Saturday, 9 February 2019

My 2019 Goals and How I'm Planning On Achieving Them

In my last post I talked a little bit about goal setting and the importance of not just making goals but working towards them. Today I thought I'd share what my 2019 goals actually are and how I plan on achieving them.

Finish my manuscript :: As I've mentioned before my year of completing a diploma in Creative Writing left me with a pretty solid 50k word manuscript but, one that needed a lot of work to become the book I want it to be. I'm setting myself weekly word goals but also allocating time in my calendar each week to the editing process which definitely takes the longest.

What I'm using to keep me on track: The tomato timer method and tracking my weekly word counts.

Shop more sustainably :: Over the past two years I've diligently kept track of all the spending I've done on clothing, shoes and accessories. Things got a little out of hand in 2017 and since then I've managed to rein my spending in, cutting my annual clothing budget in half. I made some really smart choices last year and feel like my closet has a very robust set of basics that will get me through almost any occasion. I like shopping but the guilt of how much stuff I purchase and how bad these purchases are (on a mass scale) for the environment really bugs me.

Because not buying anything is impractical for me - I have weaknesses okay? - I wanted to make an effort at being more sustainable. My closet is a big area where I can make an impactful change. I know not every purchase I make this year will be a sustainable one but my new rules are: Search for items I want second-hand before I buy anything and if I have to buy something and can't find it second hand (in the condition I want) then make an effort to seek out items from sustainable retailers. So no more fast fashion brands for me!

What I'm using to keep me on track: ThredUp and Poshmark are already saved to my computer browsers and I've already purchased my first items second hand!

Read more books :: 2017 was a pretty poor reading year for me and I know that the more I read the better my writing is (and the more motivated I am to write.) This year I've set myself a goal of reading 30 books. 18 more than I managed to do last year.

What I'm using to keep me on track : Goodreads yearly challenge and my Kindle!

Have a better plan for my career moving forward :: This goal is less specific than I would like but there's a reason for that! While I enjoy my work in content and digital marketing I've been feeling lost over the past few years about where I would like to end up. I've been toying with the idea of switching to UX design but it's a big leap (not so much in the work but the time/money I think I will need to outlay) and I want to make sure that it's a path I would a) enjoy and b) would fit my strengths before I go rushing into a career change. At the end of this year I would like to have a clearer path mapped out for making this transition.

What I'm using to keep me on track: Meetups aimed at UX designers, online learning spaces such as Skillshare and General Assembly.

What goals are you working towards this year?

Friday, 8 February 2019

3 Easy Ways to Stay on Track of Your Goals

I was never a goals orientated person. I mean sure I had big dreams, and things I wanted to do in life but they were vague things like 'finish my degree', 'get a job' and 'start looking after my body.' The older I get the more I've realised the value in both setting goals and the work that goes into achieving them. Writing my book has been a huge dream-come-true for me but the process of writing was one that I needed to get serious about.

In 2017 I finished my year of writing having bled, sweated and cried 80,000 words into my novel. Through editing and revising I finished my year with a solid 50,000 words in a tidy but not-yet-finished manuscript. After getting off track last year (my two month break turned into about ten months) I'm back at weekly writing goals for 2019 and am aiming to have a polished 80,000 word draft by the end of the year. Sidenote - my manuscript is very much in it's draft stage so there's a lot of work that needs to be done not only writing another 30k but severely editing what I do have.)

Here are some practical ways I'm trying to stay ontop of my writing goals this year. If you're not a writer don't worry as you can apply them to almost anything!

The tomato timer method :: Committing just one hour during the day to doing a job I'm struggling with was a lifesaving method for me while I was studying. Sitting down for one hour, whether I achieve anything or not, is a far less overwhelming task than say forcing myself to write 1,000 words or applying for 'x' amount of jobs. While the output is about the same (it takes me an hour to write around 1200 words) I often found myself not just writing for one hour but three or four. 

Writing down your wins :: I used to write down a list of things I wanted to achieve each day or week and it was always longer than what I could reasonably achieve. Now instead of feeling disappointment that I only achieve two of my four planned workouts in a week, I celebrate what I did do instead. I also think there's a weird psychological shift in wanting to improve on work I've already done. When I've smashed out two workouts in a week and squeeze in a third it feels like a win as opposed to only completing three out of my four planned sessions.

