Sunday, December 29, 2013

The Year Summary Part 1: The Structure

Structuring your Year Summary

My year summaries are quite long. They are usually 50 to 80 pages long. This may sound very labor intensive. However, I break them up into a simple structure and I add lots of pictures so it actually isn't very difficult. Yes, it does take time but it is well worth it.

I have included the structure I use in my year summaries below with a description of what I write in each section. Hopefully this will give you a good start. I basically make each of these as 'headings' in in Microsoft Word and give them each their own separate page with page breaks to make up the year summary.

This structure changes slightly from year to year but for the most part it stays the same. I am saying this because I don't think that there is a perfect way to do this and I recommend you add and change this structure to best fit your style. I would love to hear any ideas about this in the comments section below.

The Structure
  1. Year Summary Summary: This is essentially an executive summary of the year. I take a page or two to simply reflect on the big picture of the year. This is a good place to talk about blessings and gratefulness. 
  2. Mission Statement: I am big into 7 Habits stuff and I always include my mission statement and a few paragraphs on how I have lived according to my mission. If and when I make changes to the mission statement I will write about why it changed.
  3. Goals: If you can record your goals from the last year, you can hold yourself accountable to them by including them in your year summary and writing about which ones you did and didn't accomplish. 
  4. Family: I dedicate a few pages to each of my family members in my year summaries but I also write about the progress of the family as a whole. Here I also include our family mission statements and any goals we had for the year. This is a good place to write about the places you live, your family friends, changes, etc about your family. 
  5. Family member pages: Like mentioned, I write a few pages for each of my children and my wife. They get a page or two of writing and several pages of pictures. I write about each person's year from my perspective: their development and growth, fun memories about them, and their accomplishments. 
  6. Professional Development and Resume: Here I write about my employment and career development for the year. I always include an up-to-date resume as well. I like this section because even if I don't make progress, I become aware of that and it helps motivate me to progress the next year. When I do make progress it motivates me even more and helps me keep my resume up to date. 
  7. Education: When I was in college this section listed the classes I took and my grades for those classes and other educational progress I make. Since I have graduated, I try to keep this section in here since education and learning are so important to me. I will write about new things that I learn from books, from life and from any independent courses that I take. This last year I took 2 EdX courses online and will write about them in my year summary for 2013. 
  8. Books Read: This section simply lists the books I have read for the year. Some years I will write small reviews and thoughts about the books that were most influential to my life.
  9. Fun Memories/Events: Vacations, parties, hikes, adventures, school events, etc. Make sure to include pictures where you can. 
  10. Pictures: My wife is a photographer so I usually have one to two hundred pictures in my year summary which is probably why they are so long. I like to put the pictures in with the events and people I write about. I usually have so many pictures available that I end up with several pages with only pictures. 
  11. Wins/Successes: I started writing about past successes in a class I took in college and it was a really positive experience. People that don't feel successful can surprise themselves by making a list of their life successes. The key is to write about even the small successes. So every year I make a list of about 20 to 50 wins from the year and I am surprised every year with how much I have accomplished. This is a section I would strongly recommend for everyone. 
  12. Facebook Posts: I like to include a list of all my Facebook posts and statuses. This section isn't absolutely necessary but I would recommend at least going back and reading all of your Facebook statuses for the year because you will probably discover some fun memories that somehow slipped your weekly and monthly journals. 
  13. Monthly Journals: I like to include the chronological journal in my year summary even though I will write about the separate events that I have already written about in my monthly journals in my year summaries.  This might seem redundant but I like to write about these events anyways because of the year context it gives. You could simply take your month journals and just add some pictures and call it your year summary if you like.
  14. What was going on in the world: One thing I recently started doing is to write a quick summary of events that happened in the world around me. This could be national or world news, events that happened for family and friends, or things that happen in the community. I always plan to write my opinions and emotions about these events but I haven't yet. 
  15. Looking ahead: Next Year: This is the time to reflect on the future and coming year. I will almost always include my New Year's resolutions and goals for the coming year in this section. When you do this you can simply look at last year's year summary for your goals for the year to see if you accomplished them.
Additional Items:

Below I have listed a few items I haven't included in my year summaries that I would like to start including or have included in older versions. The whole point of these year summaries is to capture the right data or information about your life and year that gives you meaning and makes you happy. 
  1. Gratitude journal: I have started a daily gratitude journal and I write three good things that happen every day. I would like to start including this in my year summary.
  2. Writings: If you write blogs or essays or poems you might want to include those writings in your year summaries. 
  3. Lessons learned: I have started to merge this in the education section of my year summary but it can be a section on it own. It is very simple when you learn a lesson (moral, social, etc.) you should log it so that you can remember and pass down those lessons to the future.
  4. Ideas: Most ideas go to the grave. Someone once said the graveyard is the most valuable place because of all the inventions, business, and ideas that were never written down and acted upon. If you have an idea write it down. You should do this no matter what and the year summary might be a good place to log those.
This should give you enough to get a really good start on a solid year summary. Good luck! 

