Planning Like a Monk: Monk Manual Planner Full Review!

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“IT’S ABOUT TIME, DAVE!” (I know, right?)

About 8 months ago, I wrote a review of my experience using the Monk Manual journal pages that were available for free from MonkManual.com, and promised at that time that if you readers would help me earn a free full journal, I’d come back with a full review. Well, your patience has paid off because here we are!

This review is long overdue, but I hope it will be helpful to you if you’re considering purchasing the Monk Manual journal (plus, I have a small discount code available, if that helps you decide!). So let’s get into it!

The Initial Experience

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First things first: the journal itself. The packaging is pristine, and just the experience of unboxing the journal is a delight. You can always tell when a company loves what they do, when they take care to make all the little details special. The MM folks have done that for sure.

The journal is well-constructed with a leather-like feel to the hardbound cover–smooth and cool to the touch with a green elastic band to hold it closed, similar to a Moleskine journal. The paper is a thick, acid-free stock, and the printing is clear, clean, and light but fully legible. (“Light” may not seem like a good thing, but the aesthetic of the journal lends itself toward subtlety, so from a design standpoint, it makes total sense.)

From a purely tactile standpoint, this journal is delightful to use. The Monk Manual crew have taken the time to make sure they are shipping a quality product. But as with many things, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

A Counter-Intuitive Solution to a Common Problem

The Monk Manual journal includes some introductory material explaining how you can use the different sections of the pages, and provides some prompts for how to make the journal work for you. But one of the things that sets the Monk Manual apart from other journals/planners is how the pages are arranged.

Typical planners are organized like a calendar: a monthly 1-2 page calender view, then the Week 1 view, followed by Days 1-7, with the pages laid out chronologically. At the end of the first 7 daily pages, you might have another weekly page, followed by the next set of days, and so on. But if you’re like me, this type of journal may only get half-filled, if you miss days, forget to fill things in, or get off track and come back later. The Monk Manual recognizes this problem and provides a unique solution.

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As you can see, the journal has 3 ribbon bookmarks attached to the binding. That’s because the pages are arranged into 3 sections: a section of Monthly Pages, a section of Weekly Pages, and a section of Daily Pages. At first, I was a little annoyed that I’d have to check 3 different sections from time to time, rather than just flip a few pages. However, time would provide the answer for why this type of design is brilliant.

The Monk Manual is advertised as a 3-month journal, but I’ve had mine for about 6 months and I still have lots of pages left to use. Rather than leaving dozens of blank pages for missed days, as I would in a typical journal, I was able to just pick up and start using the daily pages right where I left off. Plus, since the Monthly pages have about 6 weeks of “blanks,” I turned the last empty monthly page I had into a “June/July” section, so I could wring out every bit of usefulness from this journal.

 

The bottom-line is, the makers of Monk Manual understand that sometimes you miss some days, maybe some weeks, and rather than “penalize” you by forcing you to skip empty pages, you can just pick up where you left off with minimal effort. While there are some unfinished days scattered throughout my journal, I’ve been able to get back on track with using it in a fairly painless manner.

In a sense, I think that’s part of the philosophy behind the Monk Manual system: you aren’t aiming for perfection, but progress. This journal is designed to allow for those rough patches but still give you the opportunity to pick it up again and keep going.

My One Unresolved “Complaint”

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That brings me to the one unresolved complaint I have–the Monk Manual, for all of its pleasing design and well-thought-out organization, still doesn’t seem capable of doing the work for me. Those folks over at MM refused to include the self-discipline I needed when they sent me the box with my journal. That’s so frustrating!

Okay, joking aside, that’s really the only downside I can think of with this journal–I still have to do the work myself. As I noted previously, you get out of it what you put into it, and when I’ve been able to devote a few minutes at the beginning and end of each day to plan and review my day, I’ve found it to be a helpful way to think through my schedule and priorities. And then, during those weeks and months when I didn’t make that time, the journal just sat there on the shelf, waiting for me to come back and pick up again.

When I was doing some cleaning in my home office last month, I found a box that contained at least 5 old journals/notebooks, each of which having no more than 20 pages of writing in them. The bulk of those journals were blank pages, because too often over the years, I’d start something, get distracted, and then never pick it up again.

I was worried that it would be the same with the Monk Manual–once it had been months since I filled out a page, I didn’t think I’d really be able to start again. But honestly, it was pretty simple to just turn the page and start fresh. And so I’ve been back to using it for about 2 weeks, and once I run through the last of my daily pages (because I have the highest percentage of those left), I’m going to pick up another Monk Manual and keep it going.

