Journal to Manifest Your Goals, with Sara Caputo

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Journaling is well-recognized as an effective mindfulness tool, but did you know it can also help us to set and achieve major goals? Sara Caputo joined us on the podcast to show us how.  

Sara is the founder of Sara Caputo Consulting–a coaching, consulting and training business based in Santa Barbara, California, and she is the author of The Productivity Puzzle: What’s Your Missing Piece? Part workflow analyst, part stress-relief therapist, and 100 percent to-do list ninja, her approach is simple—to help  individuals, teams, and small businesses find strategies and solutions that work specifically for their brains, their goals, and their lives.

To learn more about Sara’s work, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

Sara began journaling as a child. As she grew older, she noticed the goals and intentions she wrote about were becoming actualized, and she recognized the connection. Journaling helps us to manifest our goals. Convinced by her personal experiences, today, Sara counsels others to manifest their own objectives through journal writing.

Writing down our goals, Sara explains, frees us up so we can back away and see the idea from a variety of vantage points. In turn, this lets us respond with optimal effectiveness and awareness.

Journal to Sharpen Your Focus

As a coach, Sara encourages clients to be highly specific when writing down goals. “The more clear our words can be, the more likely it is things will unfold as we’d like them to.”

The science substantiates Sara’s experiences. The power of writing down an action plan, she explains, helps make a connection from the hand to the brain. The physical act of writing down our goals turns on the reticular formation system which is a network of pathways that connect the spinal cord, cerebrum, and cerebellum, and in turn impact our consciousness.

Sara describes one study to demonstrate the power of the reticular formation system. Participants were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to write down all of the items from their grocery list. The second group wrote down nothing. Even without the lists in hand, people in the first group could recall which items they needed with greater ease than those in group B who’d written nothing down. Sara connects the dots and explains. Our brain starts working on our goals the moment our pen hits the paper.

Sara’s Suggestions

Sara shares tips to maximize mindful efficiency.

  • Write a to-do list right before bed to help the reticular formation system sort out the details as you sleep.
  • Don’t always tackle the most urgent seeming item on your to-do list. Be strategic about what you let your brain know is important; otherwise we will always take the quick win and never accomplish the important long term goals that matter most.
  • Keep your journals. Old journals are reminders of the power of writing down goals.

MJR: Give it a Try!

Sara describes the approach she takes to begin each new day. MJR, as she refers to it, is a plan Sara developed that involves meditation, journaling, and reading every morning.  

  • Meditation. Sara uses an App, Insight Timer, which provides free guided meditations. For 3-5 minutes each morning she focuses on deep breaths and on setting her intentions.
  • Journal. Sara strives to fill a page of her journal every morning. At this moment she notes the things she’s grateful for, writes about actions she’d like to manifest, and explores and releases worries.  
  • Read. Sara has a quote book she reads from to glean inspiration and perspective. She reads other non-fiction during this time as well because it’s the moment in her day when she’s best able to focus her attention.

Sara emphasizes the importance of establishing healthy habits. Practices like her MJR approach are only likely to happen if they become implemented as a regular part of one’s day. Sara finds it helpful to engage with her routine before her family wakes in the morning. Find the time that works for you, and then stick with it, she suggests.

Journal your Biggest, Boldest Intentions

When we journal about big ideas, we grow more comfortable with them and develop the confidence we need to carry out the plan. Journaling, Sara shows, is the important pre-work that needs to be done in order to actualize our boldest dreams of all.

Your Action Plan

If you found this conversation helpful, you might also enjoy our conversation with Dr. Dan Seigel in which we discuss journaling’s positive effects on the brain.

Walking and Writing Among the Trees, with Jackee Holder

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Over time, social media shapes the ways we think about issues and impacts how we perceive who we are. Today’s guest, author Jackee Holder, shows how journaling, walking, and time spent in nature help counter this imbalance by revealing and reflecting genuine thoughts and beliefs. These practices, Jackee observes, help us evolve into the most authentic version of our selves.

To learn more, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.


Walking and Writing Among the Trees, with Jackee Holder


Jackee is passionate about walking, trees, writing, and journaling. Author of four non-fiction titles as well as a host of e-books and the curator of over one hundred journals, she has a committed and ongoing practice of pen to paper and feet to the ground. Jackee holds a Master’s degree in creative writing and personal development from Sussex University in the UK and a Postgraduate Diploma in Psychosynthesis Counseling. Through both personal and professional experience, she has benefited from the healing and therapeutic properties of her weekly urban city walks and thirty-year practice of journaling.

An Introduction to Psychosynthesis

When we talk about Jackee’s experience in the field of psychosynthesis, her enthusiasm shines. Boiled down to simplest terms, she describes psychosynthesis as a spiritual approach to psychotherapy developed by Italian psychiatrist, Roberto Assagioli. This approach aims to develop the whole Self, with a capital “S,” which Jackee explains is different from our day-to day self. In this context, Self describes the part of us that often emerges during difficult times to rise above challenges and to walk the path we’re meant to travel on. Self is the essence of our authentic selves.

