Zen-Journal’s Simple Format Provides Surprising Depth

My Zen-Journal, currently a LEUCHTTURM1917 notebook, helps me live a life with more intention, less clutter, and more depth.

A simple format fits my personality

As a Practical Buddhist, I follow the Buddha’s eight-fold path for living. The second aspect of the eight-fold path involves holding the appropriate intention. Intention can be thought of as that which undergirds our actions. So, you might say that if I hold the appropriate intention, my actions will also be appropriate. At least that’s the goal. 

My Zen-Journal is very simple in its organization. Each day’s entry begins with a heading that includes the date, the day of the week, and sometimes a little note about the significance of the day. I don’t use any decorative tapes or colored pencils because they get in my way and delay my progress into planning.

For some, the artistic approach to their planning system totally fits their personality. I’ve seen some beautifully illustrated notebooks on Pinterest and elsewhere. But for me and my personality, simple works best. I’m about getting things done in a mindful but natural way. 

Then I enter the day’s most important tasks (MIT’s). These are items that are usually deadline driven and are must-dos. Following my MIT’s are whatever I want to get done that day. These are tasks that are usually listed a kind of stream of consciousness manner. Whatever pops into my head gets written down. I evaluate after I dump what’s in my brain.

I follow that with an intention statement. I find that creating and writing down a statement of intention helps me formulate the appropriate mindset for the day.

Though challenging circumstances may arise during the day, by setting this intention early I’m more able to respond with compassion. toward others as well as myself.

Throughout the day I use my daily entry for as many pages as I need. Some days I’ll use half a page while on others I’ll use ten pages. That’s what I love about the Zen-Journal method – it’s wide open and free of pre-allocated space limitations.

The link between my Zen-Journal and a life of depth

In my experience we tend to live on autopilot most of the time. It’s a mode of living whereby we relinquish our intention to live with purpose and just let life unfold, reacting to whatever arises as it comes.

While just about everything in life is, indeed, out of our control, we have total control over how we respond…and therein lies the depth.

The late Dr. Wayne Dyer used to say,

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. Within that space is the power to choose our response.”

The last dozen or so years of my life I’ve been experimenting with what it means to live in that space. I’ve created a daily routine composed of meditating, practicing mindfulness throughout the day, and evaluating each of my responses through the eyes of an appropriate intention. 

Using my Zen-Journal in the manner I’ve described helps link my left-brained need for organization and planning with my right-brained need for freedom and limitless self-expression.

You might say that it helps bridge the gap between my business and spiritual brains. 

The Top 5 Benefits of Becoming a Zen-Journal User

Benefit #1: Getting More Hours In Your Day*

*OK, that’s mathematically impossible because of the space-time continuum thing…but that’s what it feels like. As a kid, your mom probably told you that if you get your homework done immediately after school, you’d have more free time to play video games or go outside and climb trees or whatever you did outside.

It’s the same principle coming back to bite/reward you (depending how well you listened to Mom). By understanding and implementing a solid set-up of your Zen-Journal, you’ll develop the skills to rapidly organize your life and commitments. When you have all your ducks-in-a-row, so to speak, you’ll have more time to spend on the things that matter most. You know, like climbing trees, reading to your kids, or playing more Halo. (I’ve never played…just trying to be cool..  🙄  )

Benefit #2: Finally Feeling In Control

Life is difficult. This are the first words in the one of the best books ever written about delaying gratification and maturing as a adult, The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck, MD.

I’d paraphrase it this way – “Life’s a bitch and we spend most it looking for the damn remote.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a remote control device that could help us feel more in control of our often chaotic lives?

When you’ve used Zen-Journal for about a month, you’ll become aware of the bigger picture. When you first get into Zen-Journal it seems easy, but you soon learn that, like most everything else in life, it’s not. In fact, it can be very difficult to adapt to your life. We’re used to another system; we miss the structure of a traditional planner.

Zen-Journal is built on the philosophy that less is more. You get the decide what’s important and meaningful in your life, not some cube-dwelling dweeb in a big corporation who;s job it is to guide you into what’s important and necessary for your life.

Zen-Journal is a tool that helps you have more control over your life.

Benefit #3: A New Appreciation for Personal Prep Time

Hand-in-hand with feeling more in-control of your life is the personal nature of prep time. I’ve had numerous users tell me that when they learn about the mindfulness reviews and how to implement them over time, that their prep time takes on a new and more personal  feeling. It’s like taking time each week for you and you alone. After all, it’s your life and you deserve to be happy and content with it.

Your weekly planning time doesn’t have to be a boring, hurried fifteen minutes. Instead, you’ll learn to implement a system that will impart a new appreciation for the time you spend planning your life. You’re the one in control; you’re the one that’s important here; you’re the one that matters most. Give yourself the tools you deserve.

Benefit #4: Make Greater Sense of the Past

The past is sometimes a mystery to us, but it doesn’t have to be. We look back over the last year and scratch our heads and think, “What the hell happened there?” 

