Journaling: Keeping and Designing Your Time-Tracker Journal

Reader’s Question:

How did you start journaling in the first place? How do you split your time between other parts of life (daily tasks, work, responsibilities, etc.) and journaling? How do you design your time-tracker journal, and how can I create my own?

— from Instagram comments


When I uploaded an Instagram story about my time-tracker journal and an Instagram picture about my planner a few weeks ago, some of you asked some questions about journaling and making a time-tracker journal for yourself. Since it would be such a nuisance to type the answer on Instagram’s comment section, I decided to respond to those questions via this blogpost. Hope this helps.

How did I start journaling?

I started journaling since the 1st grade of elementary school. It started out when my mother bought me a diary with a lock (the cutest thing!) and since then, I never stopped writing in my journals. I have quite a huge pile of journals at the moment, all those handwritings from early elementary school days throughout the rest of my childhood, from my adolescent to my twenties. And sometimes, I reread them: amazed on how much I’ve grown throughout the years.

I guess writing (and mostly journaling), has always been my go-to outlet for self-discovery. A few years ago, I wrote this post about why I write and why it has such a profound effect on me, so you can visit that post if you’re interested to know more about how I chose writing as my outlet of expression (or, on how writing chose me).

How do I split my time between journaling and other parts of life (daily tasks, work, responsibilities, etc.)?

Okay, here’s the thing: journaling, writing, and other creative pursuits—whether it’s drawing, painting, learning how to make illustrations–are the things that I need in life. When people talk about self-care, they might talk about taking a vacation, traveling, pampering themselves, eating healthy food, going to the gym, having a wonderful time with friends and families, or doing other things that make them feel happy and fulfilled. For me, having the time to be creative (and to create) is my way to take a good care of myself. It feeds my soul.

When I’m stressed, sad, facing problems, agitated, or not feeling well, having my creative time is the thing that lifts me up. It could be as simple as reading a good book, trying a new recipe, drawing, writing a poem, or simply journaling and dumping my thoughts and feelings on the pages. For me, creative time equals self-care, and having my creative time makes me feel happy, empowered, (somewhat) artistic, and productive.

Having the time to be creative is my way to take a good care of myself. I need it. It’s crucial for my well-being.

I always feel the most productive when I am having my creative time. No matter how busy I am with work, no matter how excited I am about my professional achievements, no matter how many to-do lists and responsibilities I ticked off, at the end of the day, the thing that matters the most to me is how I’ve spent my creative time and what I’ve created that day.

I’m not saying that professional achievements or performing well at work don’t matter as much, but it’s also crucial for me to know that there’s an achievement that is mine; and mine alone. It’s not about being (or looking) busy, getting a praise, a salary, a bonus, contributing to a team, or pleasing a client. It’s about exploring my creativity and be content with that—knowing that I am the only person who knows what I have done today, or how much I have grown since yesterday.

With that being said, let’s move on to the question: how do I split my time between work, daily tasks, and journaling?

In the old days, this was how I would do it: when planning my day, I would list down all my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, house chores, appointments, etc. and then, when I could find an empty slot of time, I would allocate that slot for my creative time.

Of course, this approach didn’t work for me.

Magically, I would always have more things to do, more emails to reply, more work stuff coming in, more dishes to wash… and even if I could find an empty slot of time that day, usually I had been so exhausted from fulfilling my duties and responsibilities that I didn’t want to do anything else; let alone ‘being creative’.

So, these past few years, I changed the way I plan my day. Instead of listing down all my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, house chores, or appointments to then find an empty slot of time for my creative pursuits, I did the opposite. I would block a slot of time for my creative pursuit first (could be for around 30 minutes – 1 hour), and only then the rest of the empty slots can be filled with my work responsibilities, deadlines, meetings, daily tasks, or other appointments.

Usually, I block my early mornings for my first round of creative time (I called this time of the day my miracle morning, based on the book The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod; and I think you should read this book as well!). I don’t mind waking up a bit earlier to have my slow and miraculous morning: making a cup of coffee, doing a 1-minute meditation, reading a book about drawing, sketching and doing some character studies for my illustrations,  journaling, watching uplifting videos, or simply writing about the things I’d like to do/achieve that day.

I plan my day around my self-care, not the other way around. My commitments and responsibilities will fit themselves around it.

