Self-Reflection Questions to Guide the New Year

Every year, I spend a day on self-reflection (or rather, a few days) before planning for the year ahead. Asking self-reflection questions is an important step because it tells me where I’m at, which ultimately guides where I want to go. When self-reflecting, I use my Unbound Planner to start this practice, but my brainstorming bubbles over to its own thing after only a few minutes.

The main questions I ask myself starts with the word “Why”. Why do I think this goal is important? Why do I place value on this idea? Or why do I feel this way about certain things? And so on. Of course, there are a multitude of questions to ask oneself. But after every answer, I always go back to ‘Why’.

I decided to round up a few self-reflection questions worth pondering over this morning. Even if you’ve already opened your planner and started preparing for the New Year, these are still good to think about. Sometimes, after asking myself these questions, I find that I planned for things that aren’t aligned with my true goals. This is because we may do things because other people expect us to do them or because we think other people would want us to do them. But in reality, we ourselves don’t want to.

A good example of this is last year’s goal of running 6 miles under one hour. I never got around to accomplishing it. I realize that I wanted to do it because it would be ‘an achievement’. But achievements are only important to the people around us. Achievements are status symbols. Achievements do nothing for our well-being, except add a psyche boost when other people recognize them.

I do not actually love running, and when I do go for a run, I like doing it because I am out in nature and nature relaxes me. The parts I like most about running are the wind in my hair, the sun warming my skin, the sound of birds, and the smell of grass; not the time it took for me or the number of miles.

Realizing that my motivation for running was all wrong, I now know that my goal should be changed. Instead of ‘Run 6 miles in under an hour’, my new goal is to ‘Get outdoors more often by running, hiking, or taking a walk a few times a week.’ That goal is more aligned with who I am as a person, which means I am more likely to do it!

2022 could be the year of balance. It could be the year you embrace your genuine self. But it needs to start with understanding who you are. I hope you enjoy going through these questions. I recommend writing down the answers like I did! My newly acquired Surface Pro Pen has been a godsend for brainstorming! I scribble down all my ideas, erase them, cross them out, circle them, etc. I absolutely love the Surface Pen and aim to use it to help me with my goal of going digital and reducing paper clutter. Without further ado, here are the questions!

Self-Reflection Questions To Guide the New Year

  • If someone close to you was to give a speech about you, what would they say? What don’t they say that you wish they would?
  • What are your core values? Do you feel they are well integrated in your daily life? What changes can you make to better build a life around your values?
  • What are you most proud of in the year before? It could be a favorite memory or a big accomplishment.
  • What do you love to do? What brings you peace? Joy? How can you make more time for these things?
  • What drains your energy? What makes you feel anxious or worried? How can you address these things?
  • What are your talents and strengths? How can you share these with others?
  • What do you struggle with? Why?
  • What challenges or distractions hold you back? How can you move past them?
  • What does being successful mean to you?
  • How do you want to grow this year?
  • What motivates you to take action?
  • What are you feeling called toward or inspired by?
  • Name one positive habit you want to establish this year.
  • Name one skill you want to master this year.
  • What is one fear you want to overcome in the new year? Why do you fear this thing?
  • What is one dream you want to act on in the new year? Why do you have this dream?
  • What are your most important relationships? How can you nurture them better?
  • What does your typical week look like? What is your ideal week?
  • How do you experience energy levels during the day? How can you structure your day so that your body best supports you? I suggest reading this blog post from Canyon Coffee.
  • Are there daily routines (morning and evening) that help establish a sense of peace, productivity, and well-being?
  • What are you most grateful for?
  • Name one change you can make that will have the biggest impact?
  • What is one question I want to answer this year?
  • When am I at my best?

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Don’t forget to ask yourself ‘Why’ when answering these self-reflection questions. You may realize something about yourself that you never knew before. These little discoveries can better align your life to your truth. And once you’ve gotten a bit of insight, go ahead and start planning! I made a list of favorite planners in this post here. I hope you have a wonderful year!

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A Rainy Day Starter Kit

Rainy season is here and I have put together a rainy day starter kit for Fall! I absolutely love the rain. As a kid, I used to post up by the window panes and feel the thrum of raindrops as I read a book. As a teenage, I loved to hide under the blankets and listen to music or talk to my friends. Adult me is about the same. I now love drinking coffee, writing on my blog, and flitting across Pinterest on rainy days.

