Journaling is a powerful habit to get into and can make it easier to manage all areas of your life, including money. It’s something I’ve integrated gradually over time, and while some methods don’t work so well for me, there are others that I’ve adapted and used for myself. Personally, I try to use some form of journaling every day, and I want to share my suggestions and resources with you so that you can integrate it into your life, too.
Beyond Journaling to Planning and Tracking
Journaling is something that you can use in lots of different areas of your life. For example, I keep a money journal, in the form of The Healthy Money Planner™, which I created for myself before realising it would help others. Money can be tracked just as much as anything else and can really help you feel in control.
There are journals that can help with time management, such as blocking out time to get tasks done, or space to plan the next 90 days. Then there are the classic, plain notebooks you might have used as a teenager, ‘Dear Diary’ style. I used to have one as a kid where I’d rant about my parents or the other kids at school.
Simple Notebooks for Everyday Planning and Journaling
I tend to buy plain, lined, A4 notebooks for my journaling. I prefer these without dates, as I find them difficult to use. I like to put the date at the top, then plan out my day (ideally the day before) using a method I learned through Marie Forleo (She’s brilliant — for any questions on time management or productivity, just Google her and you’ll find a short video you can watch).
Journaling for Time Management
You’ll plan out your day in three rows/sections. On the top third of the page, list the appointments (and times of the appointments) for the day. Things such as meetings, client bookings, times you’re at work etc. If you know how long they’ll take, record this too. Draw a line under this information.
In the middle section of the page, list all tasks that you want to get done. Perhaps you’re working on a project that you’ve split into lots of little tasks, so list them all out. How long does each part need to take? For example, perhaps you need 30 minutes to sort your email inbox. Or you might need to send an email which will take 10 minutes.
When you slot these tasks into your day, you have to be realistic. If you’ve only got an hour or two between appointments, you’re not going to get all of your tasks done. So, prioritise them in order of what absolutely must happen, and what might be nice — but isn’t essential if it doesn’t get done. List them all, then again draw a line underneath.
In the third and final section of your page, list out your personal items. Do you need to book a hair appointment, or send a birthday card, or buy a present? Give yourself a timeframe for your personal errands. You might find you can’t complete all of your tasks because of the life admin you need to take care of. These are just as important as anything else.
Personally, I love using this method. It’s quick, and if I don’t use it, I feel out of sorts.
Another thing you might want to use your A4 notebook for is free-form writing. A really useful book called The Artist’s Way* discusses this approach. Every morning, you write 3 pages of A4 — simply by doing free-writing. There should be no thinking involved, you just write whatever comes up. If there’s nothing flowing, keep writing “nothing’s there, nothing’s there, nothing’s there.”
Essentially, you are brain-dumping everything that’s coming to mind as soon as you wake up. Whether that be something you’ve dreamed about, or something that’s bothering you; something you’re angry about. Just write it all down. It can take between 20-30 minutes, and when you’ve filled 3 pages, you stop.
For me, I realised finding the time to dedicate to this every day was quite difficult, and I’d much rather use the bullet method. If you think The Artist’s Way could work for you, I encourage you to try it out, even if it’s just for a couple of months.
Ideally, when you come back to it in 3 months’ time, you open it up and read through your notes. There will be things in there that have changed, that you’ll have moved on from. For things that haven’t changed, you’ll be reminded that you need to do something about them. Then there will be ideas which came to you while you were journaling, but you may have forgotten about, and you’ll be able to deal with those.
Before I go to bed, I list 10 things I’m grateful for. It may sound ridiculous to some, but it makes you feel so much better before you go to sleep. It helps you realise that there are nice things happening when you might not have noticed, especially if you’ve had a rubbish day. Tracking your gratitude is also a way of thanking the universe for these coincidences and serendipitous moments.
Using a planner to help you manage your money is just as important as using one for organising, brain-dumping and tracking gratitude. With a money journal, you can track everything and get a better idea of what’s going on with your finances. Tracking spending, for example, was something I was taught by my mum — she used to track her spending to the penny. (I thought it was boring!)
Now, I’ve combined this habit with my money-pie budgeting method. I only track the things I haven’t planned for, so that the next month I can adjust my budget based on my unplanned spending. I can also track my savings and see how well they’re improving, and I used to track my debt being paid down before I paid it all off.
I also track abundance, which includes anything coming into my life through discounts, gifts, my job or my business. Together with the gratitude journal, I’m affirming that there are things going on around me to let me know that everything is OK.
What Are Your Thoughts on Journaling?
So, these are my four different ways I would use journaling. Do you keep a journal to write or plan ahead, or track your daily life? What are your thoughts?
For help with organising and budgeting your money, you can download The Health Money Planner™ here. It’s so important to have some way to understand what’s going on with your finances. Let me know in the comments below how journaling has helped you, or if you’re going to start doing it.
Take care for now!