Monthly Goals: April 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

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.

Personal:

  • 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.

Health:

  • 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.

Work:

  • 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.

Home:

  • 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.

Finance:

  • 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.

Monthly Goals: March 2021

February always feels like a month gone by. I ended up working more days in February, covering for doctors who went on vacation, so I did not reach as many blogging goals as I had anticipated. Despite that, the blog saw an increase in income, as well as an increase in traffic. I was able to keep up with my personal goals, focusing on building meaningful relationships with my patients, family and friends.

A lot of things has happened in our life career-wise as well! Mike received three offers for a full-time job and he accepted one! It has been one year since he worked full-time, but we are very happy with the offers he received. This means we will no longer need to pay for our own health insurance, he will get a 401K match, and we have all the other fun benefits that come with steady work.

I also took on a new role as the wholesale director for Rye Goods Co., the same bakery that I used to work midnight shifts at two years ago. We now have a storefront on Lido Island in Newport Beach, so do come say hi when you have the chance! Now, I am a part-time dentist, part-time blogger, and part-time bakery wholesale director. I decide my hours and schedule, and am contracted for all three positions. I am very excited for my new way of working and grateful for all the people I get to interact with. Additionally, with the exception of the two days I work as a dentist, I get to work from home with my husband and enjoy afternoon sunshine in the living room with my cat. My entire life has changed for the better after I saved up enough money to financially independent and quit a job I disliked. I told myself that I will never take this for granted and not waste this opportunity. With that, here are my goals for March.

Personal:

  • 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.
  • Use the Monk Manual every day to guide my intentional living.
  • Create continuation between days by preparing the night before for the next morning’s most important tasks.
  • Meditate with the TIDE app every morning.
  • Stay offline one day per week.

Health:

  • Exercise 5 days a week.
  • Immerse in the outdoors 3 days a week.
  • Use Magnesium Spray to boost energy, lift mood, calm the mind, and relax the muscles.
  • Clean eating with whole foods and regenerative foods.
  • Try food journaling.

Work:

  • Create systems for my new role at Rye Goods Co. in order to improve the organization of all wholesale clients.
  • Familiarize myself with the billing and invoice platform for Rye Goods Co.
  • Begin to onboard new clients by the end of March.
  • 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 $600 blogging income.

Home:

  • Put away things daily.
  • Do a pantry clean out and organization.
  • Declutter paper and digital files and email.

Finance:

  • 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%.
  • Cancel our health insurance now that Mike got a full-time job!
  • Get our taxes filed.

Photo by STIL on Unsplash

Monthly Goals: February 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

This post is written in partnership with Monk Manual. I have had the privilege of trying their 90-day planner and can truly say that it functions well as a guide for balancing being and doing. Sometimes the latter outweighs the former and we lose sight of who we are and what our purpose is. In order to glean as much as I could from this experience, I spent January reading Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty. I have found that the Monk Manual really helps me live my dharma, find gratitude in my waking moments, listen to my thoughts and emotions without judgement, and learn from my experiences. Whereas other planners have been efficient in creating a productive work flow, the Monk Manual supersedes the others by leaving room for spiritual growth – our most beneficial but oft neglected kind of work. The modern world could use a planner such as this, not to find what’s been missing, but to uncover what’s been with us all along.

A Review of Productive January

January was an effective month for me. I kept up with most of my habits, including meditating five days a week, exercising almost daily, giving up alcohol, getting plenty of rest, docking the phone one hour before bed, and limiting my caffeine intake while increasing my exposure to sunshine and open air. I completed two books (Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki and Think Like a Monk by Jay Shetty), saw my family every week, completed SEO courses and dental CE courses, and grew my blog multiple ways. Still, there are some improvements to be made. I can limit my social media use further, as well as give myself more time to create. Rather than focusing on what did not work in January and viewing them as failures, I have reframed my thinking to what improvements I have to look forward to in the future. It’s amazing how the words we use can change our energies from negative to positive. For February, I want to focus on having an intentional month, and will go into how the Monk Manual 90 day planner guides meaning into our daily lives.

