keeping diary


Keep a Diary (and Create the Life You Really Want)
by Colleen Langenfeld

Remember when you were a girl and intensely loved detailing your daily life into a locked diary? The sense of freedom that accompanied this newfound internal journey was exhilarating!

Journalizing our private, personal reflections at any age can be a profound exercise. But why stop there? Why not use this effective tool to help yourself improve any one of 
several other areas in your life? It's simple!

The following four life topics are a great place to start. 
Keeping track and jotting down notes for two to four weeks in these areas will provide you with an abundance of information that can help you track and adjust these 
important activities.

All you need is a simple notebook that's conveniently sized to travel with you all day. If you're a techie, using a pda or laptop works, too.

1. Time
Simple...write down the time and what you are doing. Be 
specific (i.e., '6.20 AM - Woke up. 6:25 - Showered. 
6:35 Brushed teeth.) Yes, this is tedious, but it's also a 
temporary assignment. This exercise will tell you volumes 
about what is REALLY happening in your life, as opposed to what you THINK is happening. You will learn where all of your time leaks are occurring during your normal daily 
schedule. You might hear yourself gasp 'I spend HOW MUCH time on my hair everyday?' plus you will uncover exactly how much time you're spending on things like TV viewing or commuting.

After you've accumulated two to four weeks of time logs, 
evaluate it. You will have the solid facts you need to 
make intelligent decisions about how you really want to 
spend your time.

-- Family Tip:
Sharing this idea with your teen or preteen is a great way 
to introduce goal-setting. Once they can see in black and 
white where they spend their time and how much control they actually have, they are often ready for the responsibility of time management.

2. Activity
An activity log is similar to the time log (above) but not 
so detailed. Just jot down the major activities of the day 
and how much time you spend on each of them. Be accurate! Don't estimate. Write down actual times.

Now assess results from each activity - is it producing for 
you? If not, get it out of your schedule!

-- Career Tip:
Doing this log with your workday schedule can really 
improve your production ability without requiring any 
additional time.

3. Food
Think you are eating pretty much low-fat these days? 
Wonder how much white sugar your kids are really consuming? Stop guessing. Keep a detailed food log for two to four weeks of everything you or a family member eats and you will know EXACTLY what is in your diet. Now you can effectively track results, too.

Take the time to jot down calories, fat grams, or carbs as 
you go along using package labeling. Do a search for 
calorie counting and you will find plenty of fr'ee online 
calorie counting resources and calculators to make your job easier.

Once you know what you are eating, you can make informed nutritional decisions. You can see where you're doing fine and where you're lacking. Pair this log up with your Time Log and you may start to see your eating patterns, too. Maybe instead of saying no to eating a certain food you love, you'll see you could be more effective by changing an activity in your life you associate with eating. For example,if you notice you like to walk in the door after work, drop the mail on the table, turn on the TV, open a bag of chips and munch until it's time to make dinner, then you can decide to change the pattern. Maybe walk in the door, turn on your favorite music (do you need soothing or invigorating?), brew a cup of tea and relax while you read the day's mail. See the difference?

-- Menu Tip:
Ten minutes to plan a menu and grocery list, plus an hour 
to shop once a week will provide you with a week's worth of yummy, fast meals. In addition, you'll be less likely to 
reach for an easy frozen pizza after a long day's work.

4. Money
Okay, okay. You've come this far, don't run away now! 
Keeping a money journal won't hurt a bit. Remember, just 
writing down where you spend your hard-earned cash does not mean you have to change a thing. It simply means that you are giving yourself the information you need to decide how to use your income exactly how you want. You are in total control.

Once you know where your money is going (you really need to do this log for at least one full month), you are master of its fate. There are many good resources online as well as offline at your local bookstore or library to get you started making sound financial decisions. Get comfortable with the basics and always remember: you probably work very hard for your money; make sure it's working hard for you. Know where it goes each month!

-- Easy Budget Tip:
Use 15 minutes each day to record that day's receipts into your money log. That way you'll never be drowning in a sea of receipts. 

There you have it. Using the simple tool of journalizing to 
improve some of the most basic parts of your life. Want 
another tip? Once you've completed these logs, don't throw them away. Date and save them. In a year or two, complete them again. Then you'll have an accurate record of the gains you've made.

And plenty of reason to pat yourself on the back!


Colleen Langenfeld delivers deals, tips and
creative resources to working moms who want
the most out of their homes, families and
careers at Sign
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keeping diary

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keeping diary