Should You Make A Mistake In Your Journal?

When you make a mistake it can be really frustrating.

Having something you really care about, that you use over a long period of time, get screwed up.

It can be as simple as you smearing some ink, or even accidentally ripping your journals binding.

Especially when you start getting artistic with it, and that pretty spread is all of the sudden marred by a misplaced speck of ink.

You know what a really fun concept is though?

Failing Faster

This is a concept typically used in project development, especially in the realm of software and games. The idea is very simple:

The further along in development a mistake is made, the more expensive it is to fix it.

The key take away here is understanding that creatives and project developers aim to make mistakes as soon as possible.

In short, they become good at making mistakes. But even more important, they become really good at learning from them.

I have a friend who really enjoys watercolor, reason being that she sees mistakes in a different light than most people I know.

She says that watercolor is a very difficult medium because it’s very unforgiving, that when you make a mistake there is no covering it up, all you can do is work with it.

She compares it to life, and sees life as a single canvas you are always painting on, but can never swap out or replace.

We’re going to make mistakes anyways, how can we make them our friends?

Making Mistakes Eloquently

Making mistakes well is a learned skill, and one that can be safely practiced in a journal.

Let’s take a moment however to define what a mistake is, which I’ll simply pull from Google.

mis·take/məˈstāk/noun

  1. an action or judgment that is misguided or wrong. “coming here was a mistake”

This definition is direct enough, but we can do better!

This definition implies that if something is “misguided”, then something can be “guided”. But how do you guide something?

It’s simple, you have to have something to guide yourself to.

You have to become absolutely clear about the result you’re looking for. Then you decide whether the action is helping you achieve that result… or not.

If you’re not clear about what your result is everything is a mistake. You don’t have any guidelines or criteria to check your actions against!

If you haven’t already, dedicate a page in your journal to writing about what you want from it.

Once decided, every day you can evaluate your actions in your journal and decide whether or not what you’ve done correlates with what you want from it.

You can track this using a daily prompt such as what I learned today.

So next time you mar your journal, make sure to ask yourself this simple question: Does this “mistake” really affect what I want to get out of my journal?

If not, you can rest easy knowing that you did not lose progress that day.

That does it for today’s post, if you haven’t already be sure to check out the prompt database for new and interesting prompts to check out.

Don’t let your mistakes hold you back, there’s a world of value you can bring not only in spite of, but because of those mistakes.

Take care!

-Devon

Goal Setting Using The Inbetween Method

Having a goal is very important.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, for all the silliness he represents and how over the top his movies are, is very passionate about achievement.

He worked out 6 hours a day never missing a beat, while working a job in construction while going to school for acting. He pushed himself to the extreme and accomplished things for fun that most people would consider impossible dreams.

Here’s an abridged list of what he has accomplished:

  • Champion Body Builder
  • Power-lifting Champion
  • Movie Celebrity, played in countless roles
  • Governor of California
  • Real Estate Investor

Arnold did all this because he understood the power of goal setting and goal achievement.

There are many methods out there to plan out how to achieve your goal, Arnolds focus is on working your butt off and make sure it’s working towards something.

For myself, I always liked having a plan. It was back in college that I borrowed a tool used in animation as a foundation for how I plan my goals.

How Animators Animate

In the field of animation, there is a method called “Tweening”, or “Inbetweening”.

The method is quite simple, and is used to create animation and movement.

As an example, let’s follow the method and animate a ball rolling across the floor.

Frame 1, we know where we are starting ( Where we are at )
Frame 1, we know where we are starting ( Where we are at )
Fame 2, we know where we want to be ( The Goal )
Frame 2, we know where we want to be ( The Goal )

We’ve got established where we are starting, the ball is on the left, and we want to make the ball be on the right, and create the illusion of movement while doing so.

Using our imbetween method, we draw what the inbetween step would be before the ball ends up to the right.

With our beginning and end defined, we can figure out what's inbetween them
With our beginning and end defined, we can figure out what’s inbetween them

Let’s now see what it looks like so far.

With our start and our end defined, we now "kinda" have an animation.
With our start and our end defined, we now “kinda” have an animation.

As we can see however, it looks choppy, unrefined. So you know what we do?

The same thing we just did, we add some steps inbetween what we’ve already got. Doing this we get two more frames.

Inbetween the start and our middle
Inbetween the start and our middle
Inbetween our middle and our end
Inbetween our middle and our end

Put it all together and you get this:

Final Animation

Much more smooth.

Inbetweening for Goal Setting

As with our ball, we define where we are at and where we want to be.

Defining your starting point

This is crucial, you need to be totally honest with yourself with where you’re at in contrast to where you want to be. It’s easy to protect the ego and say “it’s not as bad as it seems” or “well I did do this and this”. No no no…

You have to be crystal clear on where you are at.

For instance, let’s say you want to own a car.

You would not say “Well, since I can drive my friend/family/parents car I technically have a car”.

No, the fact is you don’t have a car, and the result you are looking for is to have one to call your own.

Let’s say after much thought you’ve decided that your starting point is simply “I don’t have a car”.