Journal to Connect with Your Self

Jackee describes herself as a prolific journaler and remembers how writing down thoughts and feelings was especially important when she became a new mother. After her baby was born, Jackee noticed the ways her journal writing grew more intentional and focused. The pages of her journal provided precious space to write about all she was grappling with during this significant new season of life. Through journaling, Jackee crafted a narrative that helped her to realize who she was becoming and where she wanted to go next.

Journaling helps us get closer to our Self by cultivating:

  • self-discipline
  • self-management
  • and connection with our own ideas and beliefs.

Jackee’s Journaling Tips and Techniques

Jackee’s journals aren’t limited to text. Lists, doodles, and ideas framed in shapes converge to represent a landscape of her ideas.

To overcome fear of the blank page and to keep your pen moving, Jackee recommends:

  • Jot down a single word or simple sentence that feels meaningful.  Let this be enough when you are beginning.
  • Write down observations. Note your response to what’s happening around and inside of you.
  • Use journal prompts. This practice can help ease anxiety that may surface when faced with the blank page.
  •  Write as fast as you can. Outrun your inner critic, and disregard concerns about grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. The point is to get your thoughts down onto paper.
  • Make a list. Sometimes this will feel more manageable than writing a complete narrative. If you like, you can return to the list later on to further flesh out ideas there.
  •  Draw and doodle. Try anything that allows you to engage with that blank page.

Walk to Connect with Your Self

Walking daily supports Jackee’s writing life. Once she begins her exercise routine, ideas begin to fill her mind. When she’s finished walking, Jackee heads straight to the café, pulls out her journal, and pours those ideas onto the page.

Much research has been done that proves the impact walking has on the reduction of:

  • anxiety and depression
  • high blood pressure
  • cardiovascular disease
  •  type 2 diabetes
  •  unhealthy cholesterol levels
  • premature deaths

Spend Time in Nature to Connect with Your Self

Nature is restorative and healing and also supports Jackee’s writing practice. It’s among the trees that many people find it easiest to connect with their authentic Self.

Jackee cites a fascinating study in which hospital patients recovering from surgery were divided into two groups. Half of the patients stayed in rooms with windows that provided a clear view of trees. The other half of the patients had windows as well but did not have a view of trees. Patients with a view of nature required less pain medication and were able to return home earlier. A number of similarly designed studies have reported the same findings. Clearly there is power among the trees!

Jackee’s Action Steps to Help You Connect with Your Self

  • Gather a lightweight notebook that’s comfortable to carry.
  • Take a walk that leads to a green space.
  • Locate a comfortable tree you can be near.
  • Journal for seven minutes about everything you see and feel inside of that green space.
  • Keep your pen moving.
  • If words don’t accurately express what your’re feeling, draw what you see and feel instead.

Final Thoughts

When asked to leave us with final thoughts, Jackee chose to quote author Julia Cameron.  

“I’m a better and more honest woman for having taken to the page today and admitted my locked away feelings of the years. I am larger and better and softer and kinder and more open than  I was resisting knowing what I knew.”

If you enjoyed this conversation with Jackee, we think you’ll find our talk with psychotherapist and founder of the Center for Journal Therapy, Kathleen Adams worth a listen. Journal Therapy: An Innovative Tool for Self-Discovery.

Experience the Magic of Vision Boards, with Dr. Lori Ann Roth

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Vision boarding is a perfect companion activity to traditional forms of journaling. We had to the pleasure to speak with Dr. Lori Ann Roth who shares how vision boarding can help you grow comfortable with new ideas, enhance awareness of potential opportunities, and crystallize a dynamic new action plan. She also shares ideas to help you start your own vision board today.

Lori Ann is a life-long learner with over 35 years of experience helping individuals be their best. She is the president of “Learning and…Reflective Growth,” a company that specializes in training and coaching, and she is the author of The Journal Book: Your Journaling Journey.

To learn how you might incorporate vision boarding into your own journaling practice, listen to our interview, or read below to see highlights from our talk.

What Is a Vision Board and What Do I Do With It?

A vision board is a collage designed to be a source of inspiration. It usually features images, quotations, and stand-alone-words that represent the maker’s goals and desires.

An office wall can be the perfect place to hang your vision board. Let it motivate and influence your actions as you go about your day. At her former workplace, Lori Ann managed a team of employees, and they crafted boards together and hung them in a common space where they would see them each day. Alternatively, if your vision board is for your eyes only, hang it inside of a bedroom closet door to ensure that it inspires you every day!

Resource Ideas

Just like traditional forms of journaling, vision boarding does not require fancy materials. In fact, you probably already have all the materials you’ll need.  

