by Jordan DeWald
Picture it with me–you wake up one morning to see a fresh snowfall has blanketed your yard in white. This will take a little more imagination for us Texans. You stare out your window into the yard and street and all you can see is snow covered shapes. No footsteps have crossed the yard, sidewalks haven’t been shoveled, cars have yet to drive through it and the heat of the sun hasn’t altered the look. There is beauty in the simplicity of the sight and the world looks peaceful before movement and busyness mars the view.
Now take a look at your new 2020 calendar. Whether it is a fresh desk calendar, a new planner or a calendar with pictures on the wall, there is a moment when it isn’t cluttered. It is peaceful, like the snowy view before the acts of the day take over. The simple act of turning the page to the new year can reflect a fresh start. For a moment, the calendar is empty and you choose what goes on it.
What could a blank calendar mean for you? If you could shape the year to be whatever you want it to be, what would it look like? When you end the year next year, who do you want to look like? Take your pen in your hand and let’s plan the calendar to meet those goals.
Be Purposeful With What you Put on Your Calendar
There is a helpful practice in time management. Instead of saying “I don’t have time,” replace the words with “that isn’t a priority.” It changes “I don’t have time to work out” to “Working out isn’t a priority.” “I’d like to hone a skill I have but I don’t have time” becomes “Honing a skill just isn’t a priority right now.” Here is a hard one- “I’d like to spend more quality time with (my kids, my spouse, my friends, my parents) but I have something every night and I just don’t have time.” What is actually being said is “Spending time with (my kids, my spouse, my friends, my parents) is not a priority to me.” It also can be reversed. “I make time to have a meaningful conversation with my spouse” can be translated to be “It is a priority to have a meaningful conversation with my spouse.”
What you write on your metaphorical calendar is a statement of what is valuable of your time and energy, both physical and emotional. Before scheduling something, determine if it is worth being considered as a priority over other uses of your time. Fulfilling work responsibilities is a worthwhile use of your time but it is helpful to evaluate if there is a proper balance between it and other priorities. Also consider the emotional resources that are being used. Do the majority of the items on your calendar fulfill you and are found to be worthwhile, or do you have too many things that cause stress, dread or fatigue?
The practice of prioritizing time is not simply limiting things on your calendar. It is also putting things on the calendar to reflect what matters to you. It is very easy to schedule over something that isn’t written in. If you have a goal you would like to reach by the summertime, mark your calendar in a way that moves you toward achieving that goal. For example, that may look like scheduling an hour a week that is only to be spent on making steps towards that goal. If you don’t schedule in time, you are far less likely to find time. Treat that hour as if it were your job and don’t allow anything to keep you from that time.
Even if you can’t pinpoint a time, you can be purposeful about keeping time available. If you are simply wanting to have more time blocked out for family time or engaging with others, decide what percentage of your month you want to do that and do not allow other things to be scheduled over that percentage. Keep one night away free to spend time with friends, or protect a certain amount of hours in the evening for your family. If something comes up that would fill that time, ask yourself the priority question.
Whether your goal is to become less busy, or be busy with a purpose, it all begins with what your write on your calendar.
A New Calendar is Blank for a Reason
January is well known as being a time when people make resolutions. People commit to take an action that will bring about a wanted change. There is nothing magical about a new year that makes it easier to accomplish something starting on January 1 than it is starting on a Wednesday in the middle of September. A starting point helps though and a new year is an ideal one.
A new calendar is like a blank canvas. It is yours to design and create. What do you want your painting to look like at its completion? In the same vein, what do you want to see accomplished at the end of next year?
The week before New Years Day is full of Year in Review on news shows, social media and radio countdowns. Take some time to do your own Year in Review. Reflect on the last year and consider what you did well and you enjoyed. Recognize the successes and the happy occasions and take time to celebrate those wins. Then consider what you would like to see different in the next year, or what new thing you might like to accomplish. Use what you came up with in this practice to set goals for the next year.
Write down your goals and put them in a place where you are reminded often of them. Some suggestions include the bathroom mirror, in your planner, or on your phone’s home screen. Counseling professionals teach that the goals should be both measurable and achievable. You have to be able to reach the goal and you have to know when you have. If necessary, break your goal down into smaller pieces until you can meet those to guidelines. Once one piece is met, start the next piece as a new goal. Celebrate achievements of goals and do not quit if you stray from the process. Remember, you can still start something on a Wednesday in September just as easily as the first day of January!
Turn the Page of Your Calendar
For some, a page needs to be closed on the past year. It might have brought hurt or disappointment that has left you feeling discouraged. Let this be a fresh start for you. You do not have to be defined by mistakes, bad decisions, or circumstances from the past year, or ever. You have to make the choice though to change the definition.
For some situations working through situations and negative feelings about oneself requires the professional help of a counselor. Everyone benefits by going to counseling from time to time, especially if it is a complicated situation that you need a professional to help you through. Other times it can be done through reframing your thinking and taking some positive, healthy steps in your life. Examine the negative thoughts you have about yourself or your situation and determine what is true and what is a lie. Really think through why you have that belief about yourself, what led you to that belief and if it is really actually founded on truth. Sometimes it helps to hear from other trusted sources who love and value you. Determine if it lines up with what you believe about God, and what He says about you. It is easy to get stuck in a cycle of lies about yourself and you have to be purposeful about finding the truth.
Sometimes you need to make amends with what happened in the last year, to move fully forward. It may involve a conversation where you ask forgiveness of someone or you right a wrong. It may involve simply making a truce and deciding to move forward together in a positive way.
As you move towards a fresh start in the new year, consider positive outlets that will boost your mood or help you make positive changes. Serving someone else is a proven boost to one’s emotional health. You could join with a local organization to help their cause and you could look around at the people you already interact with and find ways to serve them. Find a local church and include faith practices in your life. Be purposeful to be around people who lift you up and encourage you. Enjoy hobby that will keep you engaged but not overwhelm you. Find things that relax you and put those into practice regularly. Take care of your physical health in ways that are manageable for you.
What will 2020 look like for you? It can be the year that you chase after dreams and reach longtime goals. It can be a year of healthy relationships. It can be a year where you take care of yourself. It can be a year that you look back on and smile. What will you write in your calendar?