Saturday, April 11, 2015

J is for Journal

Although I love my laptop and smartphone and all the convenience that software programs and apps give me, I find that when I am thinking, dreaming and planning - nothing beats paper and pen. At the start of 2015 and in an effort to get better organized, I started an experiment - keeping track of my day to day "stuff" in a notebook and using the "bullet journal" approach. Why? I was finding that it was too easy to swipe and snooze tasks and deadlines on my apps! So J is for Journal - and let me tell you why.

I keep all types of notes in my bullet journal (and because I was not sure whether this idea would work, I purchased a graph notebook from Office Depot - nothing fancy here since I am throwing it in my bag every day). I started out with a calendar, index and daily page - most everything goes in the journal. That includes daily tasks, shopping lists, money spent, ideas, proposals, notes from a seminar, telephone conversations, books to read (and books read), personal items, the amount of time it takes to get through projects and the order I plan to do them (giving me a better sense of how I spend my time).

Right now I am using the bullet journal for my personal and genealogy life. The upside - theoretically everything is in one place (day by day) and I can go back through my journal, read previous entries and find stuff. In practice and four months into this experiment, I am about halfway there (although it was my go-to notebook for RootsTech/FGS - I was perfect every day!). I am doing a much better job of  jotting things down in my bullet journal, making some notes for the next day each evening, and then checking in and checking things off during the day.

Don't worry about perfection - just put pen to paper!
I actually enjoy this old school approach.
My actual genealogy research is still kept on either (1) letter size paper so it can be put in the few physical notebooks that I keep or scanned to go into my computer files OR (2) my OneNote filing system for all my online research and written reports. I don't think I will ever be that person who goes completely paperless because I like the feel of and conscious attention that I give to real books and pen and paper too much. I do appreciate the tremendous amount of research that I have on my computer and the ease of online research and annotating PDF versions of books and articles, so this seems to be a best of both worlds solution.

One of the uses of my bullet journal is for my thoughts, ideas and inspiration - and two great sites to help your mind wander through those areas and to write or journal a bit about yourself, your family and your family history are:

  • The Book of Me, Written by You - a great personal writing project with prompts. Check out Julie Goucher's website and associated social media pages and jump right in.
  • The "When I Was Young" Geneameme - a clever idea from Alona Tester. She has 25 questions for you - if you get started answering them you will be able to record some fond memories for yourself and your family.
Check out these two posts - they will get your creative juices flowing!

Do you journal, either for yourself or your family history? Did any of your ancestors keep a journal or diary? If so, how have you preserved and shared it?

See you back here on Monday, for the letter K!
Have a great weekend.


  1. I love this idea. I do think seeing things on paper sometimes is different from seeing it on a computer screen.

    1. I agree - so often we are able to think while we write (I type so fast that I "turn my brain off." Writing gives me time to ponder. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. More and more I find myself going back to paper and pen. Thanks for the inspiring post.

    1. Thanks for reading - I find pen and paper slows things down just enough to engage my brain. Whether we write, draw, or add those "connecting arrows," I think it is helpful to take our time.


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