Back at the end of 2017 as I struggled to unravel my year and look ahead to 2018, it occurred to me that in many ways I was still reeling from the multiple bereavements that took place in late 2017. Prior, my Mum had been critically ill in the spring of 2017, and I had gone through the break-up of a long-term relationship back in December 2016. There were also a couple of house moves in there as I recall… I suffered a further bereavement in the spring of 2018, so all in all, it was a rocky time, and there hadn’t been much opportunity to stand firm on two feet and take stock.
In order to look back meaningfully on a period of time in one’s life -a year will certainly do- and to look ahead meaningfully to the future, I believe it helps enormously if we are standing on solid ground. That’s something I never particularly felt like I had, even when life was simpler in many ways. One symptom I experience is what they call an unstable sense of self. This makes three things very difficult:
- Knowing who you are.
- Knowing what you want.
- Trusting your own judgement re: the above (and most other stuff too).
For me that’s manifested as a lot of instability over the years. I’ve quite lost track of all my jobs and house moves. One removal company I used for the last decade-ish would joke every time we parted ways: “see you in a year or two!“. They usually did.
One constant over the last two years has been N who somehow (?) continues to tolerate me. My life during this period has otherwise often been a hideous whirlwind of stress and grief and complexity and upheaval, so being able to relinquish the wheel every now and then and tentatively lean on someone else has undoubtedly been the small patch of solid ground I’ve needed to keep from descending entirely into a pit of despair and madness. I find it very hard to trust other people with my happiness; sure, too much of that is unhealthy, but a healthy compromise can be just right.
I guess my point is that this solid ground is pretty new to me. Sometimes I wonder how it must feel to take this for granted (which, by the way, is how it should be). I feel conflicted in many ways as we humans should, ideally, know our own minds and our own ambitions and feelings and goals regardless of other humans. I know life is more complicated than that; but in much the same way that other humans can impact our own lives and experiences negatively, the more splendid humans can definitely impact our own lives positively. The absolute best is when your favourite human(s) are the ones to encourage you to do your own thing, and give you the space to do your own thing.
So, that aside, I suppose that as the metaphorical dust settles a little in the wake of life’s recent curveballs, I’m starting to wonder both what the future might hold, and how I might take active steps to achieve future goals. And in considering this philosophical quandary, I decided that the sensible first step is to declutter and simplify one’s life. To remove a little of the noise. And to clear the slate enough to have a good think about what comes next.
Photo credit https://unsplash.com/@dsmacinnes
Here I’m going to describe some of the steps I have taken and plan to take to achieve this relative sense of calm and stability. I’m sure they won’t be suitable for everyone, but you can feel free to pick and choose those that might serve you during the year ahead.
1. Digital declutter
For me, this first step occurred around Black Friday, when every single seller/retailer I’d ever used crawled out of the woodwork and started sending marketing emails to me. I suddenly realised how little I paid attention to 95% of the emails I received because I received so darn many. This resulted in a strange email anxiety situation wherein I felt a nagging guilt about not reading the emails that I actually wanted to read and so never actually read or digested or acted on them (e.g. mailing lists I care about, online course-related emails).
At this time, I made a little deal with myself. I decided to hit “unsubscribe” for virtually every email I received from then on. If the email was from a retailer or seller that I wanted to keep one eye on, I made sure I was following on social media. I did this process manually one at a time, but you could use Unroll.me to create a daily digest or just to siphon off the emails you aren’t interested in so you don’t get that dreaded inbox anxiety.
Photo credit https://unsplash.com/@glenncarstenspeters
The next step for a more peaceful digital existence, and to remove much of the time-suck that stems from social media notifications, I did two things on my iPhone: first, I enabled the ‘remove unused apps’ setting, and; second, I disabled virtually all notifications. YES, I KNOW THIS MIGHT SEEM SCARY. I even removed the little wee badges from the app icons. And I then allocated dedicated social-media-checking times. It turned out that 80% of the notifications I received were utter nonsense that I could manage without seeing the very second they appeared. I also remember the 1990s and I can tell you that it’s possible to sever the digital umbilical for many hours and survive it. And this also lays the groundwork for subsequent steps in this post.
