Friday, April 9, 2021

Second Quarter Check-In

Believe it or not, we're a week into the second quarter of 2021. For anyone like me whose shiny new January commitments feel like they're wavering a bit, I'll share something I read recently about entering into contracts with yourself. 

The gist is that we are much more inclined to keep contracts/promises/agreements made with an outside party because we can better envision and anticipate the consequences. If you promise you're going to meet a friend for an outdoor, socially-distanced coffee and you don't, you know that without a very compelling reason for your absence, your friend will be a little perturbed. Plus, being reliable is common courtesy.

But we break promises to ourselves all the time, often without a second thought. The problem with that is, we become accustomed to our unreliability. A way to be more mindful about this is simply to write it down. 

Take one or two of the more important items from your to-do list and elevate them to the next level of commitment by writing a contract with yourself. 

  • Give each a separate slip of paper. 
  • Be as formal (I, the undersigned, hereby affirm...) or as casual (I'm Gonna _______) as you wish. 
  • Use specific language regarding what you will do and when. Big statements such as "I will clean the garage" can end up feeling wishy-washy and/or overwhelming. Give yourself a wide enough window to account for the life's unpredictability.
  • Sign and date the bottom.
  • Post it where you will see it every day.
  • When the contract is fulfilled, give it a big star or an A+ for a job well done.
  • If you don't manage to follow through for whatever reason, assign a consequence and renegotiate the terms.
The month of March showed me how easy it has become for me to not get much done. I have pandemic and work-from-home burnout, and I'm just kind of tired. So maybe a contract is what I need to recommit. But first I have to commit to making a contract.

How was your first quarter of 2021? Any changes upcoming for Q2?

Friday, March 19, 2021

Ready to Spring


Happy Friday! I had planned to write a different (i.e. better) post for today, but after switching to Daylight Savings Time last weekend during a snowstorm that dropped 30" at my house, I haven't had the most productive or inspiring week. 

Walter in his little "snow-asis"

Tomorrow, however, marks the spring/vernal equinox in the northern hemisphere, which is welcome news. Every year, spring brings the promise of renewal, but perhaps no year more than this one. Longer days, warmer temperatures, and increased vaccination will hopefully spread a little optimism after a long and bleak Covid winter. 

With not quite two weeks left in March, there's time to wrap up the first quarter of 2021 and plan for the second. Though I'm still trying to factor discipline into my daily life, I can feel some of my new year enthusiasm waning, so it's a good time for a bit of a reboot.

For a list of  9 ways to celebrate the spring equinox, including the Descent of Kukulkan shown below, check out this list from Mental Floss.

Friday, February 26, 2021

Buh-bye February


Is it just me, or has this been the looongest short month? We've had cold, windy, snowy weather all over the country, the pandemic continues, and spring seems far away indeed.

But it hasn't been all bad! Here, in no certain order, are some of the good things about February 2021:

  • My family is still happy, healthy, and hanging in there;
  • Politics has simmered way down;
  • The coronavirus numbers are dropping, and although it's still slow going, more at-risk people are getting vaccinated; 
  • This month had some fun things to celebrate, including Black History, Valentine's Day, Lunar New Year, and Mardi Gras;
  • I had time to read: The Truants, by Kate Weinberg; The Midnight Library, by Matt Haig; and I'm working on The Best of Me, by David Sedaris;
  • I was able to meet with both my book club and critique group via Zoom;
  • The days are getting longer;
  • Chocolate (which goes without saying); 
  • And last but certainly not least, my talented graphic designer friend is putting the finishing touches on the cover for the sequel to my novel, Passing Through. Look for more about this in March.
Maybe it will come in like a lion, but I'm still ready for a new month. 

What made February good for you?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

The Year of the Ox

This week marks the start of the Lunar New Year celebration. Although I have no Asian heritage, I love this holiday because it feels like a second fresh start for the year. Plus, the new year begins on the night of the new moon, which is symbolically interesting.

February 12, 2021 ushers in the Year of the Ox. Oxen are associated with hard work, diligence, determination, and discipline. I did not know this when I chose discipline as my word for the year, so I'm chalking that up to a happy coincidence.

