The power of evening pages and “it’s done” lists

journalpenIf you are a regular reader of my posts, you know that I am a big proponent of morning pages. They are part of my morning ritual, part of my creative process.

And they never feel like a chore to me — I look forward to them, because there’s no way I can “do them wrong.”

They are simply a brain dump, and if they move into deeper journaling and other forms of writing, great. If they don’t, they don’t; I’ve taken that time in the morning to connect with myself, to take a look at my mind on paper and see what’s going on there. It’s a great way to become more conscious of what I’m thinking, and how that thinking is affecting my life.

Lately, though, I’ve instigated a habit of evening pages, too. This might sound like a lot of rituals, but honestly, evening pages take but a few minutes, and they’re making a significant difference.

I decided to try evening pages because I noticed myself feeling overstimulated and jittery before bed, probably from too much iPad use (and my dear, overworked iPad died just the other day, so maybe life is trying to tell me something). Evening is also the time that my brain gets fired up with thoughts that go something like “so much isn’t working and there’s so much more to do!”

Here’s the way I’ve been approaching evening pages: I sit down with my notebook (pen to paper, no electronic devices), and I write this question at the top of a fresh page: What worked today?

The answer may be something seemingly small or even insignificant — “I ended a phone call before I started feeling drained”, “I drank a glass of water instead of more coffee”. But making a note of it in my evening pages causes me to realize just how much good I create for myself in a given day, and, often, how those “insignificant” things I barely even notice actually make a true difference.

After the “what worked today?” question is answered, I move on to an “it’s done” list. The “it’s done” list is the equivalent of crossing off the items on my “to-do” list, but it feels much more real and satisfying to actually write down what has been done. And there is always so much more than I realized, if I look for it. Yesterday, I wrote down eight things — yes, eight — that I hadn’t even noticed I’d accomplished.

What I’m noticing is that this nightly process is helping me go to bed focusing on what I’ve already done, rather than how much there is to do.

Even things that are in the process of getting done (the big things that may take weeks or months) feel better and more manageable to me when I notice what I’m already doing and how much I’ve already done.

And the biggest takeaway I have from this process is that nothing is too small to note. It’s the voice of perfectionism (the pushy, hyper-critical aspect of perfectionism) that tells us “only the big things count.” The big things are, most of the time, made up of tons and tons of teeny-tiny things we did to create them.

One of the most significant things I’ve learned from six-plus years of working with my life coaching clients is that the more we focus on what’s working in our lives, the more we focus on what feels good and right to us — no matter how small it may seem at the time –the more of that energy we invite into our lives.

So often our tendency to is keep our focus on what’s not working. Yes, it’s important to notice when something just doesn’t work for us. If we don’t notice it, we can’t change it.

But we can get into a loop where we think if we can just “figure out” what’s not working and why, we’ll get to the bottom of it and move forward. What I’ve found is that the more we focus on what’s not working, the more evidence of things not working we find, and around that track we run.

So we need to commit to celebrating what is working, and what we have done. We need to remember to celebrate all of  it.

How do you remind yourself of what you’ve already accomplished? How do you celebrate it? I’d love to hear from you.

And: On Monday, March 6, enrollment begins for my Stellar Self-Care Coaching Program. I’ve been offering this one-on-one coaching program since 2015 and it is such a joy and an honor for me to witness the changes my clients make as I partner with them in this process. If you feel overwhelmed or overworked, or like you’re always putting others first and are ready to put YOU at the center of your life, I’d love to help. Find out more about the Stellar Self-Care Coaching Program, here.

Also: In late April, I’ll be offering a group version of this program. If you’d like to explore this content with a group, please contact me and I’ll send you the info on the group version. You can contact me about the group version through the form on the Stellar Self-Care Coaching Program page, here.

Above image is “Blank Page of Journal” [cropped] © Daniaphoto | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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4 thoughts on “The power of evening pages and “it’s done” lists

  1. This is such a great idea! Interestingly, one of my close friends just told me that she makes an “it’s done” list and now I hear about it here as well … I love those little synchronicities.

    Similar to the “it’s done” list, lately I am loving the simple (yet powerful) practice of writing my top three priority tasks on a Post It note every day. Beneath the top three, I write, “Everything else is just a bonus.” 😉 This helps me to clarify what’s most important and release the rest for another time.

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    • Oh, I love that Post-It note idea, Caroline! That does sound powerful. “Everything else is just a bonus” — great way to remind yourself it’s okay to stop for the day. Thanks for sharing that! 🙂

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  2. Wonderful post Jill! I too find I need some slowed down, no device, reflection time before bed, and recently I’ve gotten back into an old habit and created a new one! The old habit – to write a gratitude journal before bed, acknowledging the things/people I’m grateful for/to that day. It doesn’t take long at all – but it’s always eye opening…because I forget! And a new habit – I’ve identified three key dreams I want to fulfill, and each day, after my gratitude journal, I write a single sentence to acknowledge something I have done that day which is a small step towards manifesting each dream. I truly love book-ending my day this way – morning pages to start, and these two notebooks to complete. Thanks Jill, for this wise and affirming post that nourishes me through reminding me there are many like minded souls out there 🙂 Blessings, Harula xxx

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    • Beautiful, Harula! What wonderful practices for before bed-time. So interesting that you, too, are finding this type of evening ritual helpful! It’s kind of like it retrains the mind to focus on what’s good (for me, the evening hours seem to be the ones where I’m more vulnerable to feeling low or negative). I love your term “book-ending the day” with these practices — yes! Me too. Thanks so much for sharing, my friend! Always great to hear from you. 🙂

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