Yearly Theme Update & How I’m using Streaks to Stay on Track

If hindsight is 2020, maybe 2020 wasn’t the best year to pick health as my yearly theme. Nevertheless, here we are.

I’m nearing my 4th month of working from home due to the pandemic, and the biggest lesson I’ve learned during those 4 months is just how easy it is to slip out of a routine.

Skipping things I didn’t pay much attention to, like my afternoon walk, now suddenly have an incredible power to spiral my default behavior right back to sitting on the couch if I’m not careful. At the same time, I’m also being mindful that it’s okay that I’m not performing at the levels I normally would. These, after all, are not normal times, and giving myself a break is necessary at times.

With that being said, my intention for this year was and still is to focus on my health. I’ve just had to readjust my expectations to effectively fight the gravitational pull towards my couch. For that, I’ve been taking a page out of the ideas in James Clear’s Atomic Habits and BJ Fogg’s Tiny Habits and accepting that doing something regularly, even if it’s small, is better than doing nothing at all.

I’ve been using a combination of Apple’s Activity app and Streaks to set my goals. Using the Activity app’s trends tab, I set my goal to be only slightly above my average. If the app says I’m getting about 9 minutes of exercise a day, I’ll set my goal to 10.

Right now I have goals set in Streaks for “Move” calories, walking distance, stand hours, exercise, sleep, and meditation. Streaks syncs with Apple Health as well so the actual effort of tracking my goals is minimal, and because the goals themselves are only slightly more than what I usually do in a day, I’ve actually been meeting the goals almost every day. In fact, most days, I exceed them. Contrast this to a few weeks ago, when the idea of meeting any of them let alone all of them seemed out of reach – this is a win in my book.

Because I’m going off of the average trend, the goals feel achievable even on my worst days. More importantly, as the trend goes up, I’ve been incrementally increasing the goals (albeit slowly), which much to my surprise hasn’t felt as onerous as it had in the past.

Maybe, by the end of the year, I’ll be back up to where I’d hope to be, but for now, making progress a little at a time feels good. And feeling good is something we could all use a little more of right now.

One Word for 2020

Each year I try to set a one word “theme” for the year. It’s not a goal, but more of a guiding principle to keep in mind.

Another yearly tradition I try to do is recap the previous year and post the current year’s focus to the blog. In my mind, this is something I do every year, but in looking over my past blog posts, it seems to be less of an actual tradition than I thought. Whoops! (Note to self: Add “Post Yearly Theme Post” task to Things)

So since I didn’t post my theme for last year, I guess I’ll start my 2019 recap by sharing that it was “Intention.”

I had started feeling as though I was just blowing where ever the wind (or people in my life, rather) wanted to take me. As a type-A person, the added spontaneity was initially a breath of fresh air, but over time, my days became increasingly dictated by what other people wanted to do. As a result, I lost any sense of where I was heading. I figured that by being intentional, I’d regain some sort of control and hopefully find some sort of direction in the process.

In hindsight, I think a better name for the year’s focus would have been “boundaries”. It took the better part of the year for me to realize that I was blowing wherever the wind took me because I’d failed to set boundaries. While it seemed easier to go along with what other people want to do, I was losing my own life in exchange for everyone else’s in the process.

If I could pick the most significant takeaway from 2019, it’d be relearning how to “take up space” (as my therapist calls it) in my life again.

I started really thinking about things like:

  • What do I want in life?
  • What do I need?
  • What things am I only doing because other people wanted me to do them?

I still don’t have entirely clear answers on them, but I am learning to be honest with myself and others about what I will and won’t spend time on. This has meant saying no to more things, accepting that not everyone will be okay with my decisions, and most importantly reminding myself that saying no isn’t selfish or rude.

An unintended consequence becoming more comfortable with what I want in life is that I may have indulged myself a little too much towards the latter half of the year. I’d set a well-meaning intention to relax after a long week, but I’d do so by spending the day on the couch mindlessly shopping, snacking, and watching YouTube followed by going out for drinks and binging on mozzarella sticks and nachos while doing so only to feel awful the next day. Comparing my couch-potato tendencies to that of my significant other, who often spends his days playing hockey and ordering salads whenever we go out, only left me feeling more and more sorry for myself.

It was so obvious I needed to start exercising again and start eating better foods, but I’d reached a point where I felt too tired to do either. Instead, I spent more and more time on the couch feeling sorry for myself. By the end of the year, I’d stopped working out entirely and spent the bulk of my 2-week break on the couch.

So with that in mind, my focus for 2020 is health – both physical and mental.

I realize health is a pretty generic theme. Everyone wants to lose weight, go to the gym, eat better, and meditate more in the new year. It’s probably the most cliche theme I could pick, but considering where I ended 2019, I didn’t see any other option.

This year I’m not setting resolutions or goals to work out x number of days or lose a set amount of weight.

I’m simply asking myself, “What would a healthy person do?” whenever I find myself feeling resentful about my behaviors.

Would a healthy person watch YouTube on the couch all day?

Probably not.

But I’m also way too addicted to Gourmet Eats at this point to give up watching it completely. I could swap sitting on the couch for watching it while on my spin bike instead though.

Would a healthy person eat pizza rolls for dinner 5 days a week?

Probably not.

But I’m also generally exhausted after work. Expecting a gourmet meal every night isn’t realistic, but I can stock my kitchen with healthier options.