Reflecting the ox's steady influence, 2021 will hopefully be a calmer, more predictable year, which sounds good to me. Additionally, it will be a year in which hard work pays off. It may feel tough and methodical, but with patience, it can be transformative. It's also a time to be organized and follow a consistent routine, perhaps by using a planner! 

I wish you lots of good fortune in the Year of the Ox! Work hard, stay the course, and hopefully we'll all have success stories to share in the coming months.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Color of Success

What is the color of success? It's kind of a trick question, because for many people, the answer is multicolor. Color coding can be a huge boon to organization, which, we all hope, leads to a successful outcome. Teachers have known this for years. That's why every kid needs a green folder for math, say, and an orange one for reading. Then a teacher can tell at a glance whether little Timmy is literally on the right page. 

And how did Timmy become the name we all use in these hypotheticals? Is it from the old TV show Lassie, wherein Timmy found himself in all kinds of predicaments but never actually fell in a well? But I digress...

In my last post, I mentioned that I have fine-point markers for color coding, and I have been using them regularly. Each day, I mark out the time I spend on work (my actual job), exercise, down time/self-care, food prep/eating, errands, writing, chores, TV, and miscellaneous. 

I know this is such basic stuff, but it has really helped me me track where my time goes. That in turn makes me more aware of what I'm doing from moment to moment. This is really important because I tend to get lost in my head for extended intervals. Sometimes I think I have one of those Star Trek portals in my brain, where I jump in and jump back out, and two days have passed.

Anyway, I'm on board this color-coding train now and hoping to keep on rolling. Tips for color coding? Leave a comment. Also, check out this short article for inspiration.

Friday, January 15, 2021

The Planner, The Plan

I know enough about myself and my bad habits to understand that I can't just wing it through this year of discipline. As you may imagine, winging it is how I came to need discipline in the first place! I would say that I'm a fairly organized person, but accountability regarding how I spend my time and energy is lacking.

My tool of choice to help rectify this is a loose-leaf planner. I bought it a few years ago and have been tweaking the process since, with varying degrees of success. I think I'm pretty close and am happy with my setup for 2021. 

I know there are countless apps and online tools for scheduling and accountability, but I really am a pen and paper person. I like the feel of it, and research shows that writing things down increases the brain's engagement and boosts memory.

Having said that, you will not see my planner on Pinterest. I'm not opposed to fun tape and stickers, but there comes a point where those embellishments just mean more time and more decisions. I have my fine-tipped markers for color-coding, and for now, that will have to do.

We're about two weeks into the new year, and my success rate for daily tracking is pretty good. But I'm always looking for new tricks, so if you have any tips for planner success, leave me a comment!

Oh, and if you're inspired to shop for a planner, New York Magazine has this list of the best choices for 2021.

Friday, January 8, 2021

My Writer Word of the Year

Dog discipline (Also: not my dog)
Every year, the members of my writing critique group each choose a word to guide us through the coming 12 months. Last year, as you may know, my word was Joy. My sister gifted me with the book Joyful, by Ingrid Fetell Lee, and I used it to inspire me through what I called Joy Project 2020. It was a good word for a tough year, and I very much appreciated being reminded to seek joy in my home, work, and relationships.  

On Wednesday, my critique group met via Zoom to discuss our words for 2021. The list included submit, thrive, open, close, and a couple that are still under consideration. In the past, I've chosen feel-good words such as joy and actionable words such as engage. This year, my word is discipline. 

I'll delve a little deeper in future posts, but the big reason I chose discipline for 2021 is that I've realized how frequently my bad habits get in my way. If someone else thwarted me as often as I thwart myself, I'd be none too happy. And yet, I let myself off the hook time and again.

So, I'm setting out into this brave new year with the dual goals of weakening bad habits and strengthening good ones. I'm sure it will be an ongoing process, and if you have any suggestions for success, leave a comment! I think I will need all the help I can get.

I hope your new year is off to a satisfactory start!