  • Hang on to old magazines. Get out your scissors and enjoy some old-fashioned fun! Clip images that represent your juiciest goals and intentions. Look for quotations and words that inspire, and glue them onto your board.
  • Google it! Search online for specific images you desire, and print them in color on quality photo paper.
  • Grab a dictionary and thesaurus. Choosing just the right words to paste onto your board takes time and patience, but the results are worth it.

Make Your Own Vision Board

Lori Ann shares tips and techniques to help you begin visualizing your wildest dreams!

  • Set a goal. Lori Ann believes that the secret to creating a successful vision board lies in the preparation done beforehand. She encourages people to identify goals and desires in clear, comprehensible terms before moving forward. This first step, she explains, is an opportunity for deep self-reflection. This is the time to explore values and wishes and to envision the future you’re working toward.
  • Make time to visualize the life that you want. Many people create a new vision board once each year. For some, the start of the new year seems most fitting, while others mark birthdays, anniversaries, or the beginning of a new school year by making a vision board. Choose what works best for you. There’s no wrong way to do this.
  • Write it all down first. It can be a challenge to identify or pinpoint specific goals, but journaling first can help.
  • Gather and glue. Collect the images you’ll use for your board and start pasting!

What the Research Teaches  

Citing the work of Australian psychologist Alan Richardson, Lori Ann points to a study involving three groups of basketball players. The first group of players repeatedly practiced shooting hoops together. The second group did not practice; instead they visualized shooting hoops successfully. The third group did not practice or visualize throwing basketballs. Predictably, the players in the third group did not improve their skills. The players who improved most were those that practiced shooting hoops. Interestingly, those in group two who only visualized their improvement did nearly as well as the players who had practiced playing ball.

The research findings grow more interesting with a second study Lori Ann mentions involving players who combined visualization with practice. Overall, these individuals experienced the best outcomes.

From this study and others like it, Lori Ann concludes that it’s the combination of visualization and action that bring our goals to fruition.

As we continued to talk, Lori Ann shared the deep impact vision boarding has had on her personal life. After being single for 15 years, she recognized it was time for a new relationship. Lori Ann began to visualize the relationship she desired. Combing through a magazine, she even found a picture of a man who radiated qualities she was drawn to. She vision boarded this image along with other photos and quotations that evoked fun and romance. To accompany her vision board, Lori Ann wrote two typewritten pages to express her feelings and desires in words. Along with visualizing a relationship, she took action steps by going on dating sites and putting herself out there among good people she could connect with. It was through this process that Lori Ann met her husband to whom she’s been married for 2 ½ years!

Lori Ann left us with a few words of advice. A wonderful aspect of journaling is that there are so many approaches and all of them are right. Lori Ann assures us that vision boarding works similarly. Some of the people she works with take a linear approach to vision boarding. They might make boards with goals for the next six months, year, or even five years ahead. Others find this format too restrictive and choose a looser, less linear method that does not involve timelines.

Choose the method that resonate for you. The important thing is to be open to the messages your board reveals and to take the steps that turn vision into action.

Your Action Plan

  • Connect with Lori Ann on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Also visit her website.
  • Read Lori Ann’s new book, The Journal Book: Your Journaling Journey.
  • Listen our conversation on The Power of Journaling podcast.
  • Start work on your own vision board today!

If you enjoyed our conversation with Lori Ann, you might enjoy our article “Walk the Five Paths of Journaling.”

Journaling.com’s Top 10 Productivity Journals and Tools

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Organize Your Day Around Actions That Matter

Put yourself in the driver’s seat with Journaling.com’s Top Ten Productivity Journals. Instead of living life in reactive-mode, robotically responding to texts and to-do lists, live your life in proactive mode. Organize your day around actions that matter.

Journaling.com wants to make this easy for you. We’ve dug deep, done all of the research, and unearthed ten productivity journals to help ensure that the work and activities you spend time on bring joy and value to each day.

A special thanks to Kathleen Adams with the Therapeutic Writing Institute (TWI) for sponsoring this list. TWI is a dynamic distance-learning training institute for facilitators of therapeutic writing.  To learn more about Kathleen’s important work, visit her website.

The Top 10 Journals & Planners for Productivity

1. “The High Performance Planner” by Brendon Burchard

The High Performance Planner opens with the words, “With the right daily mindset, focus, and habits, you can shape an extraordinary quality of life and contribute at world class levels way beyond anyone’s expectations.” The High Performance Planner was created by the world’s leading high performance coach, Brendon Burchard. What we love about this planner is that it provides users with the keys for reaching and sustaining long-term success, while also helping maintain well-being and positive relationships. Highly recommended.

2. “The Morning Sidekick Journal” by Habitnest

Embrace your mornings with positivity and intention. The Morning Sidekick Journal will show you how. This planner demonstrates how productivity and happiness are intertwined and then provides the tools to help achieve both. This journal planner demonstrates how a focus on small life changes can yield big results. The creator of this journal, Habitnest, believes, “If you change today, tomorrow will be different. If you don’t change today, the rest of your life will be self-determined.” Love it.

