How to keep a journal

Writing in a journalI am terrible at keeping a journal

Writing this article is good for me.  I’ve tried to keep a journal.  I have fancy notebooks.  I’ve downloaded software.  I have started with the best intentions, but always eventually give up.

Something always seems to get in the way.  If I try to write in the morning something will come up that appears urgent and off I go and the journal never gets updated.  At night I’m too exhausted to write, or at least I think I am.

And I feel even more guilty after reading some stories on the web.  I read that members of the Lewis and Clark expedition were prolific journal writers.  They returned with over a million words of notes and observations.  They accomplished this with incredible hardships and often while fearing for their lives.  So, what is my excuse?

You need a plan

The key to keeping a journal might be having a plan that is so compelling you can’t start or finish your day without writing in your journal.  It needs to be a part of your daily life.

Here’s one plan.  Most of us at least make a list of things we need to do.  So maybe if you are trying to write your journal in the morning you start with a “What I need to do” section in your journal.

Then you add a “What I accomplished today (or yesterday)” section to be completed.  Then that might lead to a “What I’m thinking about” section, or a “How I feel” section.  Maybe a “What good things happened” or a “What bad things happened.”

The idea is to build up a set of standard topics that you care about and help you plan and think about during the day.  Pretty soon the journal becomes kind of indispensable and you feel something is missing any day you don’t complete your journal.

Paper or Digital

People seem to be undecided on this, and there are advantages to both.  We all do so much on our computers that digital seems to be the way to go and your writing can be password protected to keep it private.

Paper journals have that “feeling” that you have accomplished something and it is special because it was written with your real hand.  It probably feels good to fill up a paper journal and start a new one.

So, I guess it all comes down to personal preference and the action of keeping a journal is more important that the method.

Famous Journal keepers

A quick Google search reveals many famous journal keepers.  Below are just 10 I picked out:

Anne Frank

Ronald Reagan

Charles Darwin

Thomas Edison

Marie Curie

Mark Twain

George S Patton

George Lucas

Thomas Jefferson

Benjamin Franklin

How to Start – Just Start

So how do you start keeping a journal?  Just start now.  Grab a notebook (you may even have a “special” notebook laying around from the last time you tried to start.  Or open a document on your computer and start writing.  Just name the document something you will remember and put it in a place you will remember, you can always organize things later.

Maybe use some of the ideas mentioned above or come up with your own plan. Keep it simple and let your journal evolve.

But just start…

Over 60 and ready to kick butt…

Senior Politician

“The times they are a changing.”  Bob Dylan was right and it applies to older folks today.  Never in history have older people been ready to kick butt in all kinds of ways.  Let’s look at why.

The Grey wave

Today’s older folks will not be sitting in the rocking chair – unless it’s while listening to rock music!  They are planning on 20+ years of butt kicking in many ways.  You hear lots about the Baby Boomer generation and how they are going to break the Social Security and Medicare system.  But what about the positive aspects?

Political Clout

Older people are voting in record numbers and they pay attention.  When our representatives do something stupid they give them hell!

A little money and maybe a lot more time

It’s amazing what can be accomplished with a little money and some time.  Some 60+ people are hitting the peak of their earning years and they are not in a big hurry to quit.  Not only can they make a contribution to their employers, they also have some extra money because kids are grown and hopefully most debts are paid off.

Others have just a little money from Social Security and savings but a lot of time.  And all that time can be invested in myriad ways.  Think starting a business, volunteering, or helping young people.

So how can you join the “Kick Butt” demographic?

Get your health in order as much as possible

Health is probably the biggest determination of your degree of involvement.  You hear of many people staying very active into their 80s and 90s.  The key is reasonable health.  Minor health issues you can ignore and just keep going but serious health issues can put you out of the game or end your life prematurely.

Start a business where money isn’t the only goal

This is a big trend these days.  Instead of hanging up their work clothes some are putting on a whole new set.  Many times money is a secondary goal.  They are doing work they love and money is just a side benefit.

Start an organization for a cause

The world has so many problems that need to be solved.  Instead of waiting for somebody else to solve them why not start an organization to solve it yourself.

Use your experience and maturity

This is an area where older folks have a real advantage.  Older people have seen it all before.  Nothing surprises them and they don’t panic.  In my career managing programmers I’ve always tried to maintain a mixture of age groups.  I like older people because when everybody else is panicking they just keep trudging along to solve the problem.

Associate with people of all age groups

Don’t hang around all older retired people.  There is nothing wrong with them, just have an assortment of friends and acquaintances.  You can’t help young people if you don’t ever see any.  Choose your company carefully.  You want to associate with people that are doing stuff, not sitting on their butts.

So how will you kick butt?

Trial Retirement in a Weekend

Middle Aged Lady Enjoying Her Meal

Image courtesy of stockimages at

How do you tell if you are really ready for retirement? We’re not talking in a financial sense but more in a “What will I do with myself?” and “What will it be like?” sense. Well, what if I told you that a trial retirement is possible and that it only takes three days!

Trial retirement over a long weekend

Just like real retirement the key to a trial retirement is planning. Let’s assume our trial retirement is three days. Two of the days can be a weekend. One of the days (a Friday or Monday) should be a work day for the rest of the world. Memorial Day or Labor Day weekend won’t work.

Next think of the kinds of things you will do in retirement. How and when will you do them? Here are some examples:

Experience shopping on a work day

Do you know how you always end up doing grocery shopping on the weekend? Well, when you are retired you don’t have to do that, and in your trial retirement you don’t have to either. So, go shopping at 10:00 AM or 2:00 PM on a Friday or Monday and see how empty the stores are compared to a weekend.

Lunch or dinner on a work day

In a similar fashion try lunch at a spot away from the business lunch crowd on a weekday. Or try dinner on a Monday night. I used to know people that owned fancy restaurants and they always suggested going to dinner on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday when the staff wasn’t overwhelmed by the crowds

Time for chores

Yes you will still need to do chores when you are retired. The difference is that you can pick the time, so try that during your trial retirement.

What will you do during the day (besides TV?)

Here are some ideas to get you thinking:

Time for hobbies – dust off an old hobby and spend a couple hours enjoying it.

Can you visit somewhere out of your ordinary? I’m talking about the kind of place that you would consider a little too different to risk wasting your time, or maybe a little further than you usually travel for a day trip.

What people are included in your plans? Maybe surprise somebody with a visit. (You might want to call first!)

Can you do a mini-vacation that feels like a retirement trip? Maybe stay overnight somewhere at a Bed and Breakfast, or an overnight camping trip.

Afterward, review how it went

Were you bored? Were you stressed? Did you enjoy anything you don’t normally enjoy? What did you do that was out of the ordinary?

Give your trial retirement a rating

On a scale of 1-10 with 10 highest how would you rate your mini retirement? How would your spouse rate your mini retirement?

By the time you are done your mini retirement you will learn something about yourself. What would you change? Why not wait a month or two and try the mini retirement again. This time incorporate changes based on what you have learned. More importantly you can use what you learn in planning for your real retirement!

Until next time…