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I'll Take the 5-Year Plan!

Keeping a five-year diary keeps your life in perspective, a few lines at a time.

What's particularly fun about the five-year set-up is that every time you write an entry, you can look back on the same page at the entries for that same day in former years. This lets you relive special events, laugh at problems long since forgotten, rejoice at goals met and reflect on goals missed.

The limited space is both the advantage and the challenge of the five-year format. You don't have to stare down the blank white page, but you do have to make the most of your words if you want the brief entries to mean anything to you next year. Here's how:

  1. Zero in. While it's fine to recount a litany of the day's events, it's usually more interesting to describe one or two particulars—a lunch with friends, a blast of early winter, a productive meeting at work, a long overdue date with your mate, etc.
  2. Be descriptive. Instead of "Caroline and I went to the store," write "I pulled Caroline to Beacon Market in her wagon. We managed to squeeze in two bags of groceries."
  3. Put down all the information. It drives me crazy when I see entries where I've written, "Watched a video." What video? How was it?
  4. Explain feelings. Rather than report "a bad day at work," describe the emotions. For example: "I missed an important deadline today and felt totally inadequate."
  5. Finally, be sure to keep a separate journal—or extra pages at the back of your diary—with unlimited space for times when you do want to write at length about something.

Anne Hevener is the editor of Decorative Artist's Workbook.

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