3. “The Bullet Journal Method” by Ryder Carroll

People around the world are trying out this extraordinary method and loving it. If you have a busy lifestyle, often feel overwhelmed, or are undertaking a big goal or project, bullet journaling will keep you peacefully productive. Bullet Journaling will help you meet deadlines by ensuring that details don’t fall through the cracks. Your confidence will soar as you become the person who does what you say you are going to do. What we like best about this book is Ryder Carroll’s authentic, articulate voice. Along with first-rate tips to help get you started, he shares the reasons he created Bullet Journaling, how it works, and reflects on the system’s benefits. In addition to Ryder’s book, you may also want to listen to Journaling.com’s podcast interview with him.

4. “Happiness Planner”

Happiness Planner is a 100-day planner that helps users develop habits to promote positive thinking, mindfulness, gratitude, and self-development. The Happiness Planner can help you manage schedules and to-do lists, while shining a light on the things that bring joy to the day. We especially like the opening pages of this book which encourage reflection on positive, joy-filled moments in your past, present, and future. 100 days is a perfect length of time to develop a new habit, lifestyle change, or shift in outlook. Be sure to listen to Journaling.com’s podcast interview with the creator of The Happiness Planner, Mo Seetubtim. Available from HappinessPlanner.com

5. “The Desire Map 2019 Weekly Planner” by Danielle LaPorte

Danielle LaPorte’s products encourage users to think about the ways they want to feel when a task on their to-do list is achieved. We love her motto: “Feelings first, then strategy.” The Desire Map Planner is designed to work in conjunction with three workbooks. Workbook one helps put the year in review by asking “What flopped and what soared?” Workbook two helps identify “Core Desired Feelings” to help guide you through the year. Workbook three helps transform those feelings into concrete goals. When the workbooks are completed and goals and feelings have been identified, you’ll have a plan you can implement to actualize your goals. Used together, these workbooks and planner constitute a powerful system.

6. “The SELF Journal” by Best Self Co.

“Win the day on every page.” Over 200,000 of these journals have been sold worldwide, making BestSelf the worldwide leader in planners for productivity and self-development. We like this journal planner because it comes with videos and pdf downloads to help you make the most of every day. We also like the “freedom pages” at the back of Self Journal – blank pages for you to brainstorm and sketch ideas. This is a powerful system that can help you plan goals, take consistent action, and celebrate wins with gratitude.

7. “Law of Attraction”

The creator of this 30-day guided journal wants this resource to help you experience “the magnetic force that brings into our lives what we focus on most.” Filled with original prompts, Law of Attraction inspires deep reflection with questions like, What does it mean to you to be successful? What would you like to attract into your life right now? What does it mean to be healthy? We think you’ll love this beautiful, hardback journal.

8. “Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act” by Carolyn Koehnline

Though not strictly a planner or a journal, we’ve included this resource because we know that clearing clutter is integral in making emotional and physical space for writing and reflection. With compassion and kindness, this book inspires readers to engage in the act of decluttering as a transformative, sacred experience. The author is a journaling expert who provides mindfulness techniques that help declutter our physical space, calendars, thoughts, and emotions. Highly recommended. You can listen to Journaling.com’s podcast interview with Carolyn Koehnline.

9. “Purpose Journal”

From the makers of Happiness Planner comes Purpose, ahardback journal that walks users, page by page, through a process of discovery and actualization. Purpose Journal helps you figure out your life’s calling, while inspiring you to live a life of purpose every single day.

10. “The Productivity Planner” by Intelligent Change

The Productivity Planner was brought to our attention by a former guest, Kathleen Adams.  Based on the Pomodoro Technique, this planner helps users focus on a maximum of three to five tasks a day. Emphasis is placed on doing the most important task first and then working through the list one job at a time. This method is used by some of the world’s most productive people. We like this planner for its ability to help us focus on what’s important and for its straightforward approach.

Journal to Increase Your Productivity and Creativity, with Shelby Abrahamsen

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We recently enjoyed a conversation with Shelby Abrahamsen, founder of the life style blog, Little Coffee Fox. Shelby is a young entrepreneur with a talent for art and for inspiring others. We talked recently about the ways journaling has helped her find her way in the world, create a meaningful career, and increase productivity. It’s a joy to welcome Shelby to Journaling.com 

Shelby is a 20-something who has always struggled with productivity. After years of struggling with goal setting, time management, and productivity, she finally sought out a solution. She figured out a way to use her own creativity and hobbies to whip her life into shape with the help of a bullet journal, and it completely changed her life. Now, she’s a full-time lifestyle blogger who focuses on helping others manage their time, explore their passions, and build the lives they want to lead.

To listen to the audio podcast, click on the play button below. And continue reading to discover the highlights from that interview.

