I spent $103.81 on 3 Journals

Here’s how they are changing my life for the better

David Boroto
9 min readJan 19, 2022

“Leave a positive review on a product or business that has changed your life for the better.”

That was the weekly challenge my Five Minute Journal posed to me on Friday, November 5th, about one month after I started using it. I chuckled reading it.

Image obtained from https://memegenerator.net/

Ask me what I would happily splurge money on and three things will top that list: board games, underwear and anything self-help related. Before moving to Cambridge in October I purchased three journals. Not because I needed them. I went on Indigo.com searching for a notebook and just happened to stumble upon the three journals you see in the title photo above. But in just three months, these three journals have become so ingrained in my identity that I am now writing article about them.

“Leave a positive review on a product or business that has changed your life for the better?”

Challenge accepted! Great marketing tactic, Intelligent Change. Well played.

So without further ado, here are the three journals that are changing my life for the better and how I use them to structure my life.

1. The Five Minute Journal

The premise of this journal is to anchor your days with 5 minutes of reflection at the beginning and end. On a good day, writing in The Five Minute Journal is the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do before going to bed. Don’t know what to write? The journal has got you covered with five prompts:

Five Minute Journal entry based on their 5 prompts!

2. Productivity Planner

At some point or another, most of us have wished that we were more productive. Well, this journal is not the answer to that problem. The Productivity Planner will not make you more productive. What this journal will do (if used correctly) is help you be more realistic about your time and prioritise what is important to you. It’s three main features are the weekly planner (left page), daily planner (right page) and weekly review.

A busy day, and busy week! The Productivity Planner helps me keep my life in order.

The Productivity Planner is a to-do list on steroids, that basically asks you the same 5 questions over and over again:

1. What do you want to get done today (or this week)?

2. What do you need to get done today (or this week)?

3. How much time do you want to spend on each task today?

4. How much time did you actually spend on each task today?

5. What did you learn this week about your productivity and prioritisation?

Something unique about the Productivity Planner is its emphasis on breaking up work sessions into 30 minute chunks, with short breaks in between. While I’ve found this work style tough to use regularly, the few times I have managed to follow it have worked wonders.

3. One Line a Day: A Five Year Memory Book

My favourite of the three journals. The concept is simple, but powerful. Everyday write one line in the journal on today’s date. After 365 days, you will be brought right back to the same page from the same day the year before. After reading what was one your mind on this day in years past, rinse and repeat the process. Do this five times and you’ll have five year’s worth of memories all in one pocket-sized journal.

One Line a Day entry the day of and before I ran the Amsterdam half marathon!

For One Line a Day one it is important to go beyond just describing the events of your day. Who made your day memorable? What was the highlight? How were you feeling today? When in doubt, it always comes back to this question for me:

What will Future David want to remember about this day in my life?

The Daily Routine

In the morning I start my day with the Five Minute Journal to express gratitude, my desires for the day and my daily affirmations. Immediately afterwards, or after I hit the shower and freshen up, I open the Productivity Planner to plan my day.

During the day I keep the Productivity Planner handy in my backpack so that wherever I am I can check off items on my to-do list as the day goes by.

At the end of the day, back in bed, I go back to my Five Minute Journal to reflect on the highlights of my day, and how I could have made it better. With my memory jogged from this exercise, I open the One Line a Day journal to put my day in the books.

Why I love my 3 journals (and why you should get them too!)

If you had the pleasure of video calling me over the past three months you may or may not have been subjected to my spiel about how much I love my journals. At this point it has almost become customary for me to disappear from camera for a few seconds and reappear with my 3 journals in hand and a wide grin on my face. Here are four reasons why I love my journals so much:

A moment of pause: Going back to school has been hectic. Days pass me by like a blur, and I often lie in bed each night feeling like I had experienced three days in one. The Five Minute Journal and One Line a Day force me to reflect, be grateful and remember the small things in each day that bring me joy. I find this especially helpful on the shitty days — it is helpful to name the emotions I feel and still find moments of gratitude amongst sadness.

