Lessons Learned From Reconnecting With Journaling

Like so many little girls, I grew up with a journal hidden somewhere in my living space. Okay, mine might actually have been sitting out wherever I left it last. Still is. The point is, I’ve spent most of my life with a notebook in my hand, documenting life, working on ideas, trying to keep track of things.

But last year, my life took a pretty hard hit, and like so many other things my journaling stopped being useful. It wasn’t that I stopped journaling. It’s more that it became nothing but a to-do list of those things I was doing just trying to keep sane when sanity just wasn’t to be had.

I came into 2016 hoping to put 2015 squarely behind me quickly, and that meant getting my to-do list under control and actually serving my various projects. Which really meant getting my journal and my daily habits going again to help focus my day. But it hasn’t been the easiest path.

I started hearing about Bullet Journaling and gave it a look. While it isn’t for me, it has made me realize that my journal is not only my notebook, but also my digital life management tools. And it has inspired me to be more conscientious about how I rebuild my journal. My daily habits have been restructured into Tiny Habits to support my personal and project goals. (I also identified some daily habits that were nothing but time sucks and kicked them to the curb.) I also now have a better weekly review process that is already helping me find and change what hasn’t been working in my weekly routines and work habits. It’s proven to be a good start.

Some of the Bullet Journaling community are exploring merging GTD and Kanban into their journals. While GTD has not historically worked for me, I looked into it again to see if that had changed. I even found a system that converts Evernote into a GTD/Kanban workhorse and started cleaning up Evernote. It turns out my brain still does not do GTD, and Evernote is nothing more than a cabinet in my workflow. But it’s a more organized, more relevant cabinet now, so I consider that a win.

The Bullet Journaling community is a very visual group, which I’m not. But in the spirit of giving it a fair chance, I’ve started adding color to my paper journal in the form of tick boxes shaded with colored pencils, and I’ve discovered washi tape to add a bit of personality to my pages. The tick boxes have turned out to be invaluable. In only three weeks, I started seeing at a glance where things weren’t working, and what really needed to be tracked. (I also started scheduling my colored pencil pattern so it creates pretty gradients on my page.) I’ve made some great improvements in my study habits, inspired by the sudden discovery I’m more likely to keep up with audio materials than text materials, and I’m doing a much better job of keeping up with my daily reading.

One of the stranger side effect of falling in with the Bullet Journaling crowd has been joining #rockyourhandwriting. As I said, many BuJo enthusiasts are very visual people. They doodle. They handletter. They’re really kind of cool. But this hashtag simply invites participants to work on their daily handwriting as they respond to a prompt. I’ve been wanting to create blocks of text in my graphic design for a while, and this has proved to be just the nudge I needed.

I don’t know if any of this was interesting. Maybe you’ll read this and consider looking into Bullet Journaling or GTD to help organize your work and keep you moving forward. Maybe you’ll check out #rockyourhandwriting and come write with us. Maybe you’ll stop following this blog. But for the first time in three years, I feel closer to being in control of what I get done.

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