Plan the Year. Then the Month. Then the Week. Then the Day.

Finally I found time to envision what I wished this coming year will look like. It was easy, because I have a combination of interests at hand that clearly set the direction. And it was difficult because I have no clue whatsoever of what will happen in summer, when I will finish my studies and be released into the real world.

The Year in Visions

I took some time the other day, between the semesters, to work out goals that I want to achieve and habits I want to implement. I used this workbook. It helped me a lot to see the empty months in front of me and next to it my list with things that would be really nice to come true. All I had to do was transfer them from the to-do list into the months sections. Like that I will have a fixed time to get ready for action and make them happen.

The months in habits

A very good practice is to think of the habits I want to take to and work on only one per month. This is my month of writing. So as I get more and more used to jotting down 500 words first thing in the morning, other things which seem equally important have to wait in line. I will focus on fasting not before February and running will be picked up again in March. By that time, writing will have become a habit already that sticks with me.

The Week according to my Goals

It is nice to have it on paper. Like that I can always review everything, and I should, especially when I plan my week. I will remind myself of what I wanted  to happen this year. I will review the monthly steps towards it. Then I can focus on what to do during the week, what to squeeze between my schedule, which outcomes to aspire.

The Day on the Way to Completion

Often I even line out my day, according to what I need to accomplish during the week. It is really comfortable because I have actually already set things out for myself. And since I spread things over the whole year, nothing is overwhelming.

Four very important Things…

…to keep in mind while doing the planning are these:

ONE

You will not be able to finish everything. Things usually take longer than expected, and even if you put in enough buffer time, some tasks will definitely remain unfinished.  But as I  keep that in mind from the beginning, I cannot be too disappointed in the end.

TWO

The more important something is, the earlier it should be done. I am typing this before seven o’clock in the morning, just because it is a priority of mine. In that way, I will experience the great feeling of having something accomplished even before breakfast. I also know that by four in the afternoon, I might already have used a lot my of power and brain and will be able to check mails or clean the room, but maybe not write an article for university.

THREE

Luckily, life holds a lot of surprises, and something extra will always pop up. These things are chances to be embraced. Interruptions can be very inspiring, if we take them positively.

FOUR

Do not try to make up for what you missed doing yesterday. This will put you in an endless continuation of catching up. Yesterday was yesterday. Today we can start afresh, from zero, giving the best we can.

And then: Change it!

With all the benefits of planning, the number one principle is to be flexible. Nobody else but I myself made these rules and plans, so I am the one to change them, too, when they become too overwhelming or if something unexpected happens. That is why I usually plan with a pencil, not a pen.

Advice to my Sister: Mindset for a better Life

The big little sister is amazingly inspiring, especially when it comes to her health resolutions. After making some material changes in my own life recently I discovered that a lifestyle that feels more good does not stop with things, but involves and actually affects your mindset, too.

Better Person

The big little sister talked about becoming a better person. She feels the same urge like me. I went through a certain process, looking for inspiration. Becoming better is continuous. Being aware is the first step.

I started with the living better daily scorecard from possibilityoftoday.com. (Scroll down to find the scorecard and instructions.) It is a list of things you want to accomplish, for example to have a good mindset, to be productive, or to be helpful and supportive. In the end of every day you credit yourself with points and see what you have to work on. I quickly developed my own chart and crediting system. I had weekly overviews where I simply marked whether I had accomplished a dairy free day or a good deed. After a while some basic rules developed out of this. Some are very concrete, like “Don’t multitask on the Internet.” or “Avoid plastic.” Others are more metaphysical like “Let go. This shall pass.” or “Gratitude & calmness & trust & quietness.” I hung them on the wall.

Next to the piece of paper that shows how often per week I want to run and write and read and do good. Whenever I’ve done it for one day, I push the paper clip one step ahead. Of course I try to reach the last marker every week.

Magic Habits

What I learned from one of my favourite blogs, zenhabits.net, is the power of habits. The secret is to start very very small but regularly, and then increase. If you want to write a book, write a sentence each day for a while, then increase to a paragraph, then to a page. After some months, writing will be a habit that does not take much effort anymore. It will take long until that book is finished, but it will not be as hard and impossible as it looked like in the beginning.

I will implement my new year’s resolutions one per month. This month I want to start blogging twice instead of once per week and handwrite more. Baby steps, but I hope they will stick. In February I want to start fasting once per week. In March the marathon training starts. And so on. In the end of the year, I hopefully will have developed twelve new habits.

Comfort Zone

To achieve these habits and make them a daily routine, I have to get out of the comfort zone regularly. But that is the only way to develop. That is how I get assignments done for which we have to collect people’s opinion on the street (very uncomfortable!). That is also how I found out that it is not that hard to relinquish cheese and yoghurt (at first a very uncomfortable prospect!). That is how I learned to enjoy the early morning hour of writing instead of dozing.

Life Purpose

For all that it helps to know what you are doing it for. Having a goal or an idea where you want to be and what you want to do after some time can give you lots of motivation. There are these lists and questionnaires you can fill out that promise you a system to find your life purpose. But sitting down and thinking or exploring new things or tavelling or talking and working with people or even dreaming might as well do the job. And I guess, no I am sure that NOT having a life purpose or the one direction is just as fine. Life does funny things at times, anyway.

