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The Boss of Me

Maybe there are people in the world who are lucky as they can be who never plan anything. They flit through life, spontaneous and free, taking problems as they come and magically making it through relatively unscathed. If you are one of these people, that’s awesome. I hope your life always goes this way and that you never run up against any hardship that you can’t handle in the moment.

I am not one of those people.

Creating my own luck could not happen without my planner. It has all my lists – the to-do list, the errand list (which can be distinguished from the to-do list as things that require leaving the house to do them), the grocery list, etc. It runs my life. Once, I thought I lost it, and I almost had to call in sick. Luckily, it was just in another bag. Crisis averted.

As you may imagine, I am incredibly particular about my planner. For a long time, Kate Spade made my favorite. It had all the elements that I needed and none of the extraneous fluff that I knew I wouldn’t use. Alas, when I was looking for my 2018 planner, I discovered that Kate Spade was no longer offering the yearly planner but rather one for the academic year. No. Just…no. So I had to find a new one, and since it was December and I had yet to order it, I had to find one fast. That was when Emily Ley’s Simplified Planner came into my life. I loooooove this planner. I will let you peruse the website at your leisure (and if you love planners like I do, you’re gonna want to). It’s perfect for me. I’ve already ordered my new one for 2020, and I think we’re going to be very happy together.

My planner helps me manage life overall. Time management strategies help calm me down and keep me grounded. Life doesn’t seem as overwhelming when I can look at it all in writing. Feeling lucky starts from a place of general stability, and having a plan helps me get to that starting point more often.

Do you organize your life? If so, what tools do you like to use?

 

I’m writing about creating my own luck for the month of October. See the master list of posts here.

 

 

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This sign was up at Salon LaPage when I went for my appointment in March. I had to grab a snapshot.

 

Lucky is the word I chose (with some trepidation) to guide my year. Sometimes the word I choose lends itself to a lot of reflection and sharing. Sometimes it lends itself to more action than words. This year, I think it’s both, and I’ve been lacking in the reflection part.

One reason for this is that I didn’t actually take the time to define what I think lucky looks like, so the first thing I want to do in this series is remedy that. For me, lucky means having things you work toward (and occasionally even things you don’t) go your way in a reasonably smooth manner. I know. Still pretty vague. It’s hard to pin down because it’s hard to see this happening in the moment. What’s easier to pin down are some of the elements that in retrospect have paved the way for situations to unfold seamlessly. Perhaps some of these elements ring true for you as well:

  • Organizational and social structures that are designed to reward the work their leaders claim to value
  • A solid personal support system
  • Minimization of the influence of structures and persons who fail to provide the support I would expect from something/someone whom I trust to provide
  • Habits that move me toward my goals and the person I’m becoming
  • Good timing

This doesn’t totally set the stage for what I think of as lucky, but it’s a good start. The areas of my life where I feel the luckiest are not necessarily the ones where I work the hardest, although work is usually a crucial part of the process. The main factor that seems to determine success is my environment. This discovery has been empowering. While I cannot conform what others do or give (nor would I want to – they have as much right to set their own boundaries as I do), I can choose where and to whom I give my own energy. What a difference it makes when it’s to people who give it back.

I suspect this is how other people make their own luck, too.

Another reason I’ve been lacking in reflection, though, is fear. I’ve been afraid to address the thing that most often gets in the way of luck, and I’m definitely nervous about sharing it. Anxiety is hard. It’s hard to feel lucky when something simple like getting out of bed and getting to work on time is derailed by waking up in panic mode. It doesn’t matter if it wakes me up earlier than I intended to get up. The sheer volume of time it takes when this happens to get to a place where I can stand to be around lots of sounds and people in anything resembling a coherent and productive fashion renders any extra time useless. Anxiety messes with my schedule, and that pisses me off. There is also an acute social aspect to my anxiety, which makes a lot of things challenging, such as finding people (or a therapist) with whom I can connect enough to relax and trust their support.

A lot of the techniques I’m discussing in this series are about how I create an environment in which I can thrive. Even though my process is very specific to me, I hope that parts of it can be helpful to you or maybe give you some ideas on how to find the support you need in your life.

Sundays will have an overview of the week’s topic. Monday through Thursday will include some of the strategies I use. Since this week is short, I’m going to spend tomorrow and Thursday taking about general tools that help with everything. On Fridays, I’ll share strategies I have heard good things about, things I’d like to try, or things I don’t personally use but might be helpful to you.

