I probably won't be telling you anything new when I say that the last year was rough. For all of us. One of the many problems I faced- apart from, you know, a pandemic- was the missing direction in daily life. I found myself just waking up, doing whatever aka work and then nothing, and going to bed. After a while, this repeat-and-rinse of living into the day made me feel kinda lost. The frustration about the whole ordeal gave me motivation to change my daily structure, or more, the lack thereof. The only thing I needed for that was some sort of tool to get me started.

In December of 2020 I started using the Theme System Journal from Cortex Brand. It's a helpful little journal which provides a basic structure for me to do a little review of the day. If you're somewhat like me you're maybe now thinking about those mindfulness journals, these feel good kinds of books where you'll answer predefined questions every day to be more thankful or in tune with yourself. In a way you're not that far off. I'd never buy those though, for one particular reason. The pages in this journal are mostly blank!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I want to show this notebook and explain how I use it.

The journal has 3 parts:

  1. Theme[s]
  2. Journal Pages
  3. Daily Themes

Why Theme? Because goals suck! Well not really suck, but goals have to be SMART. The Theme here tries to replace New Years resolutions, which are a goal and can be SMART, but they mostly don't work out for me. A theme is much more fuzzy, maybe even a little spiritual or new-agie. A theme is the direction you want to go in for the next months, were you wanna improve.

A theme is your compass to walk towards a goal, without knowing how the path actually looks like.

CGP Grey made a short video explaining this idea better than I ever could. (Also, he introduced me to this concept.)

My theme for the past 3 Months was structure. I felt really chaotic and a I needed a framework to continue. Structure meant for me: I wanna do my chores regularly. I want to have a routine of learning. I want to train/maintain my body aka have a fitness routine. I need a way to maintain my relationships. I wanna be relaxed, because things don't keep piling up all the time. Except the fitness I feel like I have achieved what I wanted. So now I could switch out my theme to do something new. Also now I can reflect if the fitness is really important/possible for me(it is, the question is just hypothetical).

The journal pages provide 4 boxes to journal about your day. The idea here is to answer the same 4 prompts every day to have a consistent review. If I remember correctly this is based on the book Triggers(Amazon-Affiliate Link). Regardless, every day you sit down and answer your prompts. Currently mine are: "What was good?", "What was bad?", "What am I proud of?", "What am I looking forward to?". These are shamelessly stolen from the tutorial of the Theme System Website, but I can't really imagine anything else. "Good"-box triggers me to be thankful. "Bad"-box helps me to reflect on mistakes or unfortunate external things. "Proud"-box lets me pat myself on my back after maybe being a little hard on myself. And "Forward"-box let's me find something in the near future to be excited about(and oh boy, this is really difficult right now).

Lastly the daily themes. In this section you can reflect about your day in a more numerical form. You can have up to 14 different mini themes to reflect about your day. Some of mine are "chores", "downtime" and "learning". I'll go through this list and give everything 0, 0.5 or 1 point, depending on how I feel I did in this specific area of my life. In the past few months I changed those a lot, because my focus changed, or the mini theme just didn't make sense for me. This is one of the strongest points of this journal: it lets you adapt and evolve. Like a Pokémon!

In conclusion: the theme system journal has got all the perks of a standard bulletjournal, but without the artsy-creative part. It's straight forward, direct, nicely structured and still lets you decide your own topics and key points. It would be an understatement to say that it has helped me a lot during the last few months. To me, it works as an anchor I can hold onto whenever life gets all busy and overwhelming. It keeps me focused on the things that matter the most to me. Every evening, even after the most stressfull days, I can sit down and review the day. Afterwards, I feel calm and relaxed. So if you struggle with similar issues as I have over the last year, I'd highly recommend checking this method of mindfullness training.