Ninging It
Finding Time Means Finding "Instead of" Rather than "In Addition To"

Professional Development Practice: The One Sentence Journal

One Regular readers know that I'm a big fan of reflective practice--one of the greatest values of blogging for me has been that it's created a forum for me to regularly think about what I do and how I do it. But most people aren't ready to make that kind of time commitment so here's something that I think might be a perfect way to encourage reflection in the shortest time possible: the one sentence journal, a great idea from blogger Gretchen Rubin.

Says Gretchen:

Two years ago, I started keeping a one-sentence journal because I knew I would never be able to keep a proper journal with lengthy entries. I just don't have the time or energy to write a long entry - even two or three times a week. . .

I like keeping a one-sentence journal because it's a manageable task, so it doesn't make me feel burdened; it gives me a feeling of accomplishment and progress, the atmosphere of growth so important to happiness; it helps keep happy memories vivid (because I'm much more inclined to write about happy events than unhappy events), which boosts my happiness; and it gives me a reason to pause thinking lovingly about the members of my family.

One thing is true: we tend to overestimate what we can do in the short term, and underestimate what we can do in the long term, if we do a little bit at a time. Writing one sentence a day sounds fairly easy, and it is; at the end of the year, it adds up to a marvelous record.

Gretchen's journal is more personal, part of her larger Happiness Project, but picture one sentence journals reflecting on:

  • Your career and professional growth
  • What you learned today
  • The progress of a particular project
  • Your progress in achieving a specific goal
  • Advice you've received from other people
  • Questions you have about . . . anything!

Each of these topics lends itself to this one-sentence concept and building the daily habit of thinking about what you do and what is happening in various aspects of your life.

Technology is a perfect tool for supporting this process, too. You could:

  • Post your one sentence journal reflection on your blog if you already have one. Be sure to create a tag for "one sentence journal" reflections so that you can easily look at them later.
  • Set up a Tumblr microblog specifically for your one sentence entries. Tumblr's group capabilities mean that you could also set this up as a team blog where each member of a team was posting his/her one-sentence reflection or idea for others to see. If you go the team route, you could also set up a wiki to gather everyone's reflections.
  • Twitter your one sentence. It's another way to share with a group and also ensure that you keep your entries short--no more than 140 characters.
  • Email your daily entries to yourself and store them in a special folder where you can review them regularly--weekly, monthly, quarterly.
  • Use it as your Facebook status update.

If these ideas are too boring for you, try getting all multimedia with it by recording a 1-sentence video that you upload to Youtube. You could even go crazy and make it a 1-minute journal entry! Or write your one sentence, take a picture and upload to Flickr where you could use the tagging feature to create a 1-sentence library. Or take a picture of something that summarizes your one-sentence and use Flickr's captions to write your sentence. The possibilities with something like this are pretty endless and within there must be something that appeals.

This is one of those relatively quick and easy things that anyone can do to start 1) playing with technology and 2) getting in the reflection habit. Who knows where it could take you?


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Michele (and Gretchen) -
Wow! A week or so ago, we spent time with a group of consultants, crafting the Consultants Curriculum for the Community-Driven Institute. And at that time, we repeatedly came back to the need for the curriculum to include space and time for reflection.

We talked about verbal reflection, and about journaling. But this - this is brilliant! We will absolutely be incorporating this wonderful idea into our bag of tricks (with full credit where it is due, for sure!)

I always learn something great here, Michele, even when I do not have time to comment. Thank you so much for providing such a HUGE service to all of us!


This is an inspiring idea. I am going to try and implement this for my personal journal.

Of course, I can also see this as a great family activity and one that also has merits for the work place.

Hi, Michele
I miss you.
thank you for the splendid ideas shared in your post.
As I wondered about how to write a new post, ideas swirling in disorder all over the place of my imagination, I discovered, when reading your suggestions for one sentence journal, that they were playing the role of "frames" or "guidelines" to discipline my restless thoughts and enable them "to pour into" words.
And I found new great tips for my blogging students, too. Thank you!

Tēnā koe Michele!

This is a splendid way to do reflecting as you suggest. Many years ago I took an interest in poetry. Later I decided to write a bit and looked around for advice.

I attended poetry readings and meetings of writers and found that most people who wrote poetry kept a 'one sentence journal'. Oh, they didn't call it that, but essentially that's what it was. The famous poets all did it too. The power of reflecting has been known by writers for centuries.

I didn't write a single line of verse until I started my 'one sentence journal'. Last year I got my third collection of verse published - the first was in 1992.

I have a rule that I never delete (rub out) anything from my journal. I might amend things and even cross them out, but never delete them.

I dare say that inventors and their ilk might use the same technique of keeping a journal like this. It can be applied to any discipline.

But the one sentence journal is the initial drawing board for development. The next part of the technique of reflective practice is to do with what you do with the 'sentences'.

How do you reflect on what you have written?

What do you do with the reflective thought apart from writing other single sentences in the journal?

Ka kite

Thanks for this great idea, Michele and Gretchen. I have started a Tumblr page just for this and plan to share it with teachers at the Alabama Educational Technology Conference this Thursday as part of my Tumblr workshop.

I like the idea of microblogging as an introduction to reflection on professional practice because it is so doable. For many newbies, this approach is much easier than starting a full-fledged blog.

Dear Michele,

Inspiring for professional development, personal projects, or family fun. In fact, this is perfect for my healthy living project that I blogged about some days ago in my personal blog, but haven't had time to keep my reflections up-to-date. With one sentence it's totally doable!

Thanks for the always invaluable tips that you share here.

WOW--this one really hit a nerve! :-) It seems like the one-sentence idea is really attractive for its manageability for all of us time-starved professionals!

I think Ken brings up an excellent point about what you do later with your one-sentence reflections. That might be a good follow-up post.

Thanks, everyone, for your great feedback. I'm thinking that maybe I need to find some more ideas like this, kind of the "One Minute Manager" approach to professional development.

I really like this idea. I keep remembering it and smiling!


I thought you might want to know how viral this post of yours has been.

Take a look at this Diigo discussion.

I've started mine!

@Robin--I could definitely see this being right up your alley! :-)

@Carla-the link didn't work--could you try again?

Great idea! I plan on doing this with my tumblr account each day.

I'm a little behind with everything right now, but I am accepting this challenge. An d what a challenge it will be. First I thought about using vieo - just got a tweet about this new tool: , but then I thought thta was just an excuse not to keep this challenge for long as I am not a video person.
So I decided for a tumblr blog. To make it more difficult I will be twittering a sentence a day in German - It's been year now since I did something in German - I hope not to ruin the language - but it will be a good practice in all senses.

Like Carla said - your posts are really viral. And I am glad they are! :-)

Glad you're going to try this out, Cristina--you might also want to think about Posterous. You can blog through email with it, which might be even easier!

This sounds great and I think I can have my students get on board with this idea.

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