Sustainability through Ritual: Journaling

Posted by Anthony Basham on

Some time ago— a time that seems much more than the 30 years it actually was— I was first introduced to using a planner to manage my time and work priorities. I was a newly minted manager dealing with the fresh challenges of keeping up with my schedule and the schedules of the staff I was responsible for. Now, this was nowhere near the responsibility I would have later, but it was the first time I had so much to keep up with. I remember this moment because it was the first introduction I had to using a tool to plan my time. Those of you who are common practitioners of journaling are probably thinking, “that’s not really what journaling is.” We can debate the finer details of the definition of journaling in some other post, and I look forward to the discussion. However, for my purpose here I want everyone to realize that any time you capture the ideas, events, concerns, worries, plans, etc. of your life onto paper or an equivalent medium, into a book, on a collections of pages, loose or otherwise, you are journaling your life.

To digress just a moment, because it is tangentially important, I want to share something I observed. Recently I revisited my journaling by starting to bullet journal. I was using an Ipad to organize my planning pages because I was traveling and wanted to minimize my load. As I was learning about this new way of making all of the things in my head organized, I saw some suggestions that using a “tablet” for journaling was not really journaling. At the same time, I was working with a very creative trainer who was a fantastic graphical facilitator. She was helping me get better at that art while we facilitated some classes together. She was using her Ipad, and she was journaling her entire life on that tool and creating some the most beautiful records I have seen. It was working for her. It obviously gave her the stability she needed while providing an easy and accessible tool for the transient life style we were living then. My objective with this post is to help you establish or maintain your own sustainability. Journaling is a tool for doing that. Please do not let the medium you chose stop you from stabilizing your life and remember simplicity is your ally.

So, back to my original point. All those years ago, someone I trusted introduced me to a way to organize my thoughts and the demands on my time in one place. At that time in my life it created sustainability in my day to day responsibility. It gave me control of my thoughts and ideas. For the first time since starting my new role, I felt in control. The frustration I had been feeling evaporated (This was not immediate, but in my time compressed memory if seems to have been). I actually experienced an sigh of relief.

Now, I am no “Journaler”. I’m not that person who starts every morning or ends every evening by capturing the events of the day. I’m lucky if I execute the same ritual every day, but that’s a post for another time. In fact, I struggle to keep my journal up to date. But, I have come to realize the power of that first experience. As a coach and trainer, a great deal of my time was spent looking at myself. I spent as much time looking at my own actions and responses to my clients as I did looking at theirs. Because of this introspection, I realized that I used journaling whenever I was overwhelmed as a way to get control of my situation. Some would argue that if I used it every day I would not get overwhelmed, and there is some logic to that I will admit, but I still don’t have the discipline to give it the time daily. However, when I find the things I need to remember or do becoming a jumble and I feel the tendrils of frustration creeping into my mind, when I know I can no longer sustain the effort it is taking to manage all of the information, I pull out some form of journal and start writing things down.

You may be like me, or you may be someone who captures every thought in beautiful, organized pages. You may be the person who carries an art book with you to capture that moment in connected lines and dots called drawings. You may simply keep a planner with cryptic marks on every line that details the tiniest components of your life. You may be like my father who keeps a pocket notebook with him at all times and collects a drawer full of them over his life. Or, you may still be struggling with finding a way to ward off those feelings of helplessness as the demands overwhelm you and your sustainability falters.

Consider taking just a moment to put down those thoughts and ideas that are swimming around inside your head onto paper. In occasions when I feel pressures of my life wearing on me, I evaluate where I am with a quick reiteration of my priorities. This list of what I like, dislike, want, can do, and can’t do helps me clearly assess my current situation. This inventory is my way of anchoring my goals in my mind while also verifying that my current course is still correct. This planning course correction or validation helped me stay on course. It has also helped me change course in some of the more difficult times in my life. Depending on whether I am in one of my journaling phases, I may collect these in a journal. Sometimes they are simply captured on what is available and discarded. In the simplest definition, this is journaling and it provided me stability to move forward and sustain my progress.   

The point I want to make is that each person is different regarding the level of formality to their journaling. Some are very detailed and others are a little more haphazard. I am not going to judge your specific way of capturing these important things and organizing your life. I am however going to tell you that the act of journaling can create a stabilization in your life that can help you find a sustainable way of getting through things. If it works for you, you can use it to discover ways to maintain that sustainability. Even as I write this, I am learning that I could help myself even more if I would consider some consistency to my practice, and even that is helping me discover ways to improve my own sustainability.

The path to individual sustainability is not short. You will not likely reach it and stay perfectly in that bubble. You will probably waver in and out of an envelope of sustainability practices. Journaling is a way to create that individual sustainability, and it is also a great place to catalog your experiments and their outcomes so that you can return to what has worked easily. Maybe tomorrow you will try a new experiment around journaling for sustainability. Maybe it will help. Twin Cedars Ranch provides a set of journal covers to support your individual sustainability by giving you a reliable platform to protect those captured records no matter their format. If you are interested in what we offer, follow this link to check out the options we have available.

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