NYC, bookstore

Months ago I wrote about the importance of keeping a notebook. Today, I’m sharing all sorts of ways we can use our notebooks to spark ideas, get to know ourselves better and even lead a more fulfilling and engaging life.

Here are 41 things you can explore in your notebook:

  1. Your five senses: what you see, smell, hear, taste and touch every day.
  2. Your feelings, which you might record first thing in the morning, at lunch and a few hours before bedtime.
  3. Your thoughts: your thoughts about yourself, the day, the world, your life.
  4. A list of your doings each day. Author Austin Kleon keeps a “logbook.” In this post, he writes, “…keeping a simple list of who/what/where means I write down events that seem mundane at the time, but later on help paint a better portrait of the day, or even become more significant over time. By “sticking to the facts” I don’t pre-judge what was important or what wasn’t, I just write it down.”
  5. What makes you happy, what makes you smile.
  6. What you’re curious about or interested in. For instance, your notebook might be a list of questions and their answers (and likely more questions). It’s a powerful thing to be able to pose questions and seek out their answers; to explore and examine and investigate. In many places, people don’t have this right.
  7. Other people’s conversations.
  8. Problems you’ve run into during the day and possible solutions.
  9. Jokes, quotes and moments that crack you up. Because humor heals. And how awesome and inspiring to have an entire notebook of funny things you can turn to when you need a daily dose of laughter or when you need it most.
  10. Your hopes and dreams, and how you’ll make them happen.
  11. Places you want to visit and why.
  12. What surprises you about each day. Just one thing.
  13. Your legacy, which you can capture in a small story (or these other ways).
  14. What your inner critic says and your self-compassionate responses (and how you’ll act on the very things you’re feeling so insecure about).
  15. Your inspirations — such as the names and ideas and work of authors, artists, scientists, explorers that inspire you.
  16. Adventures you’d like to take on your artist date.
  17. All the different things you want to create. Today. Next week. Next month.
  18. The stories you’d like to tell.
  19. 50 things about any recent outing, such as a trip to the library; a trip to the grocery store; or a walk in your neighborhood.
  20. Quotes that empower you.
  21. Lessons you’ve learned.
  22. Dialog for your many made-up characters.
  23. Books you’d like to read, and your thoughts on the ones you’ve read so far.
  24. Magical moments — like the way the light hits a building just right or the way the water and sailboats resemble a painting.
  25. Your daydreams.
  26. A dictionary of your own terms — everything from success to self-care. As I wrote in this post, “Create your own definitions for words such as: success; self-care; work/life balance; stress; joy; creativity; and exercise. Actually go ahead and write out the definitions in your journal. Or create a separate notebook with your personal definitions. Make it your very own dictionary. You also can include behaviors, activities and habits below each definition as examples. Return to your dictionary monthly or every season to see if you still feel the same way, to see if each definition still rings true. Remember that you get to define what words like success mean to you. That’s the great part about being an adult: It’s totally up to you!”
  27. The moon on different nights. Because how often do we just look up and marvel?
  28. Poetry — both your own and the poems you come across that really captivate you.
  29. Fascinating facts about psychology — its history; facts about you and me.
  30. Morning pages. According to Julia Cameron, “Morning Pages are three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. *There is no wrong way to do Morning Pages*– they are not high art. They are not even ‘writing.’ They are about anything and everything that crosses your mind– and they are for your eyes only. Morning Pages provoke, clarify, comfort, cajole, prioritize and synchronize the day at hand. Do not over-think Morning Pages: just put three pages of anything on the page…and then do three more pages tomorrow.”
  31. Your responses to journal prompts (like these prompts and these prompts).
  32. Your process with any project, whether it’s writing an essay or a book, working on a presentation for work or sewing a blanket. For instance, author Louise DeSalvo uses a process journal to sketch scenes, to list books she wants to read and to note what’s working and what isn’t. Doing this helps her spot patterns in her writing process. For instance, she learns that her sudden insights actually occur gradually and that she ruminates about abandoning a book before she figures out its structure. Learn more here.
  33. Your values. Write down what’s most important to you (which may change and evolve over time). And explore if you’re living out your values every day. Explore whether your tasks match what’s meaningful to you.
  34. Five new things. Every day list five new things you noticed about our world that seemingly weren’t there before.
  35. Your favorite recipes and recipes you’d like to try — along with any interesting tidbits you find about the people responsible for each recipe (whether it’s a famous chef or your family member).
  36. Mapping out what you’ll make every day for your 100-day project — and recording your thoughts and feelings about it on a regular basis.
  37. Notes from your favorite podcasts or videos. Personally, if I don’t write something down, it slips away from my memory forever — like it never existed at all. That’s why I’m a huge fan of taking notes, especially when I hear something really wise and brilliant that applies to my own life and what I’m struggling with or working on.
  38. Stories you’d like to tell your kids or kids in general, whether they’re personal memories or messages you’d find in a children’s book. (After all, children’s book are incredible.)
  39. A field guide to plants, birds, trees, mountains or even musicals (in other words, any topic that intrigues and delights you).
  40. Anything that calms and relaxes you — examples you’ve observed from nature or your own life, along with images you find in magazines.
  41. Anything you want. 🙂

Keeping a notebook can help us explore ourselves, our lives and our world. It can remind us of the magic all around us. It can calm us and bring clarity, helping us make sense of confusing thoughts and big feelings.

It can bring fulfillment and fun, helping us map out our dreams and adventures. Our notebooks can also serve as a source of wisdom and inspiration. It can nudge us to explore, examine and savor.

And, again, it can become anything you want it to be.

How do you use your notebook? In addition to the above, what other uses can you think of?