One of the things I really used to struggle with was prioritizing my life around the important things rather than the urgent things – you know, putting in the big rocks before the pebbles and the sand. I’ve read Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits book and tried that organizing system (along with several others) but it didn’t stick.

So I made my own, and it’s been working so well that when I recently lost my journal I felt really lost without it – not just “do-I-have-any-appointments-today?” lost (those are also on my phone) but “what-really-matters-to-me-and-am-I-doing-it?” lost. Like I’d seen my North Star and then the clouds obscured it.

Here’s how the journal works, and if you like it you can download a free starter kit here to create your own.

I started by thinking about my ‘big rocks’ as the pillars of positive psychology, which I believe capture the essential elements of a life well-lived: positive emotions, engagement/flow, relationships, meaning and achievement. I added health to help keep me focused there, too.

As I usually do, I started with my sketchbook. I put the headings around the page and then thought about what each of those concepts means in my own life.

Here’s what my original mindmap looked like:

PERMAH life plan screenshot

(Okay, so I need to add more things under “health”…)

Next, I made my first to-do list drawing on those themes. I would show you that too, if I hadn’t lost it… But here are today’s priorities instead. I like the idea of phrasing things as opportunities rather than have-tos; it gives me a completely different energy to think I can choose to do things rather than that I have to do them.

Positive emotions – I have opportunities today to feel…

  • Accomplished if I draft one blog post and upload another
  • Energized and proud of myself if I take a long bike ride
  • Love when I hug the kids and tell them I love them, and get hugged in return
  • Supportive and supported when I talk to my husband about his business trip and what’s happening with me today

Engagement – I have opportunities to get lost in what I’m doing by …

  • Turning on the Zen mindwaves music while I write
  • Riding long and hard enough to feel that endorphin-oxygen buzz

Relationships – these opportunities to connect with friends and family come to mind…

  • Check in to see how mom is feeling
  • Wish my friend Cath happy birthday

Achievement: I have these opportunities today to move my business forward by …

  • Following up with Catherine at East High School about workshops for parents of teenagers
  • Posting this blog
  • Participating in today’s Family Coaching class

Meaning – I have these opportunities today to help others …

  • Posting this blog with the free downloads so other people can use them too
  • Put a few more things in the box for the Arc Thrift Store collection

Health and Wellness – I have these opportunities to care for my mind, body and spirit by…

  • Taking that bike ride
  • Eating “clean” (I don’t eat sugar or dairy and avoid most refined foods)
  • Doing 20 minutes of mindfulness meditation


As you can see, some things fit into more than one category.

At the end of the day, or next time I sit down with my journal, I take a couple of minutes for reflection to relive the feelings of doing what I planned, to add other things I did or to think about why I didn’t do something and whether to move it to the next list.

By following this process I feel like I’m really keeping my focus on what’s important in my whole life and finding the balance as well.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you download either the mind-mapping template or the daily journaling prompts, or both, and give them a try.

Here’s to your best life, filled with days that are as good as they can be!