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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.
- 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?”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.