Let’s start with an example… Suppose you are dealing with chronic fatigue and are having trouble getting everything you want to get done in a day. Your occupational therapist could ask you to keep an activity journal for one or two weeks and then, discuss any patterns or trends that may appear.

What is an activity journal?

  • It’s a versatile tool used in occupational therapy to help track activities and notice patterns in your everyday routine.
  • Occupational therapists can take that information and help you optimize your day according to your condition and wishes, through the means of education and practical application.
  • It can also be used to plan your day!
  • Finally, activity journals can be used in a variety of conditions such as concussion management, chronic pain or chronic fatigue, Long COVID, etc. It can also be used in stress management and other mental health avenues.

How would you go about doing an activity journal, and what would you write?

First, your occupational therapist would have you start by taking any hourly calendar and writing down at what times you do your activities. Here are some things you might write: wake up, meal, wash, household chores (cleaning, laundry), cooking, driving, work, TV (Netflix, movies), any other leisure activity, bedtime, sleep and so on!

Also, your occupational therapist may ask you to note down any symptoms you are feeling, depending on your condition, and rate its level. Some examples of symptoms would be fatigue, dizziness, nausea, feelings of anxiety, etc.

After completing a week or two of the journal, you might start to notice some patterns (or maybe not! But that’s something you would discuss with your occupational therapist.) In keeping with the example of chronic fatigue. Suppose you notice that after completing all the chores in the morning, you don’t have any energy to do gardening in the afternoon? How do we address this so that you can perform these activities with less fatigue?

Your occupational therapist’s suggestions

Here are some suggestions the occupational therapist might give, based on energy conservation techniques. It’s important to remember that our energy isn’t unlimited, so we need to use it wisely!

  1. Prioritize: How important is this activity to me? Do I need to do it today, or can it be done tomorrow?
  2. Planning: What time of day would be best for me to do this activity, considering my symptoms or other activities in the day? Should I add a pause or break in my day? What should I change in my environment to prepare for this task tomorrow?
  3. Pacing: Do I need to do this activity all in one shot, or can I space it out? Should I take a break between activities?
  4. Positioning (posture): Do I need to perform this activity standing, or am I able to sit while doing this activity? Am I in an awkward position while doing this activity? This aspect is important, especially for those managing fatigue or pain.

After having considered this, you can use the activity journal to plan your day with these questions in mind! Your occupational therapist will also offer other suggestions and strategies to help you figure out what works best for you. Be patient with yourself. It might take a few trial and errors to find the optimal strategy, and your journal will help you find your optimal routine.

As you can see, the activity journal is a great way to better understand the patterns of your daily routines and make adjustments so that you feel more successful and satisfied with your level of engagement in your meaningful activities!