Ondrej Markus

Entrepreneur in ed-tech, building the future of education as a founder and CEO at Playful.

I write about the future of education, designing learning games, and running a startup.

I'm a generalist, introvert, gamer, and optimizing to be useful.

stickman sitting at a desk

Morning Pages: My favorite journaling method

This is easily the most essential thing I do every day to stay sane and productive.

Morning Pages

If I skip writing my Morning Pages for more than a day, my head gets cloudy.

Every morning, I like to sit down and write to myself. This simple habit makes me happier and more relaxed. And it can be as easy as writing 100 words on a napkin.

But how can such a small thing have any impact on the clarity of your mind?

What are Morning Pages?

Morning Pages are a concept from the book The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron.

There she describes it as an exercise to nurture your creativity by writing several pages of text every morning. And it has just one rule: Keep writing until you wrote a chosen number of pages. (I think she recommends three.)

But it doesn’t matter what you write. You can write about writing those pages – as long as you keep writing. It could look like this:

Hey. I’m writing my morning pages. What am I thinking about? Okay. I think I’m a little nervous about the presentation today. I’m not sure why exactly. Well, it’s pretty important and I think I’m feeling a bit guilty that I didn’t prepare more thoroughly. But on the other hand, I did spend half a day on it yesterday so I shouldn’t beat myself for it. Well, it will go one way or the other. Whatever. I also want to buy a new … "

As you can see, it’s an unfiltered flow of words that sometimes takes you to interesting insights, and sometimes just helps you to organize your thoughts.

How I use my Morning Pages

Now, it’s important to say that I don’t use Morning Pages to feed my creativity. Even though it sometimes has that side effect, I use it mostly to tidy up my mind.

Make it easy

For me, the original exercise evolved into something easier that better fits my needs. These days, I rarely write more than a few paragraphs. I keep it short and simple. I open the page, take a sip of hot coffee, and ask myself:

“What is going on?"

And something always pops up:

In any case, I let my thoughts flow onto the paper. I’m not trying to solve anything and I ignore style and grammar.

Morning Pages are not a performance but maintenance.

It’s taking the trash bins out of your brain and dumping them onto the page. And once they’re out, you’ll be surprised what gems you might discover in there.

Follow curious questions

My girlfriend regularly asks me: “Will you show me your journals someday?" and I constantly tell her: “It would be the most boring thing you ever read."

That’s because, most of the time, I simply write about what I need to get done that day. No drama, no story, no twists. It’s a routine that helps see things clearly.

However, while I’m going through my plans, I watch how I feel about them. This is important. Because, sometimes, curious questions show up as reactions to my feelings and guide me to unexpected places.

When I follow these reactions, and I often find out that some task I “should” do doesn’t make sense anymore. My subconscious knew it, and now, thanks to writing about it, I know it too.

It saves me a lot of time and energy to sit down and let my mind freely wander for a couple of minutes. This is why when I miss a day or two, I feel like am losing touch with myself.

It’s the easiest most impactful thing I do every day.

Keep your pages private

There is one more reason why showing your pages to anyone would be a bad idea. It’s because if you know others will see what you write, you’ll write to impress. But Morning Pages can’t work that way. You need uncensored honesty.

Make a pact with yourself to never show your Morning Pages to anyone.

It will enable you to write honestly. It’s easier to handle naked thoughts when it’s for your eyes only. Keep the pages as your private space for daily reflection.