This has enormous long term benefits as it allows you to look back and discover your patterns.
In one of Jim’s examples he knew someone who upon looking back at their journal entries found that every Wednesday they were full of doubt. They would start to criticize themselves and it would take several days before they worked up their confidence again.
Upon flipping back through the journal, this person remembered that Wednesday was when they had lunch with old co-workers. Upon reflection, some of them were very critical about them leaving their old job and seeking better opportunities.
Further proof was found when looking back in the journal they found that on the days they couldn’t make that lunch, no thoughts of doubt clouded their journals pages.
Something to think about, maybe once per week instead of writing an entry just simply read back and what you wrote the past week.
Was your week happy? Sad? Productive? Lazy?
Simply take a moment and look back and see, then summarize what you find. It’s amazing how insightful a quick look back can be.
Whether you’re doing dishes, performing tasks for clients, or doing project management for a company you’re going to be dealing with the smallest denomination of work: tasks.
Understanding the anatomy of a task, and most importantly how to influence what tasks you’re taking on is foundational to keeping control over your time. To understand a task’s place however we must first understand your two most fundamental resources.
Time and Attention
Everything you do requires both time and attention.
Time ticks on by, and attention is your utilization of that time. Tracking tasks is a way of managing your attention.
I’m sure you’ve heard someone say “I don’t have time”, what they’re really saying is that they don’t wish to pay attention to it. We all have the same 24 hours per day. When time runs out is when we pass on.
A task requires your attention, and costs time to perform. Now that we know the two basic resources required to fuel a task, let’s talk about the parts of a task.
What makes up a task?
A task is comprised of the following:
Priority How important the task is. This can be determined by the value of the long term benefits of completing the tasks. A good example would be reading a good book on how to talk to people. That simple task can benefit you for years. In comparison eating a piece of cake has fantastic short term benefits, but mean little, or can even be damaging, in the long run.
Urgency Every task has an expiration date. The more urgent a task is, the more important it seems. An example would be cleaning up a dozen eggs that got dropped. If not taken care of asap it will seep into the carpet and stink. Alternatively reading a book isn’t usually urgent. Tasks demanded by others commonly feel urgent.
Getting caught up in urgent, unimportant work Just doing what the boss tells you, buckling into the constant demands of family and friends, or just all around dealing with what just falls onto your lap. There is a time and place for these things, just not all of the time.
The key thing is to make sure you can set aside time, and ideally a space, where you can focus on what’s important. Don’t know what’s important? Then your most important task is to figure out what’s important.
Not knowing how to prioritize What makes something important or not important? There’s plenty of content out there, but I found this question to be my guiding star:
What is the one thing I can do that, by doing it, everything else becomes easier or unnecessary?
This is from the amazing book The One Thing, it basically asks you what can you do that will complete other tasks or make them not needed to be done.
For example, say your car breaks down and it will cost $10,000 to fix. You ask around a bit and a close family member has a good vehicle they will sell you for $6000. Instead of paying to get it repaired you get a new(er) car for cheaper, your money stays in the family, and the breakdown issue is completely circumvented.
This is completing three “tasks” in one fell swoop.
Some other methods of prioritizing include:
Setting a goal
Separating your tasks from everyone else’s tasks
Figuring out what tasks create the greatest long term reward
Pain and Pleasure
Many tasks have a short term increase in pleasure, or decrease in pain, that create a long term increase in pain or decrease in pleasure.
Other tasks, far more important ones can at the least be boring in the moment or downright terrifying at the worst, but create long term benefits.
In the following graph, a beneficial task is represented in a green line while a more urgent, non-beneficial task is in red.
Completing your tasks that are beneficial on the long run compound and multiply. Eventually you build a great reservoir of good from the things that you’ve accomplished.
Unfortunately however this cuts both ways, so always be conscious of what task your performing and what the long term benefits/consequences of a task may be.
This one might seem obvious, but there are actually 3 different things you can do with a task:
You can complete the task This is the state that everyone thinks of when it comes to a task, that it must always be done. While this is in fact the ideal state of all tasks trying to do everything at once creates lots of stress.
You can delay the task Delaying the task allows you to use time to your advantage. Assuming you have a system for managing your tasks, whether on paper or digital, you can always take a task and push it out so that you can focus on more important tasks.
You can decide not to perform the task This is probably the most important skill you could ever learn. Learning how to let go of tasks that you admit you will never get done is one of the most freeing things you can do for yourself.
At the end of the day a task can either be completed or let go. It’s healthy to take some time every once and a while and let go of things you will never get done.
Long Term Effects Of Effective Task Management
If you take the time and energy to develop/adopt a system for managing your tasks the long term effects are huge.
Most systems sell to you that you will “get more done” using their system. This simply isn’t true. Building/adopting a system does two things for you:
Helps you do things faster ( with less effort )
Helps you get the right things done
Remember, you only have 24 hours every day, just like everyone else. Having a good system simply helps you focus your attention and get the most out of that time.
