I have been doing Morning Pages for almost a two years now. It seems like every week I meet someone else for whom Morning Pages has earned a place in the morning routine. Here are some of my personal hacks that make Morning Pages even better:
- On a desk with pen and paper. The point of morning pages is to focus and get the brain/hand connection working. Get the body and mind in sync. And to provide a distraction-free outlet for thoughts and feelings. I have tried using online applications to do morning pages. Bad idea, too many popups and distractions and too easy to indulge the impulse in checking email or facebook or any of the other shiny things that come up during the sitting. The best way to focus at the appropriate pace is to sit at a technology free desk or table with a pen, and college ruled journal.
- No electronics within reach. It is tempting to keep the “productivity” tool close to indulging those inspirations which come. But this is focus time. 15-20 minutes. The point is that you have the rest of the day for technology. Leave it all outside your reach.
- Set a timer. I have found that daydreaming is the first distraction during morning pages. If I take away the technology enabler of most distraction, I am left with just staring off into space daydreaming. To combat that, setting a timer has been effective because I know that thing is going go off and I want to be done before it does. I use Google Home to set the timer.
- Post-it notes. The most common shiny distraction that my monkey mind wants to indulge and get out of Morning Pages are additional to-do items that come up during the sitting. Since it is a creative time, there are frequently things that come up that I want to follow up on or do later. When I used to have my phone next to me, I would put them on the to-do list right then. But about 70% of the time I would get sucked into a rathole of further investigation or googling to flush out something. That would all be enabling delays in Morning Pages. But I didn’t want to lose those items of inspiration, so I now put a pad of post-it notes next to my journal. Inspirational to-do items go there. After the sitting, I take those things over to the computer, if on second thought they still seem worthy, I add them to the to-do lists then.
- Feeling word list. Often when writing, I have to describe a feeling. Before I found Byron Katie’s emotions list, I thought there were about three feelings (angry, happy, sad). Now when faced with describing a feeling I start with I am feeling… then read through the entire list of feelings. I write down every word that seems to fit with the feeling. Typically I come up with 10-20 feeling words. And in this process, I have never had the same set of words for two different events. The subtleties of the feelings come out. You get to understand at a visceral level what is going on inside you and how that situation was different from the one yesterday. While the at the top level both may be “angry,” when you read the longer list and notice the differences, you understand the next level of feelings. Critical hack to get to the real issues.
- Something to drink. Always have something to drink. I have two things. Usually coffee and water. Or Tea and water. Make full cups, so you don’t get up in the middle and use getting a drink as an excuse to stop morning pages. Making coffee can be a 5-minute distraction. Don’t let the monkey get the control that long.
- List of Journal Prompts. I have not had a problem filling three pages recently, but for the first few months, I did. This list of prompts has helped me break through and get going. Just read the list, and after you read through them, the writing will start. One of them will trigger something, and the pen will start moving. As a stand alone exercise I also sometimes just print out the list of prompts and write a sentence or two about each from top to bottom.
- Word of the Day at the top of the Page. Every day should have a primary intention for the day. I usually set this word in my Intention/Decision exercise just before Morning Pages. If you don’t do that, just come up with one word for the day. And write it at the top of the first page. Today my word was “Present.” That one word can start a whole page of dialogue. Why did you choose that word? Why today? What was the word yesterday? Why did it change?
- Do decision intention worksheet before. A huge part of waking up for me is being intellectually honest with myself. Am I living in line with my intentions? As a habit to track that congruency or synchronicity, I created the http://wp.me/p6JmUh-5sIntention/Decison exercise. I do it before morning pages every day.
- Be authentic. Make sure your Morning Pages work is actually in line with your goal/values. Early on in Morning pages, my monkey mind lets me believe three pages of wide ruled writing (160 words per page) was the same as three pages of college ruled writing (250 words per page). Contemplation and Analysis caught that cognitive disconnect. I fixed it. Make sure you are being authentic and not cheating yourself.
- Record emotions by moment to moment sensations. While #5 has been a life-saving hack, what it is getting at is DEPTH. Don’t write in your journal “I was scared”. Using #5, I write the 20 other feeling words that are also there and get a much more rich understanding of the emotion. Another technique I borrowed from this guy, is to reproduce emotions by the moment to moment signal and sensory experiences that you went through. The five ways we feel emotions are:
- Signals in the body. Temperature, heartbeat, lungs, muscles, nerves, etc.
- Signals outside the body. Gestures, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, etc.
- Flashes from the past. Not analysis but “bursts of waking dream”
- Flashes from the future. More dream bursts, but as premonitions of what might happen. Again, not analytical. (not “being scared was bad”)
- Sensual selectivity. What we sense from the world around us, filtered by emotions. (like “the sun burned a hole in my heart”)
I have found these hacks to improve morning pages for me. I hope they do for you as well.