In a previous post, I wrote about how having the habit of contemplation can make the process of planning your day easier. Today I’m sharing how to create a really simple habit of contemplation that only takes five to ten minutes.

So first, I like to start by grabbing my journal and picking one question that I would like to make the focus of my contemplation.

Since I do this pretty often, I’ve actually collected a list of questions that I enjoy reflecting over. I also have specific questions to help me find clarity, personal growth, or even solutions to business issues. As this becomes a habit, you’ll probably come across questions that you would want to add to a collection of your own.

Since we’re starting from the beginning, I’ll share with you my three favorite contemplation questions for finding clarity:

  • What do I want right now?
  • What am I ready to let go of?
  • What is one thing I want to be today?

After picking one question, I write it at the top of a blank page of my journal, so that I don’t forget what the question is.

Next, I find a comfortable space to sit, ideally somewhere quiet. I like sitting outside to contemplate, but if you find a nice cozy space on a sofa or a chair, that’s fine too.

After finding a spot to sit with my journal, I set a timer for 5 to 10 minutes. This marks the beginning of my contemplation session.

I start with a simple breathing exercise that involves taking three intentional breaths.I put one hand over my heart and one hand on my stomach so I can get the full feeling of my breathing.

Another option is to put both hands over your belly or both hands over your heart, whichever makes you feel more comfortable. You can also just rest your hands comfortably in your lap.

I sit there for a moment, and notice where my body feels tense.

I take one breath in through my nose, and then let it out through my nose or mouth, whichever feels most comfortable at the moment.

On the breath out, I focus in on the areas where I feel the tension, trying to let those muscles relax.

Then I take in another breath and let another breath out, and feel the tension relax a little more.

Then I take one last breath in and then let it out…

Noticing how my body feels after the third breath.

Usually my body feels way more relaxed after taking those three breaths than when I first started.

Then I look at my journal page with the one question, and I think about it.

Sometimes when I think about a question, my mind goes blank, coming up with nothing. When this happens, I like to play with the question in my mind. I may consider it one word at a time, letting my mind wander over each word in the phrase. Or I might look at the question as it’s written on the paper, tracing the letters with my eyes until they feel foreign to me.

If the answer comes to me quickly, I jot it down, and then think over why that’s my answer.

But either way, I don’t force anything to happen or not happen. I just sit with it.

And if nothing happens, that’s okay.

Letting my mind wander is the good part, because a lot of times even if I don’t answer the question directly, I come up with other things that are noteworthy, and that I want to keep in mind. I’ve also experienced my mind coming back around to the question with an answer after I’ve allowed it to wander all over the place. It’s as if by the lack of focus, interesting things bubble to the surface.

After the 5 to 10 minutes are over, I’ll note down any interesting thoughts I had for future reference. This whole process can take less than 15 minutes altogether, and you don’t have to get fancy with it.

But if you want to get fancy with it, here are some options.

Add aromatherapy

I like sitting outside to do this, and over time I’ve acquired the habit of burning cone incense while doing contemplation.

My reasons for doing this were practical at first. My neighbors like keeping their dogs in the backyard, and I didn’t want to smell them. But now this has become a fun addition to my contemplation sessions. I enjoy watching the smoke rise as my mind wanders.

Play soothing sounds

My favorite website for sounds is have timers for each of their sound generators. My favorite generators are Healing Water and Japanese Garden. I also like pairing the fireplace sounds generator with the cat purr generator.

So if you want to add a little something extra, feel free to go for it, but it doesn’t have to be that involved.

The goal is to simply create 5 to 10 minutes of quiet space and time to think.This is a nice practice for starting or even ending your day.

If you’re looking for more questions to add to your contemplation practice, you may also like my book, Thoughtful Planning:How to Use Questions for Self-reflection to Design Your Day.