Surely, if there are still more unused time slots after this, I can use the time for whatever I want—but planning my day around my creative time (instead of planning my creative time around my day) does the trick for me. By doing this, I can make sure that I stay happy and creative, knowing that I will always have (and make) the time for my self-care routine, and my other responsibilities will fit around it.

Does it sound selfish?

Probably, but I see it this way: when I’m happy, I can also fulfill my responsibilities better. When I’m in a good mood, I am more energetic. I feel inspired and I feel more creative. So whether I’m working on a deadline, talking on the phone for a remote meeting, or doing house chores, I am doing those things in a healthy mental and emotional state. Thus, for me, it makes sense to always put my well-being first, which in my case, is about having my undisturbed creative time.

How did I design my time-tracker journal, and how to create your own?

I designed my time-tracker journal because I want to know whether I’m really busy or just busy being busy. I want to know how do I use up (or waste) my time in a day and what are the things I can achieve mostly from 6 am to 11 pm every day. Where does exactly my time go in a day?

Another thing was that I also want to track the time when I feel most productive and the time when I have an energy slump so I can plan my days better. By keeping a time-tracker journal for some time, I also hope that I could find out if there were some correlations between how I spend my time with my energy level and my overall mood.

For instance, there were days when I feel so tired and sleepy at around 2 pm – 4 pm, but there were also other days when I go through these ‘sluggish hours’ being productive, feeling inspired and energetic.

I wanted to know why this happened, and once knowing that (or at least have a good indication about why it happened), I wanted to know how I could have my productive 2 pm – 4 pm more often. By tracking my time, I wish I could see how to manage my energy better. (If you’re interested in the concept of managing energy to improve your performance, I would suggest the book The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz).

I created my time-tracker journal on a weekly insert I bought here, and stamped the hours with this stamp set. Because I wanted to measure the correlation between how I spend my time and how it affects my mood and energy level, I decided to color-code my time-tracker with my KOI coloring brush pen.

  • Pink is for my productive time, when I feel creative and energetic. This includes the time when I work, replying to business emails, reading a non-fiction book, learning languages, drawing, exercising, writing or doing other creative stuff. My creative time is counted as my productive time.
  • Blue is for my non-productive time, when I feel tired, sleepy, or lethargic. This includes the time of scrolling social media feed mindlessly, following threads and comments on a controversial Facebook status, taking a long nap, or feeling down, miserable, uninspired, or sick.
  • Yellow is for my social & commuting time, when I meet people, get on a bus, hop on a red-eye flight, attend a dinner party, have a catch-up lunch with friends, or delivering training and workshops.

This is how I formatted my time-tracker journal, but of course, you can do it however you like and adjust it to your needs. For instance, you can choose a different layout using a normal notebook, list down the hours from top to bottom, and write down the things you do next to it. You can also use color coding to track other things you want to track in your life. It just happens that I want to track my energy level, so I decided to go with this tracking system.

Then, basically what I do with my time-tracker journal is as simple as writing down the things I do at a particular time of the day, and color code the hours with pink, blue, or yellow.

After keeping the time-tracker journal for more than 2 months, I can already see some patterns, such as:

  1. When my morning starts with a blue (i.e. I woke up feeling sluggish/tired/grumpy), 80% of the time, it will lead to more blues in the afternoon/evening. Knowing this, when I woke up with a blue, I put extra efforts to fix it: maybe treating myself to an extra hour of drawing instead of immediately replying to business emails, listening to cheerful songs to lift up my mood, or making a pretty-looking oatmeal for breakfast.
  2. When I have a big lunch followed by a passive activity (reading, watching videos, etc.), I would also get blues between 2 pm – 4 pm. However, when I have a light lunch followed by hours of doing things (working, washing dishes, tidying my drawer, planning my to-do lists for the next day, journaling, etc.) I would not hit the blues.
  3. When I have loads of yellows on my day, 90% of the time, it will lead to a few hours of blues the next day. When I had to deliver a 3-day workshop a month back, I found out that the next 2 days following that 3-day workshop was filled with blues. I have always known, instinctively, that although I love meeting people, those interactions drained me up. I always feel the need to clam up and recharge before being able to be a social butterfly once more. The time-tracker journal confirmed this need. Thus, when I know I will have have a big day full of work deadlines, I would decline any social get-together the day before. Or if I know I will have a full social calendar on the weekend, I would not set up a project deadline on the following Monday or Tuesday; knowing full-well that I would need to recuperate.
  4. When I work on a creative project from around 6 pm onwards, I would not feel hungry or crave for a big dinner. Most of the times, I forgot about dinner altogether because I was too absorbed in the activity.
  5. When I go to bed after 11 pm, 80% of the time, I would wake up with blues the next morning.
  6. When I spend a lot of time mindlessly scrolling on social media (more than half an hour), the following hours will be blue.

