The Year That Was… by Dylan Dartnell

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The year that was—that still is.

You have done so well… but I need just a little more from you.

It’s not quite over yet.

It’s time to recalibrate. It’s time to reassess those goals you made in January, forgot about well before June but picked up again when the panic set in come July. With only a few weeks left of 2019, it’s time to take stock, reflect and finish the year stronger than how you started. Not strong. Stronger.

This year was a big one for me. I moved from Perth to Melbourne; I started my Masters in Writing, Editing & Publishing; I trained for 12 weeks and ran my first half-marathon; I smashed reading goals; I moved house three times; I was recently promoted at work; made and invested in some life-changing relationships; and discovered and finished the entirety of Schitt’s Creek. My schedule is packed (and damn right colour-coded) and things get messy—daily. This year was about defining and pursuing my passions and giving myself permission to explore other opportunities of interest.

It sounds like a lot. It is a lot. Are things perfect? No. Are there things I want to improve? Absolutely. But it has taken several conversations with mentors and loved ones to tell me that I have done one helluva job and whatever I’ve set out to do, I’m doing it.

And I trust that you are in a similar position. If there is anything that connects the lived and shared experience of ‘human’ it is lov—HA! Nope. I meant struggle. And the weight of our struggle is equal to the passion with which we live. WE WANT TO WRITE. WE WANT TO CREATE. WE WANT TO ART. And write, create and art we shall.

But right now, stop. Reflect. Appreciate the lengths you have struggled and grown, and take stock, refresh, reassess, and finish the year stronger.

Here are some mindful tips I hope empower you to do just that so that you round the year off in one brilliant, star-speckled extravaganza.

I am able to achieve what I have because I am constantly setting and re-examining my goals. There’s no need to wait for the New Year to start creating new habits. Here are some mindful tips to help empower you to take stock, refresh, reassess and finish this year stronger.

  1. Collate and visualise deadlines

I am no stranger to competing deadlines. As you can already tell, I have a number of different commitments that require my time and energy. It is difficult juggling priorities and breaking down tasks if I’m trying to map out things mentally. It stresses me out when I listen to people walk through an agenda by memory. The biggest help I can give myself and, more importantly, the biggest help you can give yourself is to put everything down on paper.

I keep a journal of To-Do Lists and update my calendar as needed. Moving forward, I will start incorporating some sort of wall planner that will map all of my projects and their due dates so I can see them well in advance, helping me overcome a tendency to forget unfinished tasks once I’ve turned the page in my journal and plan for upcoming deadlines.

Find a planning system that works for you and exploit it. Get it out of your head and put it somewhere on the wall, in your phone, or in a journal where you can see it. Plan and prioritise appropriately. Break down commitments into separate categories and larger projects into smaller, more achievable tasks.

  1. Adjust accordingly

This can be a hit to the ego. I have never felt more ambitious and more determined to accomplish the goals I have set for myself. Particularly those goals that I have been meaning to achieve for quite a few years but—for lack of any reasonable excuse—didn’t. One of my goals this year was to double the number of books I read last year. For someone who is so passionate about storytelling and my career in editing and publishing, I knew I wasn’t reading enough. I set out at the beginning of the year to read one book per week. I’ve failed; a result of failing to plan, the overwhelming plight of procrastination and already having more than enough to do.

But I’ll give you a little context. Last year, I read 21 books. To date, I have read 23. I have friends and colleagues who read 60+ a year so it’s easy to compare myself to their brilliance but I’ve got to stop doing that. We all need to stop doing that. What I will do instead is let them inspire me to get over the crunch of failure and reassess my goals. It’s very unlikely I will hit the 52 books I originally planned to read but there’s nothing stopping me from reaching 30. So not only have I already read more books than I did in 2018 but I am well on track to smashing it by seven and that’s something worth celebrating.

Reassess and adjust your goal routinely, not just once a year. There’s still one month left to go of 2019. Don’t give up on a reading or writing goal, just adjust it to something achievable.

  1. Plan out daily and mundane tasks

Of all the things I have accomplished this year (i.e. my half-marathon, my job promotion, my studies) I have attributed that success to preparation. How am I setting myself up for the day? What am I doing in the morning? Am I sleeping in? Am I wasting an hour on perusing social media’s darkest memes? Am I feeding my body properly? And when I get home from work/uni, how am I unwinding? How am I setting up myself for tomorrow? Is there work that I need to do that night?

I update my calendar each Sunday night and map out what my week looks like: where I have to be; what tasks I need to get done; the days I’m going to the gym; the days I’m doing the washing, food shopping and meal prepping, etc (all of those life-changing and soul-searching adult responsibilities).

Come Wednesday, I actually take some time to reassess my calendar as well. Just as much as I believe in preparation, I also believe in adaptability. What’s working? What’s not? What needs more of my time? Which tasks can I delegate? Who/what can I say yes to? Who/what should I say no to?

It’s easy to look at our to-do lists and feel like we’ve done nothing when we’ve done lots because we forgot to include the daily and mundane tasks in our lists. Don’t forget to plan and allow for those things too when planning your week.

  1. Do the work

I am a goal-setter. I am reflexive thinker. I like to plan, to map out, to colour coordinate but actually getting the work done…that’s a wildly different problem. You’ve done 80% of the work by preparing. If you map out the week like I have, you have scheduled time to sit down and do the work. Grab a water, grab a snack, put the phone away, shut down those unnecessary tabs and DO THE WORK. Remember, when you’re planning your projects and goals, break them down in smaller tasks. Make it easier for yourself and feel that passion, drive, and motivation swell within you. Before you know it—it’s done. You’ve successfully ticked another thing off your list for the year.

  1. Plan time to rest and unwind

You are not going to be as efficient as you like if you don’t learn how to stop feeling guilty for taking time out. But one of the lessons I have learnt this year is to rest with intentionality. It is so easy for me to come home after a long day, dump my things on my bedroom floor, collapse on to my bed (as if it were a metaphor for the rest of my life) and spend the next two hours bouncing between apps. Maybe I will binge watch more of Schitt’s Creek?

This is not unwinding. This is not resting. Take the first half hour home to put things away properly (inc. wash dishes, throw dirty clothes into the washing basket), to pack your bags and set out your clothes for the next day, eat and drink water, and then settle in with family, friends or pet of your choosing.  Establish a night time routine. A lot of research recommends shutting off screens at least an hour before sleep and use that time instead to read/journal, have a tea and really take stock and appreciate the day that was and yourself.

  1. Celebrate!

Before long you will reach the end of the year and I want you to be able to look back onto this moment of intention, decision and action, and be thankful and appreciate the mindful steps you took to finish the year stronger than you expected.

But also remember to take small moments to celebrate how far you’ve come all the way along. Celebrate when you’ve ticked off all those things on the to-do list. Celebrate when you finish a project. Celebrate what you have achieved without mourning what you have not.

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