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Sometimes, I get in these moods wherein I question my productiveness. I worry about having done enough, and I focus on the change I have still yet to make. The first three months of the year was spent on tending to my mental health and creating space for all the living I have still yet to do. I spent many hours reconnecting with friends and family, meditating, and spending time outdoors. Now that we’ve come to the end of the first quarter of 2021, I suddenly started to semi-panic about what I have (or haven’t) accomplished in the year thus far.
I look ahead at the upcoming month and think to myself, “Where did March go?”, as well as, “Where will I find the time?”. I start to dwell on my lack of progress and avidly plan for the future. I franticly scribble down notes of things to do, places to be, people to call…. I know that this is a result of my up-bringing and the ingrained notion that in order to succeed, you need to always be in motion. My immediate reaction to sitting still for too long is to itch for change. I know it is reactionary, and also, subconscious, and I have to put in work to bring these thoughts into my conscious mind.
In most cases, my bouts of uncertainty are caused by asking the wrong questions.
The better questions would be:
- What relationships have I fostered recently?
- How is my health and mental state?
- Where is my community?
- How close am I to my purpose?
- Am I receiving satisfaction?
- Are these tasks necessary to my goals?
- What can I delegate to others?
- What can be omitted?
I’ve taken the liberty to postpone the posting of my April goals for a few days, because I was undergoing one of those mild, anxiety attacks about how much I’ve done, worrying about “enoughness” rather than reflecting on the being rather than the doing. Since then, I’ve set the compass straight. I feel relaxed again after answering the better questions, which I trust sets me up for productivity in the future. Often times, all it takes is a step back, a calm breath, and a thoughtful guide.
This month, I have had the absolute pleasure and joy to try out a new planner by Unbound. It is, by far, the most well-rounded planner I have ever tried. It combines productivity with mindfulness. They sell an undated version and a 2021 planner. Personally, I prefer the 2021 planner and even though it’s now April, I would still recommend the dated planner over the undated version. There are only a few differences between the two, but I think they make all the difference. Plus the 2021 dated planner is currently on sale for a better price. I love the Unbound planner so much. I would go so far as to say that it is the best planner I have ever tried. And I’m a planner addict, so I don’t say this lightly.
The Unbound planners start with self-reflection pages. These are crucial to anyone who wants to succeed with their goals. You need to know who you are first before making plans for the future. Knowing what motivates you, what challenges you, what your core values are, and what your talents and strengths are will help align your goals with where you truly want to go. It will also focus you towards the tasks that you would be good at, and perhaps the tasks that you can delegate to someone with a better suited personality. I like to integrate what I love to do into my work life, limit the things that deplete me, use my talents and strengths to move forward, and delegate the things that I struggle with to other people. The self-reflection pages also has the user rate where they currently are in certain aspects of life. This will give the person an idea on where they should focus their energy. All of this self-discovery should set you up nicely for making a 2021 vision board.
The next section is for writing down your goals for the year ahead – both big and small. You want to first identify your themes, such as family, health, or finance. Based on your themes, create goals and break them down into specific, actionable tasks. For example, “be healthy” is not a good goal. It is not specific enough and doesn’t give any information as to what you actually want to accomplish. Better goals would be “going to the gym 4 times a week” or “running up to a half-marathon by June 1, 2020”. Think SPECIFIC.
Once you have all your goals listed, you want to organize them into a timeline. The Goal Timeline breaks down goals into monthly, weekly, and daily goals. Now if the goal is very specific, such as “Organize digital photos by June 1, 2020”, then you can place it on the yearly goal chart and cross out the month you hope to accomplish that goal by. This section is important when you do your weekly and daily planning. Continually look back and reference this section to verify that you are hitting your goals. It’s also a great way to visualize which goals need to be written down on the weekly and daily pages.
There is also a 2021 overview wherein you can write down reminders for big events that are to happen in the months ahead. Ideas to write down would be doctor appointment reminders, birthdays, parties, weddings, and holidays to name a few. The year at a glance is great for habit tracking or mood tracking, since you have a designated space for each day of the year. I haven’t decided what to use the space for yet myself, but I was thinking of using it as a way to schedule time off for myself, since that seems to be what I need most in life.
Once goals are all set, you can start listing things to do. A pages contain checkable bullet points separated into the four seasons. There is also an entire page to keep a running list of tasks to do. I think this is great when a task pops into your mind without a goal category. Just jot it down in the season you wish to accomplish the task, or on the running to-do list. I would check these pages occasionally, and enter them into the appropriate days or weeks.