I found it interesting (but would also understand if this sounds boring to some of you!), and couldn’t wait to see what other ‘revelations’ I could get in the next 2-3 months of keeping my time-tracker journal. For me, the journal also serves as an activity tracker, a mood tracker, a productivity tracker, and a tiny summary of my days.

Are you thinking of starting a time-tracker journal of your own? Why do you think you would need one? What are the things you want to track? How do you think you can get to know yourself better if you can track the way you spend your time every day? I would love to hear from you!

Hanny Kusumawati




Intuitive Journaling for Closure & Forgiveness

How to use intuitive journaling for closure & forgiveness

Some refer to it as free writing, or automatic writing. The idea is to set a timer for a certain period of time: one minute, three minutes, five minutes, up to you. As the timer starts, begin writing (with pen and paper) on your journal, without really thinking, without really stopping.

Write whatever crossed your mind.

It doesn’t matter if things appear to sound weird, funny or senseless. The idea is to translate your tangled and busy mind into the paper.

Here’s the secret: DO NOT stop as you write, not even for a split second. Do not think. Just write until your time is up. Follow the chaos of your mind and write everything down. Everything.

You could even write something like, “I don’t know why I am doing this, oh, I’m so hungry, like so, hungry and my foot itches and what should I write this is strange really…”

It’s OK.

Keep writing.

I like to call this technique ‘intuitive writing’ or ‘intuitive journaling’ because after doing this practice for a while, you will notice the magical moment when your intuition starts talking to you from the chaos of the page.

The Steps

Here’s the thing: closure is not about something we need to resolve with another person, but something we need to resolve with ourselves. We need a closure not to bridge the gap between our significant other and us, but to close the gap between our beliefs, our values, our inner guidance—and us.

Thus, we can create our own moments of closure, and—hopefully, in time, forgive:

  1. Prepare a piece of pen and paper (or you can use your journal pages if you like)
  2. Prepare a timer and set it to 5 minutes
  3. Now think of a moment/hurtful experience you want to have a closure upon. While doing this and letting your feelings being stirred up, bring to your mind the image of the person who caused you this hurtful experience, imagine this person as a 4 year-old kid and then as an 80 year-old.
  4. Next, get ready with your pen and paper to do your intuitive journaling. Activate your timer, and for 5 minutes, without stopping, without thinking too much, write a letter of apology from that person to you. It may sound weird at first, but just trust your intuition and write loosely, not stopping at all—and if you’re true to the rules, at the end of the exercise, you’ll find a letter with a voice that is a bit foreign to you: the voice of the other person. Just write whatever crossed your mind. Do not try to think or analyze the person, do not try to correct or edit yourself by saying, “No, he or she won’t be saying this.” If you find it difficult, start the letter with Dear ___(your name), I am sorry for _________ and let your intuition roam free from there.
  5. Trust, and write as fast as you can without thinking until the time is up.
  6. When the timer rings, you can stop writing. Or if you feel the push to keep writing mindlessly, continue for another 2-3 minutes.
  7. When you’re done, you can: 1) mail this letter to yourself or 2) read this letter whenever you feel hurt/emotional as you remember a painful moment/incident involving this particular person.

I don’t believe in the saying that we should forgive.

I don’t think that the word should and forgive go hand in hand together.

Of course, we could always say, “I forgive you,” or “I accept your apology.”

But does saying it means we have truly forgiven someone—or even ourselves?

When we try so hard to forgive, it feels even more difficult. Because when we are thinking about forgiving, automatically, we are thinking about the things that need to be forgiven. We’re thinking about what our significant other (or ourselves) has done that needs to be forgiven. Those thoughts are not necessarily beautiful.

Thus, it feels contradictory.

Saying I-forgive-you is easy.
Forgiving is not.

Many said that forgiveness is the key to closure. And it’s true.

However, we should not push ourselves to forgive when we are not yet ready. To forgive, we need to go through a process of understanding our heartaches, our feelings, and ourselves.

