Because I’m an Enneagram 8, I often don’t make New Year’s resolutions. The idea of the masses doing something at the same time means I will not be participating. There are some benefits to not following the crowd, but also, I’m occasionally late to the party I actually wanted to go to.
Eights are super annoying like that.
Did you make any goals for 2018? All I did was whisper to myself let’s not suck as much as 2017 did, okay? and then went on with my life. Chris and I ate takeout sushi in bed while watching movies, and when the ball dropped at midnight, I was so impressed with myself for staying up that late that I forgot to kiss my husband.
I’m just not a big New Year’s resolution person. If I want to make a change, I pretty much just do it that moment or start the next day. I don’t like to talk about making changes, I just make changes. So if I realize I’m eating too much crap and not enough vegetables, I make sure my next meal reflects that realization. If I’m looking at my phone too much, I put my phone down and go do something else. Monday start dates are good, but if it’s not a Monday, I’ll start on a Wednesday afternoon. I think giving yourself the freedom to begin again, in any moment you notice things not going the way you like, is powerful and freeing.
So with that in mind, do you want to start again? Do you want to get back on track with something that got away from you? Let’s begin again, right now.
Here are some things I’ve implemented in my life at one time or another that are still working well for me. They’re things I’m currently doing that feel right, they make life better, they help me focus, change, or improve. I’m a little OCD so routines and habits are my jam. I’ve tried lots of things and these are the things that stuck for now:
Get up before your kids every weekday morning
This is the only way I get quiet time for prayer and my Bible. I come downstairs, start the coffee, and settle in on the couch. I’ve tried lots of other ways to get Bible reading done and nothing else seems to work for me. Once the day is going, I don’t stop so to be successful I had to accept an early wake-up time. At this point, I’ve been doing it for years and I wouldn’t do it any other way. (This is the Bible I’m never going to shut up about. You should read it this year. And here is the post where I share what I’ll be studying when I finish it.)
Become best friends with Alexa
I know. I know. That seems silly. We don’t need technology. The less technology the better! But Alexa is actually making my life easier and keeping me in line. Seriously. We ordered an Echo in December when Amazon was selling them for less than $30. We got the Echo Dot. I don’t know what the difference is between the tall ones and the short ones (or the correct names, apparently…) except the short one was less expensive, and that’s always my choice. We put it in the kitchen, and it immediately started saving my sanity. Ellie is obsessed with the weather. Like annoyingly obsessed. She asks multiple times a day if it’s going to rain, thunderstorm, or snow. She always wants to know the temperature. Now she gets to stop asking me for my phone and just ask Alexa.
That seems silly, but it was driving me crazy and now it’s not. Last month, we bought an Echo Dot for our bedroom. Every morning after my alarm goes off, Alexa says, “It’s time to get out of bed now.” She’s like an annoying servant. But it works–I get up and go downstairs. Once I’m downstairs, I say, “Alexa, start my day.” While I make coffee, Alexa gives me the forecast for the day and turns on the light next to the couch where I’ll sit and read my Bible. (We got two smart plugs when we got the Echo and I LOVE THEM.)
The best part about our Echo Dot is I’ve set our bedroom one to tell me every night at 9:30 to get off my phone. I know I need to stop playing on my phone. I know I should be reading a book, talking to my husband, or even watching a movie with him. Things that involve learning or being in relationship with someone. So 9:30 rolls around and Alexa reminds both of us to get off our phones and do something else. Even if it’s just sleep.
Read Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
If you’re feeling stuck and want an encouraging book to help you feel un-stuck, I highly recommend Year of Yes. While you might not want or need the same things as Rhimes, her desire to shake up her life and be better for herself and her family is inspiring. Her stories and bravery easily translate to our own lives.
Read more (audio)books
We all know about Audible. Unless you live under a rock. But did you know your local library more than likely has an audio book collection? This is such a great way to “read” new books especially if you feel like you have no time or the attention to read much. I listen to audio books while I’m driving, doing housework, or exercising. I even listen to them while I’m doing mindless work tasks. I’m a big fan of non-fiction audio books. I could read fiction all day, but sometimes lose interest when it comes to non-fiction. I think it’s a pretty common goal to read more books and listening to audio books from Audible or free from the library is a great way to squeeze them in.
Make a financial plan & budget then STICK TO IT
You know I want you to work on debt this year, right? Go here for all the details, but getting a plan down this week and then sticking to it will make you feel less hopeless and stressed about money. Maybe promise yourself you’ll try a budget for six months and see what kind of progress you can make?
