I have a love-hate relationship with planners, journals and diaries. I love the thought of notebooks, both empty and fully filled and have a real need to write down things to understand and to remember them and simply to have my thoughts in order. Also, I enjoy using photos and images as visual reminders and find them motivating and inspiring. On the other hand, it’s hard to find a journaling system or method I genuinely want to stick with and I have a history of abandoning most planners and systems I’ve ever tried. Writing anything truly personal is out of question as well and would only make me worry about people not respecting my personal space (posted about all that here).
Just handling any fixed plans is difficult. I’m lucky to have a lot of freedom in my life and I’m grateful for it and feel it’s the biggest luxury in my life. However, I still want to get things done and to achieve my goals and have a feeling of accomplishment and for that reason keep looking for methods and tools to be more effective and then just try to balance between these two sides.
I know tight schedules and stress are things many people have to face at work on daily basis. My husband has a demanding and busy job and I often watch him and wonder how he can still be so calm and not stressed at all. I keep asking him that and these are the answers he usually gives me:
- Having busy days at work is not too stressful as long as there’s still time to do regular exercising (at least 3-4 times a week) because exercising not only relieves stress but also gives energy and strength to work under deadlines and other pressure. Also, eating consciously healthy during work days has a noticeable positive effect because eating too much carbons at lunch or sugary things during meetings makes instantly sleepy. So healthy habits are quite essential! Like we didn’t know that.
- There are limits for how long anyone can work efficiently so there’s no point to continue the work day too long and it’s good for efficiency to focus on something totally else instead. This is generally a very Finnish/Nordic way to think. Many people even with extremely demanding jobs work only 8-9 hours a day and spend evenings with their families to be able to give their best. Of course sometimes there are seasonal or unexpected issues to take care of instantly no matter what time it is.
- Trying to carry the whole world on your shoulders is exhausting. The key is to collect together smart and professional people and then trust everyone is doing their share. Of course, if people are already pushing their limits the situation can’t end well and in that case something was wrong to begin with. It’s also important to create a positive, open atmosphere. No one is perfect, it’s allowed to ask help or advices and if mistakes are made they just need to be corrected.
I don’t enjoy tight schedules or being under pressure but I don’t mind working hard or even being busy as long as I can use my time for something important and interesting. The concept of minimalism helped me to understand I can have less distraction and to focus on essential. I have a few basic rules I try to keep in mind when I plan my weekly schedules or the future in general.
There can’t be too many concerts
Live music is the only thing in my weekly/monthly schedules that gives a warm feeling and the only thing I want to see there fixed in advance. It’s the only thing that takes me out of my comfort zone and out of my house, only thing that makes me travel and communicate with people and something that gives me the energy I need to do everything else in life. There’s no such thing as too many concerts. If you ask me it’s better to focus on things that motivate us to make more effort and try harder instead of forcing ourselves to do things we are supposed or expected to do without any rational reason. Think what makes you feel that way and replace the word “concert” with that.
Advantage of routines and rituals
Routines are useful little habits done always the same way and the same time (like in the morning or every Saturday). It’s typical and even recommended to make them automatic. This way there’s no need to think of them, just get them done and feel pleased about that later. The advantage of routines is that they will make your life easier and you get them done even when you feel bored. Rituals are often done the same way and the same time as well but instead of doing something automatically you do it mindfully. The advantage of rituals is that they make us feel grateful and appreciate ordinary things in life. Our life feels better than it did earlier just because we pay attention to good things.
I really like having both routines and rituals in my life and feel I get a lot done that way. I find it hard to start things so making routines automatic helps to get boring but necessary things done. Also, that way I can keep my daily to do list short and compact. The same goes with rituals, I like planning but again, find it hard to start so doing something regularly and always the same time helps me to put things in action and not only plan them. Usually my rituals are something special family related. For example, I like to have a small “library party” on Fridays or family brunch on Saturdays (the latter one is just a long late breakfast but my family loves to call it brunch).
Have enough time to focus without interruptions
I need uninterrupted time to think, plan and write my blogs because without that I can’t make any progress. I can easily write in cafés or at busy airports as long as no one needs my attention. However, it’s difficult to focus even alone at home if I know there are things I should take care of or pay attention to. The best solution is to schedule several little tasks for the same day to keep other days free or simply book appointments or calls only for one or two days every week. Often those little tasks take only short time but reserve my attention and make it impossible to focus on other things as well as I would like to.
Keep yourself motivated
I’m not good with detailed planners or regular journaling but still haven’t lost my hope finding a journaling system suitable for my own needs and recently got an idea of starting a new one. I would like it to be daily and systematic but instead of writing down things I must or should do or tracking my habits I want to write down things I’m really interested in or find fascinating whether it’s books to read or places to travel or just random ideas. I would like the system to be more a ritual than a routine and something that motivates me and makes me excited and gives me new thoughts. I also like the idea of choosing a theme for every month or maybe choosing several themes and building the journal around them. I’m not sure how to call this journal yet, I think it will be a combination of a bullet journal, visual journal and a commonplace book, I just want it to be regular (daily and weekly) and something that keeps me motivated. I will add some pics later.