Niklaus Gerber

September 20, 2022

Daily Pages: An easy way to build new healthy habits and to train self-reflection.

If you embark on your journey of self-improvement, it seems like you have to start journaling. I fully believe in the benefit of journaling (science also backs it up). Still, I never got into a good habit of writing every day. For me, it was always a very disconnected chore.

In the last five years, I learned that regular self-reflection is your superpower to become a better human. I wanted to find a way to reflect daily without the feeling that I had to write pages and pages of things. I stumbled over the concept of daily pages. Daily pages combine writing prompts and blend into your workflow. For me, it was the first time I spent every day writing a bit, reflecting and rating how my days were going. Some days I only wrote a few words. On other days I wrote long trains of thoughts. My daily pages became my desk. Cluttered in the evening and cleaned in the morning. 

I share with you how I built the structure of my daily page and why it works so well for me. I made a template in Notion that gives me a clean page with different categories every morning. I walk you through them one by one.

Daily Check-In

The daily check-in is the first thing I fill every morning. It contains three writing prompts and a list of habits I want to keep up. These are my writing prompts:

  • What am I grateful for?
  • What do I want today's highlight to be?
  • What's on my mind?

These prompts get me going in the morning. Training gratefulness is scientifically proven to improve your happiness. I will share more about that in a future post. I usually write down what comes to mind without overthinking it too much. Sometimes it is small, like a cup of hot coffee or to enjoy how the leaves change colour in the autumn and how it makes me feel. Other times it is something big like having a secure job and being able to work on meaningful topics.

I also want to begin each day by thinking about what I hope will be the bright spot. When I reflect on my day, what activity, accomplishment, or moment do I want to savour? That's my highlight. My highlight gives each day a focal point.

„If you want to make time for things that matter, the Busy Bandwagon—our modern culture of constant busyness—will tell you the answer is to do more. Get more done. Be more efficient. Set more goals and make more plans. It’s the only way to fit those important moments into your life.“ — This is an excerpt from Make Time by Jake Knapp and John Zeratsky.

Lastly, I pour out what's on my mind. This is how I trick myself into journaling. I start with a few bullets for a few days, but since I spend most of my day looking at this page, I keep adding to this section. You are writing this for yourself. Sometimes it amazes me how dynamics change if you write things down. Anger goes away, something that worries you become less scary and problems you can't solve suddenly appear solvable. 

The habit section contains a checklist of things I want to do regularly. Currently, it has three items listed:

☒ Meditate
☒ Go for a run
☒ Being right is irrelevant (My daily mantra)

Suppose I tick them all off great. If I don't, also great. Having my checklist of habits on my daily page is also an excellent reminder to make space for them.

I spend at least 5 minutes every morning filling this section. If writing flows, I write as long it feels good. I realised that I write more every few weeks, building this momentum for a healthy habit.

"Thoughts", "Who did I connect with", and "What did I learn today".

The following three sections are essential throughout the day. In the "Thoughts" section, I jot down anything I spend time pondering. Somedays, it just stays on the daily page. If I think it is something to explore further, it might become part of a project, or I store it in my resources. You will be amazed by how it impacts your thinking in writing down even the most mundane shower thoughts. It also forces you to think in a bit more structured way.

"Whom did I connect with" works very well for me. I write down every name I had a meaningful interaction with during that day. It helps me be more mindful of who I am talking to (especially on these remote working-heavy days). It also lets you quickly check when it was the last time you spoke with someone. In this section, I also have a checkbox.

☒ Connect with someone I haven't spoken to in a while

I try to connect daily with someone I have not spoken to in a while. It helped me to build stronger connections and rekindle old friends.

Lastly, "What did I learn today". You learn something new every day. But we are often unaware of what we know and how it impacts us. Reflecting and writing down what you learned daily would help you connect old and new ideas and concepts. Being mindful about what you know, what you would like to know and what you don't know gives your thinking a lot more nuance. 

Flow & Workspace

The workspace section is where I do my work. I link documents, write down notes and have access to my task list. This day I get every day a new clean slate. 

Evening reflection

Reflection is exploring and examining ourselves, our perspectives, attributes, experiences and actions/interactions. It helps us gain insight and see how to move forward.

„Reflection is one of the most underused yet powerful tools for success.“ — Richard Carlson.

My evening reflection has again a few writing prompts to make it effortless to stick to a daily reflection ritual. It is also an enjoyable way to end your day.

  • How are you feeling today?
  • What could you have done better?
  • My top three things?

I spend about 5 minutes every evening completing the list.

  • Self-reflection ☒ check
  • Learning from mistakes ☒ check
  • Gratitude ☒ check

All these things are essential to become a better version of yourself. Five minutes is all it takes: no extra app, no different journal. Everything is in one place. 

Final thoughts

There is no need to do this in Notion, but if you want to look at my template, you can copy it here: 

My daily pages serve me well so far.

About Niklaus Gerber

My thoughts on leadership, life, productivity, design, and innovation.