This story doesn’t start with visual journaling.
It starts with something you might be familiar with: feeling like you’re living your life running on a great, big, giant, hamster wheel…
Where days blend together feeling like you will never catch up.
With a sense of overwhelm.
And piles of self-judgment.
If only you were more organized or had just a little more time…
Your dreams? The things that light you up inside? Is there enough time for them? Or are they sitting in a corner somewhere completely neglected?
We live in a world of demands. It can be a survival skill to stop paying attention to how we think, what we dream, and how we feel in order to perform.
The problem is that when we stop paying attention to our dreams, it results in a life lived on autopilot.
I get this because I’ve lived it.
I have a career and a family.
I was really trying to eat well and work out.
And most of the time, I was completely exhausted. I always felt like the worst mom ever because I could never remember which date I was supposed to send cookies. Or when that recital was. Or OMG what do you mean there is a field trip today and I forgot to pack a lunch and send that permission slip???!!
My desk at work was a deluge of sticky notes. All the deadlines blended together in my head–whether big or small. Getting everyone fed was as important as delivering on that big proposal deadline.
And forget about weekends being fun, that’s when I was catching up on the house stuff, or planning meals, or buying someone shoes because they suddenly stopped fitting.
I never got to play. Or spend time on the things that mattered most to me.
I was beyond burnt out.
And I had no idea what to do about it.
The skill that unexpectedly changed everything
As part of my day job, I went to a conference. It was one of those business book conferences where the latest authors were presenting their big ideas.
I was already exhausted when I entered the auditorium that morning. Too many deadlines. Overwhelming responsibilities. And though the content was inspiring, it all ran together into a big tangled mess of ideas in my head.
My brain was full of information, and I walked out at the break feeling submerged.
As I neared the exit, I passed a guy in front of whiteboards working with markers. What he was doing made me stop. He was creating notes from the sessions, but in a way I hadn’t seen before. The words were there, but there were also illustrations, call out boxes, arrows to connect ideas together…
Suddenly, I could “see” the ideas.
The feeling of overwhelm vanished! I knew which ideas went with which speakers. I could visualize what was important and lose the rest.
The technique I saw that day is called a lot of different things. I’ve heard the terms: scribing, sketchnotes, graphic recording, infodoodling, and visual journaling. (There’s probably more.) You may have seen videos where a hand sketches the ideas for a talk as the speaker is speaking.
After that experience, I became fascinated with the idea of taking notes like the guy at the conference. I wanted to experience that same sense of clarity.
I grabbed a cheap notebook, a pen and some crayons.
It didn’t matter that I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. Or that I didn’t have any ability to draw whatsoever.
I just started to do it.
Messy, imperfect, and 100% mine.
Eventually, I had my notebook with me all the time and started using it for everything. Conversations, task lists, ideas, plans, things I wanted to remember… One of the most effective uses was just dumping thoughts like popcorn onto the paper whenever I was feeling overwhelmed.
Later, I came across Ryder Carroll’s work, and I added an index and adopted his Bullet Journal method of rapid logging and migrating tasks.
Visual journaling took me from overwhelmed to organized. Not only that, but it shook the dust off my dreams and started to make them happen.
And without even realizing it, this practice changed everything.
Why this blog exists and how it can help you go from overwhelm to intention.
Journaling is a powerful tool for living life with intention. When we capture and review what matters most to us, it breaks us free of the hamster wheel. It is the visual component that makes the difference.
Color and simple drawings when done by hand, engage our brains in a different way than typing or simply writing notes.
The part of us that dreams and imagines is visual and in color. Getting that out of our head and in front of our eyes, makes a huge difference in the type of life we get to live.
The best part is that anyone can do this.
You don’t have to be an artist to practice visual journaling. I definitely wasn’t when I started. Simple drawing was our very first written language. If you can write the letter M or Q, you have all the skill you need.
You don’t have to buy fancy supplies. I started this for about six bucks which got me a composition notebook and a box of crayons. (I’ve upgraded since then because I like a hard cover journal, but I still don’t spend more than $50 a year on supplies.)
Sometimes I’m still blown away that such a simple practice could produce such incredible results. I love my life. I feel great. And I’m living in integrity with who I am in my heart because this practice took me off of autopilot.
It isn’t even just about getting organized. This practice has helped me clarify what I want, and then: make it happen. It’s helped me eliminate the non-essential, and maximize the things I love! It’s how I was able to create this blog while still enjoying a career and family.
YourVisualJournal.com is the place where I share how to create your own visual journaling practice.
This is not a site for spending hours on Pinterest-worthy layouts. This is about visually journaling in real life, for real people, with real daily demands.
Sign up to get inspiration delivered to your inbox and get the free QuickStart guide. What’s in those pages can get you started journaling visually today.