and highlights that I like to keep with me and reflect on time and time again. For 2018, so far, I have The Four Agreements and a few bits from a Tim Ferriss/ Rich Roll podcast I listened to at the end of last year.

The second book holds the morning pages.  Loosely adapted from a mix of Tim Ferriss and Ryan Holiday’s morning journaling processes. There is the idea that journaling should take place in the morning when the mind is somewhat fresh and everything you’re writing isn’t just a rehashing of the day and the energy/moods that came from it. Rather, I’d reflect on the sleep I got, the dreams I had, the mood that hits me naturally first thing in the morning before the world has had a chance to fuck things up.

I am also using the second book to consider the daily quote from my  Stoic Meditation book. It’s a quick reflection on the quote – enough to force me to read it carefully. I write enough on it so the residue sits with me for the day. Maybe I agree with it; maybe I don’t.

Maybe it’s something that can change the way I do things or how I view the world.

The second book gets about two pages – however long that takes – and I keep focused on the thought and mood of the morning, never the stuff that comes up that can distract me.

For that, I have the third book.

The third book is to jot down whatever might leap out of the head while the first two books are being worked on that morning. There is this thing that happens when ink races across pages: my mind starts to come up with all sorts of other crap. Emails I have to send, things I need to order, story ideas, grocery lists, and so on. I scribble down enough of those ideas in the third book so I don’t lose it and then go back to finish the meditation of the other books.

The third book follows me throughout the day. It is where everything goes that I need to recall or remember while I’m working on something else.

Towards the end of last year, I realized that my biggest impediment to getting things done was in chasing the rabbits that came up while I was working. The OTHER ideas that look good on the surface when they show up. Each of the shiny new projects was always far more appealing than that which was in front of me. Before long I wound up with a wake of dead and half-finished projects, lower quality work, and a general feeling of exhaustion.

The third book is also for all the other crap you need a piece of paper for. Meeting notes, stuff that comes up on calls, random stories and articles that I need to sketch out, the foundations for projects that aren’t quite ready for commitment to a keyboard yet. I will hold on to these books for months, years even, and review them from time to time to see what else I might be missing. Sometimes, lingering storylines and meditations that I thought of months back and forgot about spring out and take a new life.

Other times, they sit around until I can’t bear to look at them anymore and they’re used as kindling.

Both of these are usually equal endings.