An Intentional February – Aligning Doing with Being

Before we get into the nitty gritty of the doing, I wanted to share a few thoughts about being. I have spent the last few months since quitting my job delving deep into why I was dissatisfied with my work. I read the book Joy at Work by Marie Kondo and Kinfolk Entrepreneur by the Kinfolk team. I took personality tests such as this DISC assessment and studied my enneagram results for the umpteenth time. I had conversations with my friends, siblings, and husband about what my personality results tell me, and how I can maneuver around my shortcomings better while setting myself up for personal success. I journaled about my goals, motivations, inspirations and wildest dreams, analyzing what my driving force is. Most importantly, I expressed on paper everything that gave me sadness and despair about my old way of life.

I have come to the conclusion that among other factors such as an unideal work environment and an office culture that was unaligned with my personality, part of the reason why my old job was painful to me was because it didn’t align with my dharma. And that was entirely my fault. I had never spent time trying to figure out my true purpose in life, aside from making money and a living. I never honed in on what brought me joy, and what kept me going. The reason I wasn’t happy was because what I was doing wasn’t the same as my being. I was surprised by the results of my assessments and also at the opportunities that suddenly presented themselves during my hiatus. It turns out that life will naturally present what you attract, if you leave enough space for it.

How to Use the Monk Manual to Live An Intentional Life

In an effort to coincide what I do with who I am, February is focused on intentional planning, which is where Monk Manual comes in. Like my previous planner Mal Paper (read my review of Mal Paper Planner here), the Monk Manual 90 day planner focuses on prioritizing the tasks ahead to increase productivity. Writing down a to-do list is not intentional enough, if it is filled with activities that do not move us toward our goals. The Monk Manual has a weekly prioritization list but also a daily one. And just like the Mal Paper planner, Monk Manual leaves room for gratitude journaling at the beginning of the day as well as a space to write down what went well. Whereas both of those practices sets one up for a good work day, neither helps with spiritual growth.

I have found that Monk Manual works really well at fostering spiritual growth. On the daily pages, it leaves space to list the one thing we most look forward to, as well as the ways in which we can give. At the end of the day, Monk Manual promotes reflection by asking the user to list three highlights, and the three times they were at their best. The latter shows the moments in daily living that really align with their natural purpose in life. Then it asks for times when we feel unrest, which highlights the part of our lives that probably goes against what we want for ourselves. Lastly, it asks for one way we can all improve tomorrow, because our work is never done.

On the weekly pages, it prepares for personal growth, relationship growth and the good things ahead. This way of planning is new to me. I have always been focused on business growth, never realizing that personal growth is perhaps the more important metric.

Here are examples of personal growth goals that I look forward to in February.

February Goals for Personal Growth

  • Speak less, listen more.
  • Pause before every response.
  • Practice saying, “Let me get back to you.”
  • Every time I speak ill of someone, write down 10 positive affirmations for them to see the good they bring.
  • Be a humble worker so as to inspire respect, never demand it.
  • Grow my relationships by giving self-less service, sharing words of gratitude, and gifting more frequently.

At the end of the week, the reflection prompts ask for the biggest accomplishments, habit insights, and meaningful moments. The habit insights are useful to me because sometimes a habit that I wanted to adopt isn’t exactly the right habit for the goal I want to reach. The section for meaningful moments is also good because it highlights that our biggest accomplishments aren’t always our most meaningful milestones. We are more than what we do. Lastly, it has an area titled “God Is Teaching Me” although I would prefer for it to actually say “Life is Teaching Me”. Regardless, it provides an opportunity to look at our shortcomings and learn something from it so that we can move forward with our improvements.