What happens next, is critical in our evolution as a person: We can either just go onto the next thing…or we can take control and pinpoint ‘what the hell happened there.’

Zen-Journal allows you to look back and see what factors contributed to your life’s current status. Use your Zen-Journal  for planning, journaling, exploring ideas, and recording the present so they can look back in reviews and pinpoint these important past experiences. Doing so only enhances their ability to plan for the future.

Benefit #5: More Skillful in Mindfully Planning for the Future

This is perhaps the most valuable benefit of being a Zen-Journal user: Leveraging the past to create a better future in a more mindful manner. The whole point of any time/life management system is to become better, stronger, more adaptable and successful. If your chosen tool doesn’t help you achieve these benefits, it’s not working.

Zen-Journal users become better planners, better note-takers, better journalers, better learners, better workers….better people.

The Pen Beats the Keyboard ~ Why Using a Handwritten Zen-Journal Will Make You Smarter and More Competitive

“If you want to start retaining more information, stop using your laptop or tablet.”

That’s not just some a suggestion from a guy who think’s Zen-Journal is a cool productivity tool, (hey, that rhymes) it’s what research studies are proving from looking at the topic of student/user productivity and retention of information.

Pam A. Mueller (Princeton University) and Daniel M. Oppenheimer (University of California, Los Angeles), studied this topic and published a paper in 2014 in the journal, Psychological Science that presented their findings when studying the effects of digital versus manual technologies for college / university students.

The results of their study and others suggest that laptop note taking, while faster and more user-friendly, isn’t as effective a system for retaining information and processing information. In fact, three separate studies found that students who took notes on laptops performed worse on conceptual questions than students who took notes longhand.

Taking notes on a laptop is decreasingly effective

When I was in college, laptops were just getting to the market and were very expensive. (Yes, I’m much older than you.) We all took notes by hand…and we liked it!

Actually, we didn’t but what choice did we have? There were no smart phones, digital tablets, or smart pens. We didn’t know what we were missing. But as it turns out, these ubercool digital tools, that we now can’t live without, might not have helped us acquire the benefits we wanted in the first place.

The difference between typing and writing

In lectures and meetings, attendees need to take notes. If you look around a university lecture hall or any business conference, you’ll see Chromebooks, iPads, MacBooks, and Surfaces in use; some have built in keyboards while others utilize portable keyboards. Only a few people are taking notes with pen and paper.

Attendees, regardless of their choice of technology, all share similar goals: They want to retain the information.

While note taking with a laptop or tablet via a keyboard produces more notes as compared with handwritten notes, the information isn’t processed in the brain the same way. Elena Prokopets, writing in an article on Lifekhack.org:

Our brains use two different types of cognitive processing when doing these two operations: typing and writing. As tested on a group of undergrads, the research proved that laptop users type almost everything they hear without processing the meaning or devoting much thought to what it is they’re taking notes on. Basically, when you type, all you’re doing is mindlessly transcribing, and that does not require much cognitive activity.

When you take notes by hand, however, you obviously can’t write down every single word your professor utters. So you listen, summarize, and list only the key points. Your brain is more engaged in the process of comprehension and so the information processed this way is remembered better.

You can’t check Facebook with a pen

Multitasking is a myth; No person can actually perform two tasks at once and be in complete conscious control of either activity. It’s just isn’t possible. That’s why walking and chewing gum is such a dangerous undertaking.  😉

How many times have you gotten bored in a business meeting (raising hand) or lecture (ditto) and had the thought, “I’ll check what’s happening on Facebook” or “Damn, did she actually said that? I have to tweet this!”

Suddenly you’re pursuing a separate activity and distraction has taken over. Checking your Facebook feed leads to a writing a comment. And as long as you’re on the net, you might as well do a quick check on your Gmail or Twitter stream, right? No harm, no foul.

Later, when you’re reviewing the your digital notes and discussing them with your study group, you see that you missed a huge and critical point:

“And just when did he actually state that E, in fact, equals MC2?”

Zen-Journal will make you smarter and more competitive

Zen-Journal users understand that writing by hand forces them to process information cognitively and with deliberate intent. It’s mentation and not just transcription.

Zen-Journal’s handwritten foundation takes advantage of our uniquely human ability to process information, prioritize it, and record it in a meaningful format.

Taking notes in lectures, meetings, and conferences via handwritten pen and paper will help you perform these basic operations each time you write.  And while I don’t recommend that a university student use their Zen-Journal for taking class notes, I do recommend they use the Cornell Method of using pen and paper.

In my experience those in business and academia who seem to progress faster through the ranks than most, do so because of their productivity, ability to attract positive attention, and their command of their responsibilities.

Superior information retention, continually being at the top of their field, and being one-step ahead of the competition, are all traits of those I mentioned at the beginning of this article.

My money is on the probability that, while they may not be Zen-Journal users, each has adopted a system of life and information management that helps them stay ahead of their competition.

Zen-Journal is available to you, free. Take advantage of this simple system and you’ll be on your way to becoming smarter and more competitive in your area of endeavor.