Tracking your progress :: Because my ultimate goal with my book is to have a 80k word count having what I've achieved each week written down can be really motivating. While I was studying I had a weekly word count of 4k and I would mark each week's achievements on my calendar above my desk. While it can sometimes be despairing to see the week's when I haven't done much I actually found it really motivating to see how much I had already achieved. Looking at your progress as a whole can be very satisfying and I'm planning on taking this tip into 2019 with me.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The self-care acts that actually make a difference while unemployed

Instagram, and lifestyle blogs in particular are awash with suggestions for practising self-care. Everything from bubble baths to 'treating yourself' to a starbucks, or face mask or [insert whatever thing you usually do on special occasions here]. I am all in support of this. While a lot of the time self care articles can seem a bit frothy I think we can all agree the general point is that every now and then we need to slow down and take some time to ground ourselves. However, I've found the times I need the most self-care can often coincide with a need to be frugal. A month ago I moved countries to be with my boyfriend in America. Being away from friends and family and spending a lot of time on my own while I look for work is tough. Not to mention that I have a side project (a novel manuscript) that I both love spending time on yet simultaneously feel guilty about devoting time to since I don't yet have a paying job. After reading a lot of 'self care' lists that don't fit into my budget category right now I've noted the things that I can do that make the biggest difference to my sense of self care (and overall mental health).

Eating well is boring but nutrients are actually important :: I would love to give the illusion that being both unemployed and a writer involves spending days at coffee shops tapping away on my novel in between firing off job applications. Alas, sipping on lattes costs money and I don't think I need the extra pastries in my diet. Instead I make sure that when I do eat it involves lots of boring but accessible things like vegetables, whole foods and home-brewed coffee. While it's not as glamorous it does mean that my savings are at least going a lot further than they would otherwise. I buy non-organic vegetables from big brand supermarkets and make them feel more exciting by adding a sprinkle of chilli flakes, garlic powder, salt and pepper on them. Most meals consist of greens (brussell sprouts, asparagus or broccolini) baked sweet potatoes and a source of protein like roasted chicken breasts or frozen fish fillets. I think it's easy to under-estimate the importance of taking care of yourself from the inside out or that good food is expensive.   

Getting sweaty:: Moving to the land of the free has certainly made me a little envious of how cheap everything here is compared to my home country of New Zealand. Getting a gym membership while I was unemployed was a non-negotiable for me. My gym charges $5 a week (compared to the $19.99 weekly fee it would cost for something similar at home) and includes all classes in the membership for that price. I recommend signing up to a gym in person as the rate I was charged was even cheaper than the advertised rate. While a gym membership isn't necessary for everyone, being active (in a sweaty way) three to four times a week is something I find essential for my mental health. I also love that I can feel a sense of accomplishment and achievement in at least one area of my life. If a gym membership isn't in your budget I would recommend a pair of fitness bands. They are an easy way to up the resistance of at-home workouts and cost very little.

Making time to get out of the house and meet new friends:: The hardest part of moving to a new city (or country) is always making new relationships. I've been using a mixture of Bumble BFF and Meetup, as well as tagging along on my boyfriend's after work drinks. Connecting with other women who work or study during the day has been a great way for me to get out of the house and gives me something in common to talk about. While I'm an introvert by nature, socialising is actually something I've come to realise is hugely important to my mental health. While Meetups are often group-based one of the perks of Bumble BFF is that it's usually one-on-one. It's certainly easier to spend less money (or nothing at all) by meeting up for a coffee or suggesting a walk rather than dinner or drinks with a larger group of people.

Keeping an 'I did' list rather than a 'to do' list :: I started a 'to do' list in the first couple of weeks of moving and guys, it was pretty depressing. Because number #1 is still 'get a job' it had the effect of making me feel like a pretty big failure for not having all my ducks in a row, especially as the weeks grind on. Instead I've been writing down how many times I've worked out each week, the number of words I've been writing and the number of job applications I've sent off. There's no reason you can't add additional achievements on there like books read, skype calls with loved ones or chores completed that emphasis that just because you aren't actively employed doesn't mean you aren't achieving anything.

Replacing social media scrolling with a productive habit instead :: Is there anything worse than getting stuck in a black hole of Instagram, comparing both loved ones and "influencers" lives with your own sad couch-related existence? Thanks to the 'Screen Time' app on iPhone I've learnt that being unemployed has left me with a newfound habit of wasting literally hours and hours looking at social media and feeling shit about my existence. Last week I decided that instead of picking up my phone whenever I felt idle I would pick up my Kindle instead. Reading is the second best thing I could be doing to improve my writing (after, ahem, writing). Using this technique I'm already three-quarters of the way through Beartown by Fredrik Backman and have remembered how much reading revitalises my love for my own work.

Giving myself permission to write :: Writing for me is an act of self-care. I started writing as a creative outlet and because I was lacking a sense of fulfilment in my corporate job. It's also the only thing in my life that is wholly mine and this creative decision making is something all together new and exciting for me. After a few weeks of job hunting I've finally worked out a structure for my days that allows me to spend time on my novel without feeling guilty that I should be on LinkedIn instead. I write best in the afternoon and early evening which means job hunting and applying can be my first priority for the day. I can feel a sense of achievement by applying for jobs early in the day or scheduling interviews in the morning. It's easy to think I shouldn't allow myself time to devote to what is essentially a side-hobby but there aren't many times in my life when I'm going to have whole days at my disposal. After all the difference between a published book and an unpublished book is often a finished book.   
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