Both the daily pages and the weekly pages make the monthly section easy to fill out. At the beginning of the month, you check in on your status around relationships, physicality, spirituality, work, personal growth, and playfulness. It also asks for one change you wish to make in the next month that will create the biggest impact, and one questions to answer this month. At the end of the month, the reflections section can use what you’ve written weekly and daily to remember the biggest accomplishments of the month. It also asks for the four relationships you are most grateful for, and the greatest insight you gained, creating space for gratitude and growth.

Embracing the Monk Mentality

The Monk Manual opens with a letter to its user in which it details a monk’s habits.

Where the world says focus on more, the monk says focus on less.

Where the world seeks to master outcomes, the monk seeks to master self.

Where the world fills our lives with noise and distraction, the monk fills his or her life with quiet and focus.

Where the world pursues a life of independence, the monk pursues a life of trust, walking the path of life with God and others.

Where the world medicates, the monk meditates.”

For a more intentional February, I am embracing the monk mentality and implementing what I have learned in reading Think Like A Monk. I will use the Monk Manual all month to adopt a more reflective way of planning, thereby increasing my self-awareness. Also, instead of only worrying about my goals, I want to focus more on service.

The question I want to answer this month is “How can I give more?”

To myself, and to others. It’s a question you guys can help me answer. Meanwhile, I give you my February goals. I already listed my personal ones above.

WORK:

  • Invest my time into learning more about SEO, website development, marketing, and dentistry.
  • Grow my blog connections through collaborations and partnerships.
  • Foster my relationships with my patients by dedicating five extra minutes per patient trying to learn one thing about their personal life that I never knew before.
  • Act from a place of service, as a humble worker. Answer the question: “How can I use my talents to serve others and make a difference?”

HOME:

  • Location has energy, and we must always choose the right location for our dharma. Dedicate to maintaining a clean, minimalist home to facilitate my creative personality.
  • Dedicate each space in the home to a single, clear purpose.
  • Create the ideal workspace in order to facilitate my best work. Find a desk, imagine what I want it to look like and how I want it to function.

HEALTH:

  • Exercise five days a week by either running or doing yoga.
  • Meditate with TIDE app five days a week.
  • Sleep early, wake early. My goal is to wake up by 5:45 am every morning so that I can dedicate the time for meditation, gratitude, exercise, and insight.

FINANCES:

  • Limit spending on myself to practice letting go of materialism. Dedicate only $30 of fun money spending for myself.
  • If I am able to forgo shopping this month, place the fun money in a brokerage account and invest it instead.
  • Spend less on groceries ($250 for the household) and dining out ($100 for the household).

OTHER:

  • Create my own bath salts.
  • Bake a new cake recipe.
  • Cook 2 donabe recipes.
  • Read 2 books.
  • Try Kintsugi for the first time.
  • Finish one drawing.
  • Do 10 minutes of Duolingo French every day.
  • Spend 30 minutes outdoors three times a week.

Monthly Goals: January 2021

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

On the heels of my call to action for 2021 New Year Resolutions with the intent to make this year the most vibrant time of my life, here are my top goals and habits for the month of January!

Habits:

  • Meditate with TIDE app 5 days a week
  • Keep up with the ultimate cleaning list
  • Exercise 5 days a week
  • Limit Instagram to 15 minutes per day
  • Be 5 minutes early to every shift, event, and appointment
  • Give up alcohol for a month for health reasons
  • Sleep between the hours of 10pm and 7am (yes, I like sleep!)
  • Put the phone away one hour before bed
  • Limit coffee to one per day and lattes to weekends. Also, choose decaf for all lattes.
  • Be outdoors for at least 30 minutes 3 days a week

Goals:

