Morning Routine, Productivity, Weekends

Journaling Fails and my Highlight Journal system!

Good Saturday morning. 

It was nice to sleep in a little bit today. I still generally like getting up early on the weekends, but it depends what time I get to bed if I set an alarm or not. Last night I decided not to set one. I was awake in the night too for a little while..I had one of those moments where I woke up and was lying in bed half asleep but definitely half awake. I didn’t know what time it was but I could tell it was still dark. I did the thing where you lay there sort of trying to guess what time it is without looking at the clock. I couldn’t hear any birds chirping yet, so I was pretty sure it wasn’t in the 5:00 hour yet. Everything seemed very quiet. I finally guessed somewhere around 3:30 and then sat up to look at my clock. It was 3:33. Whoa. Haha. I swear, if I wake up at night it is always around 3:30. It kind of freaks me out sometimes, like I have some weird relationship with the number 3. Fortunately I did fall back to sleep before too long this time! 

I kicked off the weekend last night by sitting in this chair in the sun for 30 minutes reading while the boys and Ivan did a “swim team dryland challenge”. Asher had to bike 5 miles and then run 1 mile. I volunteered to be the um, timer. 🙂 
No big weekend plans around our household. I don’t even think we need more groceries yet since Ivan went during the week one evening. The kids are currently playing video games and will probably be content to do that for as long as I will let them. It’s kind of a cloudy, dreary day today so I’m sort of okay with just laying low I guess. I’ll probably just try to get some household project stuff done maybe. The kids should clean the bathrooms today- they usually each clean a bathroom (one does the upstairs/main bath which the boys mostly use and the other cleans our downstairs/ rec room bathroom) on the weekends but I think they skipped it last week. I’ve been having them help with a bigger chore each day during the week which has been nice (for me). Yesterday they cleaned out the van really well (it had been a while; we aren’t obviously driving much at ALL right now, but there was crud in there from back in pre-pandemic days!). They scrubbed down the dashboard and cup holders and vacuumed it all out. I love delegating that chore to them! Asher and I also need to clean out Rainbow’s tank today too (Rainbow is Asher’s beautiful Beta fish). 

My Repeated Journaling FAILURES and eventual SUCCESS with my Highlight Journal system:

I have been wanting to share some details about a new journaling system I have been using this year that I’m really enjoying and since I have some extra time this morning, I think today will be that day.  

For some background, I have always been intrigued by the idea of journaling. When the kids were little, I had notebooks that I would start using to record daily events and cute things to remember about the stage of life they were in. 

The entries went something like this: “February 3, 2010”, “February 4, 2010”, “February 5, 2010”, “August 29, 2011”, “September 5, 2012”. 

HA! I would literally write stuff down for like 2-3 days, and then totally fall off the wagon and abandon it. In more recent years, I have been wanting to journal again, more just for me. I thought it would be fun to have a place to record daily thoughts and happenings to keep to look back on. I ended up getting a Penzu journal account (website is here) which is a password protected, online journal. It’s free (though they have paid premium options) and also has a phone app, so I could theoretically access it to read or write from my phone too. 

I started using it sporadically, but the same thing happened. I would log in, write a long entry about my life, maybe repeat for a couple days and then again, totally abandon it. I was getting really frustrated! I loved the IDEA of journaling but it didn’t seem to work for me. I guess I just wasn’t prioritizing it. Writing long entries in a beautiful paper journal sounded appealing too, but seemed to take forever. And it made my hand hurt. 

Anyway, I did some thinking about it and came to the conclusion that part of the issue was that I just didn’t always feel like going through a big production to journal. If it was going to take me 20+ minutes to do, I wouldn’t do it consistently. I also felt like I was starting to use the journal as a place to….complain. I wrote long, full sentences exploring my thoughts and feelings on recent events or issues with the kids. 

I realized that what I really wanted out of a journal was a place to write things down that I wanted to remember. I wanted a place to essentially track my life and my days. As life has gotten busier and busier, I have found that I just can’t even remember what I did many days looking back on them!

I eventually decided to try something new. I began on January 1st this year, 2020. I have a big notebook that I use to keep all sorts of life planning things in. It’s a grid paper notebook and the paper feels really nice to write on. The front consists of lots of lists, goals, and my habit trackers that I make for each month. (Eventually I’ll probably share more about what else is in this notebook).

This is it! A good old Five Star grid paper notebook from Target. 