It may seem weird to say, but I do like to set up my surroundings on rainy days. That’s why I made this rainy day starter kit! I’ve got to create the right atmosphere before settling into the cold, gloom, and rhythmic lull. This means pillowy blankets, candles, coffeehouse music, and quiet spaces. I create forts where the cat would find me. I dim the lights and play pretend I’m in the Nordic North. My attire matches the event by wearing dark colors, and itchy socks. Together, I’ve wrangled a list of things you need to make the most of your next rainy day.

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Intentional Living: Invest in Rest

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A good night’s sleep is one of the best forms of self-care. It is regenerative for the body, mind and soul, and much to any frugalist’s joy, it is free. Often viewed as an unproductive activity, getting a good night’s rest lies low on the priority list for the majority. On the contrary, I attribute much of my productivity and success to sleep – and a lot of it, too!

Ever since I was young, I was very fond of the stuff. My parents love to tell the story of how I would nod off in my high-chair, often plopping my face down on my food. I was the last to wake up on Christmas morning (well, every morning for that matter) and the first to fall asleep at night. At family get-togethers, one could be sure to find me on the couch, hogging up the sitting space asleep in fetal position. I took afternoon naps until high school and even in college, I was one of the few people who got eight hours of sleep, frequently trading in a night of partying for my warm sheets.

There was a time when I went against my sleeping pattern and took up midnight shifts as an early-morning baker. I noticed the toll it took on my health. Even though I was still sleeping eight hours every night, the fluctuation between night shifts and day shifts every other day really wrecked my body. I started depending on coffee, lost a lot of weight, and had trouble eating. My mind was exhausted and I noticed that I was on survival mode, less productive overall and more lenient about my tasks and deadlines. It only took three months for me to realize the effects, and while I was happy and alive, my body was barely keeping up.

As I gained awareness of my body’s circadian rhythm, I learned that my optimal sleeping time is 9 hours per night. If I receive less than that, it is best if I take a mid-afternoon nap. Now there are groups of people who would argue against the health benefits of this. But every person is different and the range of ideal sleep time is vast. Regardless of what the actual number of hours is, sleep is a crucial part to your overall productivity and here is why you need to make sure you get enough of it.

Reasons to Invest in Rest

  • Sleep is important for memory and processing daily experiences.
  • A night of sleep more than doubles the likelihood that you will solve a problem requiring insight.
  • Sleep clears toxins in the brain.
  • Sleep is the most crucial factor for peak performance, memory, productivity, immune function, mood regulation.
  • Even mild sleep reduction has detrimental effects on cognitive function many days afterwards.
  • One-third of working Americans sleep less than six hours a night.
  • Sleep deprivation was declared a public health epidemic by the CDC in 2018.
  • Lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease, obesity, stroke, and cancer.
  • Getting consistent sleep is very important to your health.

As a person trying to live an intentional life, I care a lot about sleep. I understand that the long-effects of getting enough shut-eye will outweigh the few hours I lose each day. Investing in rest doesn’t just mean making the resolution to sleep a set number of hours each night, although that is the FREE self-care part of it. However, one must also consider what they sleep on.

I spend a lot of time curating my bed, and highly recommend getting a mattress and pillows that are ergonomically beneficial. Spinal problems caused by having a cheap bed will translate to decreased quality of life and productivity. My personal favorite company is LEESA. We own their mattress topper and pillows, and it has been such a game-changer. I used to have a lot of neck and back pain due to maintaining static postures and craning my neck at the dental office – so much so that I would wake up in the middle of the night from the pain and spend entire Saturdays lying on the couch unable to move. Once we switched to high-quality pillows and added the LEESA mattress topper, the pain went away! After watching my dad undergo three spinal surgeries in the last two years, I knew that I was not going to wait until my own symptoms got worse. If you want to step up your bed game, Try LEESA! Get up to $400 OFF a LEESA mattress this MLK weekend by clicking on my affiliate link. They have a great trial-period guarantee. For those who are wary about making such an expensive commitment to their health, LEESA also offers 0% financing through Affirm for as low as $25 a month, the equivalent of 8 drip coffees! Think of it as getting better sleep and saving on the coffee.

Likewise, I also invest in high quality bedsheets made out of clean fabrics that are good for the skin. I really like Parachute’s linen sheets and have written why Parachute sheets are the only sheets you need to own this post. Since then, we’ve tried a cotton duvet cover from them as well, pictured above, and we love it just as equally.