  • Finish 2 books
  • Learn how to use a Kintsugi kit
  • Make bath salts and take a bath at least once
  • Complete 5 dental continuing education credits
  • Cook different recipes in a donabe
  • Take 5 SEO courses via Skillshare. Sign up now via my affiliate link and get 14 days FREE to learn any skill you want!
  • Publish 12 blog posts
  • Learn how to use ConvertKit
  • Create 15 Pinterest posts and 5 digital downloads (I use PicMonkey to create all of these! Here is a discount for my readers if you sign up using my affiliate link!)
  • Learn 2 songs on guitar and piano
  • Complete two levels in Duolingo French
  • Complete 1 drawing
  • Land 5 new collaborations for the blog using the techniques found in this course: Making Sense of Affiliate Marketing (this is my affiliate link)
  • Prepare for the return of aggressive loan repayments in the end of January by implementing the following goals:
    • Spend less than $30 in fun money on myself
    • Spend less than $100 in dining out
    • No traveling to save money
    • Spend less than $250 for groceries
  • Declutter digital photos on camera and hard-drive
  • See family every week

I know this seems over-whelming, but I possess a deep determination to not waste the negative space that 2020 offered me. I can’t wait to see how much I accomplish by February.

Also, since I took a month off in December to focus on family, friends, and the self, there will be no recap of December Blog Income (because there was none!). Stay tuned for January’s Recap a month from now.

Monthly Goals: December

Slightly delayed publishing of this month’s goals is due to the fact that I am trying my best to live it. I spent the rest of the year outlining tens of habits and success markers to measure my months by, but December is a bit special in that I only have a few.

  • Live every day in the present moment.
  • Practice gratitude for all that I have.
  • Be as intentional as possible for every waking decision I make.

These are my December goals. Nothing like my previous ones in that there are no markers of achievement. If you think that this list is a lame one, it’s not. It was actually made with utmost consideration. But first, a story.

When I was searching for a wedding photographer in 2015, I came across a man whose style I liked and went to his website to book a consultation only to feel my heart sink as I pulled up his calendar. All of December 2016 was booked one year ahead! I was highly confused and could not believe my eyes, until a small asterix at the bottom of the calendar caught my eye.

It said: “My family and I will be taking all of December off to focus on what’s important in life.”

I remember excitedly showing Mike the note right when he got home from work. I remember being so awed by the idea that someone could have a job that allowed him freedom to dictate how and when work influenced his life. I wanted so badly to live a life around this idea of complete freedom from the need to work. So it only made sense that financial independence found me in 2017.

Now that I’ve quit a job I disliked, I have had the space to think about why I started to dislike my work and how I could create a new work lifestyle that would give me deep joy. I have spent the last two weeks brainstorming, hemming and hawing my neurons for all the thoughts, emotions, and ideas tied to creating an intentional work lifestyle. I think I am almost there.

One of my firmest beliefs, however, is to set aside the necessary space for life itself. I fell in love with the idea of making the holiday season a time for rest and rejuvenation, as well as family and friends, ever since I laid eyes on that photographer’s calendar.

It is with this intention that I decided to make December’s goals the way it is.

If you are a person who looks forward to monthly goal ideas, I am sorry to disappoint you but I do have one suggestion.

Slow life down.

2021 is fast approaching and will come soon enough. Let’s linger here a bit in the year that helped us realize how little we needed and what we wanted.

Monthly Goals: November 2020

This month’s goals come at a very interesting time for me personally.

The reason being, I have decided to quit my dentistry job.

I have decided to quit dentistry for many reasons.

  • I have lost meaning in my daily work.
  • I felt under-appreciated by a changing health-care system that prioritizes customer service over health itself.
  • I felt that I could not balance the expectations of my patients, the expectations of my workplace, and my own personal expectations.
  • My values are not aligned with where I am currently working.
  • I wanted to spend the holiday season with family and focus on the people that matter to me.
  • I was feeling burnt out and knew that if I did not give myself a break, I would grow to resent what I do for a living.
  • I want to live an intentional life, which means curating out the things that do not bring me joy.
  • We have made the lifestyle choices (invest money, spend less, own less, avoid having kids, avoid a large mortgage) necessary to avoid job dependency.
  • We have created the boundaries necessary to ignore social expectations and pressures, thus giving us freedom to live how we want.

