I've discovered a new podcast--Jen Gotch is OK…Sometimes—and, while a little rambly, I enjoy its candor and 'wing it' approach in the podcast space given the highly curated and tightly manicured podcasts I usually listen to (although I do find that level of dedication to 'correctness' appealing, too).
[Do you want a full blog about my favorite podcasts? Let me know. Don't care? Keep reading.]
Jen is the founder and CEO of ban.dō, a design house based in L.A. that specializes in clothing and accessories. To be honest, I got very 'Sophia Amoruso/Nasty Gal' backwash vibes when I first heard the origin story, given the way Nasty Gal experienced an ironic rise and fall last year with the booming success of the Netflix series about the company, GIRLBOSS, followed by its subsequent bankruptcy.
Jen's personality offered a distinctly different feel. As a newly minted mental health advocate who suffers with bipolar disorder, Jen explores ways in which you can 'feel better right now' and topics like emotional eating ("Lost in the Pasta") that, regardless of whether or not you've been diagnosed with a mental illness, urge people to be checked in with themselves and understand their own emotions, mood swings, and wellbeing.
In short, you know I was all over this.
And while I'm always enamored with the abstract, I get frustrated with bloggers and podcasters who keep things super conceptual. I love learning new perspectives, but I want actual solutions, people!
One of the actual tactics she offered that piqued my interest was an app called the Grid Diary. In essence, it's an app that asks you the same questions every day in a way that forces you to check in with yourself.
You can edit the questions so they're totally personal to you; i.e., two of mine are, "How was your workout today? What was your intention in the class?" and "How did you feel when you woke up this morning?" I'm interested to see over time how my 'wake-up' mood actually affects my attitude over the rest of the day.
One of the interesting points she made was that, sometimes, you'll get in a funk and not even notice that you've been in an irritable, shitty mood for 4-6 days at a time before you even realize, Wait, I'm in a bad mood, and I have been for days.
Another thing I found alluring about the Grid Diary concept is that I've found sometimes (and I've talked about this before) I over-journal and end up hyper-focused when I just free-write, wheels off, in my physical journal.
[Interesting aside: I've noticed that I feel less compelled to journal when I'm happy. In the last several months, I've only journaled 1-2 times per month, versus my old average of 1-2 times per week.]
And while it's nice to not feel the need to compulsively journal about every passing thought in order to make sense of it, I still maintain Jen's point of view: It's important to check in with yourself and take an emotional inventory regularly.
It blows my mind how quickly time has passed since graduation, and I'm beginning to realize how easy it is to just float through life and let days—sometimes weeks—pass, in a bit of a daze without being present and intentional in the ways you're allocating your time and energy. I mean, hell, it's August tomorrow. Where did 2018 go?
When I read back on some of my journal entries from January, I'm pleased at how prophetic some of my goals for the year were, although I had forgotten about them.
Likewise, there are things I had written that I wanted to focus on that seemed to bubble up to the surface every couple months—as if I had realized something was important, committed to it, forgotten over time and abandoned it, then went through something that re-confirmed it was important.
While a little funny to listen to myself have the same revelation every three months, it was also frustrating—and clear it would've been helpful to have a tool that kept these things top of mind so I didn't have to keep learning my lessons the hard way.
Although daily check-ins may feel extraneous (and who knows, maybe they are), quick daily inventories seem like a better alternative than exhaustive (and sometimes daunting) journaling sessions. There have been many nights where I've crawled into bed, spotted my journal resting conspicuously on my nightstand and realized I should probably reflect, but the idea of covering the highs and lows of the last few weeks just felt too overwhelming to do in one sitting.
And so the cycle continued.
To be sure, the Grid Diary can track whatever you want it to. You can personalize it to focus on solely professional goals, personal goals, health goals, or any combination of the like. My intention (see? Intention-setting! Yeah!) is to use the Grid Diary to track the slippery, nuanced elements of daily life (like my mood) to see if I notice any patterns or correlations over time.
Moreover, I think it'll make me realize—on a daily basis--Hey, you're not very checked in today, or You're trying too hard to multitask and it's stressing you out.