Finally, Saturdays will be a practice of being more candid about my personal struggles. I’m confident with practicalities, so I tend to hide behind them. But they don’t tell the whole story. I want to tell my story better.

I’ll also link each post here for reference.

Welcome to 31 days of creating luck!

Day 2 – Have a Plan
Day 3 – Rituals
Day 4 – Five Methods for Tracking Progress
Day 5 – On Being on Time
Day 6 – Lucky at Home
Day 7 – Fueling Up for Real
Day 8 – Reboot

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This is my view from the desk in my office. It’s amazing that I actually get any work done.

The benefit of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

The drawback of cleaning my office is that I can actually see the books I have as I organize them.

Last night was a light writing night, and it’s a good thing, because I definitely spent a good hour going over which books I want to read next. There are so many I haven’t read, and so many I want to read again. Just right there on my shelves.

And what you see is only about a fourth of the books I have (…in my office. There are other bookshelves by my kitchen and in my bedroom. There are so many books.).

Many of the book lovers I follow on social media have been tackling their unread shelves, and I want to start doing the same. It will start slowly, as I have a lot of unread library books left to read this year. As those dwindle down (probably around Christmas), I think my goal will probably shift to reading the books my book clubs read, listening to audiobooks, and diving into the books I own.

There’s so much joy on my shelves waiting to be discovered!

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I love the way Emily Ley’s books look – simple and colorful with their own built-in bookmarks.

I read A Simplified Life today, and while I didn’t get any particularly new insights from it, I did enjoy that it reminded me of what I need to make my life work well.

Today was a great day. I had a productive day, but I didn’t have a specific to-do list of things I wanted to get done, so it was also relaxed. I mean, I always have a to-do list running through my head; that’s just the way my brain works. An awareness of things I know I’ll be a little calmer/happier/saner having done rather than leaving undone. And it works. Today I checked some of those things off my mental list, and I feel a little calmer/happier/saner.

It would have been just as great, however, if I had woken up, had coffee, roamed around the community market where I met a new friend, and went on a spontaneous adventure.

My weekdays are very structured. Each day in my planner has a list of appointments and tasks for the day, and a check mark goes beside each task when it’s complete. That’s how I balance two jobs and multiple responsibilities at my church and three book clubs, etc.

I try to leave room on the weekends for doing exactly what I want to do in the moment, though, because I don’t want my whole life to be so structured that I get anxious when someone calls and wants to do something fun. I don’t want to be a person for whom fun is stressful.

I need balance. Equal(ish) parts structure and chaos. I need both focus and a little bit of wild.

I need to not have to choose one way to handle everything. I want to get everything done while still remaining flexible enough to let a little luck slip in.

 

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While I prefer a more social New Year’s Eve (I know – it feels just as weird to type it as it does to read it, but it’s one of the days of the year I like having plans), this was a pretty good fallback option.

Today has been both relaxed and productive. I did laundry, reorganized my dresser drawers, and broke open my shiny new planner (YAY!). I usually do two posts for goals at the beginning of the year to help sharpen my focus. Today’s post is a tangible to-do list for goals that I track throughout the year (well, except for one of them which is a one-and-done thing. And yes, there are actual charts). Tomorrow, I’ll talk about my word for the year. It’s a doozy.

  1. Read 100 books. I think I’m going to start posting my TBR list at the first of each month and then look back over it at the end of the month to see how close I actually stuck to it. This year, I’m revisiting some favorite authors (expect some Douglas Coupland, Haruki Murakami, Isabel Allende, etc.), brushing up on some classics, and keeping up with my three book clubs. The January TBR list:
    * The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
    * Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
    * Sphinx by Anne Garreta
    * Many Subtle Channels by Daniel Levin Becker
    * A Redbird Christmas by Fannie Flagg (Epiphany isn’t until Sunday – I have five days!)
    * Becoming by Michelle Obama
    * The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny
    * Gift From the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh
    * You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
    * Ines of My Soul by Isabel Allende
    * Role Models by John Waters
    This may seem like a lot, but some of them are super short, and I have a 24in48 weekend coming up at the end of January!
  2. Renew my passport. I don’t necessarily have plans to travel outside the country this year, but I am adopting a you-never-know attitude about it, so I’d like to be prepared, just in case.
  3. Develop a daily creativity practice. My creativity veers in a lot of different directions, so this doesn’t have to look the same every day. It could be playing piano, dancing, writing poetry, building something, knitting, decorating or rearranging a space, or trying (or, let’s be real – tweaking) new recipes. But I know I get bored and restless if I’m not flexing those creative muscles, so I want to be more intentional about it.
  4. Continue building physically nourishing habits. By the end of the year, I want to be exercising four times a week, drinking an adequate amount of water daily, and feeding myself well. I have specific mini-goals to build up to it so that I won’t find myself looking back on this post in November and thinking, “Hmm…guess I better eat a carrot.”
  5. Get rid of something(s) in my overtaxed schedule in order to carve out time to do the writing I actually like to do (i.e., fiction, poetry, essays, blogging) on a regular basis.

