In addition to a notebook that I use at work, I also have a notebook at home that has become the collection point for various thoughts/reflections/exercises about “what I want to be when I grow up.” In this notebook I have written personal thoughts like a journal, but also pasted notes, quotes and job notices like a scrapbook. I wasn’t sure what it really was.

But then I read an article about “commonplace books.” Apparently these were used hundreds of years ago to help people make a connection between different aspects in their lives. Commonplace books collected recipes, Bible verses, personal reflections and any other observations the owner wished to make. They were called a “unique combination of diary and scrapbook.”

Eureka! Without knowing the term or the heritage, that is exactly what I have been compiling during the last few months. And having my thoughts and visuals all in one place makes it much easier to see trends and patterns, as well as to see how far my thinking has come.

For some, Pinterest serves as a modern day commonplace book. While the personal reflection is not explicitly there, much of what people would write shows up in the quotes they pin or the verses they like. It is not private, but still provides a look into the connections that matter to the owner.

Whether it be in an old-fashioned spiral notebook or in a more electronic format, I encourage you to create your own commonplace book. Entries can be made whenever and however the mood strikes you, but overall they provide a mirror to reflect back what you may not be able to see without the gift of time and perspective. 

Like making height markings on a wall, a commonplace book provides you tangible validity of your growth. Your thoughts and personal connections are anything but common; keep track of them to truly see your development.

beth triplett

Source: Small Changes in Teaching: Making Connections by James Lang in the Chronicle of Higher Education, February 8, 2016

About the Author leadership dots by dr. beth triplett

Dr. beth triplett is the owner of leadership dots, offering coaching, training and consulting for new supervisors. She also shares daily lessons on her leadershipdots blog. Her work is based on the leadership dots philosophy that change happens through the intentional connecting of small steps in the short term to the big picture in the long term.

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