Is it Worth It? Can You Work It?

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Admittedly, the Monk Manual isn’t cheap. You could pick up a blank journal at the store or online for a fraction of the cost. Is it really worth more than $35 to get this particular journal?

In a word: yes. I think the Monk Manual is worth every penny.

The materials are quality, the book is well-constructed, and the finished product is pleasing to the touch. The organization of the pages and the question prompts that are provided are unlike anything I’ve seen in a typical dayplanner/organizer. I’ve benefitted from using this journal, and from being able to come back to it after a 4-month gap.

My only recommendation is that you try to break out of the “90-day planner” headspace when you use it. Yes, that’s how it’s marketed, but honestly, I think it may be helpful to fill out all 6-weeks of each monthly page, because if you’re anything like me, you’ll need a little bit of forgetfulness-margin so that you don’t run out of monthly pages with a ton of dailies left.

Interested in the Monk Manual? Here’s A Special Offer for my Readers…

The folks at Monk Manual have agreed to re-up my affiliate link for another month, so if you use the code DAVEM at checkout, you get 10% off your total purchase from Monk Manual, and I get a small percentage back to me. However, I think this only lasts me through the rest of June (I was slow on getting this review out–surprise!), so if you’re interested, please take advantage of this offer before it runs out!

If you’re on the fence about this, I would encourage you to give it a shot (and not just because I have the affiliate link there). It’s a really neat journal, and I’m enjoying using it myself.

Once more, if you’re ready to check it out, use this link to get your discount and to let the folks at MM know you heard it from me.

And if you DO order a journal, comment below and let me know what you think! Thanks!

 

“Please think I’m cool.”

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Confession: That was the thought running like a background track in my head yesterday, as I took part in a group Zoom call with two authors/podcasters whose work I admire.

I’ve tried in various ways to get into their “club” in some way over the years (with some minor level of success), but this was the first time I’ve actually interacted with them face to (screen-mediated) face. I was able to get a few words in, but otherwise, I found myself just grinning foolishly and trying unsuccessfully not to embarrass myself.

I’m a grown man with a wife and kids. I’ve got my own stuff going on, such as it is. I should be fully out of middle-school-mode. But there are still people who I can’t help but see on another plane of coolness. And despite my very best efforts, I slip right into notice me, senpai mode. I hate it.

The call went fine. When put on the spot to perform a bit of dramatic reading (don’t ask, it’s a long story), I bungled some of my dialogue and felt like a goober. Then I tried too hard to be funny at the very end of the call, so that when it finally ended, I spent the next hour-plus kicking myself for being such an irredeemable dork.

This isn’t the first time I’ve done this. There’s another podcaster whose work I enjoyed for years, and when I was finally able to talk to him during a live call-in show, I got tongue-tied and said something stupid. For the months/years that followed, while I was active in the live chats during various broadcasts, I was never really recognized as a “regular” by the host or the chat group. Eventually, I dipped out and stopped listening/engaging with that show at all, not out of malice but really just disappointment that I couldn’t break into the circle.

What’s the point of all this? Shoot, I don’t know. I’m just talking here, gang.

Maybe what I’m getting at is this: it’s really easy to chase attention, recognition, and a sense of belonging among those we think are cool, talented, and more “together.” But maybe the thing we should be focusing on most is just doing our own thing and being content with that.

But, then again, you know how it is: about to hit 40, looking at the successes and accomplishments of your peers, comparing yourself to the people around you, second-guessing your life choices. Typical Wednesday.

That’s all I got. See ya later, space cowboy…

Go-Go-Gadget-Gamification

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I’m not much of a technology hound, nor much of a gadget guy. There have been times when I’ve felt the pull to collect peripherals for new hobbies, but when it comes to technology, I’m a super-late-adopter, mainly because I’m pretty cheap when it comes to devices.

On the other hand, I find I’m a bit of a sucker for gamification.

The place I see it most often in my life? Restaurant apps. Starbucks, Firehouse Subs, Chick-fil-a–if you provide me with enough freebies early on, I will start chasing “reward points” like an addict. While I tend to stick to the apps that provide a better-than-average rate of return on earning rewards, the scheme definitely gets in my head and can sometimes nudge me toward making a purchase I wouldn’t necessarily make. (Curse you, Starbucks, and your infernal stars!)

