How to persevere with journal keeping.

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Journal planning, record keeping and how to persevere

It is that time again when I am looking at forward planning, habit forming and goal achievement. I mentioned last month that I have had a number of shows cancelled but this month I am delighted to tell you that I have been invited to take part in a real, in person exhibition in May, albeit one taking place outdoors in a marquee. It’s exciting and a little frightening, too. Hopefully, I will have had my Covid-19 vaccination by then, as will the visitors and other exhibitors attending.

For anyone interested in coming along and supporting me and the exhibition, it is at the beautiful Painshill Park, which is just off the A3 in Cobham, Surrey. The running times are 5.30pm – 8pm on Friday 28th May with Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday being from 10am – 5pm. I will have a few free tickets, so anyone wanting one just email me.

Anyway, with this event in mind, last week’s blog was about the forward planning for an exhibition and getting all the advertising and marketing stuff ordered well in advance so that you are fully prepared in good time.

It is at this point that your journal will really start to come into its own. Looking at the month ahead chart, you can start to book in the events you will be taking part in and having found out from your printers how much time they need to get your print works ready, you can start to chart that in your journal.

Starting this coming week, you can list in your planner who you need to contact and once you know the deadline for getting copy to them, you can mark that off on your monthly planner. Personally, I hate writing lists, crossing things off and having to move them because things change. Using the bullet journal system, whereby you either cross off a completed item or simply move it to the following week, helps me feel on top of things. The same is true with diary dates.

The big exhibitions tend to be fixed but in these strange times some things still get moved. So, because I hate crossing out what I do on my monthly planner is to write appointments on Post-it Notes so that I can move the date and not mess up my records.

On my computer, I keep a list of things I need to take with me to an exhibition. I print this out and tick off the items ahead of the exhibition. Every time there is something I forget and something I didn’t need, so I will be transferring the list into my journal, which will be coming to the exhibitions with me. Because I use my journal every day, it won’t get packed away or thrown out with the rubbish and the notes I add to the printed list will be added into the journal so that I can in turn add that information to my computerised list. I also plan to have a page at the back of my journal where I can write down contact information as well as a note of who bought what and when.

My journal is quickly becoming my bible of information. My family thinks that I am stuck in the past and that in this digital age I should put all the information on my laptop, but for me there is something wonderful about having everything handwritten in my own, hand-made, journal.

If you are still struggling to keep using your journal here are a few things to consider which should help with your resolve. Using the right tools, things you love, will make this all so much more enjoyable. Make sure you have found a wonderful journal which makes you smile to use for this process.

The paper must be what you want and fit for how you intend to use the journal. Rubbish paper will leave you not wanting to use the journal so get this right and you will be happier. Get pens and markers in the colours you love to use and if you are into decorating your journal, get the stickers, paints, washi tape or whatever else you like to use. Having wonderful supplies and a beautiful journal book will make you what to use it more.

For some people, having a planner for every part of their lives is what suits them best while for others this just causes chaos and confusion. You need to figure out what suits you best.

If you have never done anything like this before my advice would be to just have one journal and put everything in it. If over the rest of this year you feel that you need to separate things out, you can do so next year but give yourself a good six months with one system before changing it drastically. You need to form this habit before changing it. I would also say that having more than one planner-style journal can become confusing and it is more likely that you will give up on the entire thing. Colour coding different areas of your life in one planner is probably the best way to go, at least to begin with.

The wonderful thing about a planner or bullet journal is that you can create the perfect one for your lifestyle. You can add new categories, add in additional pages by sticking in extra sheets, the world really is your oyster.

There are loads of ideas online to inspire you and plenty of advice on how to do this. So, take a look and see if someone else’s approach is a better fit for you. At the end of the day, it is your planner, created to make your life easier and no two planners will ever be the same. You are unique and your planner will be, too.

To be successful in using your journal planner, keep it on your desk along with all the relevant supplies. It needs to be always accessible for you to remember to use it. If you have always it to hand, you will actually use it so take it with you when you go out, carrying it with you at all times.

My journal is leather, so I have the benefit of enjoying the feel and smell of it and keeping it near me is easy. I enjoy handling it. You need to feel the same way about yours. I spoke with a lady who bought one of the journals I make which she gave to a friend as a Christmas gift. The recipient loved the journal. Apparently she loved it so much she cried, but she won’t use it; she wants to keep it as something special. Don’t do that. Find something you would love to use and use it.

If, like me, you have a large journal (mine is a bit bigger than A5), which is not always practical to take out with you, keep a smaller one as a notepad which fits in your pocket or is easy to carry around and transfer the notes across when you get home. By doing this it will keep you in the habit of keeping a record in a contained space and not on scraps of paper.

Every evening I write down what I have been grateful for that day. Making this my daily habit means that I stay up to date with what is recorded in my journal planner. It is these little habits which lead us easily into keeping the bigger habits on track. Don’t think of this as a chore; it is a positive action and one you should be enjoying. Every time you interact with your journal planner should be a pleasure.

For me, the most wonderful element of using a journal planner is that I get to cross off the daily/weekly achievements without creating a hot mess of scribbled out notes that creates chaos. Every Monday morning, I go through the previous week’s actions, place the cross against the completed items and an arrow against those I am taking into that week. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment placing those crosses and arrows against my list and rewriting the list in the following weeks clarifies clearly what I need to achieve.

If you are still finding this hard you could try some delayed gratification techniques. To begin with, be ultra-kind to yourself. Every time you cross off three items, reward yourself with a cup of tea or coffee. Increase the number of crosses to five over the coming weeks. If you get a day when you cross everything off your list buy yourself some flowers or your favourite chocolate bar. Have something to look forward to. The end result is that not only will you get through your list of chores, but you will have made great use of your journal planner and it all becomes a win, win situation.

I do know it is hard to set yourself a new habit like this. Believe me, I have started something like this every year for as long as I can remember. I get all fired up, buy a lovely journal and new special pens and then get so busy I revert back to scraps of paper.

This year, after talking it through with a friend who has done the same thing, I agreed to write this monthly blog post to keep us both accountable for using our journal planners properly. I realised that if we were struggling then others out there were likely to be struggling too so I hope that this month’s thoughts and ideas will help you to stay on track with this system.

Like everything in life, to be able to succeed we need to be consistent, but we also need to be kind to ourselves, too. So, if your life gets crazy and you miss a week, don’t panic. Just pick up again the following week. You will be glad that you did in the end.

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The Comments


  • Dear Alison

    I’d love to come along to the exhibition at Painshill. How specific do I need to be about a ticket? Should I specify a day or do I also need to choose a time period?

    Having been nowhere for a year, except G Live for my first vaccination, I’m trying to plan something now to get me to go out! Sunday the 30th May is my birthday but it might be better to go on Monday or Tuesday. It’s a holiday long weekend anyway; you probably have a better idea than me about when it might be quietest.

    Thank you

    Bernice >

    • If you send me your address to my private email address as soon as I get the tickets I will post it to you. 🙂

    • I don’t know, but I will email the organizers and get back to you with their answer.
      I too haven’t been out and am feeling a little nervous about being out too. I have also had my first vaccine but won’t have had the second one by the time of the fair. Hopefully normality will resume soon. 🙂

    • I have just heard back from the organisers of the art fair and this year they are asking us to provide names to go on a check list rather than actually giving out tickets. They need your name, the date you want to visit and how many of you will be coming.
      Hope that’s OK and I look forward to meeting you. Regards Alison

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