This post is a little different from what I usually write on this blog, but I thought it was worth sharing. As the year winds down, I like to reflect on a couple of questions:
1. What worked last year? And
2. What didn’t?
Doing this for my business and personal life helps me restore some semblance of control at the end of a busy season and realign my goals and everyday actions with what I value most for the upcoming year. Here are a few of the things that worked for me in 2014:
Ever since ditching my Franklin Covey planner for the world of digital calendars, I’ve floundered with a good system for keeping my calendar and tasks organized. This quest has only become more difficult as children have entered the picture. This year I decided to return to the paper planner method and couldn’t be happier. While I still keep a Google calendar for my appointments (and kids’ activities), the Midori has become almost like my personal assistant for everything that runs through my brain. I love that it holds three small notebooks plus the current month of daily calendar pages.
I’m totally behind the times, I know. But it’s just been this year that I’ve harnessed the power of listening and learning while folding laundry, doing dishes, and driving. Some of my faves: After the Jump, Books on the Nightstand, Beyond the To-Do List, The Art of Simple, Read-aloud Revival, and The Accidental Creative.
Published in 2002, this book is now a classic among productivity geeks. I’ve found that as life gets more complex with more schedules to juggle and a growing photography business to run, I struggle with feeling on top of all my “open loops”. Reading this book this fall gave me hope that I can get my stuff under control and stay that way. The Weekly Review, while common sense, has really helped me face the week proactively. (A new edition is coming out this spring.)
4. Switching from daily to weekly weigh-ins
We have a scale in our bathroom, and part of my daily morning ritual has been to weigh myself every morning before my shower. It wasn’t until the battery in the scale died that I realized how this habit was affecting me. Every time the number would move up (even if only a couple of ounces), I’d start the day off feeling defeated and had a constant sense of worry (or guilt) about what was passing between my lips. Once the batteries got replaced a couple of weeks later, I discovered I’d actually LOST a couple of pounds! Not thinking about my weight every day has been surprisingly freeing – and has resulted in lower numbers.
5. Meal planning
I’ll confess I’m not as consistent at this as I’d like to be, but when I take the time to plan two weeks’ worth of meals (and the corresponding grocery lists), AND get the food into the house, there is such a sense of calm in the late afternoon and evening. I LOVE having a plan for what we’re going to eat each day and feeling good about feeding my family healthy foods. I’m loving the new Barefoot Contessa Make It Ahead cookbook for this purpose!
6. Getting crafty at home
After Reading The Nesting Place, I was inspired to add a bit of texture and whimsy to our den. This book pages wreath was the perfect thing to fill the empty spot over the TV. (She says it took about an hour to do hers. It took me five hours. Just sayin’.)
7. Subscriptions for Staples
Running out of basics like paper towels or toilet paper makes me feel like a total failure – so I put them on auto-ship with Amazon’s Subscribe & Save program. ePantry.com is another great subscription site that focuses on good-for-you-and-your-home products in the realm of home care, bath & shower, and more. Amazon automatically ships your desired items (and quantities) on your specified schedule, and ePantry sends a reminder email before your shipment so you can make any changes you want. You do NOT have to receive items every month. Now I never have to thing about buying paper towels, dish or laundry detergent, shampoo. soap, feminine products or household cleaners. LOVE!
8. Using the library
I’ve used the library before, of course, but I really relied on it a lot this year. Since there is a branch close to my photography studio in northwest Houston, it’s really easy to request a book to be delivered to my local branch and pick it up when it arrives. I also started using the e-book borrowing service for the first time – SO handy! And since I’m visiting so often, late fines have all but disappeared.
9. Implementing two inboxes in my home
This one is an offshoot of #3 above. I discovered I need an inbox for both the downstairs kitchen area (where I receive mail and school papers from the kids that need attention) and in my upstairs office. I chose a six-tray box for items that need attention downstairs, for filing, reading and a place for my meal planning items. I selected a three-tray box for upstairs. Now bills, notices, etc. aren’t slipping through the cracks like they were.
10. Tidying Up
I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up just before Christmas and have been inspired to get my house in order. This simple concept makes the decluttering process so much easier: if it doesn’t inspire joy, toss it! I’ve also converted our drawers to the author’s folding method (folding clothes into bundles and placing them on end in drawers, rather than stacking) and it truly has freed up space and made it easier to find clothes.
So what’s worked for YOU this year? Leave your wisdom in the comments!