Despite this freedom, I still have goals. But without the job identity, the goals have shifted slightly.

I think that quitting was very cathartic for me. I admit feeling stressed the last few months, mostly because I was holding on desperately to something I should have let go many months ago. I was fighting an internal battle, one between the past self and future possibility. Finally turning in an official resignation letter did just the trick.

It wasn’t very easy. I felt depressed for a few days, afraid of what I had done, anxious about the future. It’s like any ole break-up. It feels easier to run back to what is familiar and feels safe, even after you’ve outgrown the past. It takes a lot of reserve to not turn back. Luckily, the sadness and fear did not last long. After I sat through my emotions, I started to really notice a shift in my personality.

  • I sang songs randomly, after years of refusing to listen to music in case it over-whelmed my mind.
  • I smiled more frequently, and was more open to socializing. I connected with a high school friend, decided to make time for my grandma’s birthday party, and even drove to East LA on a Friday evening after work to grab tacos with my mother-in-law at a stand that she used to eat tacos at when she was my age.
  • I picked up old habits, like learning about photography, doing art, and playing guitar.
  • I connected with my husband more, rekindling our dumb banter from the college days.

For November’s monthly goals, I am sharing with you a TIME OFF BUCKET LIST. Even though my time off doesn’t start until November 19, I have decided not to wait until my last day of work to start living life to the fullest. This bucket list contains a number of goals I have always wanted to accomplish but have put on pause in order to partake in an American Dream.

As some people already know from my Instagram, we are taking a few long trips over the course of three weeks from November to December. I have lived in California since 1998 and I have yet to actually see it. I find that a shame.

It’s got me thinking, how much of our life are we actually wasting away doing things that don’t really matter in exchange for stuff that don’t really make us happy?

Not that I have the answers.

Just that I am trying to figure it out.

TheDebtist’s TIME OFF BUCKET LIST

  • Create Spotify playlists for different occasions and moods
  • Improve Photography Skills
  • Learn French
  • Improve Guitar Skills
  • Explore California National Parks
  • Visit old friends
  • Write a book – and self-publish it
  • Create more courses
  • Get into artwork again
  • Visit a Japanese spa (because we can’t go to Japan)
  • Go to a butterfly sanctuary
  • Go birdwatching in the San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Explore tide pools for hours
  • “Live” on a farm – milk a cow or extract honey from a beehive
  • Learn recipes of my homeland from my mom
  • Hug a Redwood tree
  • Tour a lighthouse
  • Learn to make alfajores
  • Bake someone’s wedding cake
  • Do a cold bath dunk
  • Bake the following from the Tartine Book: Gingerbread Cookies, Spiked Cocktail Nuts, Brownies, Chocolate Pots de Crème, Devil’s Food Layer Cake, Lemon Meringue Cake, Pastel de Tres Leches
  • Eat Pho for the first time (yes!)
  • Learn how to make ramen from Mike
  • Master a few advanced level yoga poses
  • Learn how to sit on my hands

I add the last one, because just like anything, I always dive headfirst into something new, including this “mini-retirement”. Supposedly it’s a chance for me to figure myself out. Somehow I have to balance that with living life to the fullest. Like I said before, I’m still figuring it out. But honestly, thank you for joining me on this wild ride.

If you have any other bucket list ideas, do share! Who knows when my next mini-retirement will be.

Monthly Goals: October 2020

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

For the first time since 2020 began, I am finally starting to feel myself take root in this thing I call life. Even after my brother moved back to Arizona to start his second year of dental school and my sister moved to Madrid, Spain to start her two-year contract at the global university; even after my mother returned to working with children in person at school, scoping out the terrain in this brave new world, I find myself where I have been since the start of my teen-hood. Despite the changes, only now am I feeling a sense of home.

