Looking Back, Looking Forward: What Worked for Me in 2016

Leaf Unfurling

Photo credit: Elena Six, who has fallen in love with my camera much to my delight!

As I head into 2017 I’ve spent a fair amount of time reflecting on 2016. I’ve always been one to set some intentions or goals for the year ahead, and I really enjoy the self-reflection that goes hand-in-hand with planning for a new year. This year I took it a step further and gave myself a little end-of-year review before coming up with new goals for 2017. It was a good reminder to think about what didn’t go so well in 2016. What didn’t work? And more importantly, do I want to put the effort and energy into making those things that floundered work for me in 2017? I thought it might be fun to share what worked for me in 2016, what didn’t work, and what I hope to carry into 2017.

What Worked For Me in 2016

List of 100 Dreams

This comes directly from Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. It’s an exercise the author learned from a career coach. The idea being that in order to do more of what you love in your life, you should know what you love and what you’d liked to do. Think of it like a detailed bucket list. Some people like to divide theirs into categories (personal, work, travel, etc). I just wrote mine out, and continue to add to it as I think of things. (If there’s any interest, I’m happy to share my list.) Having this list made goal-setting easier this year, and knowing what I’d like more of in my life gave me something to actively work towards when I started using the next thing on this list …

Block Scheduling

Block Scheduling Journal

Which is block scheduling, another handy tool I implemented from Vanderkam’s book. I’ve tried lots of different time-management tools, from lists to timers to apps. None of them have stuck, but block scheduling is here to stay. Monday through Friday I spend a few minutes the evening before planning the next day. In a little journal I list the hours of the day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. in 30 increment blocks. From there, I fill in how I’d like to spend my day. I started doing this after I did a week-long time study on myself and realized I spend too much time doing some tasks (like housework, looking at my phone and email), and very little time doing things that really matter (creative work, unfinished projects, quality time with my spouse). It help keeps me on task, and requires me to be intentional about how I spend my time. If there’s something I really want to accomplish from my list of dreams, I know I need to take baby steps towards them by scheduling in time to work on those goals. It also keeps me balanced. As I schedule my time, I’m cognizant of making sure I schedule time for relationships, work and self.

Personal Training

Speaking of self, I took a step in a new direction in the fall. I’ve done a good job making exercise a habit in the last year or so. But after doing several rounds of Bikini Body Mommy challenges, I was starting to feel a little frustrated about my progress. I was also starting to get a little burnt out. My neighbor organized a weekly morning workout in our cul-de-sac with a personal trainer last September, and these workouts kicked my butt! The trainer mentioned that she was going to organize a 5-week holiday boot camp starting the week of Thanksgiving, so I gave it a try. She emailed me 5 workouts per week and gave me nutritional goals to strive for. As an obliger, knowing that someone was expecting me to work out and check in with my nutritional wins and losses really helped me stick to the program. As a result, I got through the holidays feeling really strong and healthy. I’m sticking with it through the new year and I think it’s going to make a big difference in my health and fitness.

Bullet Journaling

I love my paper planner, but when I finished my last one in July (it was a weird school-year one) I bit the bullet journal bug. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to a regular planner. I love how bullet journaling is so flexible and completely customizable to exactly what your needs are. My bullet journal isn’t fancy or pretty, but it serves me well. I keep a weekly spread, a monthly task list, and a log of the books I want to read. I’m trying my own Happiness Project this year, so I just set up a spread to keep track of those goals, but otherwise? That’s it. If you’ve been thinking about making the switch my advice is to just jump in. It might not be pretty in the beginning, but you’ll figure it out.

Taking a Break From Blogging

This was so good for me. I didn’t realize how much time and energy I’d put into blogging, nor how much the task of keeping up with social media was draining me. It’s helped me clarify what I want going forward – more on that down below!

Shouldless Days

I plan on continuing this vital piece of self-care. My goal in 2017 is to schedule one Shouldless Day per quarter.