Defining your goal

Once again, we need to define with crystal clarity where you want to be or what it is you want to accomplish.

As with defining your starting point you need to be crystal clear, and don’t let substitutions distract you from it.

After some contemplation you’re crystal clear on “Owning a car”.

Making your plan

We’ve defined your starting and ending positions:

  1. I do not own a car
  2. Own a car

Next, let’s use the inbetween method to come up with a reasonable halfway point between where you’re at and your goal.

  1. I do not own a car
  2. Have half the cars down payment in money set aside
  3. Own a car

Okay, that’s better, but let’s inbetween again, work out the feasible halfway points between these three items.

  1. I do not own a car
  2. Secure a source of income
  3. Have half the cars down payment in money set aside
  4. Sit down with a car dealer and discuss options
  5. Own a car

One more time…

  1. I do not own a car
  2. Do some job hunting
  3. Secure a source of income
  4. Start putting aside $300 per month
  5. Have half the cars down payment in money set aside
  6. Have enough for a down payment
  7. Sit down with a car dealer and discuss options
  8. Decide what I can pay each month for a loan
  9. Own a car

You can see within 3 iterations of using this method we have a pretty feasible plan for obtaining a goal. The best part is that it’s already in a step-by-step order!

Started with the starting point at the top of the page, and where we want to be at the bottom, then just filled the rest in between

What do you want to achieve?

Take some time to apply this, really think about where you want to be and use this method to create a step by step plan on how to achieve it.

Using your journal you can track progress, and use it to continue to inspire you to keep at it. A prompt such as Grand Goal can help you keep focused and working toward achieving whatever you want to achieve.

This method has worked quite well for me for the past 8 years, and I hope you get as much value out of it as I did.

-Devon

Defending Your Journal

Keeping a journal safe can be quite a challenge.

Not keeping it private, but keeping it alive. The struggles to keep to journaling can be a real battle.

The time can pass by so quick, and it’s so easy to just say “screw it”. Energy levels aren’t the only threat however.

In my experience, these are the most dangerous threats to your journal.

Energy ( Or Lack Thereof )

In the beginning, you’ve haven’t yet experienced how energising a journal really is. Because of this it can feel like you’re being wasteful by keeping a journal.

You come home tired, or you got up on the wrong end of the bed, regardless it just feels like the journal weighs 1000 pounds.

The solution: understanding that in the long run you are saving energy.

Over time as you write down your thoughts you are unloading your brain and saving it from carrying scattered, incoherent thoughts. This leads to much better well being and focused thinking.

Consciously understanding this of course is not enough, so try these tips:

  • Write smaller, but more meaningful entries
  • Set a timer, keep your time spent writing at about 10 minutes or less
  • Grab a simple, easy to answer prompt

Lack Of Inspiration

This one is a tough one, equivalent to writers block. You’re sitting there, staring at the page, frozen by blank page syndrome.

Journaling isn’t a smooth experience anymore, it’s rigid. It has to be right. We don’t want to mess up and taint this representation of ourselves.

The solution: Relax, and simply write about why you started journaling in the first place.

Don’t be afraid of writing the same thing every day ( otherwise known as focus prompts ), this keeps your mind on a path that you set, and allows you to relax as you focus on your journal.

These tips can help you overcome a lack of inspiration:

  • If you don’t know what to write about, write about what you think you should be writing about ( sounds silly, but it works )
  • Draw a silly doodle if your journal is open to it
  • Have a set of daily prompts that you use everyday

Fear of Messing Up

This can be the most daunting one of all, because just look at what journaling is promoted to be:

This is a screenshot of “Bullet Journaling” posts on Pinterest

These are beautiful journals, and it would be awesome to make our journals look like this! So we take our time with the inks, the pencils and the markers. We make it colourful and creative…

Then we slip.

Bam, our masterpiece has a flaw that we will see every time we look at the page.

The solution: Don’t stress about making things “perfect”

The real value in your journal isn’t how pretty it is, it’s how it supports your brain in thinking better. Designs that are promoted like this are wonderful, and the people who make them are very talented people.

For most of us though, this level of artistic investment just isn’t practical. And that’s okay.

Stick to content and getting value from your journal, or if you want to keep things pretty stickers/tape might be a good way to dress up your journal without too much energy.

These tips can help you alleviate the stress of a journal.

  • Stick to consistent, daily prompts so you’re doing the same thing every day
  • Understand that the “slip ups” are part of the quirk of your journal, and that it’s the activity, not the result, the makes the journal yours
  • Learn that your unique look is special to you, and deserves your appreciation

In closing, your journal is going to be threatened by many things. There are a lot of temptations out there that will make you want to put your journal down.

But stick to it! Even in as little as a month of journaling you will find great results.

– Devon

So, I hear your handwriting sucks…

As a young lad it was quite common for my teacher to write “focus on your handwriting” and other similar things on my assignments.

I was the worst though, it always felt like I couldn’t write the words fast enough! This resulted in some pretty sloppy handwriting.

However, in this one writing assignment, something magical happened. I don’t even remember the word, but I wrote the most perfect “o” I had ever seen.

