How I Do My Morning Pages

Author - Mari L. McCarthy
Published - February 28, 2012

Stephen P Smith Today we feature a Guest Post from Stephen P Smith, who writes about Productivity, Small Business and Social Media Literacy at The In Context Blog.

I have been doing a lot of writing and thinking about Journaling recently, mainly about how it impacts my daily work. I have come to the conclusion that the Morning Pages exercise that I do each morning is the most important and powerful part of my day. In this post I will describe exactly what it is that I do, how I do it, and how it impacts my goals, my work and my life. (I will mention in advance that this technique incorporates a couple of my own personal Productivity methods, links are provided in case you want to learn more.) Most of you reading this are probably familiar with the concept of the Morning Pages, but for those of you that are not: Morning Pages – Julia Cameron describes this practice in The Artist’s Way, an amazing resource for spurring your creativity and enhancing your life:

Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages, they are not high art. They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind and they are for your eyes only. Occasionally colorful, more often than not Morning Pages are negative, fragmented, repetitive or bland. Good! Worrying about your job, the laundry, the weird look your friend gave you all that stuff distracts you from your creativity. It eddies through your subconsciousness and muddies your day. Get it on the page first thing in the morning and move on with your day with a freer spirit.

I have a set of four tools that I use to complete my Morning Pages exercise each day:
  • Notebook
  • Fountain pen with dark green ink (olive drab, really)
  • Fountain pen with grey ink (dries to look like pencil!)
  • Index cards
The notebook is, of course, where I actually write out, in longhand, the actual Morning Pages themselves. I always start with a little prayer, "Good morning and may God bless this day!" and then just dive in to whatever is on the top of my mind. This could be anything from a short re-cap of what happened yesterday or last night, a summary of a dream I had as I awoke, or thoughts on what the coming day will bring. Sometimes I complain about things in my life, or look to provide answers for problems that my Lovely ride or I may be facing. One of my rules though, is that if I write down a problem or a complaint of some kind I work to also write down an answer. Even if I just write "I am not sure what to do about this" over and over for a few lines it usually helps me to actually find the solution that I am looking for. Frequently ideas and inspirations will come to me as I write out whatever thoughts are in my head:

  • Blog post ideas
  • Product or service ideas
  • Plot ideas for the novel I am working on, or just a scene that might be interesting somewhere
  • Design ideas for a website that I am building
  • Menu ideas for dinner this week
Or any number of things. When this does happen, when an idea or solution to a problem comes to me from "out of the blue", I put down the pen with the green ink and pick up the one with the grey. First, I write down the idea on one of the blank index cards. Then I start writing again...

I am an Impulsive and Intuitive Person

...who wants to be more methodical in my thinking. I take up the different-colored pen and start writing about where I think that this idea or inspiration came from. I tend to make leaps in my thinking and not understand exactly how I came to make such a decision. It is my intention that writing and thinking in this way will not only help me learn and understand where these leaps of intuition come from but how to cultivate and encourage them to be even better. Sure, it takes a little longer to do my Morning Pages this way, but I believe that I am getting a little more out of it too. (and yes, this is my actual, everyday handwriting. I worked on it for years.)

morning pages sample image resized 600












When I have finished writing all three pages of my Morning Pages entry I will typically have an index card or three to add to my Kanban Board that look something like this: 

action cards resized 600 

A Little Info on My Action Card System

Basically: Projects are Action Cards that contain more than one step. Actions are Action Cards that require fairly detailed reminder information. To Dos are action cards that contain, wait for it! Lists of short tasks or actions! Before you snort in derision at my pen-and-paper system, bear in mind: Yes, I know that these very same things can be recorded and managed in a digital application on the computer, in the cloud or on a smart-phone. I choose not to do it that way because I like writing with my fountain pen on paper. I have learned over five years of blogging about Productivity and Getting Things Done that the most efficient and productive tool is the one that you enjoy using - because if you don't enjoy it you won't use it. And then nothing gets done and you feel like a dope. (thank you for letting me get that out of my system!)

A Daily Investment for Serious Accomplishment

It usually takes me about an hour to 75 minutes to write out my Morning Pages and the Action Cards that they generate. I believe that this is a fantastic investment of time for preparing myself for the days activities. When I am done my mind is clear, my tasks and Next Actions for the day/week have been captured and I can start my day organized according to my strategic intent. The only time I skip a day is if I am planning on simply taking the day off and not doing anything constructive. I even take my notebook with me if I am traveling, I have found that being in a different place will often spark new ideas by the handful!

Thank you so much for your time. Please consider sharing some of your thoughts on your own Morning Pages experience in the Comments.

A daily Morning Pages practice is a key component of better physical and mental health, greater energy, and an overall feeling of well-being. Our 12 Day Guide to Morning Pages self-paced course is a gentle introduction to this daily habit that can change your life. 


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