Most of the times, forgiveness doesn’t come the moment we say I-forgive-you.
Forgiveness, often, arrives when we least expect it.

There will be a day when we feel light, happy, and carefree. The day when we’re doing the things we love, having fun with the people we adore, and feeling good about ourselves. And right there and then, we will experience a flashback of an uncomfortable moment we had with someone who (either knowingly or unknowingly) hurt us.

And when that moment comes, we will feel fine. The memory stays, but it doesn’t affect us. It doesn’t bring us down. It doesn’t make us doubt ourselves. It is only a memory.

That is the moment when we experience forgiveness.

We forgive when we can access the memory of something unfavorable that once happened to us—and feel okay with that. We know it’s a part of our lives, but we don’t feel the rush of feelings or emotions associated with that particular memory any longer.

We don’t forget. We remember.

But we remember the memory as a moment, not as a feeling.

So, say I-forgive-you if it feels right. However, there’s no need to push ourselves to forgive and forget when we are not ready. For the time being, feel the feeling we need to feel. Take good care of ourselves. Build an intimate relationship with ourselves and our closest ones. Focus on improving ourselves. Focus on our growth.

And bloom.

When the time comes, we know that all that needs to be forgiven has been forgiven.

Happy journaling,

Hanny Kusumawati

PS: More exercises on intuitive journaling can be found on my book, BREAK, HEARTS: AND BE ALRIGHT—a playbook for creative people to deal with their heartbreaks. You can get your copy by emailing my lovely book keeper, here.


Dash Hotel, Seminyak, Bali: How I Spend My Days Staying In.

Do you have that one friend you haven’t seen in years—but somehow you know that both of you still consider one another as trusted friends?

I guess that’s how I would describe my friendship with Chika (hope that feeling is mutual!). We knew each other through our blogs, became friends, randomly went to Singapore together, and saw each other at irregular intervals. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw her, really—must have been more than 2-3 years ago. So, of course, when she messaged me out of the blue and invited me to come along with her to Bali for a 3-day trip, I said YES.


When we arrived at our hotel, Chika, being the sweet thing that she is, surprised me with a chocolate cake with a candle on top. “Happy belated birthday!” she shouted, and we laughed, and we screamed, and we hugged, and then I blew the candle.

“Why are you so romantic?”
“I know. I should be a guy,” Chika laughed. “I think I’ll be a romantic boyfriend.”

And of course, soon after, conversations about love, heartbreak, guys, and relationships ensued: over a plate of chocolate cake.

I guess this was how we set the tone for the rest of our Bali getaway. For Chika, this would be her well-deserved vacation to take some rest from work. For me, as Bali has been my second home, I don’t have any plans for sightseeing or exploring. We just wanted to stay in, watch movies, order room service, and catch-up.


Chika invited me to stay at Dash Hotel in Petitenget, Seminyak, during our getaway. I didn’t think I’ve ever heard about the hotel before; but when I saw the facade, I realized that I have been passing this hotel many times!

Why, it is located near some of Seminyak’s beach-hangout places like Potato Head and Ku De Ta. And it is also only a walking distance from some of my favorite spots, like Biku and Cafe Organic.

I have always found this particular hotel intriguing, as it looks so bold and ‘out of place’ in the midst of Seminyak’s signature style; just like a rebellious teenager. Every time I passed this hotel, I always told myself that I wanted to see what it’s all about one day.

And finally, I got a chance to do it! (thanks, Chika!)

Inside, the hotel’s playful design screams fun, young, and vibrant. It’s so bold in a way that you might love it or hate it (like you would a durian!). I happened to like it simply because being there, looking at those vibrant colors, made me feel happy and energized. The hotel is so unique in its own way, that I would definitely tell a story about the quirkiness of it and my fun experience staying here in some dinner parties.

I instantly fell in love with ‘the Red Bunny’—which turned out to be… everywhere.

There’s a giant upside-down Red Bunny by the red poolside (yes, the pool is red!), a big Red Bunny plushie on the bed (place upside-down), a smaller upside-down Red Bunny on the table, and little Red Bunnies on our yellow bathrobe! (I still regretted my decision for not buying the smaller Red Bunny… it’s so soft and cute!)