An alternative for those who wish to have cotton sheets is PACT. Pact is an eco-conscious company who makes clothing and textiles for the home. Currently, they have a sale on their bedding and bath products lasting until January 31, 2021. Simply use the code REFRESH25 to receive 25% OFF. You can access the sale by clicking on my affiliate link here.

Shop Pact Today.

Other rituals I have around my sleep include making my bed every morning so that the sheets stay clean, turning on a humidifier, and putting my phone away an hour before bed. We also wash the sheets frequently, vacuum the mattress, and rotate the toppers and pillows as outlined by my ultimate cleaning list.

Regardless of what you do to make sleep an important part of your day, make sure to prioritize it for the years to come!

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Why A Kitchen Reno Is Not Happening Any Time Soon

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Sometimes, this space is as much for my readers as it is for me – a place where I can store letters to myself or record the reasoning behind this experimental project which I call life. Today, it serves as the latter, although my readers may find the value in it too; A kind note to myself as to why a kitchen renovation is not in the cards in our near future, and why that is perfectly okay.

I toyed with the idea of re-doing our kitchen in December, after visiting a few friends who underwent just that. Their pretty white cabinets and shining appliances made an impression on me and had me stumbling down a rabbit hole of quartz countertops and custom-made wooden doors. In my musings, I mulled over all the flaws of our tiny kitchen space – the creaking faucet that is sure to break any minute now, the super thin metal sink banged up from carelessness, the water-logged floorboards caused by a leak every time we ran the dishwasher left undiagnosed until three plumbers later, the oven that clicks without a fan in the rear, the plastic microwave with its sticky hooded vents, the peeling panels stickered onto the laminated cabinet doors and the crusty chipboard slowly giving up underneath these fake countertops – all the things that my dream kitchen did not have.

My consideration even went so far as physically going to Ikea, planning a kitchen with a consultant, getting quotes from the third party counter-top company and the installation crew, and coming up with a game plan to ensue renovation at a moment’s notice. As usual, my husband gave me pause and we agreed to dog-ear the project and revisit at a later month.

During which, all the things I love about the kitchen re-surfaced. I had already written another note to myself about How to Fall In Love with a Kitchen but forgot it in the midst of celebrating all the newness of our friend’s “new” home. Which goes to show that sometimes, we need reminders of our love, such as that which I hold for my own space.

How it was my own bakery for a year of my life, how I know exactly the way my breads will turn out in this faithful oven of mine, how the light hits the fake-wood and adds a soft glow to my mornings and late afternoons, how the countertops never cause me worry and allow me to thoughtlessly spill sauce that would certainly stain marble and leave hot pans unattended which would certainly burn wood, how the kitchen fridge holds enough food for the three of us, how my dishwasher keeps my hands from drying out in the winter time, how we eat breakfast and prep meals around the free wooden island that came with the house and those fold-up-Ikea chairs, how there is just enough room to store all our belongings, how a cabinet in particular holds the exact dimensions needed for my beloved KitchenAid Mixer, how there is a very specific counterspace wide enough to house our espresso machine and coffee grinder, and how it brings me so much joy to stare at my kitchen from the couch, thanking my lucky stars that we get to call this abode our home.

With all of this recognition for our kitchen’s enoughness comes the flaws of doing a renovation. Redoing a kitchen would definitely put us behind on our loan repayment journey, which serves as our number one priority and biggest goal. Redoing a kitchen would take away time from our daily lives, as well as erase my bakery’s memories. Redoing a kitchen will unlikely bring us lasting happiness, as I continue to spill sauce on new countertops and drop things in a new sink while relearning the workings of a new oven. Lastly and most importantly, redoing a kitchen is not exactly what we are about.

In an effort to practice gratitude for what we already have, to live freely from working 9-5, and to live purposefully and to the fullest, I have decided after much consideration not to tackle the kitchen renovation. And while Instagram will feed me mementos as to why renovation is a must, I will be baking away in this darn kitchen, grateful for it supporting all my culinary endeavors, forgiving my experimental failures, and hosting my favorite people while learning and relearning the beauty in the aging of things and the growing of ourselves.

Other reminders and related posts:

The True Cause of a Spending Problem

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Do you have a spending problem? Are you someone who just can’t make ends meet? Have you found that no matter how much you increase your income, you can’t break the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle? Do you find yourself shopping when you are stressed or tired or sad? Perhaps this post is for you.