Shelby began blogging after college. When she started, she never dreamed she’d turn this pastime into a career, but today she works full time, along with her husband, creating content for her dynamic website, Little Coffee Fox.

Writing about a wide range of subjects, Shelby especially enjoys sharing new approaches to organization and regularly offers readers ideas to help them set and achieve their goals.

At the moment, Shelby describes herself as being in a highly creative space. She is passionate about water coloring and brush lettering, which she writes about on her blog. She adds, “I have time to do these fun things because of the organization I did back in January.”

Growth, not perfection, is the goal.

Shelby Abrahamsen

To help get organized and to keep herself on track, Shelby’s preferred method of choice is bullet journaling.

After graduation from college, bullet journaling helped Shelby navigate challenging new waters. “Bullet journaling was like a life boat for me. When I got out of college I didn’t know what to do with myself. I was floating with no direction or ambition.” Shelby found herself in professional limbo as she waited for her husband to finish law school. “I was struggling and couldn’t ignite the passion to do the things I loved.”

Always drawn to paper, pens, paints, and highlighters, Shelby began to experiment with these tools. Along the way, she discovered bullet journaling. This popular method helped Shelby organize her time and her thoughts while it also provided her with an outlet for creativity.

Through this process Shelby learned that planning and establishing goals didn’t have to be an arduous chore. In fact, she found these acts were engaging and exciting. A single positive journaling experience led to another and another which helped Shelby build better habits and ultimately, she tells us, become a better version of herself.

Shelby often hears from readers who struggle to organize their lives doing the “digital thing.”  This makes sense to her. While Shelby acknowledges that digital tracking systems are fine task management tools for many, she says it’s not a method that works for everyone. Shelby cites the research that shows people retain more information when they engage with the physical act of writing words down. For this reason, journaling is a regularly scheduled part of her self-care routine and a practice she encourages her readers to cultivate.

Shelby is passionate about the use of  Morning Pages, a method developed and described in Julia Cameron’s ground breaking book, “The Artist’s Way.’ Cameron’s method has the journaler wake up in the morning and  immediately write, by hand, three pages of  unedited stream of consciousness. Shelby appreciates Cameron’s emphasis on removing anxiety and self-censorship from the process and finds the fact that these pages are completely private and quite liberating. “Morning Pages have played a huge role in my growth,” Shelby told us. “I discovered Morning Pages at the same time as bullet journaling. I’ve tried a lot of different things, but these were the methods that stuck.”

Shelby enjoys experimenting with materials and this shows in the colorful, creative results of her work. For journaling, her favorite notebook is the Leuchtturm1917

“This one is handy when it comes to bullet journaling because it has page numbers which help you keep perspective on where you are at.  I’ve tried others, but this is the one I use again and again.”

Along with helping Shelby organize ideas and grow her productivity, bullet journaling reconnected her with her love of art and proclivity toward creativity. “I had a revelation around the time I discovered journaling. I realized it’s not about whether you make money, it’s about how the work you do makes you feel.”

Partly through journaling, Shelby recognized that although the artist’s life is filled with challenges, it’s what fulfills her, and she became determined to organize her days in order to prioritize her craft.

Shelby ended our discussion with wise words of advice. “Don’t aim for perfection. Create something and then move on.”

When people strive for perfection, she notices they get overwhelmed and eventually stuck.  Shelby describes how this tendency has even shown up in the ways people bullet journal. “Many people have written to me to tell me they are terrified of ruining their journals, and so they never start.” Shelby inspires people to shift their perspective on perfection. “Growth, not perfection, is the goal,” she reminds us. 

Your Action Plan

Ideas and Insights from the Creator of the Bullet Journal, with Ryder Carroll

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Ryder Carroll’s bestselling book The Bullet Journal Method: Track the Past, Order the Present, Design the Future has transformed the journaling landscape. Ryder’s innovative approach to productivity and mindfulness, through a method he calls Bullet Journaling, has contributed significantly to the rising number of people journaling today. He’s been featured by the New York Times, LA Times, Fast Company, The Wall Street Journal, BBC, Vogue, Bloomberg, and others. If you aren’t already familiar with Ryder’s groundbreaking work, you are in for a treat. It is a huge pleasure to welcome this visionary thinker to Journaling.com.

You can listen to his interview by pressing the play button below, or continue on to read the highlights of our conversation.

The Early Beginning

Ryder describes Bullet Journaling as “a mindfulness practice disguised as a productivity system.” Interestingly, when Ryder set out to develop this system, mindfulness was not foremost on his mind. Growing up with a diagnosis of ADD, Ryder often struggled to keep up with peers. This challenge eventually inspired him to design a productivity system to assist with becoming more efficient and better organized.

