Tag Archives: Journal Friday

Journal Friday: The Life Organiser

life org pages 2I’ve been enjoying Jennifer Louden’s The Life Organiser for a while now, and I wanted to share it with you.  It is a weekly practise that may offer those who struggle with daily journaling an easier way into self-expression.

Now I have to confess, I’ve got a bit of a thing about the whole Organising scene.  It is definitely a displacement activity for me.  I would much rather go out and drool over new Filofaxes than actually do the work to sort out my office.  I love stationery.  I love notebooks.  I love books about how to organise your life.  I love the websites too.  Call me a GTD addict.  It cons me into thinking I’m actually getting something done.  I am sure many of you can relate to that!

Lately, though, I have been wrestling with something of a mid-life crisis, and that, together with the complexities of actually writing on a regular basis for this website, as focussed my attention on the real core of the whole productivity mindset:

 Intention

Life Coaches and self-development gurus go on about formulating your life goals, having a vision, a mission statement, working towards SMART goals, and all that stuff.  Achievement, in other words.  All of which is great of you actually know where you are going, and what you want.

But what if, like me, you are about to fall off the edge of 45, and still don’t have a clue what you want to do when you grow up?

Deciding what direction you want to push your life in is a huge project.  It can feel overwhelming.  Jennifer Louden’s approach is more subtle and manageable.  Building on her work with The Women’s Comfort Book, and other invaluable tomes, she has written a workbook that gives the reader a chance to get in touch with their essential self, cut down empty busyness and focus on what is really important.  On a week-by-week and day-by-day basis, she encourages you to think about what is going on in your life, here and now, and what you need to help you flourish.  It feels quiet, comforting and manageable.  And it offers you a chance to choose direction and improve the quality of your life in a gentle, incremental way.  So how does it work?

 The Life Organiser Book

The book itself is a delightfully satisfying object to handle, even before you get inside.  It begins with some explanatory chapters, and then sets to work.  Each week of the year has a two page spread, offering journal prompts and questions to contemplate and answer, inspiring quotes and the chance to list things you have to do, would like to do, and can reasonably let go of (the latter is my favourite, because it is the most thought-provoking for me.)  It is all laid out so that you can use the actual book to write in if you like, but there are inspiring examples at the front of how other women have made their own notebooks and digital documents into Life Organisers too.

My Life Organiser Kit

My Life Organiser kit comes in this cute little bag...

My Life Organiser kit comes in this cute little bag…

I was given a little bag which is just the right size to keep my organiser kit in, and my day-to-day dates diary and journal fit in there nicely too.

 I like to use lots of bright colours when I am answering the questions, so I include coloured felt-tipped pens, both fine and brush point, so that I can do that.  I have settled on a colour scheme that I like, with particular colours for certain subjects, and that helps me if I want to check back through the pages of my notebook.

... and here is what's in it!… and here is what’s in it!

The notebook itself is one I bought from WH Smith because I liked the cover.  It has wide-spaced lines and lies open easily, which is great if I want to do a two-page spread for a mind map or such like.

Doing My Organising

I try to do my Organiser on Sundays or Mondays, so I can set a clear intention for myself for the week.

I like to write in my journal or do morning pages before I start on my organiser because it clears my mind, and helps me to focus on my needs rather than my complaints.  I like to check my date diary or calendar before I start too, so I know what appointments I’ve got coming up, and how my time and energy will have to be distributed for the ensuing week.

When I have done that, I put in the date, and then write a section I call:

Where I am right now

This is a way of grounding myself, working out where I am emotionally and physically, and what issues are coming up for me at present.  It isn’t in the Louden version, but I find it useful to do.

Once I know where I am, I start on the actual questions for the week.  I always write out the questions in, in full, in a bright pen.  (This year I am using pink, last year it was orange.) I answer in a kind of stream-of-consciousness.  Sometimes a list comes out, sometimes a paragraph, sometimes a complete rant!  It doesn’t matter what, it is all instructive.  It tells me what is important to me at the moment, what I need to encourage and nourish myself, what I need to take notice of.  From these realisations come the lists of what I could do, must do, and need to let go of.

I have found it is important not to make long lists of things to get done or to force myself to release things.  Once you become prescriptive, these things become OUGHTS, and just make yet more burdens to add to those we have already.  I keep my list of things I could do for the week to a minimum so I don’t pressure myself.  Sometimes it is just a couple of things I could think about.

The lists can then be transferred over into my day to day diary and calendar if appropriate.  I can make appointments to do the self-care things I have identified, and book rest time in, which I need because of my health.  I put my ‘Let Go Of:’ list in the margin of my diary too, so that when I refer to it every day, I reminded of what is important to me.

