Writing the book of your life from a pile of old notepads

It was late March 2020. The sun was shining, the UK was in lockdown and the pandemic had mothballed most of my talks and workshops.

So, I had time on my hands. In our little summerhouse at the foot of the garden I started a new daily practice, revisiting a box of old notepads. 27 notepads going back 13 years. Each morning I’d grab a notepad from the box, leaf through it and type up anything that stood out to me.

In each notepad were ideas, observations and lists. Notes from the window seat of a plane to Belfast. Scribbles from a train homeward bound from Edinburgh. Reflections over a coffee in Liverpool and musings over a glass of wine in Amsterdam.

In a time when we couldn’t travel — when my usual spaces for creative inspiration were out of bounds, when journeys were a no-no — these rediscovered notepads were a godsend. I reread those stories, observations and notes I’d jotted down over the years — and found a wealth of valuable information. Notes to myself. Notes on how to live.

With the pandemic putting life on hold, I had now been afforded a precious opportunity of time to process these handwritten notes. One month later I had created a 50,000 word document.

Among the moments of joy and inspiration in those notepads were records of struggle. Of navigating ill health whilst trying to run a business. Of feeling low and lost.

But as I built up a picture of my life over the last 13 years, I could see a pattern emerging. A pattern of change that happened around 2015, when I started to be much more intentional about living my life true to who I really am. When I made the choice to live life my way, I could look back and see how things got better.

2015 was the year I got asked to speak at The Do Lectures. It proved an important turning point. I was given a platform to share my real story for the first time, to be open and honest about my struggles and to impart my philosophy for moving forward. It was a crystallizing moment: I reset my compass. I was able to ensure the choices I made in life were aligned with my ethos, my spirit. I knew what I stood for, and was going to stick by it.

In these notepads I also found hundreds of Good Times lists. These are my weekly lists which I began eight years ago where I write down all the good things that happen. I start the list on a Monday morning and end it on a Sunday evening. Work, family, personal — all those positive moments and experiences go in my weekly list.

My Good Times list is my way of knowing what I need to live a good life. And by knowing what I need, I simply do more of it!

I’ve poured all the insights from those 27 notepads into my new book ‘365 Ways To Have a Good Day’ which is published in the UK and most international markets today (US & Canada — it’s March 2022, but of course you can pre-order now).

My book feels timely. As the poet David Whyte has observed, it’s as if the pandemic has given us a new set of eyes and ears. We are emerging from the events of 2020/21 with a greater sense of clarity in our life about what really matters.

It’s made us all stop in our tracks and see — what do we want more of? What do we want to let go of?

So this is a book about being more intentional about what we each need to have a good day.

Knowing what we need.

What we don’t need.

In the pages of my book are 365 ideas, stories to get you thinking about what’s important.

We’ve been gifted an opportunity. Let’s not go backwards. Let’s embrace the kind of life we want… If not now, when?

365 Ways To Have a Good Day is out today in the UK/ most international markets. For US & Canada, it’s out in March 2022 but you can pre-order now.

I would like to give a shout out here to someone who helped me early on in this journey: Jeff Scott. I recently sent him a note of appreciation, but due to writer’s ‘deadline brain’ I omitted to thank him in the acknowledgement section when the book was being put together earlier this year.

Jeff and I first worked together in 2009, when my publishers asked him to be the publicist on my second book ‘Juggle!’ He’s a top bloke — we have batted ideas about and kept in touch since. When I was exploring an earlier iteration of this book, I reached out to Jeff for advice. He was very generous with his time and helped me wrangle my ideas for a proposal. If it hadn’t been for Jeff, I may never have reached out to the editor who went on to commission me to write the first in his new series of ‘365 Ways….’ So thank you!

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IanSanders

Sparking change through story. Energising people at work. Author of 365 Ways to Have a Good Day (out Nov 2021). Fuelled by coffee, curiosity, walking.