That’s right, I was super stoked about a perfectly circular “o” that I had written down, perfectly on the line, perfectly sized. It was beautiful! After always being told that I could do better with my handwriting it felt like there was hope for me.

But being the video game loving kid I was I forgot about it as soon as I went home and played Zelda.

I still think back to it from time to time though, it’s that one time I was actually happy with my handwriting.

Fast forward a couple of years and these things called “computers” get introduced and suddenly handwriting doesn’t matter quite so much. I get into art, programming, anything I possibility could on the computer.

This may or may not have been partially motivated to avoid having to deal with my neanderthallic penmanship. On the computer I wasn’t crippled by this “handicap” I was told I had. It was common for me to have to redo assignments because of my handwriting.

When I started journaling years later, I fortunately learned that in your own journal penmanship really doesn’t matter. In fact, my penmanship has “improved” since I started journaling.

By “improved”, I mean from the outside it’s became marginally more readable.

But more importantly I grew to accept and even enjoy my unique penmanship.

Let’s think about this though, what a shame it is that we might avoid learning how to journal because we are afraid to look at our own writing!

When I first started journaling, it was a bold step for me. I felt I had to write so carefully to make sure it was perfect.

After some time though, I realised that even on days I was sloppy I was able to go back and read it. So instead I just focused putting down quality entries and responses to prompts.

While you could journal for better handwriting, it’s certainly not the best reason to journal. The goal of journaling should be to improve how you think, not how you write. Thinking precedes writing.

So be sloppy! No one is judging you but yourself ( don’t do that ) when you write in your journal. Let yourself write freely and be honest.

All that really matters is that you can read it.

Your handwriting is unique to you, and deserves expression! Own it, and over time it will come to support you.

Journaling Tips: Balancing Technology With Paper for Tasks

Balancing Technology

With all the information technology available these days the possibilities for how to organize your life has become endless. In that little screen called your phone there is an infinite canvas that can be organized into an infinite number of dimensions.

However, with infinite possibilities comes infinitely increased difficulty of choice.

You only have so much mental energy each day, and with each decision you deplete it little by little.

Therefor if your time is always spent in a space of infinite choice, it’s nearly impossible to focus and narrow down what’s truly important.

This is where the value of journaling comes in.

Striking That Balance

The fundamental issue is this: In Technology you have infinite canvas with the ability to do an infinite number of things, but your time and energy is not infinite. Given this, you need something to balance this, something that is finite in nature that can only hold so much.

This is the value of a journal.

Your journal represents what you’re focused on, what you’re doing at this time. Accomplishment comes when a task is focused on until completion, not when your focus is scattered among infinite tasks.

So where to strike that balance? What is the best approach?

To start, here is a summary of technology driven and journal driven task management and what their benefits are.

Technology Driven

Pros:

  • Infinite Canvas Size
  • Infinite ways to organize data
  • Great for long term planning and development

Cons:

  • The infinite possibility can get overwhelming

Journal Driven

Pros:

  • Directly writing in your journal builds a direct connection in your mind
  • Limited page space creates focus
  • Great for day to day work

Cons:

  • Long term planning can be difficult to handle well on paper

So the big question, which method is best? Why a combination of the two of course!

We live in an age where we have tools that our ancestors never even dreamed of, so it’s foolish to eliminate either when we can get them both working together.

I made the primary benefits of each in bold, so we can use both together in this way:

Do all your long term planning and task management in a technology system, then use your journal for the short term stuff so you can focus.

Think of it this way, you have a bookshelf full of your favorite books. Can you read all of your books at once?

You can read one, then another, and bounce around, but it’s impossible to read all of your books at the same time. It’s also a terrible way to read your books since you will get in a lot of reading but you’re unlikely to finish any of them.

At most, you will take a few books down and keep them on a stand next to your reading chair. When you sit down and read you then focus on whichever catches your fancy.

In this way, think of your technology system as your “library” of tasks that you want to get done. Your journal then represents your stand next to your chair with the books you’re currently reading.

An Example

As an example I’ll explain the system I’m using at the time of writing this article.

Using an app called Todoist, I’m able to log tasks as they come to mind, all I do is tap the Todoist widget on my home screen.

Todoist Example

I’m then able to log the task into Todoist, where it will sit until I’m ready to address it.

At the beginning of each week, I look over everything I did the previous week and move over anything that fell through the cracks using my Weekly Modules. Once I move all these tasks over I typically find that there is plenty of room to add more things that I can try to do that week.

So, I go to Todoist, and I look over my tasks which are organized into projects ( or not ) and I decide what I’m going to focus on that week by copying them over to my journal.

I then don’t look at my tasks in Todoist again until the following week, and focus on completing what I have written in my journal.

Rinse and repeat.

In this way I am systematically getting things done. Being overwhelmed doesn’t exist, because I know that having a lot only means that it will take more time for me to get to some things.

What works for you?

Now, that works for me. However you are a unique and special person, and will need a system as unique as you are. What I’ve explained is the basics however, and you can use it to compile a system that fits you.

That about does it! If you haven’t already signed up go do so to get your GoJournaling Companion and learn how to get the most out of the Modules on this site.

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