Short, Actionable Tips
If you don’t know what’s important, spend time figuring out what is ( Give yourself plenty of time, at least an hour or two ).
I would like to extend my deepest thanks to Betty, who responded to an email I sent out asking for feedback and what you’d guys like covered. She explained that she wants to start journaling for her grandchildren.
This is really sweet, and is also something that has come up in my seminars a couple of times. That said I’m excited to share with you 3 simple insights on how to best do this.
A couple weeks ago my girlfriend and I had some fun looking over my old yearbooks from school. Upon opening one of them a little card fell out.
On this card was listed each of the pages where there was a photo of me. I forgot that the yearbook team include with each yearbook a similar card for each student. When you got your yearbook you just opened it up to the pages you were in and you could read about yourself.
When journaling for grandchildren you can use a similar approach. Note that this is where page numbers really come in handy.
In the beginning, end, or even just on index cards kept in your journal, you want to start a tag index. On this page write down each of your granchildren’s names, leaving plenty of space. For example:
Next, if your journal already has entries, write next to the name of your grand child each page where you mention something about them.
Why do this? Because when your grand children are looking through your journal in the future, they can jump right to themselves much more easily, or anyone else that you’ve journaled about.
You can also use this same method to tag “events”, such as birthdays or holidays.
Embrace Conflict: Talk about your struggles, but in a way that is expectant of a healthy resolution. Even more importantly, write down the resolution once it’s achieved
Show, Don’t Tell: There’s time for simply logging what has happened or what is going on, but to make it even cooler is to “show” what you want to convey. So instead of “Jeremy is a very nice boy”, show that he is nice by saying “Jeremy helped an old woman cross the street”
Talk About Interaction: Journal about not only how you interact with your family, but how your family positively interacts with each other. This allows your grandchildren to learn more dimensions of themselves on how they relate to other people in the family. Be careful however to not “gossip” in your journal, but instead note how well family members synergize with your grandchildren and help them grow
With the focus on telling a story you are able to not only engage your grandchildren more easily with your journal, but also help them experience some insights about what it is that you, and possibly even other family members, really feel about them.
C.S. Mott, a very successful man from Flint, MI kept a very detailed journal. He was focused on his work, if a bit distant. If it wasn’t for his journal however his daughter would have never known how much he loved her.
3. Write Down Why You Love Them
Make it clear and concise, every time you write down something about them write down what it is about that unique situation that makes you love them more deeply.
This is important, but also different than just “why this makes me love them”. We don’t want to leave the impression that your love is conditional.
What this does is that it makes sure that no matter how difficult a day may have been or all the terrible ways an entry could go, you’re forcing yourself to write down what it is in that moment that made you truly appreciate being their grandparent.
This is powerful, because when your grandchildren look back on this journal it gives them an idea on what it was they they did well, and where their natural strengths may lie.
For instance, writing something like “I love Jeremy because of how considerate he was of the old woman at the street corner” signals to your grandchild that there is a strength that you see, and one that they can develop and grow with.
If you’re a grandparent you’ve likely collected lots of knowledge over your life, and being able to collect and condense that into a journal for your grandchildren can be one of the greatest gifts you can ever give them.
I have no doubt though that journaling for grandchildren doing this will not only impact them in the future, but will also impact yourself over time.
Sit someplace comfortable, I find my car works well
Close your eyes
Keep your attention 100% focused on your breathing
Count your breaths up to a number ( such as 100 )
I really like this method because it’s easy to learn, but difficult to master. Even to this day I find my mind wandering from focusing on breathing to other things.
This wandering, however, is the benefit of this technique.
Helping The Important Stuff Surface
The real beauty here of forcing your mind to focus on something as menial as breathing makes it want to wander. Inevitably things will surface, and you will find yourself distracted from your breathing.
And out of all the millions of things your mind could be thinking of, it chooses specific things to wander to.
When we’re busy and dealing with the day, it’s really easy to fall behind on what’s important. Our mind gets flooded with urgent things. Things like “I have to send this email”, “I have to go get the kids”, “I have to finish this report”.
These things are urgent in the moment, but ultimately don’t impact your goals in any meaningful way. They drown out what’s truly important.
Taking time to meditate silences your mind for a minute, and slowly these important things can begin to resurface. When they do, immediately write them in your journal. This can be done in relation to a specific project or as part of your backburner.
Try It Yourself
Find someplace quiet, sit, and try to focus only on getting 50 breaths in without your mind wandering.
It’s nearly impossible, especially if you’re new to meditation, but it is also a learned skill. I’ve found I’ve gotten better over time. I have no doubt that you can too.
But, things that pop into your mind in this state are likely things that are important to you, and are worth writing down.
Keeping a quick, bulleted list of actionable items is the best way. Snap out of it, write it down, then get right back to counting your breaths. After your meditation you can look over your list in more detail.
That about does it for today’s post. It’s a simple thing to do but when practiced it can really help you find direction with your journal and what you want to accomplish.
