7 Tips for Using Your Zen-Journal for More Mindful Life Planning

7 Tips for getting the most from your Zen-Journal

Here’s a quick list of my top ten tips for using the Zen-Journal system for more mindful life planning:

Tip 1 – Everyone needs to have, and know how to use, a system such as Zen-Journal

I consider it my mission to spread the word about Zen-Journal not only because as I created it, but as I’ve used it I’ve become aware of how superior it is for those who want a more mindful life management system.

Zen-Journal is far more than a planner. Its benefits lie in its simplicity and adaptability. If you want to mindfully manage your life without your management tool getting in the way, Zen-Journal is perfect.

Mindfulness is the moment-to-moment awareness of what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and what your intent is. Zen-Journal, with its twice daily mindfulness reviews, helps bring more purpose to your daily planning.

Tip 2 – Buy a pen/pencil and notebook that you love

Zen-Journal’s main appeal is that you can work with what you’ve got on hand. No more spending hundreds of dollars on fancy leather binders with an odd number of rings that fit nothing else but the planner…unless you want to. If you prefer a No. 2 pencil like my friend Susan does, Zen-Journal can work for you, too.

Zen-Journal’s secret sauce is in its use, not its appearance. What it looks like, feels like, or how decorative it is has no bearing on its function. That being said, I’ve seen some lovely personalizations on Pinterest to how other use notebooks using decorative tape and artwork.

However it’s important to understand that just because some bloggers who write about other paper and pen systems using fancy calligraphy or entire palettes of colored pens and markers, doesn’t mean that’s what the system requires.

Zen-Journal is about helping you plan your days, months, and life in a mindful manner and is more focused on getting things done than looking like a framable piece of art.

Tip 3 – Put almost* everything into your Zen-Journal

A disappointing issue with other pen and paper planners is that our digital devices are ignored. With Zen-Journal, you can use your notebook to record notes, research and complete tasks, and anything else that’s worthy of being written down. If it’s important, it goes in your Zen-Journal.

Zen-Journal also dovetails seamlessly with your smartphone or tablet to take advantage of the more reliable and efficient appointment scheduling technology. Personally, my business and personal schedules are kept on track with my iPhone’s ability to effortlessly track reminders, recurring appointments, and even live traffic routing built into its calendar app.

It helps me with mindfulness, too. I have two recurring daily alarms (a pleasant bell sound) on my iPhone that remind me to review my day’s activities so I can make the best decision going forward.

It makes much more sense to include the digital devices that we rely on so much instead of ignoring them altogether.

Tip 4 – Take your one Zen-Journal with you everywhere

This is yet another key to Zen-Journal’s value, not to mention the one-notebook approach that I use and promote. If you have multiple notebooks, say one for your personal side and one for your career or job, then you run the risk of not having the correct volume with you when a situation arises where you’d need to note something (a telephone call is a prime example).

Unless you work for the TSA, NSA, or in Apple’s R&D Lab, chances are good you won’t be stopped and searched when you leave work. Impend a good deal of time consulting with large firms and this often features proprietary information. Most of that information is inside my MacBook and the last time I checked, laptops are meant to be portable and most people take them home each day.

No one has ever, in over ten years of consulting and 20 years using company-owned laptops, asked me to not take my laptop home or away from a client’s office.

I also keep my Zen-Journal open to the current day’s spread on my workspace. It’s there, ready for action. All it needs is cape!

Tip 5 – Recite this mantra: “What get’s scheduled, gets done”

Truer words were never spoken. I’ve found that by exerting a high level of control over what I schedule in my Day-at-a-Time Work Area helps me become more productive. Because the Discipline Tasks Lists (master lists by category) contain everything I want to accomplish and need to attend to, my daily Day-at-a-Time Work Area could become over scheduled.

But it doesn’t because I …. see Tip 6 ~

Tip 6 – Focus only on MITs day-to-day

In my daily Day-at-a-Time Work Area I list only my most important tasks (MITs). By focusing only on what truly needs to get done, I achieve more of my daily goals and experience much less transfer or migration of tasks to the next day.

That’s why I no longer list ‘do the dishes’ as an MIT.

Tip 7 – Limit yourself to three MITs daily

As I said earlier, exerting a high level of control over your  Day-at-a-Time Work Area will result in getting more done and lead to less transfer of tasks to the following day.  Conducting the two Daily Mindfulness Reviews will reveal what is be too many or too few daily MITs for your personal style.

It’s better to under-commit and get everything done than to over-commit and complete only a few tasks.

Tip 9 – Use the Quarterly Look-Ahead

The Quarterly Look-Ahead  gives you the future planning ability you need. You can think of this portion of your Zen-Journal as the storyboard of the coming months. It’s here that you will schedule tasks, activities, goals, and events by month instead of randomly picking a date out of the air.

If you do have a specific date in mind, then enter it after the task’s description on the same off to the right on your QLA. The subsequent QLA spreads (inserted immediately after the current one) give you all the space you need to adequately plan for the future.

Mindful planning beats sporadic planning any day

Using a Zen-Journal will not only give you a better tool to gain more control over your life and/or business, but it will help you get more done because it reminds you to plan in a more realistic and mindful manner.


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.