Anchoring my day: I frequently fall victim to the cell phone trap. When feeling lazy my default is to reach for my phone first thing in the morning or while lying in bed at night. Before I know it, 3PM or 3AM comes around and I am diving deeper and deeper down the Instagram or YouTube rabbit hole. Instead of embracing my thoughts, my mind reacts to the first thing I see on my phone, robbing me of a moment of pause and reflection. The Five Minute Journal provides an alternative to my phone. While it doesn’t always protect me from the cell phone trap, it is a start in the right direction.

Structuring my day and weeks: I am a big fan of to-do lists, so of course the Productivity Planner vibes with me. What I appreciate most is the clear prioritisation of tasks. The weekly planner also allows me to be ambitious while simultaneously making it feel okay if I don’t cross everything off my list, because not all items are listed equally. Any items I don’t get to one week get transferred over to the next week, and though some items don’t get touched for weeks, they remain in the back of my mind so when do get a spare moment, I can work on them. That’s how this article came to be.

Weekly challenges: though I don’t always follow them, the Five Minute Journal’s weekly challenges are fantastic and force me to slow down my life at crucial moments. My most memorable challenge invited me to “write a text, email or letter of gratitude to someone.” The pure joy I witnessed in the reactions I received from the two messages I sent using this We’re Not Really Strangers template truly made my day. The weekly challenges bring with them a fresh change of pace. Though they require a bit of effort, they have often provided the reset I needed. Here are a few of my other favourites so far:

“Close your eyes and sit in silence for 10 minutes”

“Say I love you to yourself in the mirror”

“Take a 10+ minute walk in a peaceful setting today

5 Tips to get the most out of these journals

If by this point you are fully convinced, and already have the three journals in your checkout basket on Indigo.com, here are 5 tips to help you get the most out of 1, 2 or all 3 of your journals:

1. Read the introductory pages: they add so much value by explaining how to use the journals themselves and providing tips to get the most out of them. I only read the intro pages a few weeks after starting to use the journals, and it changed my approach completely.

2. Keep the journals handy: I leave the Five Minute Journal and One Line a Day on the shelf above headboard where I can reach it from the comfort of my bed. The Productivity Planner stays in your backpack so I have it on the go.

3. It’s never too late to catch up: missed a day? Or two? Or a week? It’s never too late to catch up! The Five Minute Journal is easiest to pick back up — just open to the page where you left off and keep going. One Line a Day requires a bit more thinking, but a trip down memory lane is always fun. The Productivity Planner is slightly harder to pick back up when you fall out of step because of its rigid weekly structure, but just take the next open week and start afresh!

4. Switch up the routine: don’t feel the need to stick to the structure of any of the three journals. Doing the same thing over and over again can get boring after all. It’s a great idea to shake things up every once in the while, and the opening pages of each journal provide good tips on how to do so.

5. Sign up to the Intelligent Change mailing list: for the first few weeks after my purchase, they emailed me reminders, blog posts and more to help me along my journaling journey.

If I could only choose one…

Let’s be real. If you feel so inclined after reading my glowing review, you could go and purchase these three journals for yourself. However, if you are balling on a budget you could just as easily buy three much cheaper notebooks and just copy the template provided in each journals for yourself. In reality, what you would be losing out on is approximately 30 pages introductory content in each journal, daily inspirational quotes and the weekly challenges. That’s the premium you pay for the Five Minute Journal and the Productivity Planner. While I find them valuable, these features may not be necessary for you, in which case, go ahead and do what’s best (and budget friendly) for you.

The one journal that works best as purchased is One Line a Day. While you could feasibly bootleg your own version, this pocketbook version is very convenient given its structure. Depending on how ambitious you feel (and how much you love journaling) there are also heftier 10 year versions out there. While I have taken up journalling numerous times in my life before, I rarely ever look back at my writing. I am personally very excited to look back my thoughts and memories.

Leave a positive review…

Here I am writing the longest product review I ever have. Well played, Intelligent Change. So far, my enthusiastic marketing has convinced one former colleague to purchase the Five Minute Journal and One Line a Day. Let me know if I’ve managed to convince you to spend $103.81 on journals (or bootstrap your own version).

If you are an avid journaller yourself, how do you journal?



David Boroto

infrastructure nerd, global development nut and social impact practitioner | twenty something year old figuring out how to change the world