The methods Ryder developed helped him attain his professional goals. But despite numerous work-place achievements, Ryder recognized his accomplishments weren’t yielding personal fulfillment. “I realized a lot of my goals were appropriated from the world around me—namely peers and media. I never asked myself what I wanted or what was important in my life.”

A New Direction

Ryder returned to the productivity tools he’d developed and began to use them for inward self-reflection. Bullet Journaling, he discovered, not only helped increase productivity, it also provided a foundation for rigorous self-examination. And that, he tells me, is when things got interesting!

The words we write down are experiences waiting to be born.

Ryder Carroll

A New Approach to Task Lists

Ryder observes, “We live in a time when productivity is worshipped.” Indeed, we oftentimes equate a mile-long to-do list with our level of significance in the universe.

As our to-do lists grow, so too does our anxiety. This insight led Ryder to ask, what if the task- list were to become part of an “existential” exploration that assesses the quality of experiences that fill our days?

Today Ryder helps others contemplate their task lists in order to maximize their time spent tending to activities that provide fulfillment and meaning. He explains to his readers, “I can’t tell you what will make your life better, but from my own experiences, I can share ways of thinking that may help you find those answers for yourself.”

Shift Your Perspective

Ryder’s message to journalers is an uplifting one. “The words we write down are experiences waiting to be born not just a list of stuff we have to do. Our task lists are a preview to the life we are building.”

When we think of to-do lists in this new light, it helps us to:

  • ask why we do the tasks we do each day. In turn, we become more selective in choosing which tasks we can commit to.
  • clarify what’s important in our lives on an ongoing, regular basis so that we focus on tasks that have the greatest meaning and value in our lives.
  • reengage with the content we write down in meaningful, deeper ways.

Ryder’s Tips for Reengaging with Content

Your journal is a treasure chest filled with nuggets of wisdom and insight. Reengaging with your journal’s content on a regular basis helps you assimilate deeper understanding.

  1. Keep your journal nearby:  Throughout the day, jot down tasks, ideas, and questions to pursue later on. These notes can be brief. The goal is simply to capture these thoughts on paper in order to preserve them and to free up your mind for other thoughts.
  2. Daily Reflection:  Before bed, review the content you’ve written down that day. Use this moment to observe and clarify how the day’s tasks moved (or didn’t move) your life in a meaningful and desirable direction.
  3. Monthly Migration: Once a month, review the previous week’s journal entries. After some contemplation, rewrite only those words that still have value and purpose in your life. Vital tasks and thoughts will migrate with you into the next month. Leave unnecessary obligations and distractions behind by omitting them from this migration process.

Evaluate Your Task List

We are a culture on auto pilot trying to accomplish an infinite list of tasks. Streamlining task lists so they are an approximation of the life we want to cultivate is vital. To help with this process, Ryder recommends considering these questions:

  • How do the tasks on your list make you feel?
  • Which of these responsibilities do you want more or less of in your life?
  • Of the tasks you completed today, which ones were essential? Which provided you with fulfillment, pleasure, and meaning?
  • What would have happened if one of the tasks on your list was not completed?
  • Which of the items on your list could be eliminated without any negative consequences?

Put your To-Do List into Context

Whether or not an act is vital is sometimes unclear. To help untangle this ambiguity, Ryder uses the example of washing dishes. Theoretically, this task is not vital. Nothing catastrophic will happen if you never wash a dish again. You could simply use paper plates or eat all of your meals in restaurants. But context, Ryder explains, is what matters here. If you live with someone you care about who cooks dinner every evening, in this context, washing dishes is vital because it’s a way for you to reciprocate that person’s act of kindness.  

Seeing a task in its own unique context, Ryder points out, infuses even our most base chores with new meaning.

Why It Matters

In the midst of crisis, people are often compelled to face life’s “big questions.” They ask themselves what in my life matters most to me? What are my regrets? Who do I love, and have I adequately cared for these people? Have my actions made a difference in the world?

Instead of waiting for a moment of crisis to contemplate these issues, checking in regularly, asking these questions frequently, alleviates pressure and makes these inquiries less daunting.

It Doesn’t Have to Be Fancy

We see them on Instagram and YouTube all the time—those gorgeous Bullet Journals that make us swoon. Elaborate interpretations of the bullet journaling method are great fun to look at and can be a tremendous source of inspiration. But Ryder wants to be sure users remember that Bullet Journaling is based on particular methods that do not rely on looking a specific way. “Bullet Journaling is a paper mirror there to reflect your choices, responsibilities, and the things that matter back at you.” How this paper mirror looks is not an important part of its functionality, Ryder reminds us. Instead, he insists, your Bullet Journal should look however you need it to. Every life has unique requirements and so a journal should be customized for the individual it serves.

Your Action Plan

Start your own bullet journal with help from the official Bullet Journal notebook which was designed by Ryder to support your individualized needs.

  • Listen to our entire conversation on our podcast, The Power of Journaling.
  • Make space in your writing life to integrate Daily Reflections and Monthly Migrations.