Onto my favorite pages: Project Planning and Goal Breakdown. I use project planning to break down my work and any creative endeavors I have. I have a diverse set of jobs. I am trying to grow a blog, trying to grow a bakery, and creating a dental home, all while learning new hobbies and skills. For example, my husband and I are working on building a robotic pour-over machine for fun. I am trying to learn piano while also trying to run farther and faster. These are all projects that I have and the pages in the planner help me to visualize as well as break down each project into steps that I can take to get to the end result. This type of planning is really how I get so much done. I will repeatedly re-assess if the tasks I’ve written are worth doing. Each task is prioritized based on its efficacy and importance.
So how does April look? Busy. With opportunity to practice creating space for rest.
This planner is really good about promoting balance in one’s life. At the beginning of the month, the planner prompts you to write your top 3 priorities. It have a space for monthly goals and tasks, as well as space for gifts and occasions of loved ones. There is space to list ideas that will help you be creative and learn, to be healthy, to take care of yourself, to give and help others, to be connected, and to have fun and relax. These boxes are gentle reminders for me to take care of myself. There is also opportunity to overcome challenges as well as to work on positive change.
On the weekly pages, there are reminders at the top of the page to review the goals and place them into the plan. I keep a running to do list as well as track my habits on the weekly pages. More importantly, I jot down acts of kindness and ways to self-care. I use the blank space to reflect on my previous week. I write down what drained my energy, where I can improve as a person, and what the highlights were.
On the daily pages, there is space to monitor water intake, exercise, and supplements. There’s a box for all the things I cannot afford to forget, as well as a meal prep section. It makes my week way easier when I already have my meals planned ahead of time. Prepping them ahead of time is another story.
At the bottom of the page there is a space for Gratitude Journaling. I write three things I am grateful for each morning. At the top of the page are my top 3 daily priorities. The calendar section is just used to time block my day. I don’t write my tasks in the middle section, but rather, reference my weekly pages and my weekly to-do list.
Now you’ve probably been reading this and thinking to yourself, “Goodness, how overwhelming.” But it actually is not. In fact, this planner takes a lot of stress out of my life. It organizes so well that I reduce the amount of decisions I need to make per day, which then saves my mental strength and avoids decision fatigue. It refocuses my mind on the important things in life, and isn’t only about the daily grind. At the same time, it keeps me productive.
I have tried many planners in my life, but this is the best one yet. I love it so much that I may stick with Unbound for the rest of the year and beyond!
Without further ado, my April Goals.
- Wake up early every morning and utilize the wee hours for my T.I.M.E. ritual: T- Thankfulness Practice by Gratitude Journaling, I- Insight by listening to podcasts, writing, or reading, M- Meditate using the TIDE app, and E – Exercise whether that’s running or hiking.
- Put phone away one hour before bed and limit Instagram use to 30 minutes per day.
- Create continuation between days by preparing the night before for the next morning’s most important tasks.
- Have a digital sabbath one day per week.
- Learn how to use my new Microsoft surface pen.
- Let myself take an afternoon nap every weekday that I am off.
- Start piano lessons and teach Mike what I learn.
- Set aside time in the schedule to do something relaxing each day.
- Volunteer once a week.
- Spend one hour this month doing NOTHING.
- Exercise 5 days a week. Go to boxing class 3 times a week, life weights 3 times a week, run 3 times a week, hike a trail once a week.
- Get 30 minutes of outdoor time 5 days a week.
- Use Magnesium Spray to boost energy, lift mood, calm the mind, and relax the muscles.
- Take vitamins and collagen powder daily.
- Clean eating for 30 days.
- Grow the bakery by $3k this month.
- Create genuine, meaningful relationships with patients by spending an extra five minutes each appointment learning one new thing about their social life.
- Publish 20 blog posts.
- Top last month’s 7.4K Pinterest views.
- Top last month’s blogging income.
- Learn how to self-publish a book by taking courses online.
- Put away things daily.
- Do a pantry clean out and organization.
- Declutter paper and digital files and email.
- Declutter the home and garage.
- Complete the cleaning list.
- Save $7k next month to ramp up for whenever student loan repayment resumes – invest 20% of it and place 80% in our Marcus High Yield Saving’s Account.
- Close on a second refinance of our home, hopefully sealing the interest rate at 2.875%.
- Complete 5 CE courses.