Chapter One: Journaling
Starting at 20 minutes a day, I began to journal about areas I thought I needed to improve on, places that I felt held me from confidently becoming my best self every day. My initial focus included listening to podcasts, reading books recommended by guests whose studies I was learning about, and beginning a mindfulness meditation practice to address the stress I was carrying from regularly working sixty- to seventy-hour weeks. Physical activity also became standard by following through on my weightlifting program, riding my bicycle, and running weekly, intending to finish a half marathon that year. Journaling captured the journey, and I called it my N.E.T. (No Extra Time) Action Plan for Productivity.
Plan for Productivity
Looking at my N.E.T. Action Plan for Productivity, I looked for no time wasted and massive action to be taken. Thinking about really what it is and how to describe it, here's how I used it.
I wanted to work on myself and begin journaling, reading books, and meditating. So, I documented the days I did that on my wall calendar, writing either a J, M, or R. I also wanted to run, bike, and do weightlifting and playing hockey for my physical health, so I'd write run, bike, hockey, or weightlifting on my calendar on days I did those activities.
I was waking up to begin my morning routine by walking my dog, Paisley. The fresh air and movement are good for both of us and wakes me up to the next steps in my morning progression: meditation for 10 minutes, journaling for 10 minutes, and reading for 30 minutes. Monday through Friday, every week, that's what I'm doing. I repeat the process in the afternoon, increasing the 10-minute sessions to 20, and leaving the reading time at a half hour. Later, I take the morning and afternoon meditation, journaling, and reading calendar notations and add them for their activity, coming up with a total of my actions at the end of each month. At the end of the month, I calculate, how often I did all the things I thought were important to me mentally, physically, creatively, and emotionally.
The next thing I do after I total morning and afternoon routines is turning my total number into a fraction by how many days there are in the month. For example, if I completed my meditation practice 47 times in a month with 31 days, I write as 47/31.
When I lifted weights eight times in that same 31-day span, I'd feel like my exercise requirement of two days a week was adequate. Exercising for 30-45 minutes eight times a month was a realistic goal for me to set.
The N.E.T. Action Plan for Productivity helps me see where I'm spending my time and where I'm prioritizing that time. I now know three years into tracking this information that my thoughts have become actions, and those actions becomehabits that developed my journey. If you’re intentional about your thoughts and what you do and how often you do it consistently, you can build better habits that serve your interests and the community’s interests. Your good habits become part of who you are, the person you wanted to be, not the person someone else told you to be.
It all comes down to how you can build a life if there's something you want to do. We can all do something extraordinary with the time we have, even if we worked 50+ hours a week. If we're willing to do the hard work, we can do things to figure out our lives. For me, it was conversing with myself about what I’m doing and the results that are happening. If I'm not happy with the results, how can I adjust by educating myself and creating a new habit. The N.E.T. Action Plan for Productivity is the way to track progress in developing new habits.
Delivering on the Inspiration
Coach Moore was the accountability partner I needed to reinforce a journaling routine of 20 minutes a day after work.Questions about a “definite major purpose” in my life and my “no limit goals” were new to my long-term thinking. Objectives and goals for the next 90 days? I didn’t have any. Getting a mentor was number one, and everything else was a sometime later this year goal. As I moved back into my old apartment, I journaled.
I’ve been through this before. You still can continue to live the best you can, while it does suck. Focus on giving to others and help improve their Tuesday, even though your life isn’t total sunshine. I’m sad we broke up. I really didn’t see it coming like it did. So, now, we move on to the, “What do you want to do?” phase. Literally, everything is up in the air!
It's okay to be bummed things don't work out, but still try to bring something positive or beneficial to another in need, even on a cold and icy day weekday on the South Side of Des Moines. Coach Moore would also recommend journaling for 5 minutes when I felt the onset of stress in my retail store when I was feeling mentally overloaded. Journaling on topics like, What about work makes me happy?, What do I do here that I enjoy that makes me feel like I make a difference?, and What alternative attitude could I have toward working here? helped me notice a pattern that my primary source of stress was directly work related and I could do something about it. That was the catalyst, encouraging me to do something more often, say no to things that didn’t allow spending time on my priority.
“Effective priority management is all about making sure that EVERYTHING we DO is in the pursuit of our goals. What things do you need to start saying ‘no’ to to ensure you spend your time doing the things that bring the most value to your work life balance?” —Coach Moore
Journaling Exercises to Process Content
As I started documenting on my calendar when I was journaling, my goal was to look back on the year and say, I did X activity this many days, and this is the response or result I got, this is how I feel about it. Reading books like Awaken the Giant Within, by Tony Robbins, brought other areas I could journal about to a deeper level. I started looking at my values and defined what success looked like for me, combining reading and journaling as a part of an improvement process. If you don’t know what success looks like, how will you know you’re making progress? Then I answered the question: What does it take for you to feel successful?
I took baby steps building toward this habit. One hundred and forty-one, according to my N.E.T. Action Plan for Productivity. Knowing how many days I journaled, I see the change I wanted to happen. Once in a routine, I believed that becoming comfortable with the process would lead to journal more frequently. Now it’s an everyday process consistently for me. Whenever I feel any stress, anxiety, or have a decision coming up, I prioritize journaling and writing down what my issues are and what the topic is I’m trying to figure out. This way, I can better stay on point, list the facts I have, and cover from other perspectives.
Being able to look at journaling as information gathering has helped this process to direct my actions. Being purposeful and meaningful with my efforts is very important to me, and journaling has been a considerable asset since my divorce, helping me clarify the foundation on where I stand by being honest about what’s important to me and how I feel about it. It’s okay to say I’m frustrated. It happens. It’s not a sign of weakness, but a sign you’re human. Just acknowledge it andbe willing to work through it. It may bring up some short- term discomfort, but eventually, you’ll be able to see a line of consistency in the direction that’s most meaningful to you and your journey.
How journaling is helping me
Journaling is an avenue to express emotions and get the weight of the world off my shoulders. By exploring my feelings and putting them on paper, I’m able to look back and see how angry I’ve been and that I’ve been able to work through many topics.
Since deciding that journaling would be part of my self- improvement process, it has become a way of having an open and honest conversation about where I am, what I want, and how I feel about it. When I evaluate my actions to see if I’m not giving my attention and full effort to what’s in line with my values, it’s a cue to figure out why I’m not doing what I said I would do. From there, I can reflect, asking questions like:
Why would this be true?
How could this actually happen?
Is it likely to?
I’m beginning a more in-depth conversation with myself to stay in line with my values now that I’ve uncovered how Iwas getting distracted by fear. In the open, I can work to understand where this has come from and how it’s directly impacted relationships. It’s an exciting time for me because this is where change happens. Asking myself what I’m afraid of and listing everything that comes to mind, I’m learning that when you acknowledge fear you can take away its power. It might not be easy, but it’s emotionally necessary. To be the change I want to see in the world, this is a great place to begin.