Priorities, New Habits, and Realistic Goals for 2021

In 2020 I was introduced to the book The Slight Edge and found it to be heavily inspiring yet intimidating. Its main point is that you can achieve anything by simply taking a small step towards it, every day. Be it paying off debt, starting a business, or running a marathon, success doesn’t happen overnight, but with one small step, every day, in a positive direction. 

“Easy to do. Easy not to do.” 

Sounds simple enough, right? But what about taking a day off for a break? A day turns into a week, into a month. Your goal is now stagnant, along with your success.

I was applying my newfound motivation to becoming a writer. I created a vision board detailing a life of freedom. Doing what I wanted, when I wanted. And I did make progress towards my dream. I quit my full-time job and started a more flexible part-time job to allow more time for writing. I certainly feel less stressed and happier overall with day-to-day life. But I’m not yet where I want to be, and my motivation has lessened. I wasn’t taking small steps towards my goal every day.

I genuinely love my life. I am engaged to a man who is everything a girl could ever dream of. I am healthy, my family is healthy. I live in paradise in a safe neighborhood. I am financially stable. I am mentally well. I have great friends and a strong community.

The most exciting part of this year is that I am getting married (11/06/21)!! It takes a lot of time and effort to plan a wedding. From guest lists to vendors to the dress and decorations the stress is no joke. And with the way time flies, I know the day will be here before we realize and I want every loose end tied way in advance. The point though is that I also want to enjoy these 10 months as an engaged couple. I want to enjoy the planning (as much as possible) and watching everything come together to create one of the most important days of our lives. 

Ultimately, there isn’t a lot I want to change for the coming year. There are small habits here and there I will always work on. Growth is never-ending. Currently, I am reading Atomic Habits and am not quite halfway through it, but it mimics a lot of The Slight Edge. One thing that has stuck with me is the emphasis on creating a habit with a location and time. You are more likely to make or break a habit that has these two specifics. It also isn’t enough to state a goal without a plan. “I’m going to lose weight” doesn’t carry the same motivation as “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by going to the gym after work on Monday, Tuesday, and Friday.” 

That being said, the goals I would like to improve upon in 2021 will follow this format.

  1. Keep writing. I learned a lot in 2020 about copy and content writing. I spent hours and $ on courses and can say I am knowledgeable about the industry. I’ve gotten paid for my writing so I’m doing something right. I also know I’m not putting the necessary time and effort into making it a lucrative career. I don’t cold email and hunt for clients like required. I’m not active on LinkedIn. I also don’t hate my part-time job. It’s easy and I get paid well and enjoy a steady paycheck. I continue to write on a part-time basis, though I am not getting paid what I am worth. I continue to pursue writing opportunities, though at a leisurely pace. I fear I will not have the confidence to take the plunge into full-time writing until I am able to replace my current monthly nursing income.

Deciding if, how, and when I am “all in” on writing isn’t something I have figured out yet. I feel content with what I have created so far, but I also crave the added flexibility, freedom and unlimited income writing has the possibility to bring. I will need to do more soul-searching and planning before making a career change. For now:

How I’ll do it: I will post a monthly personal blog. I market myself mainly as a medical and health writer, though I have written in other genres. Health and medicine are what I know and love. To showcase my ability and possibly attract clients, I will try to keep my content relevant to that. This post is more of an accountability opportunity and “getting started.” The purpose is to get into writing more frequently. While I believe writing daily is unsustainable, I agree that small steps each day is imperative. This to me can mean reading books and articles or listening to/watching a video related to growing as a writer.

  1. Focus on finances. This is something I have gotten more involved with over the past couple of years, but if I am honest with myself I know I still procrastinate hardcore on monitoring my accounts. Sure, I keep up with my checking account, money going in and out, and bills. But I dread checking on my IRA and investments. My fiance (fortunately) is a finance guru and at any mention of investments and stocks, lights up, while I audibly groan. I want to make a personal commitment to monitoring my budget, curbing unnecessary spending, and consolidating and contributing to my IRA.

