Journal about Life’s Eras too…

By ignoring the effect of our life eras on our everyday, our daily journals are missing important context

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I recently wrote about how I capture essence in Day One with IFTTT, and how that is a practice inspired by Annie Ernaux and Julian Lehr. It’s changed the way I view reflection, journalling and really knowledge too. However that content focuses on the day to day, and I feel I’m missing something important:

We should consider eras of your life as consciously as we think of the day-to-day. These life eras are the context for the everyday.

The era you’re in defines who you talk to, what clothes you wear, the music you like, the meetings you have each day… I already capture those things in Day One and in Notion, taking things day by day, but I need to consider the wider context. I want to consider the various strings that tie groups of these days together. These are the eras I refer to throughout.

In this post, I want to explore why it’s important to look at eras of life as context for what’s being written in your journal, and then tell you what method I have right now for exploring this, using some examples to (hopefully) anchor this uncharacteristically abstract discussion subject!

Defining eras

Let’s start by explaining how I view eras conceptually. This isn’t the only way, just mine! This is far more abstract than what I like to write, so there’s an example in the section below!

Eras can be roughly defined as a period of time with a clear-ish start and end point.

Now I’m talking about eras in the context of journalling, self-reflection and “essence” in this article, so these are all self-defined eras.

There’s no science to it at all; this is all a practice in understanding your life and yourself better, so take this in whatever direction makes sense to you. Frankly the beginning and end of an era for me is just based on feeling.

Regardless of how you assign or define eras, I think they share some attributes:

  1. Eras have their own identities

  2. Your eras probably overlap, they aren’t necessarily sequential

  3. Eras inform each other

  4. Personal, self-defined eras are connected with the political reality that surrounds you.

an attempt at visualising this…

Let’s expand on these points.

Eras need their own identities in order to make them worth our consideration as a distinct period of time that’s had an effect on our daily lives, that we later reflect on and is evident in our journals.

However, we don’t just experience one era at a time, the human experience is complex and ever-changing. It makes sense to explore this fully, by embracing the different eras in your life. Experiencing multiple eras at once means there will be at least some overlap between some of them.

Not only might eras overlap in terms of the timeline of your life, they actually inform each other and can therefore be the context for each other. The interplay and interconnection is ongoing and ever-changing.

We can’t forget these personal eras are further contextualised by the fact we exist in the real world and therefore the political reality you find yourself in is context for your personal eras too. See Annie Ernaux, the Years, to see this in practice; it was a world-view-changing read for me and generally an interesting knowledge project if nothing else!

Now why should we care about this?

It’s a practice for understanding yourself and your world better, and I have decided that’s important to me and the way I want to live my life. Perhaps you also like journalling for this reason, and therefore might get some inspiration from this.

How does this look in practice?

All of the above discussion, though important, is a bit abstract, so here’s an example to illustrate these points.

I’d describe myself as currently being in my self-improvement era (personal), which is occurring simultaneously with our buying-our-first-house era (personal), whilst the UK is in a cost of living crisis (political).

Whilst these eras are overlapping, they still have separate identities, so can be evidenced in different ways.

The self-improvement era is evident from the existence of a habit tracker on my Notion home page, and in signing up to programmes to help me stay on task and improve concentration and discipline (I’m using Sukha and enjoying it so far!).

Conversely our house buying era is evident in the vast amount of inspiration pictures I’m saving to Capacities, the vast amount of money leaving my account to pay for surveys and other sensible things, and is the context for a lot of the conversations we have, that I then write about in my journal.

And of course the cost of living crisis explains why I’m still so terrified to open the gas and electric bills whilst all of this is going on.

Whilst each individual era began at different times and they continue to have their own identities, they are all still simultaneously ongoing. This means that considering how eras might inform each other is an important element of this reflection practice.

There are many examples for this.

One good habit from my self-improvement era is making better money choices, which is more important given our living costs are about to quadruple post-house purchase, and they’re already higher than if we were doing this a couple of years ago because of high interest rates and other equally fun things.

The house-buying-era has given us other financial priorities, and the cost of living crisis higher base expenses, yet I remain committed to being the person I want to be. I want good habits and small daily pick me ups to keep me motivated, therefore the recent Tiktok trend of “things that make life caught my attention.

But the interconnection between the eras I’m currently in have changed how I consume this content. A few months ago I’d simply buy everything the Tiktok girlies recommended provided I had the money: apple watch, protein powder, Magnesium, wellness apps… but now, I act differently because that money has another job, as explained by the eras I’m in.

