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?

Maybe you shouldn’t retire

Retired Guy ThinkingSociety traditionally has said you should retire at 65 (or some other age.) But how dare society tell you that! Only you know what is best for you.

Many of the most successful people in the world never retire

Some of the financial titans you read about every day seem to never really retire. You see them running companies and dispensing advice well into their 80s and even their 90s. Many of them are mentally sharp and sought after by the media for their thoughts.

You see the same in politics and academia. Jimmy Carter really hit his stride after his presidency was over. Many college professors continue their research well after the traditional retirement age.

What will you do?

Let’s not even think about retiring until we know what we’re going to do with ourselves! You don’t have to plan every minute but basic questions like where will I live and how will I spend my days need to be answered.

How is your health?

You can look at this question from a couple different angles. If your health is good you may want to retire to take advantage of that fact while you can. If your health isn’t so good you may want to retire to enjoy yourself before it gets worse. Or you may decide to keep working to keep health insurance in force until any health problems are resolved. Only you know the answer for your personal situation.

How about partial retirement?

For those that can’t stomach the idea of retirement a “partial retirement” may be the answer. This seems to be getting more popular. And it’s not always for financial reasons. A partial retirement may allow you to try new things while still keeping the social connections of your old job. And the income from working may fund some new ideas.

A variation on partial retirement might be “mini retirements.” I first read about mini retirements in “The Four Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferris. While the author promotes mini retirements for any age I think they work well for those that are on the fence regarding retirement. The basic idea to take an extended mini retirement with the full intention of going back to work. This allows you to try some new things without fully committing to permanent retirement and all that it means.

What if money wasn’t a consideration?

It may help to temporarily forget about money when deciding about retirement. Obviously money is always a consideration, but first think about whether the idea makes sense. Money has a way of clouding the decision making process. So first decide if retirement for you works as a concept, and then work at fitting your budget to your retirement plans. There are lots of ways to do that and other articles in this blog talk about it.

Volunteer Work

While we’re on the subject of money, what if you really don’t need to continue working for financial reasons? Volunteering may be the answer to put your life skills to work, keep you busy and mentally sharp, and provide great social interaction. The right volunteer work might just be the best job you ever had that you don’t get paid for!

Some people end up loving retirement that never thought they would

We have all heard these stories and I really do believe them. Many of us will do anything to prevent change. Retirement is definitely one of those big life changes. Once over the hump of indecision you may just find retirement really is for you!

Will life be more exciting and fulfilling with or without retirement?

I guess that is the central question. Maybe it’s time to get out that pad and pencil and start listing those pros and cons. And don’t forget to include your spouse in your deliberations!

Until next time…