Ahhhh. A new year. Lift your nose to the air and smell that new year scent. It’s fresh. It’s savory. It’s hopeful (hopefully). It’s all the adjectives you can think of to describe a new year.
A new year also suggests a shedding of all the crap hanging around our necks from last year. The bad habits we formed. The good habits we failed to form. Those projects we didn’t complete. Or those dreams and plans we didn’t implement.
A new year allows us to reflect on the last 12 months so we can plan how we’ll live intentionally this year. And yes, I intentionally wrote the word intentionally.
If you listen to the podcast you know the idea of living intentionally comes up quite a bit in my conversations. To me, nothing is more important in our individual pursuit of happiness than living intentionally. It’s the cornerstone of everything we do.
It’s our roadmap to contentment, organization, health and productivity. It brings us back, on a daily basis, to where we need to be. It keeps life from becoming too chaotic. Too stressful. Because once the chaos and the stress rear their ugly heads we usually lose focus.
As we rip off the cellophane of 2017, let’s take a look at the single most important thing you must do to have this year be your most productive year yet.
You must begin using an Intentional Journal.
Please, please, please, begin intentionally journaling. And I’m not talking “Dear Diary” journaling so you can stop rolling your eyes.
I’m talking focused journaling with the intention of increased productivity. You see, the dirty little secret is that happiness stems from our productivity. And remember, productivity doesn’t always have to equate to work. Productivity for me is having a fun night with my family, finishing a woodworking project, writing a blog post or finishing a book I really enjoyed.
Productivity is whatever makes you feel joy and completeness. It’s not always about grinding. It’s about, again, living intentionally in order to have a life where you feel fulfilled.
You can do whatever intentional journal practice you want. You can write in a leather journal, a Moleskine or on looseleaf paper for all I care. But find a medium you feel comfortable coming back to every day.
Or you can keep reading this post and you will find a free giveaway of the journal I created.
Whatever journal you choose just please don’t try to use an app. As much as I love my technology, nothing replaces pen and paper for this kind of journaling. Learn from my many wasted hours of trying to find the perfect app to journal with…it doesn’t exist.
Once you have your journal gathered, purchased or made, simply add the following sections and complete them every day (you can skip weekends depending on your lifestyle…or have a different one for weekends):
DATE: Current date, obviously. I also include the day of the week for easy reference.
DAY#: Day# is a much different from Date and it’s one of the most crucial aspects of my intentional journaling.
When you start for the first time simply write in the date and start Day# with a “1”.
Day# and the “Day Complete” checkbox in the bottom right corner, is designed to hold you accountable so you can avoid the dreaded “Day Zero”. Day Zero is the phenomenon which occurs when you miss a day and have to start the Day# count over at “1”. It’s a small psychological hack which will create some amazing productivity in your life.
If you don’t believe me, believe Jerry Sienfeld: http://goo.gl/SUpKVD
Fear Day Zero.
Completing a journal entry only takes 10 to 15 minutes a day, so challenge yourself to keep a Day# streak going. Doing so will reinforce your productivity and intentional living.
Give yourself a break on the weekends. If you are trying to have a productive day on a weekend, by all means, use the journal. But if you are visiting family or lying around the house, these days don’t have to count.
Intentions: Part of intentional living is, you guessed it, coming up with intentions. They can be short term or long term. Selfish or unselfish. If you want new big screen TV, write it down, don’t judge yourself. If you want to increase your family time, or save for family vacations, jot it down. Writing down your intentions will keep you focused and help you meet your goals.
Task & Action Items: Here’s where you need to identify, track and complete your tasks. The “•” (dots) besides your tasks allow you to take action on each item. You can come up with your own system, but I use the following to track my task progress (shout out to Ryder at www.bulletjournal.com for the inspiration):
• Item needs action
X Item is completed
> Send to a future date
* Important note to remember
To the right of where you will put your action items, you will see brackets that look like this [ ]. This is where I put the amount of time I think each task will take to complete so I can more efficiently plan my day.
If you are a Pomodoro user you can also put your Pomodoros there. If you don’t know what the Pomodoro technique is visit www.pomodortechnique.com. It’s another seemingly minor productivity hack that increases your productivity by leaps and bounds.
These sections are pretty obvious but I do have some thoughts to share.
We all know we should be exercising and meditating on a daily basis. It could be a 20 minute walk, it could be a “seven minute workout” or you could try what I do each day:
1. Jumping Jacks (50)
2. Push-ups (10 regular, 10 close grip, 10 wide grip)
3. Wall sits (1 min)
4. Chair Dips (20).
5. Squats (20)
6. Cat Vomits (Google “Kneeling Vacuums”) (10 sets)
7. Plank (1 min)
8. Yoga Poses for back issues (Downward-Facing Dog, Lunge (Left), Warrior Poses (Left), Upward-Facing Dog, Lunge (Right), Warrior Poses (Right), Upward-Facing Dog, Downward-Facing Dog)
Change these based on your own needs and abilities.
Or you could be that person who already lifts free weights for three hours a day. Whatever it is, it needs to be something, so do it daily.
Meditation is also crucial. Sit in the grass in silence. Download an app for guided meditation. Listen to music. Do yoga. Do something. Slow yourself down.
I put four check boxes in this section, but somedays only two get checked.
Healthy Eating Plan: This isn’t a post about dieting, or a diet journal for that matter, but it’s important to remember we are what we eat. I track Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner and Snacks. This way I remember to quickly jot down the food items I’m ingesting which helps guide the choices I make in my meal preparation.
A couple of tips on a healthy eating plan. One, if it’s convenient, don’t eat it. Unless it’s a fruit or vegetable, convenience is not your friend. Two, if it’s packaged and processed, chances are you don’t want it in your body. Three, if you’re finding yourself being tired, run down, lacking productivity and your diet sucks, well incorporating a healthy diet plan might be the change you need to increase your productivity and happiness.
You don’t pour mud in to your car’s gas tank and expect it to perform…why do we do this to our bodies? If you need some guidance in this area of your life hit me up and I can send you some resources people have found helpful.
Gratitude Check: Gratitude is the most important aspects of your daily routine. At the end of every day you need to recount the day’s events and come up with at least three things you feel gratitude for. Do not check “Done” until you have written down three things you are grateful for.
It can be whatever you want it to be but do yourself a favor and don’t be generic. I could easily list “I’m still alive, I had a good day and Meeting went well” everyday and technically I am being grateful. But why not really go deeper and put something such as, “I appreciated when my friend called me to make sure I was doing okay.”
Bonus points for sharing your gratitude with those you are writing about. Why not let them know how grateful you are?
So if you can’t tell, I’m all over Intentional Journaling. If you want to try the journal I use everyday you can download the PDF below and make as many copies as you want. I take this to a local printer and have them bound as 50 page pads (think legal pads) so I can just tear them off for each day.
Having them on a pad also allows me to jot notes and tasks down for upcoming days. When I’m done with a page for the day on my notepad I simply scan it into Evernote and name it by date (i.e. 01.10.2017) so I will always have it if I need to refer back to it.Download The Mindsoak Daily
I know, I know, I can feel it too. You want this year to be the most productive, the most fulfilled and the most successful year yet. I do too. Adopt strategies that work and stick with it. Take other people’s ideas (like mine for instance) and adapt them to work for you. I don’t care how you do it, but do it.