Life Org pagesI think the Life Organiser is a more mindful way of keeping true to my intentions and needs than the endless To Do lists most productivity tools offer.  It forms a kind of accounting process that lies on top of my journaling, a means of orienting myself in a more concrete way.  Because I do it on a weekly basis, (although sometimes I miss, in which case, I don’t worry about it)  it doesn’t feel so much like a chore, and I look forward to it.  It keeps me in touch with myself and has helped me formulate my dreams and visions into doable agendas in a gentle way that seems far less scary than other methods.

I recommend it.  Get yourself a copy, and have a bash.  You might find it bridges the gap between journaling and Filofaxes that you need!

(You can find out mroe about the amazing Jennifer Louden here.)

Happy journaling

EF

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Journal Friday: The Gratitude Journal

If you trawl self help and wellbeing blogs like I do, you’ll probably have come across the idea of the Gratitude Journal before.  Lots of people swear by them.  You might think they are a bit of a cheesy idea, writing down what you are grateful for in your life every day.  I mean, isn’t it self-evident?

Maybe not.

Think about all the time you spend moaning and complaining about what is wrong with your life.  Our consumer culture programmes us to always want something else, something more than what we already have.  There might be a reason why all those slum dwellers you see in doumentaries look so happy.  Its not because they are glad to be living in squallor and poverty, that’s for sure.  Maybe it’s because they have so little that they value what they do have.

Let me tell you a story about one of the most inspiring people I have ever known:

My Great Auntie Kitty.

She was in her late 80s and early 90s when I knew her.  I was a small child – I think I was probably about 8 or 10 when she died.  I didn’t know her well because she lived in a town four hours drive from our home, so we were only able to visit her rarely, but she made a big impression.

Auntie Kitty was born disabled as a result of problems with her hips and legs, though I don’t remember specifically what.  Suffice it to say that she had never been able to walk properly and had worn calipers all her life.  By the time I knew her, she was severely crippled with arthritis, in appalling pain, and mostly blind from macular degeneration.  She was also quite deaf.  But she had a brain as sharp as a knife, and wit to match, loved to debate politics, ethics and religion, and kept up to the minute with all the news through her radio.  She also loved talking books, which she listened to continually as well.  She was funny, entertaining, and never let you get away with anything, especially self pity or fuzzy thinking.

Like many younger daughters, she had devoted her life to caring for others in her family, nursing her own parents and siblings through old age and into death.  She was the last of her generation to survive.  She had never married.  She had battled her way through a hard life through sheer force of will.

I remember her telling me this:

Every night, when she lay in the dark after the carer had come to put her to bed, she would think of three things in her life to be grateful for.  Sometimes she was in horrific pain, and thinking of anything to be thankful for was very difficult.  But she told me that no matter what, she could always find something.

Every night for the last thirty years, I have done the same.  Three things.  Just three.  Usually there are plenty more.  I could fill pages!  Some nights, if I’ve had a row with my husband or I’m in a lot of pain, as I sometimes am, I can struggle a bit. It can be pretty rudimentary on those occasions:

1.  I have a roof over my head.

2.  I have a bed to support me.

3.  There is ibuprofen in the cupboard.

Most of the time, there is plenty to be grateful for:

1.  I have a wonderful husband who loves me.

2.  I live in a beautiful place that most people would give a limb to inhabit.

3.  I have lots of friends who care for me very much.

4.  I get to write!!  (And so on)

I do this every night, come what may, partly in remembrance of Auntie Kitty, in celebration of her huge personality and bravery, and partly for myself.  Because it helps.

Being grateful shifts us into awareness, not only of what is real in our lives, but what is important.  Having that latest pair of shoes or the new Clarisonic really is not important compared with the people who we love and who love us.  Unlike the slum dwellers of the Developing World, most of us know we have a safe place to sleep tonight, and food in our bellies.  We have other, First World problems, I suppose, but there is still such a lot to be thankful for.  It is so easy to forget how fortunate we are.  Let’s not.

(I was going to take a picture of my Gratitude Journal to show you, but somehow it felt wrong.  An invasion.  Privacy, remember?  I find my reaction about that interesting itself, and I propose to explore it more in my own journal later, because I wasn’t expecting to feel that way.  Its interesting when you find boundaries you didn’t know were there, don’t you think?)

Journal Exercise:

Okay, you get to go out and indulge in the stationery shop again this week!  Go and choose yourself a nice little notebook, one with small pages.  I use this one.

Every night before you go to bed, get your notebook out and write at least three things that you are grateful for today.  Use a separate page every day, and date each.  Sometimes you will fill the page, and wish you had another.  Maybe you will go on a fill another, that’s up to you.  Some days you will be grumpy and resentful, and won’t feel like doing anything other than having a pity party for yourself.  Regardless, remember: write three things.  Just three.  It will help.

At the end of the first month, go back through your notebook and reflect on the things you have written down.  What are your lists showing about what important to you?  Write about this in your journal, if you like.  How has a daily gratitude practise changed the way you feel about your life?

Happy Journalling,

EF