Right now, my greatest personal challenge is getting healthy. (Point of fact, I’ve needed to get healthy for a long time, as I’ve been obese or worse for about 20 years.) In the past, some of the periods when I’ve had the most consistency in working out or eating right are when I was able to turn fitness or diet into a trackable, gamified challenge.

Thus, my snazzy little device shown above — a Fitbit Inspire HR. It’s still on-sale as of this posting, if you’re at all interested in picking one up (#NotSponsored). My wife has one, and I’d been admiring it for a little while, so when I saw it was available for 30% off this week, we made a little room in the May budget so I could grab it. 

I’m excited about check out my new gadget’s various features, but there’s one feature that it still lacks — extra willpower.

The fact of the matter is that no gadget, no device, no app is going to upload the requisite internal commitment and discipline into my head and heart that I need to get my eating and physical activity where it needs to be. I know that–honestly, I do. That has to come from being honest about where I struggle most, putting my selfish, sinful flesh to death by seeking my true satisfaction in Jesus, and then making the commitment every day to make one good choice at a time for the sake of myself, my family, and my ministry.

And if this device helps me be more aware of how often (or not) I’m active, “tricks” me into taking more steps so that I get the little “hoorah” response at the end of the day, and allows me to monitor my heart rate and sleep patterns, then it’s worth the investment.

If you’re interested in my progress, let me know and I’ll post it from time to time. And hey, if you want to encourage me in the comments (without trying to sell me something, PLEASE), I’d appreciate that as well.

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Your Turn: Do you use gamification to encourage positive changes in your life? I’d be interested to hear about it in the comments!

Friday Feed (05/01/2020)

Hey readers!

Here are some interesting things I’ve collected from around the World Wide Webiverse over the last 6 months. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

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That’s all I got this week. Have a good weekend, stay safe and healthy, and we’ll see you down the road!

WFH Day 34: A Pretty Bad Case of RADD

If you had told me, “Dave, you’re going to be working from home for at least 2 months straight, and you’re not going to leave your house much during that time,” one of my first thoughts (after checking our stock of coffee and immediately settling into my comfiest pair of sweatpants) would be “I’m going to read SO MUCH!”

As it happens, that has not been the case.

It’s not like I have been binging Netflix, either. (Though I did watch The Mandolorian finally, which was *chef kiss*.) Rather, this time at home only confirmed what I already suspected:

I have a severe case of RADD–Reading Attention Deficit Disorder.

I keep jumping to new books, like hopping from rock to rock, after getting about 50 pages into several others. I was already reading 2-3 books at the same time when the stay-at-home order was given, and this was just exacerbated by being at home.

Complicating factors for RADD include:

  1. Overwhelming TBR shelves (both physical and digital);
  2. Easy access to new digital reading material (blogs, newsletters, online library catalog);
  3. Continued use of social media; and
  4. Being a parent of children under 3.

As a result, I’m about 1/4 to 1/3 of the way through several books at the same time, with a desire to start new books almost every day.

While I was able to push through and finish 3 books over the last 2 months (State of the Union, a novella by Nick Hornby; Susie, Ray Rhodes’ outstanding biography of Susannah Spurgeon; and The Final Days of Jesus, Dr. Andreas Kostenberger’s examination of Holy Week), the stack of partially-read books has grown rapidly.

So what has turned my head these days? Here’s a quick look at my “current” reads:

  • The Man in the High Castle, by Phillip K. Dick
  • The Man Who Knew Too Much, by G.K. Chesterton
  • Five Minutes in Church History, by Steven Nichols
  • We Cannot Be Silent, by Al Mohler
  • On the Incarnation, by Athanasius
  • Holiness, by J.C. Ryle
  • Church Elders, by Jeramie Rennie
  • A Dream about Lightning Bugs, by Ben Folds
  • The Gospel Focus of Charles Spurgeon, by Steven Lawson
  • Church History in Plain Language, by Bruce Shelley

I’m not sure that’s everything, but that’s all that comes to mind at the moment.

On top of that, I just got a shipment of 4-5 books I’m eager to dive into that I purchased from T4G’s Online Store. (Note: This sale is still available today only, but it’s the last day of this sale so if you want to take advantage of deep discounts on great theology texts, jump on it right now. Not sponsored–I just hate for people to miss these deals!)

I’m convinced that RADD is a life-long affliction I’ll just have to manage better in the future. 

Your thoughts and prayers are appreciated, as I struggle through this difficult period.