Today my roommate asked if I thought our life would be where it is now without COVID. Definitely, 100% no. I know it’s easy to harbor negative feelings, but I see all the positive things, too.

Without COVID, I wouldn’t have spent as much time reconnecting with my past life, putting my future life on pause, and creating the space for the now that bridges the gap between the two. I would have continued working six days a week, making a whirl-wind of activity my measurement for a “productive” life. I wouldn’t have focused my attention inward nor would I have created a home worth staying in. Instead, I had plans to travel to Japan, the Maldives, Hawaii … Now I find myself thinking that staying anywhere other than my own home is less-than.

I really want to continue this grounded-ness into October. Partly because I am genuinely loving the refreshing vibes exuding from my current lifestyle. Partly because not much has changed and what choice do we have?

Well, we still have autonomy over our thoughts.

We can choose to turn with the tide. We can choose to embrace the stillness. We can choose to believe that there is something that we can offer ourselves – something we can’t find in anyone or anything else. We can choose to practice gratitude for what is already here. We can try to bridge the gap within the whirl-winds we’ve created. We can calm the storm. We can listen to the burning fires within. We can ask why things are the way they are. We can choose what comes next. We can create the worlds in which we see ourselves living in. We can decide if COVID has been bad to us or has it been good?

As I continue to reap the benefits of having nothing to look forward to, I question whether it’s such a bad thing after all. I had a patient come in one day after the California fires wreaked havoc amidst the hottest heat wave of the year and he said to me, “Perhaps all of this is just a sign from above telling us to stay indoors and be still.”

Even if it weren’t as ethereal as he posed, there is a heavy weight in his words. Also, a light heart.

October 2020

  • Wake up at 6am and sleep at 10pm
  • Write three things to be grateful for every morning
  • Talk to my sister who lives in Spain once a week
  • Do at-home yoga sessions five times a week
  • No Instagram for leisure – only for blog work
  • Write 30 minutes every day
  • Switch out summer ice cream for dark chocolate
  • Decrease the number of patients being seen
  • Stay hydrated
  • Learn two songs on the guitar
  • Study French
  • Read two books
  • Explore two new places
  • Be present

My favorite home upgrades this year:

– A mattress top and two pillows that helps soothe dentistry-related spinal and shoulder pain. Prior to these two game-changers, I was spending Saturdays laying on the couch, too stiff to move. This is the purchase that improved my life most significantly. It is what allows me to continue practicing dentistry and I cannot stress the importance of having decent support when you sleep! I have referred LEESA to a high-school friend who just moved into a new house and she and her husband love their mattress! Also, my brother and his girlfriend have both tried out our mattress and pillows when they were house-sitting for us one weekend and they told me that it was the best night of sleep they have ever had. She now also owns the same pillow as ours. I would highly recommend buying this product straight-away. It is never too late to start caring for your posture. Your 100-year-old self will thank you. If you are going to buy the mattress, check out my review here. Right now, you can get $350 OFF and a free protector too!

– Alternatively, a couch to sink into, especially during hard times. The couch is an Ikea Soderhamn couch – a Scandinavian design that has become a global icon – re-vamped with a Bemz cover. Depending on the cover you choose, you can make the Soderhamn look like a Restoration Hardware Cloud Sectional or a mid-century modern sofa from West Elm! We wanted to make sure we got a color we would like so I first ordered the five free fabric swatches before ordering the actual cover.

– Parachute linens that makes us want to spend all day in bed. These linen sheets are a beautiful color, although this would be great for the Fall season, too!

– A pair of speakers from which to play our vinyl collection. They are currently $49 off and are absolutely beautiful in white. They’ve got great sound, too. I stopped listening to music sometime two years ago. I think I just got carried away focusing on all my “jobs”. I told myself I didn’t have time for “noise”. Now, I enjoy my weekends deep-cleaning the home, occasionally sipping coffee, while playing some tunes on our record player. This newly added mid-century media console from West Elm perfectly hides the speakers when they aren’t in use. Currently, West Elm is hosting a sale – 15% off furniture, 40% off bedding, and 30% off rugs.

