The Art of Crafting A Year - Hello 2015

Sometimes I wonder....

Do I live well?

Do I love well?

This week I took care of a lot of people. I hope I did it well.

There are a lot of others I did not take care of...well, or at all.

A year ago I was starting the year off in Haiti...taking care of myself and others. Loving others. Selfishly wanting to see if a little boy missed me. Wanting to learn how to love well and live well. Knowing something was missing...a lot of things were missing.

A year later there is no Haiti trip to kick off the year. In its place is a month of restoration for me. Though life often gets in the ways of my plans...10 days in there has already been birth, two lives at risk, new ventures, a shattered relationship, broken plans, changes, new dreams, new schedules, restoration, and again...we are just 10 days in.

The. Scale.

The one I use to determine if my life is out of balance again...or still. *Deep Breath*

It got out of whack in 2014...again. I wouldn't change a thing though....I loved 2014. LOVED. I needed to learn that the things I love can get out of balance just like the things I loathe. Good lesson for this girl. (Shhh....I am a slow learner sometimes.)

Some in my tribe have asked that I write about the way I am planning out my 2015. It is a combination of things I have done since the age of 9 (some of which were done as self-preservation) and others I have learned through multiple time management courses (love me some Franklin Covey) and still others I simply stole. No ego here. Swiped. Them.

So because I am still a very private person (hard to tell that here huh?!?! :))), I am not going to take pictures of my journal pages and post here. Sorry. I am not that brave. LOL :)))

I will though walk you through my process and share some examples...for my planaholic friends...Enjoy.

First things first....Environment.

Do not attempt to start a process like this at a crowded office or house or anywhere that has distractions that would keep YOU from focusing on the task at hand. For me, the perfect environment changes from year-to-year and for some reason this year it ended up in a little place I love to have brunch at every now and was noisy, but I was in my own little world...a great meal, a great atmosphere, a little booth (this girls loves her a good booth) comfy clothes, a mimosa, a bag of different colored Paper Mates, and a Moleskine....I had a moment(s).

Now the work...

I start with one page titled Goals - This is simply a brain-dump of whatever comes to mind. I tend to sit there and let my mind/heart/soul go crazy and just write everything that comes to the surface. Sometimes it is crazy stuff, but most of the time it is worries/stressors...things that are really weighing on me...that is the good stuff. Those are the things you want to get out there and figure out a way to address (Hint: sip the mimosa while you write.). I ended up with only one page this year (unusual) and only four items on the list. I found that extremely telling for me....especially when one of them came completely out of left field and another (which I will share)...finish my purge (this will be year three) and get it done this year once and for all...spoke to one of my last, great worries/stressors that only a handful know about so it is a silent stress (those are the worst). It was the first on my list too (somebody has been really worrying about this one...Clearly.).

I then break out my Months - {I know. I know. You are thinking this is really brilliant; she should write a book! (Don't be sassy.)} I list them out with spaces between each month and then I whip out my calendar (if I don't have it memorized) and look at what I have for the year. These are the biggies. The non-negotiable calendar items that I will plan my life around for the next 12 months. This is seriously the BIGGEST takeaway for me from 2014. I packed 12 months worth of activities into a 6-8 week span in the fall of 2014 and it quite literally nearly took me out (I loved every second of it, but yes, it left me SPENT). honor of my new best friend Lysa TerKeurst and her latest book "The Best Yes" (link to website), I am committed to acknowledging that there are many truly GOOD things to say yes too in this world, BUT that does not mean that I should say yes to all of them. Holy. Cow. (my eyes just rolled back in my head) So...I am committing in 2015 to only be out of town (meaning major trip involving a plane or car trip for over 2-5 hours) once a month. I am also committed to being in my own home two weekends a month for the entire year with one exception (my nephew's senior football season). Every weekend in September through December 2015 is blocked out "Sam" so unless I can get to anywhere in the state of Arkansas where football is being played before kick-off (meaning I am singing the Start Spangled Banner before the game with my Sis), then don't ask answer is no. NO. I have a couple of trips already planned so those go down (i.e., IF:Austin). Then I have what my Sis and I call...if this doesn't happen this year we won't make it items....a trip to the beach and a trip to the mountains. I put those down. Those MUST happen so nothing else "major" will be happening in those two months. ;) I then write down a list of wants...a girls weekend with my friend Jenn (we have been lax on this), a trip to Nashville to visit with friends (I have been sorely lax here), another Girls Weekend with some of the girls from Camp Caudle, Haiti, and the real stretch (Ireland, Italy, I have been to and the other two I have boxes full of dreams about...someday. *Sigh*).

Reflect - Take this moment of uncomfortableness and use it for good. Look at your 2014 calendar side-by-side with your one page list of months for 2015 you just did above (which only includes the non-negotiable and biggies....we haven't begun to add the every day details, kids' activities, etc.). Now on a new page write, Loved, Both, Loathed side-by-side at the top of the sheet. Now look at 2014 and categorize the ways you spent your 2014 from trips, volunteer work, church, your job, activities, to general stuff (one of mine under loathed was driving (suddenly I no longer enjoy something I once dearly loved...age? Who knows. On the list.). Catalyst was in my loved category, and as you might (or maybe not) have guessed...I had quite a few things under "Both" as I had mixed feelings about a lot this past year.