It may not be what you want to hear, but the truth is this:

A spending problem is the result of not knowing who you want to be, or where you want your life to go.

Emotional spending occurs because a void needs filling. Unfortunately, more often than not, the spending itself fails at solving the problem. Rather, it extenuates it by creating a loop cycle that enlarges the void and brings us further from our true goals.

For example, have you ever tried to treat your stress by shopping online? At first, it felt good, but after a while, regret starts to sink in and your newfound purchase falls short of delivering lasting happiness, not to mention instantly decreases in value. Does it sound familiar to you? Because it sure does to me.

Not knowing who we want to be or what we want our life to look like makes it difficult to know what is worthy of our time and money. If we do not have a clear purpose, goal, or ambition, then it becomes easy to fall into the cycle of spending our resources on what people around us promote, rather than what we need. Because what we gain was never truly for us, it doesn’t fill the void at all, resulting in spending again, and again, and again.

If you want to treat a spending problem, my financial advice is to start with you. Define who you want to be and where you want your life to go. At least, that’s what we did and it worked for us. Because I used to be like you, too. I had $30,000 in credit card debt. I had more than half a million dollars in student loans. I went shopping every weekend in my early twenties and bought avocado toast while I was in dental school. I had a serious spending problem, until I realized who I was and what I wanted.

I am a simple person. I enjoy reading books and baking bread. I find joy in quiet time and yoga. My mind is healthiest when I am outdoors collecting rocks on a beach. I wanted a life of financial freedom. I wanted to be able to choose a job to my liking. I wanted the autonomy to work in a way that is aligned to my values. I want the freedom to call my own hours, to choose days of rest, to pursue other passions, and I understood that I couldn’t do that if I chose material stuff, trends, and status symbols. That’s how this all started.

I was lucky enough to find a financial advisor in my early years who delved deeply into what I wanted for my future. It was only then, when I saw the big picture, did I have the motivation to get rid of my spending problem. And if I am being honest, without a clear picture of where I wanted my life to be, I would just as likely have reverted back to my previous ways. It was the clarity that kept me going.

The true cause of a spending problem is not being intentionally clear enough about your life.

Here are good places to start:

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If you have trouble paying off your credit card debts, you can always try The Credit Pros. They will help identify the most damaging and most helpful credit items, as well as provide advice and educational tools.

New Year Resolutions for 2021

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There has been talk that there is no need to write resolutions for 2021, and I get it. People are tired, fatigued from the pivoting we did in 2020, not to mention all the politics and the social conflict. I understand the difficulty in creating expectations that will challenge us further for the year ahead (stretch us past our limits, some will say), but I beg to differ on the writing of resolutions front.

As C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Hardships often prepare ordinary people for an extra-ordinary destiny.”

I have found that the times in my life that have been most tough are the moments right before big change happened. Stead-fastness is what we need during this transition. We need to courage to believe that 2021 holds the potential to be the most amazing years of our lives.

Of course, every individual reacts to trauma differently. Personally, I like to face trauma head on and conquer it (case in point: My Decision to Aggressively Tackle My Student Loan Debt), but even I have challenges that I find difficult to face. However, to give up altogether?! No, that isn’t me, and I don’t think that’s you either.

If you feel like resolutions are a bit too much, just write ONE like I did in 2018, after I went through the most roller-coaster year of my life (which was also the most pivotal!). For the more motivated, try beginning with the end. And for those who really can’t bring themselves to pull out paper and pen at this time, no worries – there is always the opportunity to write resolutions in the middle of the year. Let’s not let the New Year define our opportunities to create change.

I, for one, am excited about what 2021 could bring. My gleaming eyes are looking ahead to a bright future. I’m a dreamer and an optimist, so I wrote a lengthy list of resolutions. 2020 was a year that forced me to slow down. I dissociated myself from my own identity to unearth the real me, an experience that I recently wrote about here.

Each year, I focus my resolutions around a theme. Last year was about self-care in many forms, including taking care of my surroundings and home, focusing on my health, and slowing down enough to give myself time to recharge. In the process, I discovered balance, kindness (towards myself and others), and my place in this world. All of this sets me up nicely for a wonderful 2021.

My focus for 2021 is to make it the year of my most meaningful work.

