Keep a Good Things Notebook at Your Desk

Just the other day, I was stuck in the middle of a stressful project. My brain was fried. I could barely see straight. I could actually feel my neck muscles getting tighter.

I stopped what I was doing and wrote down 5 things I was grateful for.

  • My comfortable pants.
  • My wife – who was probably starting to cook me dinner.
  • My bunghole of a dog – who has forced me to be more relaxed with my frustration.
  • My thumb – because it looked really cool at that moment.
  • My brother – who always knows what to say to make me feel good about myself.

It worked. I calmed down, walked around to stretch my legs, then came back to my desk and finished the part of the project that I needed to email to my co-worker.

I’ve been doing this for a while now, but I think this technique could really help others as well. If you keep a “Good Things” notebook, make sure you just write down a few quick things and the reasons why you enjoy them. There’s no need to go into a whole story. If you want this little habit to become a part of your routine, you need to make it as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Deborah Norville, the New York Times bestselling author of Thank You Power: Making the Science of Gratitude Work for You, was interviewed by Gretchen Rubin of the Happiness Project. In the interview she made a great case for this practice.

I keep a little booklet, the size of a check book, in my purse and I ‘ll jot things down randomly during the day…often when I’m stuck in traffic going cross town. It works for a couple of reasons: One, it distracts me from whatever it is that is delaying me. Two, it forces me to go back through my day and find the ‘bright spots’ – of which there are many.”

So next time you are feeling sad, overwhelmed or angry then try keeping a “Good Things” notebook at your desk, when you need a perspective change.


Havi of the Fluent Self wrote a brilliant piece about hiring help. Go check it out.


The Happy at Work Project is launched and it’s a success. I’ve received so many wonderful emails. I never realized how many people I was helping. One email almost brought me to tears. That’s why I created this blog. This reader interaction has spurred me to launch more ideas like this so stay tuned. If you want a little assistance with your Happy at Work Project, I’ll send you my Work Happy Now Weekly Planner with a list of Resolutions. Just email me karl (AT) workhappynow (DOT) come and write “Work Happy Now Weekly Planner” in the subject area.


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Image courtesy of Elkit

11 thoughts on “Keep a Good Things Notebook at Your Desk”

  1. What a great idea! I carry around a small notebook with me all the time to jot down things so I won’t forget (anything from groceries to quotes) but I’ve never thought of simply using it for good things. Thanks for the suggestion; I’m going to do it.

  2. This is a great idea! I have a Happy List at home (where I write down all of the things that make me happy) but I could really use it at work, which is where I’m the most stressed and removed from my sense of happiness. Thanks for the great idea!

  3. I call this the ‘happy and grateful’ post! If you loose sight of things that actually makes you happy and smile for a while, then you’re not enjoying life, hence you’ll never find joy nor gratitude in all that you do. Always pause a moment, breathe fresh air, appreciate the blue sky, and smell the flowers – it will make you feel better and life a li’l more easier! 🙂

  4. Simon Clay Michael

    Great post,
    I recently read advice that suggested, just before you got to bed, write down 5 things you’re grateful for. I like your suggestion more since it’s a response to an event at that time, and gives a solution to the ‘down’ period. Better than waiting till you get home to snap out of it.

    Simon at

  5. Hi Laurie, glad I could help.

    Hi J.D., thumbs are like the best invention ever. 🙂

    Hi Positively, a lot of people are removed from their happiness at work. Hope it helps you.

    Hi Cloak, pausing and breathing is the most basic way to connect back with the present moment. I do it as often as I can throughout my day.

    Hi Simon, good point. It’s better to seize the happiness than wait til we get home.

  6. That’s an awesome idea Karl. Having the little notebook with you reminds you to use it, and writing things down helps you to focus on them even more than just mentally listing the things you’re grateful for. Gratitude is one of the best states to live in.

  7. Technology Slice

    Good post. Sometimes you just need to step back to get a new perspective on things.

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  9. This would be a DUH moment for me — for a couple years now I’ve tried the “gratitude” journaling for a pick-me-up, but I ***never*** thought about doing it in a different context, i.e., work — THANK YOU!

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