I usually wrap up my yearly focus posts by listing my specific goals for the year, but as I’ve already said, I’m not doing that this year. In fact, as I’ve gotten better at using my yearly focus to guide my decisions, I’ve been reducing the number of goals I set over the years.

There are a few I still do set like a yearly reading goal, and I obviously can’t ignore my work-related goals set by my supervisor. Aside from that, however, I’ve only set one goal for 2020.

For those of you who follow me on Instagram, you may have spotted a hint already in a post from the summer, but I haven’t actually shared anything on this blog yet mainly because I try to keep my private life private.

In any event, my better half proposed last summer, so that’s my one and only goal for this new year – to get married.

Do you set goals or a yearly theme for the year? If so, I’d love to hear what yours are!

One Word for 2018

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Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash

Like most everyone else, January is my time of thinking ahead for the year. I typically take off either the week before Christmas or the week after New Years to reflect, regroup and plan out the upcoming year. It’s a tradition I look forward to more and more every year.

Looking back over 2017, it was a crazy year that far beyond anything I could have planned. My word for 2017 was “acceptance,” and I hoped to get better at accepting all the things in my life I simply can’t change. Mindfulness played a big part, and in many ways, I’d say my year of acceptance was a success. Fewer things trigger my anxiety, but it’s still definitely a work in progress.

For 2018, my one word is “slow.”

Mindfulness has allowed me to notice that a great deal of my stress is simply due to my tendency to rush from one thing to another. Rushing leads me to feel as though I’m barely treading water, and it’s downright exhausting.

My year of slow will be focused on being present and intentional in the things I do. That means more paying attention to how I feel throughout the day, more focused attention on what I want to accomplish, and taking some time to enjoy all the incredible things I actually get to do.

Now, onto being present in the rest of my day.

 

One Word for 2015

One Word 2015 BannerLast year’s big thing around the new year was everyone’s “one word”. Mine happened to be “simplify“. I’d say I did an okay job. I simplified a lot of things: my make up routine, my computer, my organization systems, etc. The whole “one word” concept was something that really resonated with me, so when the new year rolled around, I knew it was something I wanted to continue.

But that begged the question, “What on earth would my word be?” I loved “simplify”, but that was last year’s word. I obviously had to pick something else.So I thought about it and came up with one I like… drumroll please…

My one word for 2015 is…

fresh

2014 definitely ended in a way that shook things up for me. If there’s one thing I learned from it all, it’s that I need a fresh start – a fresh outlook on everything whether it be relationships, my work, or where I’m going in life. There’s nothing like getting a swift kick that forces you to realize you’ve been on auto-pilot for far too long heading in a direction you don’t want to go, and that’s where I’ve found myself.

I’m also hoping to apply fresh to other areas of my life. I want to be more open to fresh ideas and not so set in my ways. Going in a completely different direction, I also want to incorporate more fresh meals into my life. Living alone for these past couple months has definitely led me down a path of prepared foods and things that come out of a box, and I’d like to change that.

So here’s what I’m focusing on big-picture-wise for 2015:

  • I’m committed to becoming debt free as soon as possible. I’m blessed to not have any student loans or a car payment, but the $40/mo I pay in interest alone on my credit cards, in addition to the payments I’m making, would be much nicer in the bank. Based on my current payment plan, I should be debt free (minus the mortgage) by summer of 2016, just in time for my 26th birthday.
  • I absolutely need to figure out where my career is going. If I choose to stick with my current path, I need to reassess how to make it work for me. If I choose another path, I need to figure out what that path is.
  • I want to grow as a person. I cannot be on autopilot anymore, and that means doing things for me and finding out about myself.

Habit-wise, I’ve got a few things on the table too:

  • Journal daily – I’ve been trying to use Day One more, starting primarily as a gratitude journal where I record 3 things I’m grateful for each night before bed.
  • Drink more water – I am pretty sure I’ve been in a perpetual state of dehdryation for about 2 weeks now, and that absolutely needs to change. I’m aiming to drink half my bodyweight in ounces each day.
  • The last is more of a collection of habits related to health including taking the recommended number of steps per day (which I fail at pretty regularly), taking breaks from sitting in front of a computer all day, etc. I jumped on the quantified self bandwagon as soon as fitness trackers came out, yet I’ve never done much with them, and I hope to change that this year.

Well there you have it folks, my one word for 2015, and what I’m focusing on this year.

Here’s to a great 2015.

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2014 Goals

Last year, I wrote out a ton of goals and lost them. Somehow I managed to do a pretty good job at completing most of them though.

This year, I went with a different approach.

For 2014, I decided to have 1 main focus and a few goals.

2014’s focus will be to

simplify

how I do things.

what I buy.

what I already have.

You get the idea.

Goal wise, the plan is to do the following:

  • Read 52 books
  • Identify {and do} 3 tasks each day
  • Exercise at least 3x a week
  • Drink 56 oz. of water a day
  • Run a 5K
  • Purchase my bedroom furniture
  • Connect with people and actually go out and live a little
  • and last but not least, not neglect this blog as I have been doing.

Happy New Year! Thank you all for reading! Here’s to making 2014 even better than the last!

Update: Apparently the trend this year is having one word to focus on for this year. I had no idea when I wrote this post, but apparently I’m going along with the trend.

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