2016 Reflections: What worked and what didn’t

The space between Christmas and New Year’s puts me in the mood to close the door on the old year and make new and exciting goals for the next year. I know I’m not alone. 🙂 But for those goals to be effective, first I need to look back and reflect on the year that’s passed. I used a structured set of questions last year to help me think about each area of my life, but this year I simply asked myself the question what worked for me this past year, and what didn’t work? I brainstormed a two-column list and then used that as a jumping off point for making a few goals for 2017. Here are a few of the things that worked for me:

1. Using a bullet journal

I’ve always been a list maker and a hit-and-miss journaler, but I hadn’t used a paper planner since getting my first iPhone years ago. Still, when I read this post about bullet journaling I immediately thought this was something I could use. I started my first “bujo” in February and continue to use it pretty much every day. I experimented with lots of different monthly and weekly spreads, practiced fancy doodles and headers, wrote detailed journal entries, and created all sorts of “collections” (lists). But over the last couple of months I’ve really simplified my bullet journal to just include a monthly planner, habit tracker, and daily pages where I write my appointments and tasks I want to accomplish. I take a few minutes every evening right after we put the girls down to check things off my daily list, record my habit tracker, and add a couple items to my thankfulness list. Then I set up my tasks and events for the next day. I love having all my lists in one place, and though I still use a calendar app on my phone there’s something very appealing about a paper planner that I’m really love.

2. Making a capsule wardrobe for each season

Pairing my closet down to just the seasonally appropriate pieces that I really love and feel good wearing has been such a positive change for me. I’ve always been good about clearing closet clutter and getting rid of things I no longer wear, but I was terrible about buying more clothes, often in multiple colors, just because they were fun and on sale. It was like I had this idea that my wardrobe was disposable, and when I got tired of something I should just get rid of it and buy more. This irresponsible attitude coupled with a “need” for retail therapy and an ever-changing body size was a recipe for bad spending habits and a closet full of clothes I didn’t really like. No more. I’m finally realizing how few items of clothing I really need, and how one outfit I feel really great in beats a dozen so-so ensembles any day. In fact, this winter I’m making my capsule even smaller by attempting the Project 333 challenge. I’ll let you know how it goes! 🙂

3. Establishing a meaningful morning routine

For the passed four years, ever since I became a mama, I pretty much let my mornings be dictated by when the girls woke-up. It was a survival-mode tactic and perfectly acceptable while I had babies that were still waking up multiple times during the night. But now that both girls are in a fairly consistent sleep routine it’s time for me to be more intentional about how I start my day. As most people will tell you going from one child to two is a game changer, and the time I had for myself shrank to almost nothing. I realized that if I wanted to spend time alone with the Lord and fit in any kind of fitness routine I was going to have to wake up earlier. Yuck. But setting an alarm and getting up before the girls instead of waiting for C to come ask for her bowl of cereal has made such a difference in my mental outlook. I’m not going to lie, it’s still a struggle to get out of bed pretty much every morning, and the instinct to hit snooze is so strong. But when I get passed it I’m always so glad for those few moments to myself. I stumble to the bathroom, change into my workout gear, then curl up with the dog on the couch for a few minutes with my Bible, journal, and prayer. When my husband comes out of the bedroom we pick a workout routine from YouTube to stream to our TV. It’s never more than thirty minutes and some mornings it’s like pulling teeth, but what a great feeling to start they day by crossing “exercise” off the to-do list.

These are three habits I’ve picked up this passed year that I intend to carry into 2017. Now for the things that didn’t work so well for me:

1. Buying the girls’ clothes on clearance

On paper this seems like a great idea. I wait for the summer clothes to go on sale in August, then I buy everything C will need in the next size up. Then do the same when fall clothes go on sale after school starts, etc. The problem was I was letting the lure of a “good deal” trap me into buying way too many clothes. It’s so much easier for me to turn away from buying myself a new outfit, but almost impossible for me not to get an adorable dress that I know she’s look so cute in when it’s on sale. Then of course T needs a matching outfit, never mind the bins of hand-me-downs I’ve saved of C’s old clothes. As a result the girls’ closets are stuffed with super adorable outfits that they love but way more than they need. This is definitely an area that needs to change.

2. Too many off-plan cheats over the holidays

I’ve stayed on the Trim Healthy Mama eating plan since August of 2015. It’s a healthy way of eating that just makes sense for me and generally I don’t feel deprived. But during this holiday season I gave myself permission eat a few off-plan treats and indulge in a couple decadent meals. I learned the hard way that it’s a slippery slope back toward sugar and carbs, and before I knew it my “small” indulgences had made my clothes tighter and left me feeling bloated and uncomfortable. In fact on Christmas night I developed a horrible stomachache that nothing could remedy. It only left after I spent a whole day back on plan, eating sensible portions and saying no to even on-plan treats. Talk about a wake-up call! I’m all for the occasional treat, but I definitely took it too far these last few months. Hopefully I’ll remember this experience the next time I’m tempted by cinnamon rolls.

3. Trying to incorporate structured learning activities into our afternoons

When I wrote about our fall schedule I mentioned that I’d planned to spend time every afternoon leading Charlotte in some sort of learning activity. I filled a Pinterest board with ideas for “preschool at home” – letter sorting, name tracing, word sense, rhyming games, you name it. But when the rubber met the road I realized the last thing she or I needed was to do planned seat work while Little Bit napped. I dreaded even the thought of creating all those cute games and activities. So I didn’t. We read aloud and occasionally made a mess with her art supplies, but not once did I have her match an uppercase A to a lowercase one. And I’m ok with that.

In my next post I’ll lay out a few of the goals I’ve made for 2017. Most of them are either a refinement of something that worked, or a remedy to something that didn’t. Now it’s your turn. Ask yourself what worked and what didn’t, and if you want to share I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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