What Didn’t Work For Me in 2016

Accumulating Stuff

I’m normally great at purging, but this year my plan went awry. For the longest time I participated in a local kids’ consignment sale, and I’d get rid of most of the kids’ outgrown clothing and toys this way. It started to feel like too much work, and so I quit. I also didn’t have a garage sale last year. I have a hard time sending things to Goodwill I feel like I can get some decent money back for, so I started accumulating things thinking I could sell them on the Facebook Marketplace. The only problem? I have the worst luck with Facebook Marketplace. As I write this, I have a pair of Bogs boots I can’t get rid of – every single person that says they want them flakes out and doesn’t pick up. Of course, this plays out over several days and takes forever! This year I need a better plan. Any ideas?

Tracking Steps

I set a goal of getting 10,000 steps in at least 5 days a week. I was doing really well with this goal – most weeks I’d hit 10,000 five or six days a week. The problem? I took 10,000 steps as a justification to not push myself physically and as a license to eat whatever I wanted. I mean, I was moving every day, right? I now know that I need to focus on nutrition and more challenging workouts if I want to really improve my health.

Stitch Fix

I ordered a couple of Fixes this year, as well as peeked into the offerings in my neighbor’s box (we’re about the same size). Every time I’ve been disappointed. I’m not sure if the quality has fallen off or if I’m just getting better and buying my own things. Often I end up feeling like I need to keep at least one thing so I don’t lose my styling fee, and then I end up not wearing the one thing I bought. I’m done with subscription clothing boxes in 2017.

Red wine

This one is so sad! Red wine and I are not friends anymore. Anyone else over 40 notice this? If I have more than one glass, I wake up with a raging headache the next morning. It’s only red wine. (Thank God!) I can still have enough white wine or beer to make me fun.

Looking Forward

In another first for me, I came up with my word for the year: essential. In 2017 I’m striving to organize my days around what is essential to me: relationships, contributions (work or otherwise) and self. When choosing how to spend my time, money and energy I hope to be able to sift through the excess and allow only the essential things to filter through.

I’m also going to give my own yearlong Happiness Project a try, focusing on career, health, possessions, organizing, marriage, parenting, finances, time, writing, challenge, atmosphere and friendship (one category per month).

As for the blog? After stepping a way a bit, I realized that this little space and community are important to me, but in a different way than it was before. For so long, I wanted this to blog to define me as a person and as a career. Now I see it for what it started as: a creative outlet and a way to connect. I’m cultivating some wonderful freelance clients with whom I can use my writing and social media skills to further my career. That leaves me with this lovely little corner to fill as I like, without pressure to make money or sell myself as a brand. I’m full of hope and enthusiasm for what lies ahead!

What worked for you in 2016? Is there anything that didn’t work for you that you’re ready to shed?

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Comments

  1. Thanks for sharing this! I’m glad you’re not going away from the blog because I truly enjoy reading your posts. You inspire me, Angie Six.

    My advice re: the stuff you want to get rid of is to donate it, take the tax deduction, and internalize whatever lesson losing the money means to you. At some point the effort to make a few bucks back outweighs the reward.

    • You always have the kindest words, Sacha. I appreciate your long-time support of the blog! I think your advice is spot on. The effort is completely out of proportion with the reward for sure. I think I’ll have a garage sale in the spring and after that just let the things that come into our life go when we’re done with them. I love your point about internalizing the lesson. I know in the past, I’ve purchased things (especially clothing) with the idea that if I didn’t (or the kids didn’t) wear them much, I’d just recoup some of my money by selling it. From here on out, I’ll remind myself that this particular line of thinking means I probably shouldn’t buy it in the first place.

  2. What a great list. It’s so helpful to see others’ reflections since it helps jog my own thinking about many things. I’m curious about the time block idea and might have to give it a try this month. I also love the idea of a Happiness Project but might have to tuck that away for 2018. My word for 2017 is BECOMING and I’m excited to spend this year on figuring out what that means. Thank you again for writing so honestly and like Sacha, I’m glad you’re not going away :)

    • I may just have to write a post about the block scheduling topic. It really has helped me as I work from home. I love your word for the year! Looking forward to seeing you explore that more in 2017.

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  1. […] reviews as I did last year: a quarterly wrap-up of my favorite reads with year-end Best Of lists. It worked for me in 2016, so why change? As always, thanks for reading along with me. So many of you have told me that you […]

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