Do you have resolutions for the upcoming year? What are they?

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Friday Five 4

We have a half day at work today, so as of noon, I begin my 1.5-week holiday break! Before I go, though, I want to leave you with five things I loved this week.

  1. I love a well-curated book list. I’m pretty sure these books will make me want to visit/move to Hawaii.
  2. I love this story! Yes, let’s all be superheroes.
  3. I am thinking of taking up cross-stitch again (because my house doesn’t already look enough like Grandma’s). These patterns would be a great place to start.
  4. I feel this post HARD. The advice portion was so freeing that I bought her book.
  5. I told my friend Jessica that I have discovered what I want to be when I grow up – baby big cat swim coach.

Hope your weekend is great!

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What im into

What I’m always into

I’ve had a productive January. Even by my typical January standards. What I’m mostly into this month is how well my point system I set up to help me meet goals is working (perhaps more on that later this month – I’m pretty nerdily excited about it). I set my resolutions, and they’ve been going well so far:

  1. Reading – I’ve read 9 books toward my 100-book goal. I may be imagining it, but Goodreads seems shocked that I’m one book ahead of schedule. My month did include my second round of participation in the 24in48 Readathon, but I would have been on schedule even without it. My favorite two were The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Fahrenheit 451 by Annie Spence. I now need to read every book in this list.
  2. Reading long books – I am starting Don Quixote again this weekend. I’m going to try to finish a long book every four months this year. I may have to rewatch The Newsroom while I read this one.
  3. Finishing Fishbowl manuscript – My Fishbowl draft is trudging along, somewhat aimlessly at this point but at least steadily. I am consistently moving in random directions, which I suppose is pretty fitting, given its narrator.
  4. Editing Epic Meal Planning – I have added a few pins to my Epic Meal Planning board, and this month, I am testing some of the recipes on the board. Next month (March), I want to start testing my own recipes on friends.
  5. Learning Spanish – I have tired of Duolingo (perhaps I just need a break), and I have started going through my old Spanish textbooks. I find taking the old route to work through exercises methodically helpful.
  6. Taking a solitary writing retreat – I have looked into rental beach cottages and train trips. Vaguely. I will be more excited about it once I have enough saved up to take the trip. Or if I find a really good deal. Or if I just decide I’m going to hole up in a hotel room and write for a weekend.
  7. Visiting coffee shops/wine bars – Oddly enough, this is the one that got away from me this month. Double down in February? I think so.
  8. Building up emergency fund and paying off debt – I’m ahead of schedule here, too. I like the momentum. If I keep up this rate, I may get to add another goal before year’s end.
  9. Improving my health (specifically, my gym attendance) – I have teamed up with a friend to go to the gym 3 times a week. Consequently, I have been to the gym more times this month than I went last year altogether.
  10. Trying new recipes – I made jambalaya from scratch for the first time this month. If I had known how easy it was and how much better it is than anything I’ve made from a box, I would have done this years ago.

Aside from resolutions, the thing I’ve been into most is saving time.

  • My friend Michelle introduced me to Instacart, and it’s fantastic. Basically, someone does your grocery shopping for you at your local store and brings it to your house. If you want to try it, I think my code for $10 off and free delivery with your first order is still good – click here or use code¬†STERRY1EB1CF.
  • I also am loving Grove. I set up delivery of home products, and they come to my door. What I appreciate is that it gives me a heads-up email so that there are no surprises when I inevitably forget it’s time, and I can skip delivery any time. If you want to try it and also want $10 off your first order, click here.
  • Speaking of home products (my apartment is so dusty and I’m over that – can you tell?), I am super excited to receive my first Norwex order. I had a party, and I scored quite a bit of free loot, even though my orders only reached the lowest level. I think I’m most excited about the Envirowand. Beware, dust! My friend Brenda is a consultant, and she loves doing online parties. You can peruse the catalog here – contact her if you have questions!

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – come share what you’re into!

 

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