I have to be honest. I wept and then prayed after this part. It was hard. I had to acknowledge (and this is just to myself) that there were things that I spent time on in 2014 that I didn't enjoy. Worse, I loathed them. It was also difficult to admit that there were things that I both loved and loathed so I needed to decide whether to scrap or try and hit refresh. Absolutely the toughest was the loathe though because there are conversations with others that have to take place...meaning I have to say, I can't do that again to someone I love/respect/admire. There are also a few hard conversations with myself that did/need to I have to do better at is causing me pain elsewhere OR I have to adjust my lifestyle because I am unhealthy or I don't need to drive at night because I don't feel safe (just to overshare....I scare myself driving at night now....the headlights and road work lights and darkness. I hate it. I loathe it. It scares me. I don't feel safe. That means (here is one example) I have to leave my Sis' house (2 (give or take) hours away) earlier than I want so I can get home before dark. It also means no more late night driving/road trips which I was sad about at first, but got over quickly. In the scheme of things...not that big of a deal.). This reflect portion is the hardest part of the whole thing, but it tees my heart and mind up perfectly before digging into the next steps. You are in a better space with which to make deeper choices. Again, we are talking about being deliberate about your LIFE spin on the merry-go-round and all of that. We all want to Make. It. Count.

Now it starts getting serious.

The Categories - I have used this process for YEARS where you break out the biggies: Physical, Financial, Spiritual, Relational, but Lysa adds Emotional, and then an Other. Well...ummmm....emotional might be a good one for someone like me (Gasp.) So, I write those out with the major sub-categories -

Physical: food, exercise, rest, medical care
Financial: earnings, giving, savings, spending, debt, margin
Emotional: contentment, healing, peace of mind
Spiritual: putting God first, time alone with God, prayer, study,
Relational: Sis, kids, extended family, friends, colleagues, neighbors

I personalize these (as you might have noticed), but I have a few more on mine, but did not include for privacy sake. This is the time though in your private journal to let it all hang out. Be intentional here.

So this is about the time that I start telling myself that I don't do resolutions, these are goals, a lifestyle. I have to then get out of my head (and subsequently out of my own way).

Now break those categories out (one to a page) and dig into each of those sub-categories. What are the specifics you want to do/accomplish/be on these? Again, be specific. What you will often find in this part is that you will start adding sub-categories (this is good; specific is good). I also find that if I put this down and come back to it in a couple of days (this year was about a week because I started it on December 20th and then went back to it on New Years Eve (yes on the cusp of a new year...I had a busy race to the finish and this was the earliest to pick it back up). It worked out SO well. When I go back, I always write in a different color which helps me to differentiate between what were my first thoughts and then what came after reflection (I am a nerd; I like this kind of thing.).

The Breather - This comes when you need to write, take a walk, or simply catch your breath. Planning is hard. To plan well, you must self-reflect, analyze, dream, and face some things about yourself. It is not for the faint of heart, and anyone that says it is easy is frankly not doing it well. Be mad at me; I am speaking the truth. Make the plan; work the plan.

The Calendar - This is when it really gets down to the truth of the matter, or where the rubber meets the road. Can this be done? I find that if I build all (or as much as humanly possible) of this into my calendar (that thing that tells me where to be and who to be with and for how long....Every. Day. Of. My. Life.) it will be done. If not in there, then it is nothing more than a children's fairy tale...and just as likely to become reality (at least for me). Also, once in there, when someone asks me to do something I am staring at a lot of good reasons why I must decline OR must say YES!  I also find that if I build time (read that as block it out on my calendar (I love me the "Private" button as I use my work calendar for EVERYTHING. I do not believe in using more than one calendar. Nobody has time for that.) that makes it real and more likely to get done (such as exercise, writing, spa day, brunch, small group, birthday weekends with the kids, pay bills, etc.). As insane as it might sound (and I know it does) it is as important for me to block out the small stuff as the big stuff because really to me, it is all big stuff. This is the quilt of my life, how I spend my days, and if I don't quilt it together will come together on its own (and that is when I over-commit myself and forget the "little" things that keep me healthy, balanced, etc.). I need this structure so that I can live my life unstructured. What do I mean by that? I can really relax when I am with family or at work and be more in the moment because I know that when I am here, there is already time to be there, so no guilt. Now....I am not perfect at this, but I am getting better. I spent five days over Christmas without e-mail this past year. Miracle. It is also telling those I am with that I am "all in" with them and focused on them or the task at hand. I see where I have let technology and a need to please everyone and be everywhere or always "available" to keep me from ever really BEING anywhere. Lessons I learned more and more with every trip to Haiti. I give that country all of the credit for helping me re-discover the beautiful simplicity of simply being in the moment.


There you have it. For those of you going no way....Yes. Way. :))))

I will say that the calendar portion takes me the a week. I give myself the first week of the year to get all of this stuff built into my calendar or in side notes (I also put some of it on post it notes on my bathroom mirror; my guests LOVE that.). I am also needing to counsel with partner, Sis, incorporating this takes coordinating with their schedules. It is NOT all about me. I am now giving myself until next weekend (January 17th) to complete this as this past week was not the "week of my dreams" though I am proud to say 75% of this is built and in my calendar. Take your want to get this right...remember though that if you get to February 1st and you don't have it done you are falling into a slippery slope....where the other people there are those that turn their Christmas tree into an Easter tree because they don't want to put the effort into taking it down ( is beautiful and you love it...that is what we all say...;))

I hope this helps you as you close out 2014 and start this new year. I now have the urge to take a on my list for 2015...incorporate more naps. I love them. :)))

I love these words...

I remain grateful for the gift of continuing to learn to be who I want to be, to live a life I am proud of, and to continue to start over when the path I am on no longer works for me or where I ultimately need to be. God is truly good as he has guided me through this difficult lesson. I remain a work-in-process...and lucky for me there is no age limit on that. ;)

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." ~ I Corinthians 2:9

Sunshine Dreams to You ~ Today and Every Day! :)