Create Your Life Handbook

Life Handbook

One of the tools that has been crucial in my personal growth journey is my life handbook. What is a life handbook?

A life handbook is your personal handbook to live your best life. I came up with this term after I created a guidebook to help me live a more targeted and focused life, and experienced tremendous benefits from it.

Think of your life handbook as a manual that contains anything and everything important to live your best life, from your life purpose to life goals to action plans, right down to your daily tasks. Just like you need a driving manual to learn driving, your life handbook is your manual to live your best life. Just like the Bible is the guidebook that reflects the doctrine and creed of Christianity, your life handbook reflects the directives, essence, and principles to live your best possible life.

How I Came to Create My Life Handbook

Back in 2006, I was about to graduate from university. I had already found my passion to help others grow, but decided to work in the corporate world first rather than pursue it right away. I promised myself to keep my passion in mind and pursue it when the time was right.

Fast forward to 2007, and what had I done about my passion? Absolutely nothing! It wasn’t that I lost interest, but that I had been so busy working that I had no mental space to think about anything else after work. During weekends, I would either be working or recharging after a hectic work week. I also found no progress in my Quadrant 2 goals like finding love, losing weight, and spending time with my family. Despite wanting to realize these goals, it was difficult to do so with day-to-day priorities screaming at me every day.

I also noticed that while I was learning a lot in my work and life, these lessons were lost over time because there were so many things to keep up with every day. While I made an effort to write things down in my notebook and post-it notes, these were strewn everywhere and it was impossible to keep up with them after a while.

I realized that I needed some kind of tool to remind me of my long-term goals while helping me live every day to the fullest. Not a to-do list, because this is only a micro-tool that helps me manage my daily to-dos but not my long-term goals. Not an action plan, as it tends to be goal-based (e.g., lose weight or improve work performance) and doesn’t give me the holistic view on life that I needed.

What I needed was a guidebook for life. A guidebook that would include information about me, on living my best life, such as my life purpose, values, long-term goals, short-term goals, daily mottos, and things I have learned. A guidebook I could refer to daily to live my best life. This guidebook would assist me in my everyday thinking, decisions, and actions; it would also remind me of my long-term priorities so that I would always be moving towards them and not forget about them.

This document that would lay out the blueprint for living my best life. This would be my one place to document everything important for me, and serve as my guide for everyday thinking and living.

And thus, my life handbook was born.

Benefits Of Having Your Life Handbook

Life handbook by Karin

Example of a Life handbook by PE reader Karin

A life handbook is incredibly powerful in many ways.

Firstly, having your handbook is a key step to becoming a true leader of your life. Many people live aimlessly, with no clarity of what they want to accomplish. Creating your handbook forces you to reflect on your life, think about what you want, and create plans to realize them. Subsequently, your handbook becomes a crucial tool to live a life of highest purpose — as defined by you.

Secondly, it gives you clarity. There are so many distractions in our lives that it’s easy to get sidetracked by them. Many things that are urgent but aren’t important can often take center stage and pull us away from the things that matter. Your life handbook reminds you of the important things that matter and to focus on them.

Thirdly, it is your guidebook for living a great life. Not sure what to do in a dilemma? Have a conflict that you don’t know how to resolve? Feeling a little lost in life? Well, refer to your life handbook! As you review your purpose, values, and goals, it helps you reconnect with your inner self and make the decisions that align with your highest being.

How To Create Your Life Handbook

Step 1: Decide on the Format

First decide on the format of your book. Do you want a digital book (e.g., Excel spreadsheet, MS Word, or PowerPoint) or physical book (e.g., a notebook)?

It’s up to you on which format to use. Some of my clients and readers prefer a digital format for their handbook. Some prefer hard copy; they purchase blank notebooks and decorate them as their handbooks.

Personally I prefer a digital handbook as 1) it’s easy to edit the information, 2) most apps have functions to organize information readily, and 3) you can view it across different devices like mobile and laptop. I use Excel to create my handbook (so it’s actually an Excel file), with different tabs for different sections. Some PE readers have great success using EverNote and MS OneNote for their handbooks, so you can consider them as well.

If you want a physical handbook, that’s great too! Use a notebook that you already have, or shop for a nice notebook or folder.