I feel more grounded in my being that I ever have, and the purpose of creating space the previous year is to fill it as intentionally as possible. This is not to be confused with more work but rather quality work. I am not only referring to professional work either, encompassing work on my relationships, on my home, on my spirituality, and on my self.

In order to set myself up for success, I paired my resolutions with actionable and measurable goals. Maybe you’ll find a few that resonate with you. However, I would highly recommend writing your own first, before allowing someone else’s (mine included) to influence your hopes for the year to come. And if I don’t get around to it, I wish you and yours love and light in the New Year!

My 2021 New Year’s Resolutions

  • Focus on Health
    • Make exercise routine. Focus on the exercises that are enjoyable, like running, swimming and yoga to make it more sustainable. Goal: Exercise 5 days a week.
    • Eat more veggies and fruit. Goal: Incorporate these into meals at least 5 days a week.
    • Eat to be satiated, abandon gluttony. Goal: Aim to only be 80% full.
    • Sleep on a consistent schedule. Goal: Try to sleep between the hours of 10pm and 6am.
    • Wake up at a consistent time. Goal: Get up when you feed the cat, instead of crawling back into bed.
  • Focus on Having Less
    • Less Instagram. Goal: Limit yourself to 15 minutes per day.
    • Less Shopping for both the self and the home. Goal: Spend only $35 on fun money each month. When you feel the need to buy something new, write the reasons why what you have is enough. Wait at least one month before buying something you want.
    • Less obligation and responsibilities. Goal: Practice responding with “Can I get back to you?” to give yourself the space for consideration.
  • Focus on Creating Your Best Work
    • Prepare each morning for the day ahead. Goal: Meditate each morning to clear the mind. Prioritize your tasks for the day ahead, and delegate or de-clutter as many as you can before beginning work. Put on an outfit and get ready as if you are going into work to create that separation between work and home.
    • Be on time to show respect for other people’s timelines. Goal: Show up to work, appointments and events at least five minutes early.
    • Study dentistry to invigorate a passion towards the profession. Goal: Complete 50 CE units this year.
    • Provide usefulness to others via the blog so that I may make a living helping people virtually. Goal: Create digital downloads, consider intentional living consultations, and work on writing a book on living intentionally.
    • Create the ideal WFH space. Goal: Carve out a dedicated area in the home for work. Make it a sanctuary.
  • Focus on Creating a Good Home
  • Focus on Spirituality
    • Meditate more often. Goal: Use the Tide App 5 times a week.
    • More outdoors time to reduce cortisol levels. Goal: Aim for at least 30 minutes of walking or hiking in nature three times a week.
    • Have more gratitude. Goal: Write the top 3 things the be grateful for each morning. Thank my food and my things for gracing my life.
    • Reflect on a quote each morning. Goal: Find a quote that speaks to where you are in life and share it each day with others.
    • Spread goodness. Goal: Volunteer once a month. Call three friends and family members each week and tell them why you are grateful for them.
  • Focus on Myself
    • Make time to read more books, which will expand your knowledge, perspective, and experience. Goal: Read two books a month.
    • Learn a language or musical instrument. Goal: Learn French enough to be able to have conversation and learn two songs on either piano or guitar each month.
    • Get into drawing again. Goal: Complete two drawings per month.
    • Reserve the evenings for relaxation and rejuvenation. Goal: Put the phone away one hour before bed.

The Ultimate Cleaning List

In my opinion, one of the best things 2020 did for us was turn our attention inward – on our relationships, on ourselves, and on our homes, to name a few examples. The latter, especially, has been prominent this year for me. I have spent a decent amount of time introspecting on the first two over the past few years, however, as an avid traveler, work-a-holic, and on-the-go person, the latter was neglected until the stay-at-home culture forced me to, well, stick around.

One of my goals for an intentional 2021 is to keep my living space sparkling clean. It has been transformed in the last year into an oasis from the outside world; a safe haven where we all work, rest, and rejuvenate. My best moments of 2020 have occurred under this very roof. It only seems appropriate to pay my respects in the form of diligent maintenance and care.

On that note, in the process of writing a 2021 New Year Resolution list, I side-tracked to create my own guide to keeping a dwelling spotless. I wanted to share with you guys what works for us, although depending on your home, your list of needs may differ. I separated tasks into daily, weekly, monthly, bi-annually, and annually time frames. Along the way, I added a few tips on how to make this list (which can seem overwhelming at first) a sustainable practice built out of habit. I would venture that after a bit of practice, you may find cleaning your home to be quite the opposite – relaxing and fun in nature. Enjoy!