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Your Turn: What books are you reading right now? And if you’re a fellow RADD sufferer, let us know so we can encourage each other to try to *finish* a book this weekend!

WFH Day #5: Coworkers, man.

One week of working from home in the books, and honestly, it’s been really great. Yeah, there have been challenges, and sometimes the temptations toward distraction lure me away from getting my work done.

But the best thing about working from home so far? I get to see my family a lot more. I can walk downstairs at lunch and eat with my girls. Sometimes, my wife brings our baby into the office and sits her down in a chair facing me for a little while so that she (my wife, not the baby) can take care of our toddler or knock out some church admin work. So, naturally, my productivity slows as I make faces as my sweet little one. And when quitting time hits, I’m not faced with 30-45 minutes of commuting–just a quick walk down 15 stairs.

Of course, things get a little hairy when you have little ones and are working from home. As evidence, I present what might well be one of my top-3 all-time favorite Twitter threads (click the link to dig in, it’s all gold):

If you keep checking back (and I hope you do), you may well find me getting a little stir crazy if this keeps up for a few months. But for right now, I’m feeling pretty good. And no offense to my office-mates, but I’m really enjoying hanging out with my current coworkers.

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So my encouragement to you, dear reader, whether you are free to get outside and maybe go pick up food from your local restaurant (if so, please do and support your local businesses!) or you are sheltering in place (hang in there, California!), I hope you’ll take a moment and find five things to be thankful for, no matter what your circumstances are.

God has been generous to us, even if our current circumstances are challenging. Thank Him for His gifts, and enjoy them with gratitude.

See you next week!

WFH Day 2: The Neighbor’s Stereo

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We have really noisy neighbors.

I know this is something most people face from time to time, but for some reason, our block attracts the noisiest of neighbors. When the family across the alley who held block parties moved out, the family that moved in picked up where they left off. Though people come and go, the one constant is they all generously share their playlist with everyone in the neighborhood. Several times a day.

The neighbors on the side nearest the street have a really impressive stereo system in their detached garage. Even with the garage completely enclosed, the bass from their sound system reverberates throughout the entirety of my house. No exaggeration; the “thump thump thump-thump-thump” of whatever hip-hop artist they are enjoying reaches the farthest opposite corner of our upstairs. No part of the house is safe from its pulsating presence.

Most of the time, I get the privilege to ignore it, because I’m at work. My wife just endures it since she’s here at home all day. It doesn’t wake up our little ones during naptime, so she just ignores it.

Now that I’m working from home for the time being, I’m having less success ignoring it.

I went over and asked them to turn it down yesterday, which they did immediately, no issue. But it’s back up today, full-blast, rumbling through the wall as I’m trying to edit. Apparently they thought it was a one-time request.

Why do I bring this up? Two reasons:

One: In this time of unusual challenge, we’re all going to be a lot more uncomfortable than we like. It’s gonna happen. It’s gonna get worse, in all likelihood. And that means that we get to practice using forbearance. Do I like hearing the bassline of my neighbor’s stereo? Not particularly. Is it harming me or my family in any way? No. It’s a little thoughtless on their part, but ultimately, it doesn’t matter. If it means not alienating a neighbor I don’t know that well and probably should get to know a bit better, then fine. I’ll just turn my podcast up louder. The way we bear with one another’s burdens, the way we show patience with other people’s thoughtlessness, will exhibit what’s really in our hearts and where our peace and hope is found.

Two: It reminds me to take a moment an consider what my “loud stereos” are. Because I’m sure there are habits of mine that annoy those around me. It would probably be a good idea to be mindful of that. Being home for an extended period of time is a blessing, but it also disrupts the rhythm of our household, and I know there are things I do (or forget to do) that get on my wife’s nerves. The more I’m mindful of that and try to address those issues, the better “neighbor” I can be to the woman under my own roof.

In conclusion, be neighborly. Turn down your stereo. Pick up your dirty clothes. And pray that God would show you how you can love the people around you well. Even when they are blasting you with bass.

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Hey y’all,

I think part of the reason I haven’t blogged consistently in the last few months is because I have been waiting to post something insightful and grand. I had this idea that I needed to transition into being this Serious Blogger and eventually Serious Author, so I needed to step up the quality of my writing. But I don’t need to do that right now. Right now, I think I just need to write.

This is probably just going to be a season of quick hits and short pieces. I still hope to make it worth reading for you, dear readers. I don’t plan on falling back into the “online diary” format I used in years past. But this next month or so may be a “priming the pump” period for the blog–short observations, anecdotes, recommendations for stuff I like. Hope you enjoy it.  