Step 2: Fill in Your Handbook

Your handbook is meant to be your manual to live your best life, and as such should consist of anything and everything important to live your best life. Below is a good starting point:

  1. Your life purpose
  2. Your values
  3. Your strengths and improvement areas
  4. Your life adages (i.e. Your personal mottos on living a great life. These can be inspirational quotes or personal mottoes.)
  5. Your vision board (Vision boards are visual representation of your goals and dreams. Check out my vision board tutorial.)
  6. Your long-term life goals, comprising of 5-, 3-, and 1-year goals
  7. Your short-term life goals, usually a breakdown of your 1-year goals
  8. Your action plans to achieve your goals

* For those of you who have done Live a Better Life in 30 Days, you should have identified most of the items above, so it’s a matter of putting them together in your handbook.

While the above may seem a little hefty, there is no need to do everything in one sitting; neither is it reasonable to expect that. Simply filling out one section (say, your life purpose) requires deep thought and reflection.

Rather, take as much time as you need. Do whatever you can today, then continue tomorrow. Two weeks is a good time frame to get the core sections in place.

Remember that your handbook is meant to be a work-in-progress. There will never be a point when your handbook is truly complete, because you’re growing and discovering new things every day.. Make it a habit to update your handbook daily, even if for just five minutes each time.

Step 3: Personalize it!

Your handbook is all about you, so personalize it! A great way to spice up your book is to decorate it with images that inspire you.

For example, my life handbook is an Excel file and I have a tab dedicated to my healthy eating goal. In that tab, I would have pictures of fruits, fruit and vegetable smoothies, salads, nuts, and water (to remind myself to drink enough water every day). Different sections of my Excel handbook are color-coded to facilitate my reading.

Here’s an example of PE reader Kulit’s digital life handbook:

Life handbook by Kulit

Life handbook by PE reader Kulit

No matter how many clients I work with, it’s always exciting to see how each of them puts together his/her handbook, as everyone’s handbook always turns out different. Your handbook is a representation of who you are, so don’t worry about conforming to a certain “standard.” Let your creativity flow!

Step 4: Have a backup (if you’re using a soft copy!)

Because your handbook is extremely important, have at least one backup. I back up my handbook via email every month and also save a copy on my external hard drive.

My Experience Creating My Handbook

After realizing that I needed a tool to guide me in everyday living, I created my life handbook in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. At that time, I didn’t think of this as my “life handbook” — I simply saw it as a tool to document my life lessons.

Each day, I would add to this document, edit the content, and structure the information. If I was busy I would spend five to ten minutes on it; if I wasn’t, I could spend hours fiddling away! From my life purpose, to my values, to my daily mottoes, to my long-term life goals, to my short-term life goals, I would add all kinds of information important to living my best life.

Before I knew it, this innocuous document had transformed into my life manual. It was about a couple of months before I finally felt that the core foundations of my handbook was in place.

Today, my handbook is a massive Excel workbook with nearly 20 sheets! It’s chocked full of knowledge that I have gained in my past decades of conscious living. Below is a partial outline of my handbook:

  1. My overall life purpose/vision
  2. My life-long goals
    • 5-, 3-, and 1-year goals
    • My 1-year goals, broken down into months
  3. My vision board
  4. My values
  5. My overall life adages based on what I have learned in life
  6. My strengths, improvement areas, and my blind spots
  7. Things that motivate me in life
  8. My strategies, plans and tracking for my goals
  9. Daily to-do list (Updated on an ongoing basis)
  10. Inspirational quotes
  11. Highlights of each year
  12. Annual reflections
  13. Miscellaneous information that I access frequently: My finances, my credit card information, grocery lists, etc

After Creating Your Life Handbook…

  1. Look at your handbook every morning before starting your day. Start off by reviewing your purpose, then your values, followed by your mottoes, and then your long-term goals and short-term goals. You will find that just spending a few minutes looking through your book every day will give you immense focus and clarity, which will ripple out to create dramatic changes in the long run.
  2. Refer to it throughout the day to remind yourself of your goals. My handbook is open in my computer all the time so that I can easily refer to it throughout the day. If yours is a hard copy book, carry it with you wherever you go. My clients carry their handbooks with them everywhere they go and they refer to it whenever they get the free time.
  3. Update it constantly. From now on, use this book to record any information that’s important to you. Whenever you come across something meaningful and noteworthy, record that into your book. Whenever you have a new goal, include it inside. Whenever you get an aha, record it so that it doesn’t get lost. Soon, you’ll find that it becomes second nature to update your book whenever you think of something.
  4. Back it up regularly. If you have a soft copy handbook, please back it up frequently (every month is a good interval).

Congratulations on creating your life handbook! From today onwards, use it to guide you to live your best life. :)

Creating your life handbook is Day 17’s task in Live a Better Life in 30 Days, my 30-day course to live a better life. If you’re looking to take your life to the next level, be sure to check out the course: Live a Better Life in 30 Days