Ahhh….September. It’s right up there with New Year’s Day and, of course, every single Monday of the year in terms of reeking of Fresh Start-Ness. I’m coming to the end of my Transition Week and it was full of scheduling (lessons), reflection (on the last season), and planning (for this season). I had my trusty Ink & Volt planner by my side, and as I was thinking through my 30-Day Challenges (an awesome feature of this planner—I HIGHLY recommend it to anyone working on any kind of project or in any period of growth—so basically everyone) I kept thinking about Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project . It occurred to me that the two concepts could be joined together in a pretty amazing way for me this year.
If you’re not familiar with Ms. Rubin’s little book, in it, she focuses on one major area of her life for one month, be it, “Energy”, “Money”, “Marriage” etc. Already a pretty happy person, she was curious to find out if there were specific things one could do to make themselves Even Happier. She and her husband had a happy marriage, but if she set out to compliment him every day, would their marriage bring them both even more happiness (spoiler alert: it did– He was psyched for all of the appreciation, and she found she was thinking more about his excellent qualities than his weak points). I was intrigued by the concept of her project, but I couldn’t decide where to start. I didn’t want to spend a month fixing up one area, only to be neglecting 11 others.
The Ink &Volt Planner, or the one I have anyway, is an August –July planner, which is perfect for me and the way my “year” is structured. It is well-designed to map out projects, goals, mini-goals etc, and keeps you accountable for all of the things going on. At the beginning of each month, there is a page dedicated to a “30-Day Challenge” and it’s a space to choose a little habit to instill that month: “drink 8 glasses of water a day”, “do sit-ups every night before bed”, “do yoga every day” etc. And while those have been fun and great, I wanted to take on more than one little habit. I wanted to assess and overhaul an entire aspect of my life; just not by sacrificing everything else I have going on.
My life has changed pretty dramatically over the last two years. New marriage, new job, new career path, new country, new home, new cd, new website, new blog, new family, new students, new financial situation, etc. etc. It’s been thrilling and exciting to set up all of these different parts of my life one by one. Now that they are all past their starting point however, I find myself juggling them all, seeing how much work I need to put into one to keep moving it forward, but then getting distracted by another area that needs attention. It’s like having 12 babies all crying at once. In fact, years ago, when I was volunteering for a month at an orphanage in Morocco, I walked into a scene of (at least) 12 babies screaming simultaneously in the newborn room. I didn’t know where to start, and one of the nurses just came in, picked one up and handed her to me and pointed me in the direction of the diaper room. “You just have to start” she said, “One by one.”
And so I had the idea to come up with 12 areas in my life that need (or just deserve) my attention. My plan is to choose one each month to do a Deep dive/super focused approach to that one area (á la Happiness Project), but still try to make small bits of progress each week on the other 11 areas as well (á la Ink & Volt). For instance, March’s focus is going to be “Finances”, and during that month, I want us to sit down with a financial planner, get our will done, and do my taxes, but in any given week, I can make minor tweaks, try to save a little extra, keep on top of my record keeping, etc. I am hoping that this formula will keep everything moving forward, while giving me some clear direction on what to work on when. Also, guess what? If I just have “write a will” on my to-do list, it’s not going to happen. If I have it on my list for March, and I know that it has to be done within that 31-day period, then the appointment will be made, and the will gets done. Voilà.
And since I know everyone is just dying in anticipation…my focus for the month of September is going to be“Health and Fitness”. I figured that was a broad and easy enough topic to get me going. Paul and I have a tradition of doing “Sober September” where we totally cut out alcohol for the month anyway, and it just made sense to me to start the year off feeling good and being well-rested. The idea is to a) take care of a few big ticket to-do list items (annual mammogram, dentist, have thyroid levels re-checked) b) build in some little habits that will (hopefully) stay with me in subsequent months (like actually flossing twice a day, rather than randomly-when-I’m-not-in-too-much-of-a-hurry, and eating more kale). Let’s see how it all goes.