RIP Sunday Journal?

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It sits of the bookcase wilted and lifeless, like a neglected house plant. It’s my Sunday Journal, a fancy three-ring binder full of page protectors and vinyl page dividers. Colorful title pages mark the purpose of each section: Weekly Planner (Short-Term Goals), Monthly Planner (Mid-Term Goals), Annual Planner (Long-term Goals), Self-Care, and Creative Projects.

I started my Sunday Journal with the best of intentions, to implement the principles I learned from Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People . . . again. It wasn’t the first time. It won’t be the last. I have experienced, first-hand, the improved focus and productivity that comes with a proactive approach to time management. The core value of Covey’s book serves as my quality of life mantra: Schedule your priorities, don’t prioritize your schedule.

Maintaining consistent effort is difficult for someone with a neurodivergence like mine. With bipolar disorder, I have weeks full of energy and optimism, and weeks of exhaustion and just getting by. Although the intention is to spend just a few hours every Sunday reviewing the past week and planning for the week ahead, sometimes Sunday afternoon is my only time to just relax, and for me, creating structure has always felt like work. Enter narrative therapy . . .

If I want to revive this dusty planner, I need to rewrite the story I am telling myself. I need to make planning . . . fun? Yeah. It sounds unlikely, even to me, but that’s the old narrative steering my emotional reaction. So, (I pull off my royal blue hoodie and sit up a little straighter) how am I going to change the story I am telling myself? Let’s begin.

Old paradigm: I am too busy doing to spend time planning. New paradigm: There is a saying among carpenters—measure twice cut once. The same is true of time management. If you spend time planning you will spend less time doing. Without a plan, life is an endless game of catch up.

Old paradigm: Planning is boring. New paradigm: Well perhaps the way I have been doing it—with an Excel spreadsheet and an eye on efficiency (a dreary hold over from my days in corporate management). Instead, I need to make my planning process more creative, with doodles, colors, and images. I need to keep my eye on balance and overall happiness.

Old paradigm: Planning is restrictive and suffocating. New paradigm: Oooo this is a tough one for me . . . thinking . . . thinking . . . a plan is not a box that will trap me but a scaffolding I can climb. Hmm, that sounds like a good metaphor, but I still have to work on that one a bit. I’m not quite buying it, yet. Perhaps I need to draw a few images of a stick figure climbing up the side of my weekly schedule.

With a deep breath, I take out all the old planning pages from last October and November and get ready to begin again. Fall seven times, get up eight. A friend of mine says that all the time. I’m sure he won’t mind me borrowing his favorite phrase today. Time to get my colored pencils.

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