[Aside #3: I've gotten very into "unitasking" lately and want to write a whole post on how to best leverage and implement the idea of giving ALL of your attention to one thing at a time to be even more productive.]
My actual Passion Planner is what I use to drive my productivity, set focus points throughout the week, and make sure nothing slips through the cracks. It's a small, leather-bound agenda that satisfies the tactile side of me that derives a very traditional sense of satisfaction from writing things down and checking them off. Flipping through physical pages to glance back at a color-coded illustration of the past is gratifying in a way that digital substitutes never will be.
To employ a metaphor, my Passion Planner is like the software that powers my hardware and sets the course—and the Grid Diary is like a daily virus check that scans for abnormalities in my system and brings them to my attention.
Here's how I use my Passion Planner most effectively:
Set a "This Week's Focus" every Sunday.
This is an area that I'd bet is underutilized by even the most avid Passion Planner users. I like to pick one thing that I'm working on that week. This week, it's staying calm and collected and paying attention to detail—i.e., going slowly and taking my time to do things right so I don't get frazzled (i.e., unitasking).
Color-code the different areas of your life.
I highlight all CorePower-related things (training, exercise, and classes I instruct) orange, all 'life errand' productivity is yellow, and side hustle-related stuff is pink (blog, freelance, etc.). "Fun that requires planning" (e.g., travel, charity events, etc.) is blue, and, ironically, I don't record work commitments or meetings in my Passion Planner since it's all in my Outlook calendar and tends to change frequently (and I HATE scratching things out). Not only does this allow you to see where you're spending your time graphically, it looks damn good.
Use the WORK PRIORITIES and PERSONAL PRIORITIES sections effectively.
They're broken down into "Top Priority," "Priority," and "Errands," and every week I write down all the (sometimes obnoxious) stuff I want to prioritize completing that week—sometimes it's as bland as getting my car registration renewed, other times it's personal stuff like writing and mailing someone a card. Point is, it gives you a space to record and keep yourself accountable.
Here's the key to these sections: anything you don't accomplish that week rolls onto the next. I always try to finish out the week with nothing left, but that rarely happens. In this space, I record work priorities for the week, just to keep myself on-task when working on larger products without hard due dates. Because of how chaotic things can get, big, important things often take a backseat to small, urgent things. That's a dangerous trap to fall in.
Get grateful and use the "GOOD THINGS THAT HAPPENED" section.
I think everyone knows how much gratitude can affect your overall mood and outlook. Whenever good things happen to me (large or small), I write them down in that section of the planner. Here's a sampling of a few of mine from the past few weeks to give you an idea:
"Sunday brunch. Mentorship from Laura. Taught my first 6 a.m. Sculpt. An opportunity to implement feedback. Hauls from Trader Joe's (see? Minor!). Good talks with Claire. Mom visited. A stormy afternoon. I got to pet my cat (LOL)."
See? It doesn't have to be "I got a promotion!" or "I won the lottery!" It can be as simple as a damn haul from Trader Joe's that brought a smile to your face (hello, Cookie Butter, my newfound cubicle companion).
I figured it was a coincidence, but my most productive and successful year of college was the same year I used the Passion Planner (senior year). But because I was trying to be #CostEffective after graduation, I bought a lackluster agenda from Target for $10. Three (kinda shitty) planners later in my quest for one that would live up to my expectations, I finally caved and just purchased another Passion Planner.
Truly, I've seen another uptick in my ability to get things done promptly, manage my time effectively, and feel good about myself and my accomplishments at the close of every week.
Besides, there's just something about the format of the tiny, 30-minute incremental lines that really lends itself to creativity. You can color-block, doodle, and write down your work as neatly or as creatively as you want—and it still somehow looks put-together.
Rather than going through a zillion different cheap grocery store planners trying to find one that works, just spend $30 one time on a planner that's going to best serve you and your purpose.
Although tempted to name this something cliché like #GIRLBOSS, this section features all my obsessive-compulsive productivity hacks & candid conversations about career development.