What is your top project today? Why does this project matter to you? How do you feel today? What are the three reasons you feel this way? What can you do to feel more energised?
Almost every morning for the past four weeks, I’ve been filling in these blanks, plus seven other sections in The 5 Second Journal. This, according to its creator, Mel Robbins, is “the most powerful journal on the planet”.
Journalling is, at its essence, simply writing down what you need to do in order to get it done. Robbins’ journal promises to help you win at life, with its tagline, “Be the one who gets shit done”.
This isn’t surprising, as Robbins herself is a dream-big, find-your-superpowers, reach-your-goals kind of guru. What she’s famous for is The 5 Second Rule: at any point when you need to choose between doing the right thing or not, you count down five-four-three-two-one. And the simple action of doing this will prompt you to choose the right thing.
I first heard about Robbins from a super-focused and high-achieving friend. You might have already read her global bestselling book, The 5 Second Rule? Or perhaps you’re one of the 12.5 million, and counting, who’ve watched her TedxSF talk, How To Stop Screwing Yourself Over? In fact, the rule itself came about almost by accident when, 19 minutes into her 21-minute 2011 Ted talk, Robbins mentioned it as a brain hack she had created – first to simply get out of bed when she was jobless, purposeless and in a financial hole, and going on to use it for life goals.
Because of the huge number of people contacting Robbins to say five-four-three-two-one had transformed them – their health and finances, their relationships at home and at work – Robbins began studying why it was such an effective change-trigger, and became fascinated in the science of habits. The 5 Second Journal – launched at the end of December – is the culmination of that research.
Mel Robbins is famous for The 5 Second Rule: at any point when you need to choose between doing the right thing or not, you count down five-four-three-two-one
Is this all sounding too upbeat, maybe too American for you? Robbins is actually surprisingly real, salting her message with both humour and humility. “I view myself as somebody who's made a lot of mistakes in my life and that, by the age of 40-whatever, I started to finally figure some things out and figure myself out,” she says. Robbins tells me she’s been using it personally for a year and it’s been tested on more than 3,000 people online. (She also gives away a lot of content – if you want to try the journal, she’s sharing sample pages to download on 5secondjournal.com.)
The first thing you do each day is rate your energy, choosing from Depleted, Meh, Fine, Good or Energised, then write down the reasons why you feel this way. Over a few days or weeks, this will show you the patterns of what saps or boosts you.
In the confidence-coaching section – which, I have to confess, I haven’t 100 per cent engaged in – Robbins suggests one thing a day you can do to push yourself out of your comfort zone, for example: say hello to three strangers, clean up your desktop, make a list of things you’ve accomplished this year. The next day, you have to report back to yourself on what you learnt.
If, like me, doing one of those full-on gratitude journals feels too much, this journal has just three short lines to fill in, just enough to feel the proven positivity-boosting benefits of gratitude. “Without gratitude, you will always be unhappy,” Robbins says. There’s also a timed dayplanner and a brain-dump section to stop you getting sidetracked by all the stuff you have to do.
But by far the most useful two sections, for me, are these:
1) Today my top project is…
2) One small action I can take to move forward is…
This, says Robbins, is based on Harvard research called "the progress principle". “Don’t think you have to spend all day doing something in order to make progress on it,” she says. One small thing is enough. This, she tells me, will increase the rate of actually completing the action from 43 to 76 per cent. And it might not be a huge revolution in my life – I’m still very good at procrastination – but there’s definitely been an evolution. And now, some days, I am definitely “the one who gets shit done”.