In talking with Ryder, it became clear that a productivity system is only as effective as the level of mindfulness it inspires. How does mindfulness inform your own productivity? We’d love to hear all about it. Reach out to us on Facebook.

Six Ways to Keep Journal Writing Fresh, with Lynda Monk

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Whether you are new to journal writing or it’s been a part of your life forever, keeping the process fresh is important. Journaling expert Lynda Monk, MSW, RSW, CPCC, is full of ideas to help you engage with your journaling practice in colorful ways. It’s a joy to welcome her to Journaling.com.

Lynda is the Director of the International Association for Journal Writing.  A registered social worker and Certified Professional Life Coach, Lynda specializes in therapeutic journaling for self-care, burnout prevention, wellness, and creative self-expression, and she regularly speaks on the healing and transformational power of life writing. She is the co-author of Writing Alone Together: Journalling in a Circle of Women for Creativity, Compassion and Connection,  as well as co-author of the international bestseller Inspiration for a Woman’s SoulChoosing Happiness.  She is also the author of Life Source Writing: A Reflective Journaling Practice for Self-Discovery, Self-Care, Wellness and Creativity and producer of the Creative Wellness Guided Meditations CD. 

To listen to our podcast interview with Lynda, click on the play button below. Or keep reading to see the written highlights from our talk.

Flexibility is Fundamental

When Lynda talks about her own journaling practice, a spirit of flexibility infuses her approach. As a mother to young teens, her free time is limited, but she says that journaling remains a priority in her life, and she always keeps her journal with her. A commute by ferry gives Lynda a stretch of time to freewrite. Waiting in parking lots for her children to finish afterschool activities, gifts Lynda more opportunities to jot down her thoughts onto paper.

Since time is limited, Lynda’s come to recognize the value in maximizing opportunities to write. This realization led her to a series of techniques to keep her writing practice fresh and inviting. These techniques/tips are gleaned from years of study. Lynda attended a memoir writing residency at Banff School of the Arts, and trained with many of the top leaders in expressive writing and therapeutic writing. These tips are light and easy-to-do, but they are grounded in evidence-based practice and years of education and experience. It’s this experience and knowledge that makes Lynda one of the top experts in the journaling field.

An ongoing journaling practice is like any long term relationship. When you show up to it again and again with enthusiasm and positivity, great things happen.

Lynda Monk

Lynda’s Six Tips to Keep Journaling Fresh

In addition to being trained and educated in this field, Lynda is also a life-long journaler herself.

  1. Clarify your intentions. Lynda recommends regularly checking in with yourself to identify what motivates you to journal. Gaining this insight keeps journaling fresh because it helps you constantly rediscover the “whys” you want answers to.
  2. Cultivate curiosity. Arrive at each writing session with wonder and an eagerness to make new discoveries. Approach your journal with wide-open eyes and engage with questions that have risen to the surface. New questions foster new awareness that we can follow up on with a plan for action.
  3. Honor the questions in your heart.  In life, the big question marks we encounter point us in the directions we most need to contemplate. When we honor this need, we tap into fresh material to help us cultivate inner wisdom.
  4. Affirm the contributions journaling makes to your life. Just like brushing your teeth or taking a shower, journaling may be an essential component of your self-care routine. When we acknowledge the ways journaling makes us a better parent, partner, son or daughter, we don’t have to struggle to justify fitting this mindfulness act into our schedules.
  5. Journal with other people. Writing Alone Together, a book Lynda co-authored with  friends Wendy Cutler and Ahava Shira, was born from their shared experiences in a journaling club. For three years, the trio met monthly to share space and writing. Through that experience, Lynda’s appreciation for the power of storytelling and community was reinforced. Together the friends cultivated a space for active quiet listening.
  6. Journal in a variety of settings. New surroundings provide a fresh outlook and shift in our perspective. There’s no right or wrong location. Visit a park or forest. Sit on the earth or a comfy couch. Write down your thoughts in a coffee shop or from your deck. The ways that we connect with our environment will be reflected in how we engage with our journals.

Other Tips and Techniques

Lynda recommends that we adapt techniques used in other forms of writing.

  • Journal with dialogue. If faced with a difficult choice between two possibilities, give each option a voice. Engage both sides in dialogue on the pages of your journal.
  • Develop characters. If you were to put a face and personality on your anxiety, joy, or grief, what would that look like? Who would that person be?

Lynda notes, “Journaling is an act of storytelling.  Journalers are storytellers who capture moments, insights, and inner workings as each merges onto the pages of their journal.”

Your Action Plan

  • Discover more about Lynda’s work. Visit her online at Creative Wellness –  and learn about the work she does supporting healthcare professionals with Thrive Training and Coaching 
  • Explore IAJW’s website and consider becoming a member of this vibrant community.

