Why Using One Zen-Journal Will Help You Avoid Split-Brain Syndrome

This is how I feel when maintaining more than one Zen-Journal.

Split Brain Syndrome (SBS) is both a medical condition and a computer jargon term loosely based on the medical definition.

In medicine, the corpus callosum is a fibrous connection between the left and right hemispheres of the human brain. When this nexus between the two hemispheres is cut, as is sometimes performed on patients with uncontrollable seizures, the patient is often rendered, at lest temporarily, of two minds with each hemisphere functioning independently.

In computer science, SBS indicates data or availability inconsistencies originating from the maintenance of two separate data sets with overlap in scope; A redundant system that causes errors.

Why am I writing about split brains?

One of my favorite bloggers wrote on her blog this week that she was using a Midori Traveler’s Notebook for journaling and my reaction surprised me. It made me cringe.

It’s the same reaction I have when I read about people having one notebook for their personal life and another for their career/work. When I read that blog post I felt disappointed inside, as if she were suddenly an addict who started using again. How could she? (My best guess is that she’s experimenting after years of solo journaling.)

Before I start getting unsubscribes and hate comments (kidding, you are free to disagree with me…I’m used to it…I used to be married), I don’t deny anyone the right to use whatever notebook they choose.  At the same time, it violates something deep within me when I see others using systems that would, without a doubt, create a split-brain syndrome in me if I were to use them.

I recognize, of course, that this is my aberrant pathology and I own it fully.

The primacy of a single, continuing Zen-Journal

Having one continuing notebook for my life’s body of work is the single-most palpable reason that I use Zen-Journal. Having anything other than a one-notebook system creates a second data set for me to curate.

However, I’d never split my data into additional notebooks. That isn’t a modification, it’s a second data set and, as we’ve learned from the definitions above, this can lead to errors. For me (and yes I realize there are many more people in the world than just me), multiple notebooks defeat the purpose of using the Zen-Journal system.

Two data sets, as described above, lead to errors and redundant psychological traps.

~  “Do I write about this in my personal Zen-Journal or in my Business Zen-Journal?
~  “Where do I record an appointment if it affects both business and my personal life?”
 ~ “If I have a great insight while writing in one notebook, will the other suffer because of its absence?”

Redundancy isn’t innovation, it’s duplication

One of the hallmarks of the mindful minimalist movement is to continually evaluate whether or not we are duplicating efforts, functionality, or action.  Maintaining more than one notebook, for me, would be trying to live with redundancy and having to defend it. It would be like living with SBS all the time. It’s how I rate my parents’ system of three wall calendars, all with conflicting information.

It’s #oldschool

Confession- I’m not immune

Even creating a dummy Zen-Journal for illustration purposes feels duplicitous for me. It’s like maintaining a storage unit with stuff you never use and never will.

After I’d completed a few layouts in the test journal, that duplicitous feeling arose and I couldn’t stand it. I had to ask myself if it also was a violation of the primacy of a single Zen-Journal.

I concluded that it was. The test journal is no more and the test layouts have been migrated into my only Zen-Journal.


Do you agree? Disagree?

Some of my readers use the Midori Traveler’s Notebook approach to Zen-Journal.  Some of them use a single notebook and others have separated their lives into separate notebooks.

If this is you, I’m interested to know how having multiple notebooks makes you feel.  I’d love it of you commented at end of this post.

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.


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.