– A Parachute shower curtain and a new CB2 towel rod. Right now, they have 25% off rugs and 50% off clearance items. More importantly, my birthday gift – a bathroom wall-painting project completed with Mike and my parents one summer Saturday. And for those looking for a shower curtain liner, this is the one. So in love, no signs of mildew or soap scum yet!!

– Lastly, this La Marzocco latte machine, giving us the coffee shop we’ve always dreamed of. We never go out for coffee now. Mike sold his motorcycle which was rendered useless due to his non-existent commute and used the money to buy a Linea Mini, the machine of his dreams. He has spent every day since enjoying it.

Monthly Goals: September

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more. 

This post is written in partnership with Mal Paper, a UK company creating intentional stationary focused on gratitude and productivity. The company is named after the Swedish word “goal” and is pronounced “mo-l”. The inspiration of their products come from the Scandinavian clean and clutter-free lifestyle that’s extremely popular today. Their mission is simple. Focus on creating products that give the user clarity on what they want to achieve with a clear path on how to get there, all while promoting a positive mindset to carry over on to their daily activities. They recently reached out to me to give their Daily Goal Setter a try. I am desperately in LOVE. I think every American suffering from the over-whelming pressure to do”more” needs to reassess their goals with this planner.

In my quest to discover a balance between everyday life and my mental health during the month of August, I re-discovered a few things about myself. I am an extremely goal-driven person with achingly high expectations. I push myself to do too much, which is why I have such a need to focus on slow and intentional living. (Isn’t it funny how human it is to be attracted to the things we are not?) I found that I was falling off the wagon on a few habits, and then realized it’s because I LEGIT listed twenty-five habits to take up. In ONE month. I set extremely high goals for myself such as “increase production at work”, “work on writing a book”, “post five times a week on the blog”, all of which leave little room for life itself. Yet still, I squeeze “bake a new recipe”, “learn French”, “take up guitar”, and “explore two new places” somewhere in the crevices of my already tight schedule.

So when Mal Planner asked me to try their planner, I was all for it. I adopted a few things that I think will help me to continue my mindful actions in September. Below are all the ways that Mal Planner helps me to slow-it-down and to practice living from a place of calm and peace.


A New Morning Routine

Every morning, I will practice a new routine. It goes as follows.

First, I will write down three things that I am grateful for. This can be something like “For my family” or “For a delicious cup of early morning coffee.” But it can also be things that are often over-looked, such as “For clean water to drink” or “A window in my home for sunlight to shine through.” By practicing gratitude journaling, I will be starting the day with a positive mindset, while also allowing myself opportunity to recognize that perhaps, if nothing else, life is already enough.

Second, I will write down an affirmation. An affirmation is a sentence such as “I am brave enough to tackle obstacles that come my way” or “I am confident in my ability to get the job done.” It can also be something as simple as “I have an ability to make choices” or “I am whole”. Whatever empowering thought there is to carry me through the day, I will focus my energy on that. I will take time to recite and memorize my affirmation of the day.

Lastly, I will read that day’s inspiring quote, which Mal Paper has integrated at the bottom of every day’s page and throughout the entire planner..

A New Way of Creating Tasks

Have you ever felt like you’re doing so much but getting nowhere? One of the biggest problems ineffective people face is not prioritizing their tasks well. There is the saying, “Efficiency is doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.”

One of my favorite drawings which I first saw in the book of Essentialism is this:

Essentialism, Greg McKeown | Wise words, Words

It is my favorite drawing by far because I’ve definitely been the person on the left. Multiple times. So this month (and hopefully every month forward), I will try to be mindful of prioritizing tasks in order of importance. The planner suggests listing tasks for the day, then prioritizing them in order. Afterwards, I will try my best to complete tasks based on priority. Focusing on low-priority tasks can make you feel over-whelmed and exhausted, especially when more important tasks are not being completed.