But I decided to use the back half as a very brief journal. I started calling it my “highlight journal”. I divided the pages into thirds, allowing approximately 13 small grid lines for each day. I literally just do this by hand- this is nothing fancy. I decided that each morning while I have my first cup of tea, I would take no more than 5 minutes to jot down everything I did the day before. 

The key here is to jot it down in short hand form. No full sentences are necessary- think short and brief! I really just sit and think back on the previous day and make quick notes about everything that I did, starting with when I woke up. It is mostly straight forward, factual type stuff (Ex. Dropped boys at school. Stopped at Walgreens to pick up Ibuprofen. Home to work, made eggs quick for breakfast.) I just go through my day, hitting all of the “high points” that I can remember. 
I also will add in brief emotional comments too sometimes, depending, that add just enough “experience” to it. (Ex. “Went for a walk with boys around the block after school. Windy out and cold!” or “Watched the Packer playoff game- they won! We had nachos” or “Went to P90X class at gym. OMG was so hard today, I hate burpees” or “Read A Wrinkle in Time with boys before bed. Both really engaged in the book and talkative about it. So cute”). 

I also record what workout I did that day and if I went for a walk outside or anything on the very top line, just because. 

I have seriously been LOVING this system!!!!!!! I cannot say it enough. I have been 100% consistent with it since January 1st, which is basically a world record for me. It is just enough to document the moments without being overwhelming in the slightest. It is fun to just page back through and read my notes, and I have used it to check on things I can’t remember… like, gosh, what DID we do last Saturday??? Then I can check and say, oh, that’s right! We went birthday gift shopping for my niece or whatever. 

My biggest regret now is that I didn’t start this the day I had Ethan! I would LOVE to have years of these notebooks. It doesn’t take up much space, since I pre-limit the writing to take up no more than 13 lines. It’s just enough to jot down what happened, but a small enough space that rambling on is not permitted. 

Here is an actual recent entry of a pretty average, boring Friday, so you can see an example. This isn’t the most thrilling entry but didn’t include anything too private or embarrassing so it was good to share 😉 

If anyone has little kids at home, I would highly recommend giving this a try! It’s quick, easy and very satisfying and I think it would be soooo fun to look back on years later. I really look forward to writing my quick entry in the morning. 
In closing….

 A common complaint that I have read in many time management books is that people in general often feel as though they don’t have enough “time” to do fun things. Or they feel like they spend “all” their time working, or “all” their time cleaning, or taking care of kids, or whatever, when  this really isn’t likely the case. Many time management gurus (especially Laura Vanderkam, who is an author/speaker/blogger/ podcaster/ time management expert- I’m a huge fan of hers) recommend tracking your time in 30 minute blocks temporarily to help see where your time REALLY goes if you feel you are lacking in time. 

I have tried this repeatedly over the years and find it hard to actually do throughout the day, despite many different systems available. It is very enlightening and eye-opening, however, and can help you to see big under-utilized chunks of time in your day or big wasted chunks in your day. It’s especially useful to see just how much time you actually spend doing certain tasks that you may be under or over estimating. You might think, Ugh, I spent the entire day cleaning today!! But your time log might *actually* reveal that you really only spent about 30 minutes cleaning up after breakfast, 30 minutes mopping the floor in the afternoon and another 15 minutes straightening up before bed. 

My highlight journal system has come to serve as sort of a compromise for me between actual time tracking and journaling. On weeks that I feel extra busy and I feel that I spent “ALL WEEK” either working or driving the kids places, I can scan back over my brief entries and realize that I actually also went out for dinner with my husband, took a bath Friday night, exercised 4 times, read a book during swim practice and cooked 2 meals at home! Or whatever happened that week. I find it really helps to provide some perspective. Or, I can see… wow, I wasted 3 hours on Saturday morning puttering around in the kitchen and looking at articles on Facebook on my phone instead of cleaning out the garage like I intended to. 

Give it a try if you don’t have a journaling system you enjoy! I have been extremely happy with it. Of course, there are benefits to writing longer, detailed posts about your feelings too, if that need should arise. I do still have my Penzu online journal and occasionally do still open that up if I feel like venting about something. But for daily use, my little highlight journal has done the trick! 

Do you keep a journal? What system has worked for you?? I’m very curious what others do! 

Daily Gratitude:
I am grateful for the PJ pants I am wearing right now! I got some new Eddie Bauer plaid PJs pants this past winter and I just really like them. They came in “tall” sizes, which I need and can be hard to find. They are super comfy and just the right weight that they are soft and thin enough to be very flexible while still keeping me cozy. These are the ones I got (in Avocado color), though I think they are on clearance at this point in the season: Eddie Bauer PJ Pants

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