Now, I approach recommendations more intentionally. Collate the information (Notion database), look at what I’ve got (relation to inventory), and prioritise free things, such as better, more informed planning routines or habits. If I do want to buy something, I try to give myself some time to think it through, so I put it on the shopping list (another Notion relation). I think this is healthier anyway. Turns out purchasing things isn’t necessarily the way to self-improvement, you have to do the work! Crazy.

Then when you look at my daily journals, we can see traces of these eras within them.

I don’t just want traces though.

Capturing essence is about capturing what feels like the living, breathing, real things that can be associated with a time. So how does this work with eras, and where do I put this information?

My Current solution

My current solution uses Notion, Google Calendar, Zapier and Day One.

Sounds a lot, but it all comes together because I only actively add information to Notion, and I can review in Day One, which is where I already daily journal. Google Calendar and Zapier are just working behind the scenes.

This solution didn’t come out of nowhere by the way, it’s directly inspired by something I’m trialling for project and task management more generally. I’ve actually avoided talking about this because it doesn’t feel ready, but I’ve referenced it so many times that clearly even the process of working it out has been useful in some way, so I’ll write about that next.

Anyways, here’s the process:

  1. Open Eras database in Notion, fill in the dates of the era (rough is fine)

  2. An automation is triggered via Zapier to create a calendar event in Google that spans the duration of this era, and then puts the Notion page URL in the body of the new event in Google.

  3. In the Notion page, I add some content about the era. Whatever makes sense contextually (see next section)

And that’s it! Took me about 5 mins to set up.

Because Day One integrates with my calendars, I can just scroll back in time to a certain date in Day One, and see what eras I was in. If I click on the Era name, I have a link to the Notion page!

So in practice, I enter info into Notion whenever I want, and then review in Day One whenever I want, and the rest of the magic happens behind the scenes. Given I’m in Notion and Day One literally every day, this fits nicely.

What I add to the Notion pages

What I put in there depends on the era’s identity, which is really interesting and is something I specifically thought about after watching this Youtube video:

thank you Réka for the recommendation!

But let’s look at the example of my Year Abroad era. My time in Angers was intense, with some incredible highs and terrifying lows, but 4 years on I look back on it with more fondness than sadness.

If I hear 3005 by Childish Gambino I find myself transported back to an inadequately equipped kitchen for 30 students, drinking too much with my friends, when in reality, I’m listening in 2023. I no longer drink and those friends are spread across the world living their own lives. We were brought together by our year abroad eras, and by that music and social life. Capturing the essence of this bright, colourful and loud time is important to me.

To this end, I have embedded a list from Twos of “sounds of the year abroad” into the Angers Notion page, and also embedded the specific songs within that from a Spotify playlist… I also added a link to all the pictures I have in OneDrive.

All that disparate info is put into Notion, either in the page (Twos, Spotify), or in the properties (link to Photos folder in OneDrive), and the mere existence of that Notion pages means the link to it is available in my Google calendar, based off the dates of the era, but clever integrations mean all my reviewing is done in Day One.

I think this is a great example of how you don’t need one app to rule them all, you need an interconnected system.

Does it have to be Notion-Google-Day One?

I’m sure there are hundreds of other ways to do this. Right now I’d imagine you could create a hub of eras in any tool that has the ability to add a date range and to hold the types of things you want to collect.

Notion works here but it doesn’t need to integrate with a calendar or Day One for this to work, because the aim of this practice is to capture the vibe, the feeling, some essence, evidence essentially, of what happened in a given time period to use as context for your reflection and journalling practices.

However, the advantage of pulling everything to a calendar (like Julian Lehr’s article suggests) or into Day One (like I do) is that everything’s connected to a date.

Each date obviously only occurs once. It’s my view that you may as well pull that information together to one source via integrations. Eventually I want my entire system to be viewable through date and eras, but that’s a dream to explain another day.

In the meantime I will keep up with my Notion -> Day One process and keep collecting evidence of the life I’m living, the way I’m feeling and the world I live in.

Summary

So, context is key, essence collection is a life practice and I combine it all by journalling about eras and individual days that lie amongst them. My journalling takes place in Day One, which is excellent, but in order to best consider the fun mess of eras my life is, I add in a couple more steps to capture what I want to capture, to make the most of those invisible strings that tie some days together. It’s all a hobby, all for fun, all to try and better understand myself both now and in the past.

Do you think about your life in eras? Do you like collecting information about them?

I’d really love to chat with you about this. Feel free to reach out in the comments, via email ([email protected]) or via instagram (@pkmbeth).

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