Read Lynda’s book Writing Alone Together

  • Listen to our podcast interview with Lynda.
  • Invigorate your writing life. Give Lynda’s six suggestions a try this week.

Lynda wisely equates an ongoing journaling practice with any long term relationship. She reminds us that when we show up to journal again and again with enthusiasm, great things happen. Greeting each writing session with an attitude of positivity keeps our writing fresh and meaningful.

Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act, with Carolyn Koehnline

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Author and certified journal therapist Carolyn Koehnline wrote Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act to help people approach the act of decluttering with mindful intention. Carolyn’s collection of essays, paintings, and poems provide comfort in the midst of decluttering. She’s written a marvelous book, and it was a pleasure to talk with her on our podcast, The Power of Journaling.

Carolyn is a certified journal therapist, licensed psychotherapist, personal coach, and the creator of Gentle Approach Coaching. For twenty-seven years, she’s supported people in clearing clutter from their homes, heads, hearts, and schedules. She is the author of three books: Confronting Your Clutter, a children’s book called The Bear’s Gift, and her newly released book, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act. Carolyn is a faculty member of the Therapeutic Writing Institute and the Journalversity. In addition to her private coaching practice, she offers self-paced solo courses, group online classes, and provides workshops in a wide variety of settings.

To hear our discussion, listen to the podcast below. Or continue reading for highlights of our conversation.

Defining Clutter

Carolyn describes clutter as a subjective term which she defines as any object, emotion, or commitment that drains energy or distracts us from priorities.

Kinds of Clutter

Clutter can appear in a variety of forms which are oftentimes interconnected. Carolyn identifies its most common manifestations as:

  • object clutter
  • head clutter
  • heart clutter
  • calendar clutter

Often, she observes, the old items that wind up in our attics and basements represent decisions we don’t want to make or experience. These objects reflect internal conflict and confusion and can come to symbolize a former profession or relationship or any passage of time being grieved.  

In her work as a decluttering coach, Carolyn finds that turning toward an object with full attention, and taking time for a meaningful goodbye, can help release this kind of emotional clutter.

Make decluttering a transformational act

Carolyn Koehnline

Journaling to Make New Space in Our Lives

Journaling plays a meaningful role in Carolyn’s clutter-clearing practice. To help untangle and resolve conflicted feelings, she recommends writing for 5-10 minute stretches when possible.

To decide whether an item should stay or go, Carolyn suggests reflecting on a few simple questions which can be used as writing prompts.

  • How does this item make me feel?
  • Does this object deplete or boost my energy?
  • How does the stuff I’ve accumulated impact important relationships?

Customize a Plan That Works  

A number of impressive decluttering experts are writing books to spread the message, less really can be more. What stands out in Carolyn’s approach is her emphasis on the idea there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits all approach. Rather, she shares methods and tools to help determine an individualized approach to the decluttering process. “We are all different,” she explains. “The more you tune into your inner voice the better the process with go.”

Decluttering is a Sacred Act

Carolyn inspires us to make the act of decluttering a joyful, sacred process. When we clear out clutter, we make space in our lives for something new. She offers a few simple tips to guide our thinking.

  • Dedicate this process to a meaningful objective such as spending more time with family or pursuing creative endeavors. Infuse the process with meaning.
  • As you work your way through piles, avoid negative thoughts which deplete you.
  • Along the way, energy may slag. Pause. Repeat your intention. Write it down in your journal if you like. Remind yourself that the purpose of this action is to grow spaciousness in your life.

Create a Soul Space

In her book, Carolyn describes the soul space as any place that nurtures curiosity, inspiration, and reflective thinking. Children are master architects of this sort of design—they know the magic of a well-engineered blanket fort or treehouse where possibilities for playful exploration feel infinite. As adults, a decluttered space which reflects who we are and what we care about can serve a similar function. When we establish a sacred space, Carolyn explains, we make room to go to a deeper place in our selves. The voice that emerges will be a voice we can trust.  

Pace Yourself

As we work our way through piles of “stuff” it’s easy to think we should be farther along than we are. Carolyn urges us instead to trust the pace with which we work.

It’s helpful to check in with your journal periodically. Track progress there. Record when you’ll take your next break. Write down small goals that can be checked-off when completed. Use your journal to celebrate decluttering victories—large and small.

Action plan

  • Learn more about Carolyn’s work. Visit her online at Gentle Approach Coaching.
  • For a limited time you can order a signed copy of her new book, Clearing Clutter as a Sacred Act.
  • Create your own soul space, and spend meaningful time there regularly.
  • Write about any object, head, heart, and calendar clutter in your own life and make a plan to tackle these at a comfortable pace.
  • Listen to my interview with Carolyn (above).

In creating spaciousness in our lives, we invite new opportunities and experiences. Be kind and compassionate to yourself as you work your way through this process.

If you enjoyed this interview, you might appreciate listening to Lea Fransisco’s podcast. We discuss how to write your way through challenging life transitions.