Secrets of Journaling, Part 2: Create a Time Journal

Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
William James

Journals can be beneficial in many ways: they can relieve stress, help us nurture our creativity, even help us improve our health.

They can also assist us in managing our time and bringing balance to our life.

Lisa Montanaro, Certified Professional Organizer and author of PPP's Ultimate Life Organizer, suggests making a “Time Journal” of your life for a week.

"Just like people who are on a weight loss program keep a food journal and those on a budget track finances, you will write down all of your tasks for a week," says Lisa. A time journal can be a powerful tool for discovering how long things take you and what you are spending your time on.

"You will be surprised at how much you underestimate the time it takes to do things you normally do, and overestimate the things you are not as familiar with and don’t do as often."

Lisa suggests you pick a typical week to get a true snapshot of your life. Then create categories such as getting ready in the morning, commuting to work, household chores, errands, exercise, family time, work, “me” time, etc. Be as detailed or broad as you want. At the end of the week, tally up time by categories or by activity type.

Or, if you want to track a particular activity, for example, how long you spend on e-mail, then you must track that activity in a detailed manner. Remember, knowledge is power!

"Be mindful as well of the amount of sleep you’re getting, too," adds Lisa. "Most people require at least 7 hours of sleep a night for physical and emotional health and to perform at peak productivity."

A few extra guidelines:

  • Do not judge yourself as you are tracking time in your time journal. Save the assessment for later.
  • You do not need to get fancy. Use the calendar below, or use your own online calendar system, daily planner, or smart phone calendar app.
  • Lisa cautions: "Just don’t let this project itself take too much time or effort!" If so, you will dread doing it, or worse, use the time journal as a distraction from the bigger goal (improving your time management skills).
  • If you are a strong visual learner, you may consider color-coding by category. It is a handy way to look back at the end of the week and get a visual snapshot of each category.

My Time Journal

Fill in tasks and activities, tracking how much time spent on them daily, and then tallying them up by category for the week.









































































































































































Add up time you’ve spent in the categories you tracked and record them below.

Tasks and activities tracked                                    

Time spent daily

Time spent weekly































Consider if the ratios reflect your values. If not, identify where and how adjustments could be made. Are there activities important to you that you spend little or no time on?

"A time journal is a great way to beging getting life in balance," states Lisa. "If you start feeling you are losing control of your time, you can revisit your time journal or create a fresh one."

Compare how you've been spending your time with how you would spend it if you were doing what is most important to you, and living your life in alignment with your goals. If there are glaring discrepancies, you may have your first clue about things you need to change to make your life more balanced and satisfying.

Image copyright Scott Rothstein /



Secrets of Journaling, Part 1

"Journal writing is a voyage to the interior."
Christina Baldwin

Considering keeping a journal, but worried about your writing skills and time constraints?

Journaling may be easier than you think.

Keep in mind: Journaling does not have to entail the painstaking compilation of each day's events for posterity. Write as much — or as little — as you wish.

Nor does your journal have to be written perfectly. Keep that "inner editor" at bay! You're not writing for publication — unless that is your objective!

Your journal is for you.

Life is chaotic. Keeping a journal may help you understand, solve, or resolve events taking place in your life. Just as a child asks to listen to a particular fairy tale over and over again because there is something within that tale she or he needs to make sense of the world, so your own recollections of events, conversations, and impressions may help you process life's experiences.

Journaling can help you explore and express your perceptions about an issue. It may even enable you to become aware of how you truly feel about a situation in the first place.

The words you set down on paper may not even be your goal for journaling. The benefit of journal-keeping for you may simply be the act of writing. Psychologist James Pennebaker, author of The Secret life of Pronouns and other books, found some years ago with his students that if people wrote about life's upheavals, their health improved. 

Of course, a journal may also serve as an excellent springboard for your creative side. Perhaps you do intend to use your journal to draft a novel or play or poem. As Jane Austen said, “It is this delightful habit of journalizing which largely contributes to form the easy style of writing for which ladies are so generally celebrated. Everybody allows that the talent of writing is particularly female. Nature might have done something, but I am sure it must be essentially assisted by the practice of keeping a journal.” A writing journal is the perfect place to record those great ideas (before you forget them!), names for characters, writing advice, jotting down titles of books to read, classes to take, Web sites to visit, words to use, and much more. Carry one with you.

Write as much as you like, or just try writing for 10 to 20 minutes a day, no more. Write down what comes to mind, and write quickly. Don't worry about grammar and spelling. Get those thoughts out onto paper, and begin that journey of discovery! 

Your journal is for you.

Image © Garsya /