September, you’re my favourite
September is my favourite month. Whereas for most of the year my social calendar is as uncluttered as a Marie Kondo cupboard, I up my game in September – my birthday month – and make plans. This month brings three outings to the theatre, visits to new restaurants, a weekend sleepover with friends, and a trip to Manchester to celebrate 25 years since we graduated. 25 years!!
Change is coming
Autumn is a time of change and renewal. The trees in our local woods display a new selection of colours each day. The summer clothes get packed away making room for cozy jumpers in rustic colours. The kids start a new school year.
We see a peak in our recruitment business this month, as candidates start looking for their next job. I’ve often wondered why September is such a popular month for job hunting. My theory is that it’s connected with the school year starting in September (in Europe anyway). As children, we’re programmed to see Autumn as a fresh start. I think that urge to move on is hard to shake off.
A sorry story of procrastination
I came to this blog via a week of failure and procrastination. The prior six weeks consisted of a smorgasbord of children’s entertainment and holidays, with only a small side order of work. We returned from Turkey at the very end of the kids’ summer break, ready to return to our productive term-time routines. Only, I wasn’t ready.
Sure, I was ready for time alone in the house, relieved to take a break from cooking three meals a day and mediating between a teen and a tween. But I just couldn’t settle into work. Being self-employed means there’s no one there to crack the whip.
I used every trick in the procrastination book. I wrote lists – one for household admin, another for work, a third for the blog. I read self-improvement blogs, seeking out tips on productivity. I decluttered – randomly rather than methodically. And I felt terribly guilty about the hours just slipping away from me without having anything to show for them. I just couldn’t fire up that work rocket, I was out of fuel.
The tipping point was reading an article about the benefits of writing a journal. As you may know from previous posts, I do write a journal, but hadn’t picked it up for weeks.
How to write a journal
The article recommended writing in the journal as soon as you wake up. There are several problems with this. Firstly, I can barely see, let alone power up the hand/eye coordination to hold a pen. Secondly, Instagram isn’t going to read itself. And then obviously there’s all the yoga that I have to do first. Only joking, you’re in the wrong place if that’s the kind of thing you’re looking for.
My big tip is to choose the right materials. It’s a simple equation:
A pen with smooth ink + a book you love to write in = journaling heaven.
Another tip is to choose a book without dates pre-printed in it. That way, if you skip a date you won’t have a blank page shouting ‘failure!’ at you. Just move on and pick it up again when you’re ready.
This week I have been starting my day with five minutes scrolling through Instagram, instead of the usual 15. I shower, dress and drink a bucket of caffeine. And then I open my journal.
My journal is no more than two pages per day. Although many experts say that you should write for at least half an hour a day, I write for about ten – while the kids are having breakfast and getting ready for school. This is time I would previously have spent scrolling through social media, and comparing myself unfavourably to pretty much everyone.
I don’t write anything of pith or moment, certainly nothing I’d be prepared to share with the class. It is more like a stream of consciousness.
I start with a review of the previous day. This is sometimes a simple, non-judgemental retelling of events. On other days, I will make a note of lessons learnt, or unfinished business I need to conclude today. I will take stock of my mood and, if notable, the moods and behaviour of my family – good and bad. If we had an interesting talk over dinner the previous evening, I’ll include that for example.
Today I picked up my journal after lunch to download after a particularly challenging morning. I needed to vent about a series of little things that were really bugging me. And now I feel slightly better.
There is a lot of evidence that keeping a book of abundance is great for mental wellbeing. Each day I incorporate at least three things I’m grateful for in my daily journal.
I finish with a couple of key goals for the day.
The benefits of writing and keeping a journal
There is a clear correlation between journal writing and wellbeing. Here are some of the benefits:
‘Better out than in’ as they way. What better way to start the day than having a really good rant? Use whatever poor grammar and expletives come to mind, no one can hear you. Shake it all out onto the page. It’s free.
Like any muscle, your brain needs food and exercise.
Journal writing is a creative process, you can get lost in it. Some of the best ideas for the blog have come to me out of nowhere, when I’m writing a completely unconnected rant. The longer I procrastinate, the less creative and inspired I feel. Writing breaks the cycle.
Now that I’m peri-menopausal, if it’s not written down it won’t – or didn’t – happen. That’s why I have so many notebooks with so many lists. If like me, you can barely remember what you had for breakfast, recording everything is essential.
Writing down any plan or goal makes it more likely to happen.
This is more than a to do list of chores or quick wins for the day. Think about the bigger picture. I think about what would make me happy today or what would give the day purpose.
Reading through the previous day’s entry each morning, I can see if I’ve made any positive steps towards my goals. Then I can organise the next day accordingly. Use the journal to evaluate what went well, or what felt good, and bask in that glow for a while.
That’s the theory
I know the theory, but can I turn this into a positive habit? Consistency has always been a challenge for me. I’m currently on day five. I’ll keep you posted.
Now you know the benefits of journaling, do you want to try it? Perhaps you already do, and would like to share what benefits and pleasures you derive from the practise? What tips do you have for breaking the procrastination cycle and being productive? Please share in the comments below.
Much love, Vx[Disclosure: nothing to disclose]