Simple Self Care

How I use my planner for a better-than-gratitude practice

I’ve always wanted to have two habits: consistently use a planner and establish a gratitude practice. Neither has come easy to me, even though I love all things to do with planners and journals.

I love looking at them, picking out the one with the best features, and picking out a pen to use with them.

I even love filling them in with all the things I need and want to do.

For about a week. And then they sit on my shelf or nightstand or in my purse and collect dust. Sometimes for years.

In some ways I wish I had kept all of the half (if that) used planners and journals that I’ve purchased and started over the years so that I could give you a number and show you a picture. But I’d say it’s probably in the 10-20 range.

I tell you all this so that you understand that I am not a planner user. Not in the traditional sense. And I’m also not a journal writer. My journal writing habits are so bad, that I’ve influenced every journal writing roommate and mission companion I’ve ever had. Including my husband. If they came to me with a good journal writing habit, by a week later it would be totally wrecked. My lack of desire to write in my journal was so strong that I roped them in to doing things with me in the evenings instead of writing in their journals.

I’ve often started with high hopes for journal writing and planner using. I’ve tried bullet journals, monthly spreads, weekly spreads, and daily spreads. Nothing sticks.

Except one.

My better-than-gratitude practice

I use my planner daily now, but not really as a planner. I use it as a journal. Have I mentioned that I let go of my fear of being unconventional? This is just one more evidence of that.

I was listening to Emily Belle Freeman’s book Even This when I first heard this idea. She talked about how each night in her prayers, so would ask herself, “Where did I see Jesus today?” And she’d look back on the whole day and find evidence of Him.

I loved that idea. It felt right in my soul. I’ve never connected with the gratitude practice that so many people love. I don’t know why, it’s just always felt forced to me. But this… this was something I could feel in my soul.

I tried a lot of things. I tried a traditional journal for writing it down. Too much work. I tried an app on my phone. Too impersonal. It didn’t stick, and it didn’t go soul deep like I wanted it to.

Then I remembered something I’d done as a missionary. Every night after we planned for the next day, I would write down one miracle I’d seen that day in my planner. (Yes, I successfully used a planner for 18 months straight as a missionary. It would have been absolutely impossible to live without one, as we didn’t use smart phones then.) 

That kind of practice felt like it would work for this, but I wasn’t quite sure how. Because, like I said, I don’t use planners anymore.

Open planner with pen

Finding the right fit

One day in March I was roaming around Walmart by myself, and I came across the clearance planner section. I started browsing, because I do love looking at planners. As I looked at one that was marked down to $3.50, I knew this was it. It was small enough to fit easily in my hand, so it wouldn’t be too bulky on my nightstand. It had monthly spreads and weekly spreads, and no other unnecessary hoopla. I bought it. 

I set three goals for myself inside the front cover. 

  1. Write down things that happen that feel important (like milestones my kids hit) in the monthly spreads. 
  2. Write where I found Jesus each day on the weekly spread.
  3. Make a list of things and people to pray for in the “Notes” section in the back.

That’s it. I don’t need to write a single sentence. Just a phrase or two. I don’t expect myself to spend time on this. It’s just become a part of my prayer routine. Something to thank my Heavenly Father for each night.

It works. It works for me, and it might work for you too. Or maybe you already have a consistent journal writing and gratitude practicing habit that you can work it into.

If not, I just want to encourage you to think about it. Not only do I love that I have some kind of a written record to look back on, I also feel more connected to God. I see His hand in my day, and I can connect with Him on a deeper level each night. Try it.

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