If you’re like me, you use notebooks as a way to order your to-do list, process your inner world, and develop your creative projects.
You may be missing an opportunity to use your journal to help you deal with challenges at work. An illustrated journal can be just the ally you need to help cope with workplace issues.
I asked a friend to share the things that bother her at work. For each of her challenges, I’ve offered ways that both travel and journal keeping can help you respond more powerfully.
1. No desirable challenge Travel forces us to endure a lot of undesirable challenges: overnight Italian train rides, getting lost, missing connections. In these situations you have to work hard to find a sense of grace and ease.
How can you find ease in the challenges you face at work? Use your journal to make notes about the skills and qualities your challenges are helping you develop – patience, trust, communication skills – the qualities you develop now will serve you elsewhere. Of course, use it to let off steam when you’re ready to go postal.
Create your own desirable challenges. List your greatest assets and skills and look for ways to use your strengths more at work. Look for ways that this approach serves (and surpasses) your company’s goals and expectations.
2. No input into how the upper wonks change the work environment Constantly changing environments is a given with travel. In Amsterdam, you finally figure out what street you’re on, and then the street name suddenly changes. You feel like the rug has been pulled out from under you – the known world is suddenly not known. Travel like this helps develop your adaptability response – the more you’re able to adapt, the less grief you’ll experience.
Get clear on what you need most to adapt more easily. Do you need more notice? An explanation of the changes? Know what will help you personally adapt, be clear on how this makes you a better employee, and make specific requests of your employer around these needs.
3. Adapting to (said) change How do you adapt to these changes? There’s nothing to do but go with the flow. You may need to stop and get your bearings. Use your journal to check your inner compass – what makes this job worthwhile?
What can you appreciate about not having to make all the decisions? What would you change and how might you initiate a conversation to offer contributions?
4. Constant pressure to learn new work-specific technologies Travel forces you to learn new things constantly, in the moment. There’s no set curriculum; you could suddenly find yourself learning a new vocabulary word, doing currency conversion calculations, and honing your orienteering skills. Both work and travel force you to learn new things quickly, and you can capture notes in a journal to easily recall them later.
5. Visually boring office space Using an illustrated journal helps you render your world in your way, in your notebook. Design your world in the privacy of your notebook. Seek and find satisfaction in the rich territory of your imagination.
6. No interesting lunch choices It’s healthier, cheaper and quicker to pack your own lunch. This can be a great way to refresh yourself, your way, away from the chatter and din of the office. Find a park or quiet spot.
Use your journal as a place to write or sketch your way to clarity or to refresh yourself for the afternoon. What do you need to clear from the morning and what do you want for your afternoon?
There’s often enough time to work on your creative projects at lunch. Bring the sweater you’re knitting, the notebook you’re keeping notes for your novel in, or any other project you’re working on.
Fifteen or thirty minutes during lunch can accumulate and bring you toward creative satisfaction and completion.
7. Daily scramble for parking (forces you to show up waaaay before you’re ready) Ah, the hassles of the commute. Transporting ourselves anywhere often involves other people’s timetables. We’re often stuck waiting. With your journal at hand, you’re never bored. Stuck in traffic, early arrival, long train commute – use your journal to capture thoughts or record frustrations.
If it’s the parking that’s driving you nuts, look into taking public transportation. This is often an option that many overlook because we’d rather have the control of driving.
If public transportation is an option, try it for a week and see how it impacts you and your creativity. You’ll have more time to write or play in your journal on the bus or train or subway.
8. Staring at a computer screen all day Train yourself to take and enjoy small, ten-minute breaks. During those pauses away from the screen, do some stretching to become more aware of your body, get out your colored markers or pens and do a doodle in your notebook, or engage in some other tactile experience. A recent article on Lateral Action points toward this need for regular breaks.
9. Budget-deficit related stress (never enough $$ to do what needs to be done) This budget deficit stress can impact you when you travel – it’s more of a time deficit. There’s no way to experience everything Paris or New York or Bangkok has to offer; the only way to survive is to focus and choose.
At work, you can focus on what you can do, and use the budget restrictions as a way to draw boundaries around your time. Financial restrictions are the number one reason we don’t do something, and I’m always looking for ways to take action that can cost less than I first imagine.
10. Ineffective trainings led by subject matter experts who don’t know how to teach Develop yourself as an autodidact, someone who teaches herself. In any given training or real-world experience, you can learn something valuable. Train yourself to glean the best from any situation. We’ve all been to trainings where we’re bored silly; use your journal to capture what you can.
Every workplace has its own challenges. Running my own business, I am challenged by the often-isolating days, too many projects, and technological hurdles I jump over daily to deliver on my promise to my clients, students and readers.
These suggestions and other tools from my Creative Toolkit for Travelers help me adapt and deal with challenges both at work and on the road.
My creativity workshop in Amsterdam provides real-world scenarios to practice with these tools (mostly R-directed exercises) in a fun and stimulating environment. Equipped with these experiences and a deeper under
standing of your own creative style, you’re more capable of dealing with life’s challenges.
More on how travel enhances creativity: Buff Up Your Creativity: Ten Creative Capabilities Enhanced by Travel.
How has your journal helped you cope with circumstances that are out of your control? Share a comment below.
This article is the kind of thing you get when you subscribe to Impulses, my free bi-weekly newsletter. Sign up now to be in the scoop loop and get a copy of my free report 29 Ways to Take a Creative Leap. (I used those ways to leap into a life as a creative nomad in Europe!)