Next Week: The Year Summary Part 2: Formatting Using Microsoft Word

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Monthly Journal

I started keeping a monthly journal in 2008 as part of a leadership program at Utah Valley University and I have continued ever since. The monthly journal is a powerful way to start to add context over time in your journal. What I mean by that is that it allows you to start seeing trends and big picture events in your life that you can't pick up by writing only daily or weekly.

This monthly journal doesn't have to be super long or profound. I recommend writing a page or two for the month. You can take the events from your weekly journal put them together and then write about any other trends or patterns that you didn't write about in your weekly journal.

Building a solid year summary journal will be so much easier with month by month summaries. In fact you could simply take you monthly journals and put them all together and call it your year summary if you like. I recommend going a bit further, however the monthly journal, if consistent, by itself is a very powerful journal.

Just like the weekly journal: don't overthink it. You will start to see bigger things by simply writing about a month as a whole that you won't see simply writing daily or weekly.

Next Week: The Year Summary Part 1-The Structure

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Weekly Journal

When most people start writing in a journal it goes something like this: get motivated to write every day, try to come up with something insightful about every entry, give up after a few days or weeks, repeat. You end up with a very spotty journal. We can make your life much easier and your journal much better with a simple weekly journal.

Weekly vs Daily
Consistency is the most difficult thing with a journal. Therefore I recommend writing a simple once a week journal that simply records what happened during the week. This makes it really easy. All that you need is a few sentences. This might not seem like much but I promise that a very simple weekly journal will give you what you need for a really powerful and meaningful year summary.

Keep it simple
Don't stress to much about what goes in this journal. It doesn't have to be perfect. This weekly journal is simply to help you remembered what occurred during that week that you would like to remember. Again, It should only be a paragraph or two outlining events. Your emotions and thoughts should be kept brief in this journal and will get more attention in the Inspirations Journal and the Monthly Journal. I used to keep my weekly journal in actual written journal. I have found it so much easier to have a weekly journal notebook in Evernote. Evernote makes it even easier to track and write.

Don't miss a week

The most important thing is to never miss a week. For some reason, the difference between remembering what occurred in one week to two weeks is huge. I take 5 minutes every Sunday afternoon for the weekly journal. It is on my recurring Sunday to-do list.

Daily journals and even weekly journals aren't very good records to read later on in life or for posterity primarily because they don't provide a lot of context of the big picture. We are going to work on using the weekly journal as the building blocks for the monthly journal and in turn the year summary. In short, keep a simple weekly journal with only a few sentences. Next week: The Monthly Journal.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Journaling: How to Capture it All

For the last five years I have kept a consistent weekly and monthly journal. Every year, for the last five years, I have also created a 50-80 page year summary that includes pictures, my monthly journals which logs everything from the books I have read to my Facebook posts. People ask me how I put these together and how I stay consistent in writing a journal. I am now writing a blog to share some insights on 'journaling'.

Why journals and year summaries?

The reasons for writing a journal are simple. First is the need to leave behind our story. By writing a journal you can document your life for your children or generations to come. Second is to simply help you remember things. Just by the act of writing something down you are more likely to remember it. Then you can go back, look and reminisce. Third: research shows that writing a journal can make you happier and lower stress.

My daughters love to look through my year summary journals. I am also surprised each time I put my year summary together with how awesome my year was. When I first start, I think, "we didn't do much this year" but then, every single year, I am blown away by how much I did when I actually go through my weekly and monthly journals. It is a great experience every December and January. You can check out my 2012 summary HERE.

How to make it easy and awesome

My journals and year summaries do take a lot of work. Most people would love to be able to have an 80 page yearbook/summary/magazine of their year but might find it difficult and not very motivating. That is why I am writing this blog. Each week I am going to go through some step by step pieces on how to structure and create a really awesome year summary and in short how to master the art of writing a journal. We will go through the weekly and monthly journals, and everything else to build a really good year summary. I am not a graphic designer or scrapbooker so there are probably those reading this who will be able to design and create a much better version than what I create each year. My hope is that you will find some inspiration in your journal writing endeavors.

With my instructions you will be able to better understand some of the best practices of writing journals and how they can enrich your life. You will also be able to impress friend and family with really awesome year summaries to put on the sitting-room coffee table. Stay tuned for next week when we cover: The Weekly Journal.