I have recently started keeping a physical journal. Absolutely everything goes into it – work meetings, ideas, weekly to-do lists, the list goes on. These are all things I’ve always done – albeit in a number of online/offline ways.

But there’s one new thing I’ve added – the monthly review.

Instead of focusing on all the things I haven’t done yet (my usual approach), I instead focused on what I have achieved in January and wrote those down. Just five bullet points. The idea is that later on, if I’m ever having a bad day I can look back and see clearly that I am really am moving forward. My five ‘wins’ written down, I moved on to…

…The four things (chose your own number here) that I can do in February that will move the dial and get me a step closer to the person that I want to be. Note that I’m not talking about goals here, rather what I want my ideal life to look like. I did a lot of holiday reading, and this approach is advocated by both Benjamin Hardy, author of Personality Isn’t Permanent and James Clear, author of Atomic Habits.

The idea is that once you achieve a goal, you go back to the empty feeling (the example of ‘I’ve lost 5 kilos, now why isn’t my life any better?’ is often used here), whereas becoming a better version of yourself is a an ongoing journey, and each step forward is a positive one. So that’s the second list – what actions I can take in the coming month that help me move toward a better version of me?

And then, lastly, and funnily enough I found this the hardest – I jotted down a few bullet points in answer to the question ‘what about my current situation gives me the most confidence & excitement?’

Now this is tough, because I’m very future focused and never happy with the status quo. But after some staring at the wall for a little while, I was able to jot down a few notes. And looking back at them now, I’m quite pleased with what I wrote.

With so much upheaval at the moment, it can be hard to find the positives, but there’s bound to be some. It might be your team, your clients, your partner, some better personal habits – anything that gives you some hope that you have some things on your side that will help improve your life.

So there you have it, a positive monthly review that supports you to keep going and gives you something to look back on when you’re struggling. And you know, the whole thing only took about 20 minutes. That’s a good use of time if you ask me.

Sarah Penn is the CEO of Mayflower Consulting. Her firm focuses on the intersection between client experience, staff management and regtech. Prior to founding Mayflower in 2013, Sarah worked at Macquarie Bank as a Division Director across a number of business areas including super, funds management, mortgages and financial planning software.
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