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August 12, 2016

Product Review: BestSelf Journal

As much as we love digital products here in Togetherland, we are also huge fans of various paper methods of organizing; see here, here, and here.

So imagine my curiosity when I saw this nifty BestSelf Journal on Evan S.’s desk in New Orleans last month. I poked around on the actual website and LOVED their tagline: “Productive. Not Busy.” Amen.

You know how I like to see things in action. Luckily, Evan tolerated my nosiness and told me all about how he uses this tool. He described it as “a paper-based way to leverage short daily check-ins with myself to think critically about how to prioritize my time.” Sounds right on.

Here’s Evan’s daily view:

Best Self Journal Annotated

And here’s a PDF screenshot I pulled from the BestSelf website:

pdf screenshot

Evan is a traditionally digital guy who’s always used Google Calendar to schedule his meetings, work blocks, phone calls, and To-Dos. Despite his good efforts he felt unable to use his time to the fullest because

…more urgent or important things would crop up in the course of the day.  I’m in a school setting and need to be flexible if I want to support my kids and team effectively.  That said, the constant battles and mini-fires really get in the way of major projects that will advance priorities and create long-term success.

Sound familiar to any of you?

Evan’s journal, then, becomes his Daily Worksheet.  At the end of each day, he takes 10 minutes to look through his week, his inbox, and his task list to create the optimal plan for tomorrow.

Evan describes his approach section by section.

LEFT HAND SIDE

  • Timeline: 80% of my calendar items (that I’ve ideally scheduled during my Meeting with Myself) are copied from my gCal onto the left side of the page. As I’m transferring the information I ask myself questions like, “What should really go in these work blocks?” or “Do I need this much time to do that?” The answers help me shift event timing or length if need be. I’m also finding that I’m getting a bit better at timing tasks appropriately and scheduling items when there’s a good energy match!
  • Task List: I use the right side of the daily page to note quick (5-10 minute) tasks that I intend to complete during a free moment here or there. These are tasks that are easy to accomplish at any time. If I have a cancellation or unstructured work time, I try to check the list for guidance on what to do instead of entering the email vortex. I like to think of this list as the me from last night saying “Hey.  Me.  Do this… not that!”

RIGHT HAND SIDE

  • Goals, Targets, Wins, Lessons Learned, Gratitude: The right side of the notebook provides deep benefit.  Each section provides value in a specific way.
    • Goals allow me space to consider my long-term priorities.
    • Targets allow me to think through and name how I intend to make progress today on my larger priorities.
    • Wins & Lessons Learned afford me the opportunity to internalize growth. This primes me for reflection in Gratitude section.  When I consider what went well each day I can easily track back to the person or thing that helped clear my path.

This simple two to three minute task of reflection has forced me to do a better job of really wrapping up the day. The act of finishing the last piece of gratitude and turning the page allows me to close the book (pun intended) and transition away from the responsibilities of work.  I’ve gotten better sleep and am more present in everything else!

And now, back to me. I’m MAJORLY intrigued. Though I’m personally in a very committed relationship with my digital Outlook calendar, I love the integration of planning, mindfulness and gratitude here. I may try this out as a future experiment, maybe during a time when I’m in both heavy travel and heavy production mode and could really benefit from a daily reflection practice!

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