Last January, I wrote that I wasn’t going to make any New Year’s Resolutions for 2018. Instead of trying to make sweeping changes to my life when I was already quite happy, I decided to “set a few specific goals and a few more ambiguous plans for the year.” And one year later, I’m delighted to report back to you that my year of no resolutions was productive, exciting and unpredictable—all in the best sense possible.
I wrote a first draft of this blog post all about why I enjoyed setting goals for the year, but I didn’t actually go into detail about what any of those goals were. As I reflected on the post, I realized it would be more interesting to write about the things that made my 2018 great. So here are some of the goals and pieces of advice that I’ll be carrying into 2019.
Journal every day
If you’ve read any of my blog posts you probably know that I love writing, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that I actually have two journals that I try to write in daily. The key word here is try: if I’m really busy with school and work, I sometimes don’t get a chance to write. I do find, though, that when I take a break to journal, I feel refreshed and refocused afterwards.
My first journal is just a place where I write about my day—I’ll sometimes add little doodles or write out lyrics from a song that’s stuck in my head. My second journal is a five year journal: each day, I’m prompted to answer a question, and then the next year I write a different response to the same question. I got this journal for Christmas last year, and I was so excited because university, in my opinion, is a perfect time in my life to capture differences between years. I can’t wait to start comparing my answers from 2018 to 2019.
Stay organized and plan ahead
As a student involved in on-campus publications and freelance work, staying organized is essential. I buy a new planner every December in preparation for the upcoming year. It should be a fun process—there are so many colours and designs to choose from!—but I honestly find it kind of stressful. I have a long list of criteria that I look for in a planner, from the way the pages are laid out (one page with a space for each day, and one page for a week-long to-do list) to the size and shape of the planner (something spiral-bound that’s large enough to write in, but small enough to fit in my backpack or purse).
I’m sure at some point in my life I’ll try bullet journaling so I can design my own weekly layouts, but for now I’ve found a planner I love and will continue to buy and use. Using my planner helps me keep track of classes, deadlines, short-term and long-term goals, and even little daily reminders like writing in my journals or what groceries I need to buy.
In the spirit of planning ahead, this fall I also started meal prepping. I bought five glass containers and got into the routine of cooking and freezing meals on Sunday afternoons. The first week I prepared my meals ahead of time, I immediately noticed that it made my life easier. It was so convenient to grab a container from my freezer, put it in a bag with an ice pack and fork and carry on to class or the office, knowing I already had my lunch or dinner with me.
Accept help when it’s offered
When I first started meal prepping, my mom made my first set of meals for me. I was at home for the weekend and felt overwhelmed with work. I was incredibly grateful that she took the time to make my meals, which saved me so much time not only on the weekend but during the week as well. I think that we can sometimes internalize the idea that we have to do everything on our own, but that’s not at all true. This year I really learned that I’m lucky to have supportive people in my life, and I shouldn’t feel bad about accepting help when it’s offered to me.
Create a signature, upbeat playlist
My younger sister is, among other things, a Spotify wizard. She’s always making new playlists and keeping up with the custom ones that Spotify curates based on her music preferences. Me? Once I find a song or album I like, I play it on repeat and don’t look for any other new music. At one point this year, my sister pointed out that she noticed I always listen to my “Happy songs” playlist on Spotify.
I laughed because it’s true—what started off as a playlist of a few songs that bring a smile to my face has grown into one of my favourite ways to bring a little extra joy to my day. I listen to the playlist when I’m getting ready in the morning, or when I’m doing work but wish I was dancing around my room. I’m actually listening to it right now. Here are a few uplifting songs I added to the playlist in 2018: “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves, “On Top Of The World” by Imagine Dragons and “I Believe In You” by Michael Bublé.
Turn off phone notifications
I think I first did this in 2017, but it’s a small thing I came to really appreciate this year. I’ve disabled notifications for almost every app on my phone except texts, Facebook messages and Slack messages (in case there’s something important at work). This means that for most apps, I won’t get the notification unless I click on the app itself—so my phone screen isn’t constantly lighting up with notifications about friends’ birthdays or who liked whose tweet.
One of the best parts of this was turning off email notifications. I switch between several email accounts on my phone, and most of them either relate to school or work in some form. By making it so I have to check the app to see my emails, I reduced the stress of suddenly seeing a work email when I’m trying to relax. I do check certain accounts often to ensure I’m not missing anything important—but it’s refreshing to know that I’m seeing the emails because I want to be checking the account, not because they’re popping up at any given time.
As I’ve been reflecting on 2018 as a whole—both in my journals and in talking with friends—I’ve come to realize that so much has happened in the year. This is both because things simply happened, but also because there are several things that I made happen. In 2018, I relaunched this blog with a new design, worked at a local nonprofit, got a job at my campus newspaper, oversaw the publications of two issues of a feminist magazine on campus and wrote a lot of articles that I’m really proud of.
There were several times during the year when I felt unsure of what I was doing—but with the support of family and friends, I pushed myself to do the things I wasn’t sure I was ready to do. The mindset of taking (calculated) risks and working hard to make goals happen is something that I’m looking forward to carrying into 2019.
All in all, I’m grateful for the experiences I had in 2018, and I’m so excited for all of the writing, learning, laughing and travelling that awaits in the new year. Bring on 2019!