More digital declutter resources:
- Account killer – Simple and straightforward guides to shutting down unwanted accounts.
- Feedly – Focus your daily/weekly blog or news reading into one place. Take some time to add your subscriptions and sort them into categories.
- A Minimalist’s Guide to Using Twitter Simply, Productively, and Funly.
- Ultimate Digital Decluttering Calendar and Checklist
2. Unravel 2018
Looking back over the 12 months behind you can be a useful exercise when planning the coming 12 months. I have two super options for you here – one is free and focuses a wee bit more on the ~magic of setting intentions. The other is by the lovely folks at CrazyCreativeCool, is only £1.99, and is rooted in their pillars of mental wellness: gratitude, tracking, and self-reflection.
Treat yourself to a quiet couple of hours to complete the exercise! Head out to a coffee shop or library and focus on it entirely. This time next year you can pull it out and compare how your 2019 actually worked out.
Edited to add!
- The Year Compass (free)
3. Pick your 2019 project(s)
Once you’ve resolved to have a thorough digital declutter (and my physical decluttering post -or Unfuck Your Life Pt3– will follow shortly) you should find that the decks are clear for focusing on the one or two (or three) things that you want to focus on in 2019.
Having a project is super helpful to focus your time and attention. Some examples are:
- Improving skills
- Investing in your mental wellness
- Changing your job/career.
- Saving money for a specific big purchase (e.g. holiday, house).
- Getting debt-free (my top-tip: contact a charity like StepChange who can guide you through the whole process and take into account any mental health issues or worries!)
- Home improvements.
- Take up a new craft
You could allocate time daily, weekly, or monthly to practising new skills or hobbies, or learning new stuff, or completing smaller goals that contribute to your larger goal(s).
The most important thing: don’t overwhelm yourself and set sights too high! Be realistic, and if that means just one or two modest goals, then that’s absolutely a-ok. If your list is too long, or if you’re tempted to begin brand-new projects mid-year, maybe keep a list of those at one side for 2020.
🏅 Need some help setting goals that work for you? Check out CrazyCreativeCool’s G.E.N.T.L.E. Goals Method Workbook and habit tracker 🧡
Photo credit https://unsplash.com/@daria_shevtsova
4. Track your progress
Bullet Journals may seem a little dated as we step into 2019, but I’ve used mine fairly consistently through 2018 and I’m very fond of it. It comes with me everywhere and I use it less to track events and dates as I do to write mini journals, get a little creative, or plan out projects/blog posts/lists/trips/etc. At its core a Bullet Journal is simply a notebook and a pen and your own intention to get the best use from it for you. I’ve written previously about how I use mine to track my thoughts and progress through therapy and a bit of an intro guide here.
Personally, in 2019 I plan to use tabs within my (SUPER LOVELY VEGAN FRIENDLY) Dingbats Notebook to track my progress through the three projects of my own for 2019 (two online courses and some DBT resources) as well as some other bits and bobs.
If you’re the creative type, check out these inspirational/arty folks:
If you’re the minimal/not up for watercolouring type you might enjoy using printables. Personally, I love those offered by EmmaStudies. Emma has free templates and also more detailed paid templates in her Etsy store.
I hope that on this Christmas Eve Eve you now have some inspiration for planning your 2019. I think one of my key goals is to adopt a ‘fake it til you make it’ attitude to more positive thinking; this doesn’t come naturally to a misanthrope like me, but I’m willing to give it a go.
I’ll finish with this Instagram post I made yesterday when I asked what (metaphorical) planting folks would be doing for the coming year. How about you, friends? What will you plant in 2019?
Post header image credit https://unsplash.com/@tjholowaychuk