The room (including its walls and ceiling) is vibrant with industrial/urban street style. Chika and I found it so intriguing that we started snapping pictures, to see which side of the walls would appear to be more photogenic. We laughed when we realized that we have a big bathtub in the middle of the room, right behind our huge bed: it’s sitting there in the open.

“This place could be such a fun place for adventurous young couples in honeymoon!” I climbed into the bathtub, fully-clothed. “It’s so big; I could even sleep here!”

But I guess our favorite spot in the room was our bed: it was so soft and comfortable; the perfect place from where we can watch movies, browse the Internet (yes, wi-fi is really fast!), and of course: having our girl’s talk.

So, that was how most of our days went by. Swimming in the red pool, lounging on its pool chair, climbing up the stairs to The Shack (where they have a pretty rooftop bar and jacuzzi), and lazying in bed watching HBO movies from the TV set, wrapped in our Red Bunny bathrobe.

Of course, with their playful and quirky approach, I would assume that the hotel would be wild and noisy: full of young people celebrating their summer or spring breaks. But, turned out, during my stay (even in the evening), I wasn’t bothered by any loud noises at all! There were also some couples and families staying here. Chika and I even talked to an old Italian couple on vacation during breakfast.


When we’re hungry, we dragged ourselves to the hotel’s restaurant because we didn’t feel like going out. Luckily, the food was surprisingly tasty (were you, like me, skeptical towards hotel’s restaurants sometimes?), so we kept coming back to Mya Kitchen, ordering so much food every time (but our plates were always clean!), switching between comforting Asian and Western food.

My comfort lies in savory dishes like chicken wings, pasta, and porridge, while Chika’s is in sweet drinks like this one (Chika said it was sinfully delicious, but I would leave it to her to explain):

Our favorite time at the restaurant, though, was breakfast time.

We were surprised when we got a menu with so many options! The staff told us that they didn’t serve breakfast buffet, but we could order anything from the menu, as much as we wanted, and they were all included in our breakfast package!

Upon hearing this, Chika and I ordered a bunch of food and drinks; we ended up having our breakfast in 2 rounds. We were laughing when the table was so cramped with our plates and bowls; but again, we finished them all. Very impressive, indeed! (or we’re just that hungry).


On our last day, Chika left for the airport very early in the morning, as she needed to catch a meeting in Jakarta. When she was gone, the room suddenly felt so empty and quiet.

I hugged the Red Bunny and tried to sleep some more, but I couldn’t seem to do it, so I just turned on the TV and watched some movies. I found out that I also got a mild fever and a cold, so rather than going down for breakfast, I decided to order room service. The chicken porridge was warm and tasty, and after a while, it gave me the push to finally leave the bed and hit the shower.

At around 10, I went up to the gym, thinking that I would do some morning yoga (they have yoga mats!), but as I passed the Rabbit Hole (their spa), I changed my mind. What’s better than having a massage when you have a cold?

I entered the spa, and the lady told me that they were free, so I could get my massage right away if I wanted to. I said yes immediately and decided on a back and shoulder massage; as I started to feel some tension developing in my head and shoulders.

To be honest, I did not expect much from the massage. I thought it would just be an excellent way to relax a bit, but turned out the lady who massaged me was very good!

It wasn’t one of those massages when you cringed instead of loosened up. The pressure was good, and the ambiance was so serene. I liked it when my massage room was quiet; with a faint smell of aromatherapy. I could feel some of my tight muscles unfurled; especially around my shoulders; and when I was putting my clothes back on after the massage, my mild headache (that came with the cold in the morning) had disappeared.

I went down to the lobby area afterward, where they have a sun-bathed seating area/library to do some journaling before I checked out (follow my Instagram to have a look at my Bali travel journal).

I have always loved some quality time with my girls; even when we have nothing better to do but watching movies together or reading books next to each other (or dining in!). With some friends, it seems like no matter how long you haven’t seen each other, you can always catch up so effortlessly; as if there’s no expiry date on your friendship whatsoever.

I felt so lucky and blessed knowing that I have some wonderful girlfriends around me. The ones who support and believe in me. The ones who wish to collaborate instead of competing. The ones who may not have similar views or beliefs about life with me, but mature enough to not let differences get in our way.

Do you have a circle of girlfriends you cherish as well?
How do you spend quality time together when you can’t meet up frequently?

Hanny Kusumawati



AddressJl. Petitenget No.148, Kerobokan Kelod,
Kuta Utara, Kabupaten Badung, Bali 80361