Get yourself a planner and some cute pens
Is this the year you’ll actually remember all your commitments? Let’s pretend that’s a yes. Do you need to get organized and feel less overwhelmed with life? I use this planner and it’s my favorite of all the planners I’ve used. (Actually, I have three planners: one for teaching, one for writing, and one for personal/family stuff.) Keeping our family on track with practices, dinners, and school fundraiser deadlines can wear me down so I use this planner to focus myself each day. I write down what I need to accomplish that day, what are the three most important things, what we’re having for dinner, and where we need to be. I also make notes for upcoming days for that week only so I don’t get too ahead of myself and lose focus. I like the breakdown by hours so I can plan my day around meetings and work stuff, while juggling appointments, family commitments, and errands as well.
I know some people like electronic planners, but I’m loyal to the paper planner. I don’t mind carrying it around when I need it and I love the lists I can do for each day. Even if I sometimes write the same list four days in a row because I’m not actually accomplishing anything. It’s the thought that counts, obviously.
Take advantage of online grocery ordering
If you’re not on board with this, I don’t even know who you are. Seriously, ordering your groceries online is life-changing. I sit at my kitchen counter, get a meal plan done, and then just order everything I need for the week from my kitchen. I order through Walmart.com because it’s free, but even paying the $5 for Kroger or wherever you shop is worth it. (If you want to try the grocery pickup through Walmart.com, here’s a link for $10 off your first order.) An extra $5 to save an hour or more of my time at the grocery store? SOLD. Also, an added benefit I didn’t expect is I’m actually saving money on groceries each month. I’m a whole lot less likely to make impulse purchases when I’m typing exactly what I want in the search bar. I don’t buy things we don’t need, and I’m not as tempted to buy junk.
Sunday routine: rest and prep
I take the day of rest God instituted in Genesis very serious (I’ve written about it before). Realization: the Creator of our world worked hard for six days and then took a break because He knew how necessary it was. Why in the world would I not need to do that too? If you want to argue about that day of rest (whatever day you want, I don’t think the point is a specific day but just a day…), think about what that says about your notion of self. You are literally saying through your actions you know better than God. That’s a dangerous choice to proclaim, so be careful.
For our family, Sunday is the day we get to linger in bed, eat a late breakfast, and just be lazy. We read books, do random things around the house, and play. I’ll prep food for the week or meal plan, not out of obligation, but because I sincerely like doing them. For years, we’ve attended church on Saturday evenings but our church recently stopped the Saturday services so now we go on Sunday nights. I really like not getting up on Sunday mornings and going to church. I don’t want to not go to church, but if I have an evening option, I’ll always pick that.
Sundays are for preparing for the week. We rest, we play, we do things to make our weekdays go smoother, we eat good food, we nap, we watch football. A day of rest isn’t hard for us, we’re a family of introverts who just like being at home. But I also think there is some discipline involved in it. Stopping, being quiet, and not looking for the next thing to do or see or attend are ways that lead to more awareness of what we need from ourselves and each other.
A few weeks ago, I was sitting on my bed reading a book. Harper crawled onto the bed with her own book and we snuggled together under a blanket to read next to each other. Soon she closed her book and her eyes, and she dozed off. I held my breath, sure she was faking. My kids haven’t napped for years. Both of them stopped napping at around their second birthdays, and I’m still not quite over the loss. But here she was, sleeping on a Sunday afternoon with me.
It felt too good to be true. It was our family at rest.
Get a therapist
Well that was a hard left in an otherwise lighthearted and helpful post. But seriously, do it. For me, the ultimate act of starting again, of focusing on getting better on all fronts, has been to find a good counselor and commit to counseling. I can’t even begin to describe how EVERYTHING IS CONNECTED. All of it. The wishes, the struggles, the hurts, the goals, the dreams, the relationships, the tendencies, the successes. We are complex people made by a complex God; bringing someone in to help us sort through all of it with the intention of healing and being better for ourselves and others is going to make 2018 better than past years. Healing is not something any of us can do on our own. If it was, we would have done it already.
Is that list overwhelming? I hope not. Let’s not pretend all of this happened overnight or even in the same month. These are small changes or commitments I’ve made over time that add up to big changes for my life. I also try to drink a big glass of water three times a day, but I felt I couldn’t make a whole paragraph about that exciting event. Just drink more water, it makes everything work better. Perhaps drink water while at your therapy appointment. That will set you up for the best year of your life. Guaranteed.