The Rhythm

Now that I plan my days and weeks and months, tick my deeds and credit my mindset – it happens often enough that I throw all those plans overboard and just do something completely else which does not fit in the schedule and will put me two miles back – but makes me happy. When a friend invited me for lunch: I ate a big egg and cheese pie during my vegan time instead of being picky. When I had planned to be productive and get done with all assignments before uni starts again: I went to a music festival instead of sitting at home. When I wanted to tidy up my room to start afresh the next day: I watched a beautiful movie. When your plans are somewhat picking on you: follow your rhythm. Under my basic rules I wrote after a while: “These rules are made by myself. I can adjust them.” It is good to remind myself of that.

Admit Imperfection

As I do all the above things, I fail daily. I am not able to accept some people in my environment the way they are. I always find myself feeling superior. I still eat a lot of chocolate and dairy products although I am trying to be vegan and healthier. I still do not take as much time as I would need for reading all I want. But I am trying and learning and improving. And I am aware that I am not perfect and never will be. Being aware of that is the first step on the way to improvement.

Advice to my Sister: Ways for a better Life

I started the new year in a very productive manner. With the big little sister I have been thinking a bit about a healthier diet, a better way of life and of being a better person altogether. Just in time for some new year’s resolutions. More than a year ago, I went through a process of developing habits and routines to spend my days in a fulfilling way. To save you time and give you an idea, this post is for you, big little sister!

Less Stuff

I am very interested in simplicity and minimalism. Reducing stuff makes your life lighter. I love the three boxes system: In one box you put stuff you definitely can get rid of – and then you actually GET rid of it. In the second one you put things you definitely want to keep. In the third one you put stuff you are not sure about. If it stays there longer than, say, six months without being used, out it goes! Monthly lists, inspiration and tips are well provided by slowyourhome.com for example. I also replaced cosmetics by household recipes and accepted the idea of even letting go of books! And that is a big accomplishment, if you know my frenetic relationship to books.

More Organisation

After slowly getting rid of material ballast it was time to declutter the day, too. Nowadays I spend most of the days with a feeling of using my time well. I organize myself, sometimes with the help of the schedule from storylineblog.com. One thing I learned from midwaysimplicity.com: Make Three-Things-To-Do-Lists! Don’t put more on your daily plate. In that way you will be able to accomplish all the three tasks and feel great about it instead of being constantly disappointed.

Tight Finances

I also started to keep a budget, inspired by livinglagom.com. It is amazing to actually see what you spend. It helps a lot to make rational saving decisions and to enjoy spending money for stuff you really need. A good hint as well: Delay your purchases. If I think I need something, I wait at least three days before I buy it. Often enough I find great alternatives and ways to avoid the purchase altogether.

I also go food rescuing. (And since the big little sister knows what it means and since I am planning to dwell on this topic in another post, I only wanted to mention it here.) It saves me money big time! As well as eating the left-overs from my prodigal flat mates.

Healthier Life

A year ago I just started running. I try to keep this habit up, once or twice per week. The big goal to run half a marathon in the spring is a great motivation. I get a lot of adrenalin or whatever it is running through my blood. It makes me feel good, whenever I make more kilometers than before. Actually whenever I run and I feel that my breath is not exhausted. That is so amazing!

Since I am a vegetarian already, I gave the vegan lifestyle a try, for forty days before Christmas with some exceptions. It worked and I will keep scaling down my consumption of animal products. Eggs and milk are out for a long time already, yoghurt and cheese might be the hardest. Later in the year I am planning to introduce one day per week where I do not eat anything after 3 or 4pm. A doctor once suggested it for me and I see the sense in it. By drinking a lot, all unnecessary stuff will be extracted from the body because it will not be occupied with digesting any dinner.

Not to forget: health checks at the doctor, concerning my eyes and teeth in particular, are high priorities for these first months in the new year!

On blogging

I started this blog more than one and a half years ago, in my mother tongue, but I had had others before. It was definitely a literary exercise for me, something that forced me to produce some writing every Friday. By that time I was preparing for studying abroad. So it would also be a platform for reflections on my year abroad.

There is a gap where I did not blog for a while, shortly before the flight, but once I had arrived I picked up the habit again. By that time I was reading a lot about minimalism for one, and freelance blogging on the other hand. This caused the language switch to English, and I made the blog a little bit more public on social media.

There are people who give really good hints on their blogs about blogging: That you should give the reader helpful tips. That you should keep it simple and clear but also personal. That you should build a community with other bloggers and readers by commenting and linking. That you should provide  newsletters and rss to keep readers coming back. And that you should have a little extra e-book or video tutorial to attract subscribtion or even payment. That’s why most of the posts in these blogs sounded like: “The ten simple steps I followed to create my succesfull blog – Subscribe for free video lessons!”

I realized they are using exactly the strategics they are talking about. It made me feel like “another one of those people who fell for my trick to keep them reading my blog”. The minimalists were often those inspirational motivation coaches who wanted to unveal my life purpose to me in five simple steps with a questionair. Well, I stopped reading them soon. But I still stick to some blogs that I found while reading about minimalism and blogging. One of them is zenhabits.net.

In its posts I find tips and steps and all that, and I can subscribe for a monthly coaching program, but I still read in between the lines that this guy first of all writes for the sake of writing and that’s what I like because I do the same.

On another note it is a great help to prepare my fourty vegan days before Christmas. Maybe a funny combination, but from next week on I will be dairy and — video free until Christmas. Vimeo and Youtube have recently been stealing my time, so I will reclaim it. Dairy always seemed to be impossible to do without, but as it was written in a recent post at zenhabits: “the resistance comes when we imagine the loss, not when we actually experience the loss.”