Daily Productivity Journal: How it’s Changed My Life

A blurry image of white flowers with a white shadow box over them. Within the shadow box is black text reading: Daily Productivity Journal: How it’s Changed My Life  -This Fascinating Adventure

Since the beginning of this year I have incorporated a new practice into my daily routine: a productivity journal. For someone like me, who thrives on accomplishment and checking things off, this has changed my life. 

Why Did I Need a Productivity Journal?

I adore the cheap thrill of completing a task. Completing the task is satisfying, as it’s one less thing to deal with. It usually makes my life easier in some form. An added bonus is the psychological win that comes along with checking off something on my mental to-do list.

To be clear, the Daily Productivity Journal strategy I speak of isn’t a to-do list at all. If anything, it’s more like a “post-doing” list. 

Prior to this practice I often found myself feeling constantly behind. I had a running to-do list on my phone (using the Todoist App) which included things that needed to get accomplished. Hebben knows I tried to stay on top of this list. 

In between work, and general tasks of the day, I would do my best at knocking out various things. Yet, at the end of the day I was left with a feeling that I hadn’t done enough. I might’ve crossed off one or two things on my things-to-do list, but plenty remained on the list. 

Not Feeling Like I Was Doing Enough

And what about household chores, sorting and responding to mail, meal prep, self-care, and the other small tasks we all take care of throughout the day? The minutiae of putting out the trash bins, and pulling the odd weed aren’t on my things-to-do list, and yet they get done. 

Squeezed between working my day job, a little bit of socializing, getting ready for the next day, and downtime with Mr. TFA, I’m tidying up, throwing in a load of laundry, responding to a random text/email, meal prepping, and so much more. 

So why, with all that I do, did I still feel like I wasn’t doing enough? Allowing my mental bandwidth to be consumed by thoughts like: I need to clean out the home office, and file those papers, and the recycling needs to be taken out, and the garden needs to be watered, and…

Where Was My Sense of Accomplishment?

Since I felt like I was treading water, stopping and resting (or taking a second to breathe) wasn’t on my radar at all. Reveling in what a badass I am, for doing 20 small tasks that help keep my life running smoothly, was impossible when I experienced the overarching feeling of I am not doing enough. 

And I had to be careful, because for me, “I am not doing enough” quickly can turn into “I am not enough.”

Again, this isn’t a time management technique, it’s a psychological shift. An altering of my mindset which influences my sense of self-pride and self-esteem. Frantically trying to do it all, while giving myself no credit or allowing myself to bask in the accomplishment, made every task feel like a drag. So much to do, so little time. 

Resentment built—damn having to do the dishes, when what I really need to be doing is submitting that insurance paperwork, or sanding that damn table in the garage. 

Introducing the Change

This past winter holiday, I was in desperate need of a break. Signs of burnout were starting to show, and I was just beginning to rumble with the possibility that I might be a workaholic

Somewhere on the interwebs I saw someone share a spreadsheet that inspired my own Productivity Journal experiment. I don’t recall who this person was, otherwise I’d credit them, so wherever you are in this big, bad, gentle world—thank you. 

Their spreadsheet had tabs across the top with categories they valued (e.g. family time, work, self-care, etc) and along the left-hand side there were rows with dates. Everyday, this person would write what they had accomplished that day within each category. Their mission was to honor and live by their values. 

Many times I have found myself professing a particular value, that doesn’t show up in my daily life. One of my biggest values is family, and yet I was so consumed with work, trying to stay on top of daily life, and conserving energy for the next day, I wasn’t giving my family the attention and care that I wanted to. 

Thus began my own Daily Productivity Journal. 

What My Journal Looks Like

My journal is a Notes document on my iPad. I begin a new Note every month, and have consistently practiced this daily inventory since January. Since I always have my iPad with me, it has been simple enough to write out a few notes at the end of each day. A spreadsheet, Word document, or pen and paper will do the trick just as well. 

Within the Note, I list each day and write a quick blurb on what I did that day. No one reads it but me, so I am not shy about details. An example entry might look like:

June 10: arrived to first assignment early, meditation in the car, worked, chatted afterward with client, caught up on emails, called to reschedule dentist appointment, ate packed lunch, stopped by the library, finished up the last few assignments of the day, came home and worked out, worked on summer schedule, picked up house, texted mom and made plans, prepped/cooked dinner, cleaned kitchen, sat outside with Mr. TFA and chatted, watered garden, folded clothes, worked on blog post, watched TV with Mr. TFA. 

A jumbled mess of actions, right? 

How is a Productivity Journal Helpful? 

Last year, without itemizing each action, I might’ve looked at my day and thought: “Gosh, I worked, came home and worked out, then frittered away my evening.” Which is not what I did. 

Within my day there was work. And also productive tasks, self-care, chores (aka loving on my home), QT with a loved one, down time, and some enjoyable, “non-pressing” business taken care of (like watering my garden!!).

When I view work as the only thing I truly accomplished, and my household tasks, self-care, and relationships as “time-consumers”, I give work much more importance than it deserves. Don’t get me wrong, work is important—but it’s not my life. 

My life is the other stuff too. Maybe Definitely more so than my work. My life is hanging with Mr. TFA, ensuring we have good food in our bellies, time to love on and take care of myself, books to read, a home space to enjoy, and so much more. 

The Life-Changing Magic

Rather than things being something I have to do, through this Productivity Journal, I remind myself I want to do them. Yes, this even includes submitting paperwork to the insurance company. After all, the reason I’m even doing it is because it’s one more way to care for my family. 

And, like my inspiration for this journal (Anonymous Spreadsheet Woman), I can now see how much I live according to my values. I still thrive on accomplishment and checking things off, but this practice has changed how I approach and prioritize everything I do.

Along with the realization that I certainly do enough, is the diminishing desire of getting things done just so the (self-imposed) monkey is temporarily off my back. Instead, I’ve psychologically rearranged what I find worthy of taking pride in. To be honest, I like what I see. 

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