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Work/Life Balance: The Family Journal

December 2, 2014

When I was in junior high, my English teacher, who I had a crush on, suggested  we all keep a journal. Of course, I went straight home that night and got started. I took a regular, old spiral notebook, and began to write all the things that were important to a fourteen-year-old boy. I look back at it and shake my head at the things I felt were so important then that now seem very silly. I kept writing in that same journal through college. During my fifth year of college, I married my wife, Kathy. Two years into our marriage, we had our first child, Robby and then very quickly had our daughter, Gracie. It began a new chapter in my life, so I tossed aside the old, self-centered journal and began our family journal.


I went to Barnes and Noble and found the nicest leather journal. I encouraged the kids and Kathy to write in it whenever they wanted. I also said it could be around for generations, so be careful what they wrote. Basically it is all my writing except for a few errant drawings and very short entries from my kids (after many gentle, passive-aggressive suggestions). Kathy was much better about it.

The family journal is now full of what we did on vacations, the day great-grandparents passed away, what we did on a lazy Sunday afternoon, the recipe for our family spaghetti sauce. I can open to any page and remember that scene all over again in clear, vibrant technicolor. If our house caught on fire, the family journal would be the one thing that I would take with me. (Well, I would grab Kathy, too.)

A family journal is a good way to keep life in perspective, especially when work gets busy. Here are a few of my suggestions for keeping a family journal of your own:

  • Buy a nice, sturdy journal that can be kept out on the coffee table and will stand the test of time.
  • No pressure. You can write in it daily, weekly, monthly – I missed a whole year once. Just don’t make it a task.
  • Tuck it into your suitcase when you go on vacation and record what you do. If you forget it, write on the hotel stationary and tape it into the journal later.
  • Try not to turn it into a scrapbook. Keep it simple. You may not always have time to print pictures, but you can always scratch down a few lines.
  • You don’t have to have a “family” in the traditional definition. Start one of your own ponderings, or with you and a loved one. Force your friends to write in it when they come over for dinner. The more entries from important people in your life, the better.
  • Entries don’t have to be an outpouring of emotions. I have a few entries that are bulleted lists of the day. Again, this journal is what you want it to be.


Jim Harris, Managing Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

Jim Harris, Managing Director, Nelnet Partner Solutions

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