With Your Theme as Your Guide, Prepare for 2018
A peek into my "set it and forget it" lifestyle.
This may be the first time I admit this but here we go: I'm a sporadic creative. If I don't set myself up for success, I will inevitably fail. Some mornings I wake up completely unable to make decisions, comprehensively organize projects, or manage communications. On these mornings I make mistakes. I miss deadlines. Calls that were supposed to take place get missed and apology emails go out after I've already let someone down.
To live the bold, connected, productive life that I want, that type of negligence is not acceptable on a regular basis.
I'm the first person to cut myself slack - and you should be too. But I'm also the first person to set myself up for success at every opportunity I can manage. In a few examples, that looks like:
- Attaching files, previous email threads, current communication, and questions to the call appointment I've just scheduled in my calendar
- Writing future lists for days where I travel into town and time-blocking my errands with shopping lists inside
- Scheduling appointments weeks - sometimes months - in advance and recording them in my calendar and my budget
- Subscribing to items I forget to purchase (IE cat food, toothpaste, supplements) and putting their purchase/ship dates in my calendar
- Creating extensive lists when I am inspired for topics, projects, goals, and ideas that relate to my priorities
Setting your baseline: Yearly theme, priorities, and projects
Have you set your yearly theme? A yearly theme can take the form of a word, phrase, concept, or commitment. My yearly theme is a word + concept: Grace. Having grace as my 'north star' for the year means that as I determine my priorities, choose my projects, and go about my daily rituals, I'm guided down a path bringing me closer to who I am to become.
If you don't have your yearly theme yet, you can discover it by answering a few questions in your journal:
- What's missing in your life, your character, or your future?
- When you look back on the previous year, what would have made the hard times easier?
- What was present for you in some of your favorite life moments?
- What gift would you give yourself this year?
For me, grace is: caring for myself, developing a healthy relationship with communication and the environments I enter, and cultivating softness when I feel stressed, afraid, or overwhelmed.
I did some brainstorming on what a year of grace might look like. To do this activity for your own yearly theme, set a time for 10 minutes and write down everything that comes to mind when you put your yearly theme into focus.
An excerpt from my brain dump:
- Self-expression through art
- Journaling my feelings and daily experiences
- Getting more connected with my family
- Less screen time, more outside time
- Sitting in (and getting comfortable with) silence
- Being a listening ear without giving advice
- Living slowly and consciously
- Consuming less, saving more
- Creating space for those around me to shine
- Dance, yoga, organic movement
- Healthy skin, hair, and nails
- Loving communication with all I meet
- Empowering those around me
- Staying hydrated, drinking more water than tea
- Giving thoughtful gifts to loved ones
- Writing thank-you letters
- Sharing inspiring stories and articles
- Writing for causes + telling stories for those who can't
Translating the above into plans, projects, and pathways
For the sake of not boring you to death with the minutae of all I've set up for my 2018, I would like to share with you the priorities that emerged from the above brain dump activity:
Self-care • Organization • Interpersonal Skills • Sharing + Communication • Empowerment • Healthy Disconnection
It's in the inspired hours like the ones I'm experiencing today that I established some clarity in bringing these priorities to life. If I had left it up to future Amelia to make those priorities happen, I'd be setting her up for a heavy, broad, uninformed burden. But by capitalizing on the clarity in the moment, I'm happy to share some activities you can implement in your own life to "set and forget" making your priorities and goals your reality.
Schedule the first quarter of self-care appointments up-front and budget accordingly
I scheduled my first haircut in a year with Tre Salon in Knoxville at the recommenation of a friend. I typically put off getting my hair cut, giving the excuse that my curly hair is too complex and "I haven't found the right stylist". Moving to a new city made it all to easy to put this off, so I just took the plunge and put a hair cut on the books for the first week of January. In addition to that, I scheduled a facial toward the middle of the month and a massage for right around my birthday, late-February. It would have been great to get them all done in January (dreamy, right?) but my budget isn't set up that way.
With my newly established health insurance plan, I've established a relationship with a local chiropractor's office and setup my first appointment to get a diagnosis for some pesky pain and continued issues. You only have one set of bones, take care of them! I also scheduled a doctor's appointment, major cleanse [which I will publish a post on, as its for heavy metals, parasites, and much more than just *juice*], and am still on the hunt for a semi-local naturopathic dentist. PSA: Schedule your doctor's appointments and take care of yourself!
To support my commitment to better communication and interpersonal skills, I've signed up for BetterHelp counseling, a virtual counseling service that pairs you with a counselor based on your answer to a simple questionnaire. They're fairly inexpensive on a weekly basis and I believe I could tremendously benefit from a third party perspective in dealing with the stress of starting a new life, building a home, and running my own business.
