The MTM Life Designer is built for people who have mental health challenges but find traditional self-help, journals, and apps unhelpful or difficult to stick with.

The vast majority of printable journals and planning systems only offer very generic, limited templates for processing life experiences. Most journal systems also assume the person using the tool is in full possession of their mental faculties most of the time, and the self-help industry has produced little in the way of original thinking or insight in the last 30 years. Influencers, ‘thought leaders,’ and podcasters are in most cases repackaging ideas introduced a long time ago by people like Plato, Carl Jung, Simone Weil, or Mary Whiton Calkins.

The fact is, the journal/planner market is oversaturated, but most of the the tools are designed with an unconscious bias towards what I call ‘normal’ people, of which I am decidedly not. People with mental illness are often already dealing with feelings of inadequacy, so need to be able to scale their efforts appropriately, but many of the more popular self-help systems are intentionally designed to require an all-or-nothing approach to implementing their guidance. Early in my career I worked in publishing at Random House, so I know that with self-help, the book is just the tip of a massive ancillary product iceberg.

“Most journal systems assume the person using the tool is in full possession of their mental faculties most of the time.”

People with mental illness do not process experiences and information the same way as a lot of people, and most journals and planners assume we do, which is why I had to create my own.

There are thousands of different physical journals on the market, and while a lot of them have fancy covers or are made with exotic materials, I struggled to find a journal or planner that would lay flat enough for me to comfortably write, and the bindings were often so tight that I ended up not being able to use the full page. I wanted something that I could lay flat without force and pages with enough space to make writing less of a chore.

There isn’t any fluff. The MTM Life Designer is a stripped-down DIY approach in which every component has a specific purpose intended to produce a verifiable benefit.

While nothing comes with a 100% guarantee, it’s safe to say I’ve explored and synthesized years of literature and research on how to live with a mental health diagnosis, freeing you from the need to buy more books or spend time searching for quality resources on an internet clogged fads, quick fixes, and miracle cures.

Structured, flexible, evidence-based practice

I’ve read a library’s worth of books on how to manage mood disorders outside the clinical or therapeutic setting and incorporated only those principles that have had a measurable positive impact on my mental wellbeing. The system and tools are also informed by my background as a Six Sigma Black Belt specializing in process excellence and improvement.

I spent much of my career working as a healthcare leader responsible for protecting patient and clinical worker rights, the oversight of clinical research, and service line delivery strategy.

For three years I fought to keep a vital inpatient behavioral health facility open in west Michigan, so have direct experience with the issues and barriers faced by those seeking treatment or support.

During my time as a healthcare leader I was immersed in the best-practices centered on evidence-based, patient-centered care, and gained valuable experience working with psychiatrists, physician, and nursing professionals trying to meet the ever increasing demand for mental health services.

This experience provided me first-hand exposure to the complex problems faced by therapists, psychiatrists, nurses, and social workers when trying to meet the enormous demand for mental health services in a system that is chronically underfunded and ignored by policy-makers.

Easy to use & customize

When coming up with the physical designs to support the process, I was determined to remove barriers that had previously discouraged me from actually sitting down and writing.

At the end of the week, set aside some time to review your week using the Weekly Review PDF. The Daily Pages can be used as valuable source material for your weekly review.

I update my Workbook each day because the heatmaps it creates are an invaluable source of information about my mental health journey.

I keep the Weekly Reviews and combine them with the Workbook data to prepare for appointments with my therapist or physician. The tools and process help me fashion a clearer story of my journey and get the most value for my healthcare dollars.

I keep several of the Worksheets in the back of my notebook and use them when I get stuck or am struggling with a symptom flare-up. The Worksheets can help you de-escalate when your judgement is clouded by your mood disorder(s) and serve as another valuable source of information for discussions about your mental health with the key people in your life.

No, there isn’t an app for that

The value of physical processing

Research demonstrates that taking notes by hand has a significant positive impact on knowledge retention, the quality of our writing and verbal expression, and our ability to think critically when problem solving. I’ve also found doing something physical with my hands, whether it’s writing, drawing, painting, or building structures and terrain for the Dungeons & Dragons game I run for my son and his friends reduces my anxiety.

I tried dozens of apps and digital journaling tools, but none of them are really designed to support people who struggle with mental health challenges. Plus, especially with apps, it always became an out of sight-out of mind scenario.

Physically doing something with your hands has also been demonstrated to be an effective way to reduce anxiety.