The Ultimate Cleaning List

Every Day

TIP: I consider every day tasks as habits that are built into your normal lifestyle. At first, they may seem like just another thing to check off your list, but eventually, they should become routine movements that are done quickly and without much thought. These every day cleaning habits will ease the more long-term cleaning tasks, so definitely don’t ignore them!

It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.

John Wooden
  • Make the bed
  • Clean coffee maker
  • Wash dirty dishes
  • Wipe down kitchen counters and table
  • Wipe down bathroom surfaces
  • Sanitize kitchen and bathroom sinks
  • Squeegee shower
  • Vacuum floors (Ever since we switched to this Dyson V8 Absolute, Vacuuming has been such an extreme joy. It work great on our cement floors and the carpet attachment is perfect for rugs! I would highly recommend this product as it is one of the top five purchases we’ve ever made that improves our day to day lives.)
  • Put things away at the end of the day

Every Week

TIP: It helps to tackle these tasks throughout the week. Finding a schedule that works for you and your home is very important. For example, we do laundry, change bedding and mop floors on Saturday mornings. We toss expired food when we return from our weekly grocery shopping, as we are stowing the new groceries away. I scrub the bathroom tub during one of my showers on a weekday when I am off from dentistry. I wipe down kitchen appliances after an especially messy meal prep. I vacuum the furniture regularly and clean the vacuum whenever I notice it’s messy.

In order to avoid over-whelm or wasting away an entire weekend, use little pockets during your workday to do these tasks. While some people will scoff at the distraction this provides, my argument is that sedentary lifestyles are the bane of our existence and the general cause of our health problems. By committing to one task per work day, you are giving your eyes, mind, and body a break while providing necessary movement and blood flow to your work life. Plus, you’ll get your heart pumping, and I would argue it still makes for a productive day!

  • Laundry
  • Mop Floors
  • Change Bedding
  • Toss expired food from the fridge
  • Scrub bathroom tub
  • Wipe down kitchen appliances
  • Clean microwave
  • Sanitize sponges
  • Dust and vacuum furniture
  • Clean vacuum

Every Month

TIP: Just like the weekly tasks, I would disperse these cleaning items throughout the month rather than wait until the last weekend. Of course, that is just my personal preference. I know a few people who find greater success in procrastination and monthly deep cleanings. I can only imagine how cathartic that must feel!

  • Wash car
  • Wash vacuum filters
  • Vacuum vents and woodwork such as base boards
  • Dust and clean light fixtures
  • Wipe down inside of fridge
  • Wash shower curtain liner
  • Clean patio surfaces
  • Wash comforter
  • Clean range hood
  • Clean washing machine using a cleaner cycle
  • Clean dishwasher
  • Sweep the garage every month

Every 6 months

TIP: Unlike the weekly and monthly tasks, I do recommend doing these things at the same time. It is most efficient to pick two months out of the year to tackle these tasks. For some, that may be spring cleaning season and right before the holidays. For me, I like mid-year in June and at the end of the year in December. June is my birthday month and December is right before the new year. Both months symbolize a new beginning for me, so I like to start my beginnings fresh.

  • Deep clean windows
  • Wash couch covers
  • Vacuum mattress
  • Wash pillows
  • Clean inside of oven
  • Clean drapes

Every Year

TIP: We only have a few yearly tasks in our household. These are easy to plan ahead for. I simply add a reminder in my planner regarding these tasks and then order the parts when I come to that month. Once the parts arrive, it is only a matter of doing the task right away instead of waiting for dust to collect.

  • Change AC filter
  • Change Water Filter

If you happened to like this list of mine, please check out my Weekly Cleaning List Download which I created to help stream-line cleaning tasks around the home. If your resolution is to maintain a clean home in the New Year, this checklist may facilitate that by simplifying and organizing those tasks. Simply print and stick on a fridge or kitchen cabinet, tuck inside a planner, or lay by your nightstand as a daily reminder. Share it with your loved ones, I won’t mind! This is a way for you to support this space and the content you find here in an intentional way, while allowing me to continue making a living without resorting to advertising. I thank you for being in this space and hope that this list provides useful.

Happy Cleaning!

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.