In my last post I talked about the difference between free time and play time. Like me, you might discover that what you thought was “free time” was in fact very stimulated play time.
It’s easy to fall into the default mode of streaming shows, checking social media, or playing video games. But when you make a commitment to give yourself space with its simple removal, it’s typically not enough.
You don’t want your time to be filled by nonsense, so you have to give it purpose.
Filling The Space
As an example, I’ve been working hard on trying to reduce my spending in coffee shops. Sure, I’d be successful for a little while, but I’d get sucked back into spending my money at these cafes.
My intent was originally try to save the money, but I do that already. 10% of every dollar I earn goes into my savings account. In my mind that money was available and my default place to spend it was at cafes.
It then occurred to me to try something different. I have a friend who is a massage therapist, and I vowed that when I have more income that I’d start using her services. Dream as I might that income never really seemed to make itself available.
It then hit me that for the money I spend in cafes I can see her almost twice a month.
Now when I’m tempted to buy a drink all I just think “nope, I’ve committed myself to massages instead”.
This has a strong social effect too. I now know that buying those drinks would have a negative impact on my ability to afford my friends services. With a well defined negative consequence I’m far less likely to buy a drink.
Filling Play Time With Free Time
Same as with the cafe drinks, you need to define your over-indulgent play time and replace it. Simply trying to remove it isn’t enough.
For instance if you spend a great deal of time watching shows it’s vital that the time is replaced. If kept open you’ll end up just watching shows again.
This is where a journal can be your best friend.
When you have free time your journal can for a very small investment of time help give you the mental space needed to find a viable replacement for the activity you’re trying to avoid. The alternative is that you will fall back on exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
A think on paper titled “What can I do today that would be really meaningful to me” would take you miles ahead. It can be a very powerful thing to do when you find your time free.
Once you define what you can do today ( Yes, TODAY, not tomorrow, not next week ) that would be really meaningful to you, go ahead and do it!
Keeping it in context of today keeps it actionable. Keep this up and you might even establish new, more meaningful habits for yourself.
Keep Things Balanced
It’s important to note that you need to keep yourself balanced. Play time is just as vital as free time, but can easily overpower free time.
Your body has gotten used to your habits of checking social media, watching shows and such, this is fine. What isn’t fine though is being so caught up in these things you can’t invest in yourself. You need to be able to define, regularly, what really means something to you.
So as a reward for giving yourself free time, don’t be afraid to give yourself some play time. But only after give yourself the attention you deserve.
That does it for today’s post! If you have any thoughts or ideas about this subject be sure to leave a comment. This stuff is really exciting and has brought a lot of value to me, and I hope it brings you value too.
Today, I learned how important it is to pay attention to yourself. I’m currently re-reading Essentialism by Greg McKeown and I left off on a pretty amazing chapter this morning. I’m going to recount the story, but bear in mind I’m paraphrasing based on my memory. To get it in more detail definitely check out this book.
Greg dives into what he calls “The Asset”, and shares the story of a high performing executive who suddenly found that sleep did not come easy to him.
He would wake up in the middle of the night, like he was having an anxiety attack but without the anxiety. His body would feel the effects and he would just about fall apart.
After several emergency room visits he finally sat down and had a serious discussion with his doctor. His doctor recommended removing all stressful things from his life and take at least a year off. The alternative was he would be taking medication for the rest of his life.
The executive said he would take a few months off, and be back at it.
This did not happen however, because that first month he slept 14 hours a day and most days could barely get out of bed.
In the second month he admitted this would take a longer time than he thought.
A few years later this executive was doing a talk and was ask to recount his memory of this incident. He shared the value of “Protecting The Asset”.
In all that we do our great assets aren’t what we own, know, or even what we are capable of. Our greatest asset is ourselves.
Benjamin Franklin said it best, “An investment of knowledge always pays the best interest”. What’s foundational below even the knowledge is your body and your health. Both mental and physical.
Your Journal Focuses You Onto You
It’s great to think of journaling as exercise for the mind, and a habit that can give you space to focus on yourself for a moment.
In designing your spreads and working on yourself you’re able to make sure that the foundations of your life is being taken care of.
I’ve recently started limiting what my computer and phone are capable of. Such as limiting colors to black and white, blocking youtube, and tearing out unnecessary apps and programs.
In striving to gather too much, we lose space to focus on ourselves. This very blog post is an act of focusing on what is important to me instead of doing what youtube or a video game would want of me.
I’m building GoJournaling to be something that is really meaningful and helpful to people. At the core, focusing on yourself is the goal of GoJournaling.
I hope you can take the time to really reflect and decide what it is you need to be happy.
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.
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.
Infinite Canvas Size
Infinite ways to organize data
Great for long term planning and development
The infinite possibility can get overwhelming
Directly writing in your journal builds a direct connection in your mind
Limited page space creates focus
Great for day to day work
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.
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.
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.