Have a good Tuesday.

–T4D

Kotter-posting to start off 2020.

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Photo by Evie Shaffer on Pexels.com

Welcome back!

After a [checks] month-long break [seriously?], I’m back in the saddle and ready to re-engage.

December was…full. Good–but full. Work demands were high, church demands were a bit high, and honestly, I really wanted to reconnect with my family more. That was my “theme” of the month that I wrote down in my snazzy “Monk Manual” journal (I’ll have an update post on that sometime this month): the theme of “Connection.” So I focused on connecting with my family and friends.

This month’s theme? “Restart.” So here I am, readers!

I passed the 1-year boundary on the #52Stories project, but I do want to finish that, so I’ll try to round that out in the coming weeks. I may or may not continue the Minor Prophets series. Let me know if you want to see more of those.

Coming Up: Later on today, I’ll toss up my 2019 Reading List because, by golly, some traditions must not be abandoned. On Friday, I’ll post a Friday Five with some podcast recommendations, so keep your eyes peeled. That’s all the blog planning I have in me at the moment. (Have you subscribed to email updates? That makes things much simpler. Check out the widget to the right or below the posts, depending upon the device you’re using to read this.)

Happy New Year! Take a walk, drink some water, do something nice for yourself, and we’ll see you in a bit.

Five(ish)-minute Update (11/11/2019)

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Setting the timer…ready…GO.

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So I wasn’t planning on November being a “No-Post November” but it’s sure starting out that way! So what’s the story, morning-glory?

Well, it comes down to this: margin.

I don’t have much margin in my life right now. Like so many of you, I have lots of demands, and to be honest, I’m struggling to meet all those demands. And no, I’m not going to cue up the sad violins and run through the litany of what’s on my plate, because that doesn’t help you, and it doesn’t help me.

So instead, I want to talk about stress.

This past weekend, a loved one was briefly hospitalized because he pushed himself so hard that his nervous system decided a hard reboot was in order. This person, in prime physical health in his middle age, gave himself a seizure, due in part to a combination of unaddressed stress, inconsistent diet, dehydration, and high levels of caffeine usage. No matter how otherwise healthy he was, he still hit his limit.

…And I just hit mine, so to speak–there goes my timer. So, I’ll summarize this way:

What this experience reminded me of is that I am not omnipotent. I can’t burn the candle at both ends for long, before I get scorched and the light goes out, as it were.

We human beings are designed to be limited, because this reminds us that we have a Creator God who is not.

So what does that mean for you, practically? It means get some sleep. Be smart about how you fuel yourself. Accept that you can’t carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. Maybe try decaf once in a while.

Come face to face with the fact that you can’t do it all, or run the risk of ending up face-down on your bedroom carpet.

A stark reminder, but a necessary one.

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More posts this week, if possible. Maybe sign up for notifications in the sidebar to the right (or below, if you’re reading on mobile)? Just in case I don’t get back here soon.

–d.

Say the words.

Last week, I tweeted out that I wasn’t doing well. Things were hectic in multiple areas of life, and I was feeling overwhelmed–not despondent, but definitely blue. Over the next few days, several people checked up on me via texts, tweets, emails, and in-person handshakes and hugs. They asked me how I’m doing, if things are getting better, how they can help.

I can’t tell you how much that meant to me. And it reminded me that I need to do that better.

I know several people struggling with different issues right now: unemployment, separation from family due to work, mental health struggles. Chronic issues that can wear down a person’s hope.

It costs me absolutely nothing to take a few moments and send a text or make a call or zip out an email saying, Hey pal, I’m thinking about you and praying for you. You matter to me. I’m ready to lend a hand however I can.

I don’t know why I don’t do that more often. I should.

The news yesterday about Jarrid Wilson’s suicide drove this point home for me. Even the people who seem to be doing okay may not be doing okay. I was reminded of this again in an exchange last night with another friend who confessed how hard the mental/spiritual battle has been for her lately.

So, my encouragement for all of us today:

If you know someone who’s hurting, tell them you care about them.

If you know someone who’s fighting the darkness, remind them that they matter.

Don’t try to diagnose them, fix them, or give them an easy answer. Often, there are no easy answers.

Just tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them they are not forgotten.

Point them back to the compassion and tender grace of Jesus, and then keep doing that.

We all need to hear that more often.