That, honestly, is a waste of energy.

An Old Way of Setting Goals

I have always set goals in a certain way and I am so happy to see that Mal Paper agrees with me on at least one method of planning. I set goals using the SMART Method.

S: Specific. Goals are always specific so that there is clarity on what exactly we are trying to do. Answer the questions Who, What, When, Where, and How.

M: Measurable. Goals need to be measurable, otherwise you will not know if there is progress or not. It is not enough to say, “I want to earn more money.” It would be better to say, “I want to earn 10% more than that I was earning last year.”

A: Achievable. Make sure that all your goals are realistic. Setting goals that are too high (e.g. “I want to be a millionaire by tomorrow) can be very disheartening when they aren’t achieved. Let’s be real. Unless you win the lottery, that would be impossible.

R: Relevant. This is where you answer the question, “Why?” Ask yourself why it is that you want to complete this goal? How will doing so improve your life?

T: Timely. Set yourself a timeline for when you want your goal completed. This will help you stay on track. I divide my goals into Long Term (years), Medium Term (6 months to 1 year), and Short Term (a month to 6 months).

Doing each of these steps for each of your goals will really clear your path to productivity and success.

A New Weekly Routine

Once I make a goal, I will revisit every week each goal and break them down into smaller tasks. Each week, I will prioritize the top five tasks to complete. At the end of the week, I will evaluate how effective I was. I have done this at the beginning of every month, but I see now that I also need to do it weekly.

A New Evening Routine

Lastly, the routine before bed. I know that this is the hardest part because at the end of the day, the last thing you want to do is think. But it’s important to reflect on the positive moments and write down all the good things that happened. Something like “I got a promotion at work” is equally as important as “I got coffee with an old friend.”

Instead of dwelling on all the things that went wrong or that I didn’t complete (which I do dwell by the way), I can focus on the positive moments which will put me in the correct mindset and build my confidence in making things happen.

Then the planner suggests I rate my day from 1-10. I don’t know about everyone else, but I am a numbers gal. I never thought about rating my day, but I think that is very important. The ratings can easily summarize how I feel over a given amount of time. I know that if I start to notice a lot of low numbers in the past few weeks, then a lifestyle change needs to happen. Perhaps I am rating my days lowly because of feeling burnt out at work. That may mean that I need to change something in the workspace or decrease my work load.


Out of all of these routines, I think that the morning and evening rituals are of utmost importance. By coming from a place of gratitude and focusing on the positive things that happen in my life, there will be a greater chance for happiness. Also, reflective evaluation will allow for chances to identify opportunities for growth and improvement.

Of course, my month of September is still goal-driven. But I have seen a shift in my priorities and goals. I hope you see them, too.

PERSONAL:

  • Go offline 1 day per week
  • Read two books
  • Practice French daily
  • Learn 1 new guitar song
  • Keep up with the new morning and evening rituals
  • Be early to work every day

WORK:

  • Work on growing Pinterest
  • Apply to affiliates for October
  • Add Referral page on the blog
  • Reduce the number of patients seen to decrease burn out

HOME:

  • Work on upgrading the bathroom
  • Declutter digital photos

HEALTH:

  • Run or yoga each day
  • Take up gratitude journaling
  • Keep up with evening assessment
  • Light a candle at 9:30pm + relax every evening.

FINANCE:

OTHER:

  • Write the Rough Draft of the book
  • Read about Self-Publishing
  • Make 1 new recipe
  • Explore 2 new places

The planner from this post is from Mal Paper.
The mug is from East Fork Pottery in Morel.
The linen coaster is from Shop Fog Linen in Black Houndstooth.
The nail polish is by Restore ________ in June’s color for mental health awareness.