Those of us who use a planner understand that it’s important to take more control of our lives. As we plan, we find ways to fit the things we need to do into the time we have each day. But a planner doesn’t just help us schedule our present and our future; over time it also creates a valuable record of our past. This record can have a profound effect on others and ourselves.
Our planners offer space to write about our day, our ideas, and our hopes and dreams. They become a journal of sorts. Journaling and recording our lives provides several benefits, but we’ll only mention a few here.
1.Clarity and stress relief
Life is stressful. It helps to talk about it. Sometimes it’s even more helpful to write about it. Writing is therapeutic. It acts as a relief valve for the stresses of the day. As you record your day in your journal or planner, you give yourself a safe place to relive and rethink each event. Writing about the activities of the day and noting your thoughts and feelings increases your clarity. It allows you time to gain a deeper perspective on the unfolding events of your life and the lives of those you love.
We spend most of our effort on the fire lines of life—rushing from flare up to flare up. As we journal and assess the events taking place in our life, we start to see the bigger picture. We remember the neighbor who shoveled our walk, the sister who called to check in with us, or the driver who slowed down to allow us to merge onto the freeway. There is so much data supporting the mental and emotional benefits of journaling that counselors, social workers, and therapists regularly encourage their patients to do it.
2. Improving our internal banter
Whether we realize it or not, most of us take mental notes at the end of the day and assess our accomplishments. We’re usually harder on ourselves than we ought to be. We often note all the things we weren’t able to get to, or the things we didn’t quite finish. Because we have high expectations for ourselves, even our accomplishments can appear to fall short.
Having high expectations and being a little demanding of our performance is ok. It can lead to better results down the road—but it can also lead to negative self-talk. If we aren’t careful we can fall into a habit of being overly critical of ourselves.
The trouble with these end-of-day mental notes is that they are incomplete. If they’re all we have to go by, we’re going to paint an inadequate image of our lives. We rarely give ourselves enough credit for the mundane things we do—those daily chores that somehow undo themselves by the end of the day.
By the time we’re wrapping up our day we’ve stopped focusing on the laundry we sorted, the homework we did or helped our children finish, the meals we prepared, the time we spent talking with a child or friend about their concerns, the grass we cut or snow we shoveled. Instead, we fall into bed exhausted and feeling anxious because we still have a mess on the counter or a sink full of dirty dishes. We wonder if we’ll ever catch up.
Your planner may be the best tool you have to prevent negative self-talk. It’s readily available and loaded with your accomplishments, goals, and dreams. If you are feeling inadequate as your day winds down, look through your planner and remember what you’ve accomplished. Then take a minute to write a few of the things you did that weren’t written down. Sometimes we need a morale boost, and you can often find yours right there in your planner. Our lives are busy and we usually accomplish far more than we realize.
3. Establish Identity
As you track your life you’ll start to notice patterns. You’ll realize what you like to do and what you’d rather not do. You’ll see how you handle stress and adversity. You’ll learn things from past events that can help you with your present situation. Over time, you’ll develop a greater sense of self, and these recorded events will empower you for the future.
Not only will tracking your life improve your own sense of self, but it will also add to your children’s identity. For example: My mother is now 75 years old. She has kept a journal her whole life. She has volumes of journals. From that vault of life events come several stories that changed me.
When my mother was 10 years old, her father was killed in a mining accident. Her mother was expecting baby number 6 at the time. Just a few weeks after her father died, her grandfather passed away as well. My mother has recorded these events in her journal along with several inspirational stories of how these two widows worked through their challenges to support and raise their families. As I’ve read these stories, I’ve realized how amazing my mother is and how strong her mother and grandmother were. They had to reach deep within themselves to find the fortitude to carry on through difficult times in their lives.
During tough times in my own life, I have often thought of those women and have known that I can do hard things too. Although I was not there when they were struggling through their challenges, I still feel like those experiences are a part of who I am. They shaped my mother and she shaped me—and I feel like a stronger person because of it.
Certainly you have experiences of your own that have strengthened your identity and helped you through hard times. Stories are powerful. They can lift and encourage us to do more and to try harder. You never know which event you record in your planner will become a source of hope and inspiration to your family and friends.