How I’ll do it: I will set an appointment, one day per month, in my office. I am marking it on the calendar as “Finance Focus” so it doesn’t get pushed behind other commitments. I will use these set-aside hours to go through financial documents, make dreaded phone calls, and crunch numbers.

  1. Practice mobility. My fitness goals are light this year. I’ve been a Crossfitter for over 3 years now. I’ve made progress but I don’t obsess about hitting new PRs or being the fastest. I don’t have much of an interest in being able to handstand walk across the gym or getting a coveted muscle-up. I do CrossFit for health. I love the tough work-outs, the variety, and feeling strong. Not to mention most of my friends are at the gym and I’d miss a lot of socialization without it. What I worry about more than being able to squat 200 pounds is my mobility and joint health. At 31, I notice my hip joints popping and cracking more when I move. I notice the increase in muscle tightness. I may still be “young” but my body has been moving and keeping me alive for all these years, and it wears out over time. I’ve never been a flexible person and stretching hasn’t been a priority. I want to keep my joints healthy for as long as possible. I won’t be doing CrossFit when I’m 75, but I sure hope I’ll still be living an active life.

How I’ll do it: Stretch daily, every morning, on the living room floor. I’d like to incorporate more stretching before and after CrossFit workouts as well. On days when I don’t go to the gym, I want to stretch an additional time. My CrossFit gym also offers yoga on occasion and I want to take advantage of that. 

  1. Decrease social media use. This is my mental health goal for 2021. I often use social media more for interacting with groups (wedding groups, writing groups) and less for keeping up with people I don’t care about. But the negativity and FOMO still seeps in. I bet you can relate to this: You’ve got an awesome weekend planned with lots of fun activities. Maybe a getaway to a new city or a camping trip. You spend a day or two without your phone. It’s blissful and you don’t miss it because you’re too busy enjoying life; your family and friends, nature, rest, a good book, a delicious meal, etc. The weekend comes to a close and you realize you haven’t opened Facebook or Instagram or checked an email in 24-48 hours. And it felt really good. Now you’re sucked back into reading about a new hair product some influencer is pushing on you, or that a high school acquaintance is oversharing some personal drama. You can feel yourself wasting time and mental space. We are all aware social media has its benefits, but we all over-consume. I cringe at the thought that I stare at my phone 3-4 hours a day. Ugh. 

How I’ll do it: I’ve tried the apps and settings that limit your time and accessibility, but that doesn’t work for me. I also don’t want to delete the apps because I do still want to be connected with my friends and family. I find that the time I scroll the most is at night before bed. I’m feeling drained from the day and need something mindless to do. But my 15 minutes turns into 45 minutes or more… So I will set a timer, I’m thinking 20 minutes to start, and once it goes off, my phone is down. Even better, my phone will go into another room on the charger. Out of sight, out of reach, out of mind. I then will either go to bed or do something more useful like read. 

In Summary

CAREER:

Keep writing. Write about anything. Post, publish, and share more. Seek more opportunities. Send the emails and proposals. Consider making the jump into freelance writing.

FINANCES:

Devote time to ensuring all my money is where it’s supposed to be. Shop and spend less. Save and invest more.

FITNESS: 

Continue going to CrossFit 3-4 times a week. Incorporate more outside activity; running, bike riding, long walks. Stretch daily and take a more active interest in yoga.

MINDSET:

Set a time limit on scrolling at night. Put the phone in another room. Unfollow people and groups that don’t serve you. 

You only have so much time each day, week, and month. Choose what is most important to devote your time and effort to. It isn’t possible to finish a Ph.D., start a family, travel every month, train for a half marathon, and save the world all at once. By filling your plate with too much you risk not completing anything. Your goals aren’t going to look the same as your friends, bosses, or neighbors and that’s ok. We all experienced 2020 differently and we have individual priorities for the new year. Focus on what is a priority for you.

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