Stock up on staples and supplies, the schedule + subscribe for the year
Call me crazy but I actual took an inventory of the "staples" in my household. The list includes food products, cleaning supplies, self-care products, pet necessities, suppliements and herbs, toiletries, and materials I tend to blow through unnecessarily fast (IE, pens). It's a list you make ONCE that you can update, but will most likely not change much throughout the year. To go one step further - price that list. Yeah, that's the amount of money you spend yearly on things you actually need! This is a great time to assess whether or not your list is accurate, complete, or excessive.
The point of making this list is to get you stocked up for the first quarter of the new year and to get yourself on a schedule of purchasing what you need before you need it.
Let me know in the comments how this goes for you? I find that the best way to manage my very flexible financial landscape is to stay scrupulously aware of my needs and when I need them. For the freelancer whose budget may go from $50 to $1000 in a week, this helps me put in perspective what I can purchase and when the prime time to purchase is.
Schedule a series of "free days" in the next few months to create space for new hobbies, habits, and if necessary, to play catch-up
I find it stifling and uninviting if I strictly schedule fun activities, new hobbies, or specific activities in my "free time". It took me a while to discover that about myself and it does hold me back at times, but by simply blocking "free days" and "free afternoons", I can refer to previously-created lists, outlined project plans, and mood boards (AKA Pinterest) to inspire me to fully enjoy that time.
How many is enough? That's entirely up to you! My goal is to have one free-day per week. Free day does not automatically mean: chores, running errands, cleaning the house, or any other task that is a "must" for my normal lifestyle unless I say so! A free day can also be a hike in the woods with the dogs, digging through my scrap yarn and whipping up a new project, watching Netflix all-day, or writing five blog posts because my brain is up for that.
Subscribe to publications, newsletters, and membership services that will nurture you all year long
For my birthday last year I purchase three magazine subscriptions for myself: Standart, Taproot, and Aglow. This was the best gift I could have given myself. As someone who absolutely adores the world of coffee, aspires to be a homesteader, and runs a creative business, these publications arrived at staggered times all year and renewed my inspiration every time they arrived. From their pages I gleaned knowledge on the supply chain vulnerabilities in coffee production (and how to engage consciously for a better future), tons of recipes and patterns for healthy food and handmade textiles, and the various challenges and eccentricities that come with running a multi-functional business like a retail store + photography studio.
Two bonus activities to give anyone a fresh start
Schedule a series of "declutter" dates, giving yourself at least a half-day for each. Categories include (but not limited to):
- Kitchen - appliances and tools, fridge + pantry, containers and their lids
- Wardrobe - all seasons, intimates, old tee shirts
- Kids toys + supplies
- Toiletries, skin and self-care products
- Cluttered areas: Garage, junk drawers, attic
- Digital areas: Email inbox, downloads folder, photos, documents
Giving yourself concrete time to process these cluttered areas and bid farewell to your unneeded wares will help you declutter for good. Consider donating to a local homeless or women's shelter or re-gifting your unused or gently used items to loved ones throughout the year.
Create a "needs" list for the vacancies in your life and schedule them in your budget.
I've been relentlessly seeking a versatile, sturdy professional white shirt for years. It's been on my "needs" list, alongside fitted-but-comfy khakis, blank jeans (which I recently ticked off!), a non-magnetic can opener, and a plethora of other creature comforts. If you're like me, you come to a vacancy in your life and think, "when am I ever actually just going to buy that thing!?"
By assessing your needs and putting them all in one place, you can keep them top of mind when planning your monthly budget, when replying to someone's curiousity of what gift to get you for your birthday, Christmas, Hanukkah, etc, and when you break down and need some retail therapy. Don't buy something you don't need! Satisfy that shopping craving with a purposeful purchase.
A few items on my needs list include:
- Reusable coffee filter for my large Chemex
- Double-boiler that will serve as our primary pot for the slow rolling home
- Micro photo printer
- Spoon rest (because I am that person who leaves a messy spoon on the counter!)
- Wool house slippers with non-slip bottoms (so I stop running out to get the mail barefoot in the cold)
- Sturdy white professional shirt
- Non-magnetic can opener
- Refillable lighter for my candle obsession
- Set of wool dryer balls
The activities above are how I "set and forget" the ways I'll stay try to my priorities in the new year.
Too many people still set new years resolutions and goals and don't see them come to fruition. I have been that person! By capitalizing on times when I'm inspired, productive, clear-headed, and in the mindset to plan, I make major headway on huge priorities in single sittings, making it easier to forgive myself for the days when I'm not up to snuff.
These "set it and forget it" sessions have saved my arse so many times - being set up in advance with talking points for a meeting, having a self-care appointment the same week I find out my grandfather passed away (true story 2017), and having an inspirational magazine show up in a week where I can barely get out of bed are just a few of the benefits I've experienced. Granted - not all of us are sporadic. Some have a steady flow of inspiration, creativity, and resilience that drives them through the hard times without falter.