Greg Morris

Designer, Pretend Photographer, Dad

Journaling And Me

There are not many things that improve my life straight away any more. Meditation did exactly that around 6 years ago, and now journaling is doing the same thing. You read that right, me, journaling. After all my dismissive posts and words over the years of not knowing or wanting to write in one. I’ve got to admit, it’s quite remarkable.

I realise that it is only the end of January, and it’s easy to exaggerate the benefits before the novelty has worn off, but hear me out. I also might be preaching to the choir a bit here, as many people that I follow are already proponents, but I’ll talk about it regardless. This isn’t a New Year’s resolution, but more like a reevaluation, one that I talked about before starting out. I paid up for a year of Day One to see what happens, it also went to the store and bought some journals too. This is a journey split into two parts.

Day One

A long journey starts with a single step, and that tiny little movement forward was actually posting to Day One. I’ve had it installed on my phone more times that I care to remember, but struggled to write much. Instead of spending any money on this crazy idea I had, I made myself start writing at least one post a day electronically. It was a little test for me that I had to complete for me to gain the reward of any expenditure.

After the first couple of day of writing, frankly nonsense, each morning, I could see the difference. By not expending too much mental energy and letting my fingers type out exactly what I was thinking about and feeling with no prompts, I literally kick-started my day. I felt happier, more relaxed and resolved my thoughts first thing in the morning. After just 5 days I stumped up and bought Premium because I knew straight away I was on to a winning idea.

Now 29 days in, I’ve posted consistently at least once a day as early as I get time. This is a morning pages of sorts, a literal brain dump of everything swirling around in my head. I have often followed this up with smaller thoughts and any other things that I am thinking about. It took effort and went slowly at first, with great trepidation.

Whenever I get a feeling or a thought, I reach for Day One now and just type it out to see where I get to. Some of these turn into blog posts, but most don’t. They are just for me, and I probably won’t read them again. Just knowing they are there is enough to make me feel better. I would love to do this manual with a pen and paper, but the thought of it being accessible by others terrifies me. Not because I have anything to hide, but it’s embarrassing to think of someone else reading my thoughts.

Due to how well this small step went, I treated myself early and bought a bullet journal, thus starting the second step of my transformation.

Bullet Journal

A massive experience that paid off. That’s the way I’m describing my bullet journal that is constantly open on my desk or in my hand being carried from meeting to meeting. Where I once sit typing away into my MacBook, I’m now writing into my bullet journal and people are noticing the difference.

On the surface, I know that I shouldn’t be using a manual bullet journal for task planning and note taking. It makes no sense, as I’ve covered before, more than once. It’s often redundant, takes more work and isn’t searchable. I realise when a spend so much time at a computer or with a phone, it makes sense to use digital tools. Yet writing things out manually, being intentional about things, and just flipping through pages ignites something in me.

It is as if the physical act of bullet journaling stimulates me more. I remember more things, take more notes, manage and plan things better. There appears to be no downsides. Well, perhaps the slightly precarious position that all physical things are in. Bar loosing my book, or not having it with me, it’s all positives.

To combat this slightly, I’ve adopted a ‘Field Notes’ notebook that’s usually in my back pocket, just in case. Mine is actually a Moleskin version, but most people are more accustomed to what Field Notes looks like. This is perhaps the most significant change in my life and one many people have commented on. I’ll admit it’s a little weird, but it helps me live a much more intentional life, and is another solution to my life becoming phone free.

Seen something worth thinking about. Make a note. Heard something on a podcast that I want to research later. Make a note. Thought about a peculiar thing that you would like to find the answer to. Make a note. Seriously. Yesterday I wrote in my field notes “what is the psychological theory why you see new things all the time”. Turns out I was thinking about the frequency illusion or the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon. Could I have found this out with a quick Google on my phone, of course, but I would have forgotten it as quickly as I looked it up.

The physical act of writing something down improves my memory of it - it’s science! Yet, every person I mention this too seems blown away by manual writing things down. Is it a bit of a pain transferring things if I want to write about them or research them later, yes. That’s the point though. I can review all the notes I make, and think about them several times, with a quick flick through my field notes. Leading to better retention, more ideas and more awareness of my thoughts.

For me there is often a tendency to preach about a new practice that has yielded results too early. So I have tried to put off writing about this for a while. There’s often a turning point at the start of the year, even if you don’t make resolutions per se, just to decide to do things a bit differently. However I am well past January 14th which is quitters day, and don’t see these new practices changing.

I think there are more manual things that I can bring in to aid my digital life. As I said, intellectually I know that perhaps leaning on apps is the way to go, but emotionally and mentally writing things down and ticking things off fulfils me more.

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