The Game Plan

Every year I tell myself the same thing: “this will be the year I get organized, get caught up, do things the right way.” And every year life catches up with me, and I put less of a priority on doing things the “right” way and settle for doing what has to get done to get by. This year, though, I’m determined to actually get on track.

So what’s different this year? Well, aside from the fact that I’m getting thoroughly frustrated and annoyed with myself for not being organized in the past, I really want to get myself in a position where it’s no longer an issue. I don’t want to stress and worry about being organized, about losing or forgetting important things, about scrambling to get things done before they’re due. I want to spend my time on those things that are important to me, not on annoying “catch up” tasks that have built up because I put things off. This year I really am going to get organized, get caught up.

I have a picture in my mind of how my house and life could look if I just got things organized. I know where and how I want things. I know how I want to live my daily life. Though getting there has continually posed a challenge, I’ve put a plan into place that should make it happen — as long as I can stay focused and motivated. I’ve touched on it a little bit so far, mentioning my cleaning and purging projects, but I’ve never gone into much detail. Here is the plan I made for myself at the beginning of the year:

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Step 1: Use up and purge. I have to get rid of the clutter, both physically and mentally. The plan is to go through my house room by room, cabinet by cabinet, drawer by drawer, box by box. I have to get rid of the things we’re not using, find a way to use the usable stuff, and clean and organize what’s left behind. Garbage will get thrown away, food will get eaten, miscellaneous items will get put aside for a tag sale. In the spring we’ll have a big tag sale and hopefully sell it all off. Whatever doesn’t sell will get donated or discarded.

Step 2: Organize. The items that are left will need to be set up in a way that encourages use. Project supplies will be put together so the projects can be tackled when time allows. Items that often end up all over the house will find new homes, stored in a way that makes clean-up easy. Supplies that are often forgotten will be made more visible, more accessible. Inventory will be taken to determine what we actually need.

Step 3: Clean. While organizing and after organizing is complete, a deep clean will be done to clear up dust, dander, and debris.

Step 4: Progress. Once a clean slate is achieved, it’s time to tackle projects and move forward in my many personal and professional goals. That’s when the real fun begins!

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I’ve been working on the using up and purging, with some of the organizing mixed in as I go. I’ve been somewhat successful, though I have a long way to go. Staying motivated has been a bit of a challenge, as I want to skip ahead to step 4 time and again. But I’m really trying to stay focused. I’m sneaking in a little “step 4” time here and there as I’m able to, to satisfy myself a bit and keep myself from going completely off the plan, but overall I’m trying to work on the clearing up. It hasn’t been easy.

Fortunately, sleep has been a bit easier lately, and I’ve had small pockets of time pop up on occasion that have allowed me to take care of little tasks. I feel like I’m actually making progress. If I can stick to the plan, I know I’ll feel better. Then perhaps I won’t live in a constant state of stress, pressure, and frustration. I’m hoping, anyway! As with everything, it’s a goal — and a work in progress.

To Stress or Not to Stress

Stress has become my ever-present companion lately. Finances have definitely played a part, but added to money woes are more behavioral issues from Avery (especially by way of talking back and arguing about everything), a continuing lack of sleep (made worse by both kids being sick at the same time), and an ongoing frustration that I’m falling behind.

I had hoped to have my business paperwork done by now, but once again I found my prime productivity time eaten up by required sleep. Both Avery and Emily were sick, and as such woke up multiple times a night. Once they started sleeping better, Oliver started up with his nighttime whining. Needless to say, I haven’t gotten a great night sleep in quite some time. That means I’ve needed to go to bed earlier, which means I haven’t made nearly as much headway on my tasks as I would like. I know sleep is more important, but that doesn’t mean I’m happy about it.

I was able to sneak in a little (very little) research about blogging for others, but I didn’t get too far. And I’m concerned that if I can’t even find the time to research I won’t be able to actually do any work. That means I’m worrying again about paying bills, which is never fun. So far we’re squeaking by, but the next couple of months are going to be particularly tough. And I honestly don’t know what to do about it.

Avery’s attitude lately hasn’t helped matters. He seems fine at school and with Nana, but as soon as he’s home it’s back to arguing about everything (even things that really don’t matter for anything, even to him), talking back, a general bad attitude, and not listening when I tell him to do or not to do something. It’s been going on far too long, and nothing seems to be helping. I’m hoping it’s a phase, but even if it is, I’m getting tired of it. I know I need to work on my consistency of punishment and reactions, but it’s hard.

Despite all these stressors, I’m trying to stay positive. I’m taking a lot of deep breaths these days (and popping quite a few Tums), and I’m telling myself that it will get better. When I get stressed, I find the best solution for me is to formulate a game plan and put it into effect. If I can tweak the plans I had made, cut myself a little slack, and work on my time management, I can pull through. I know I’ll start sleeping better again soon; I’ve gone through rough patches before. And once I’m sleeping better the rest will start falling into place. I’ll have more patience to deal with Avery’s attitude (and a greater ability to be more consistent in my discipline). I won’t have to go to bed so early, which means more time to get my tasks done. And once I can get the tax paperwork settled, I’ll be able to move forward on my other projects and goals.

I need to stay positive. If I let the stress get to me, I’ll be in much worse shape. So, deep breaths. Lists up the wazoo to help clear my mind. A tweaked game plan. And a little patience, with myself most of all.

Steps Forward and Backward

I’m happy to say that I’ve been accumulating quite a bit for my tag sale. So far I’ve tackled about half of my bedroom, and the holiday closet in the basement (done first since we had to put Christmas decorations away), and I’m up to four and a half tall kitchen garbage bags full of items to sell. I also have a few items to attempt to sell on eBay. That means my purge has thus far been successful. It’s also moving a little faster than anticipated, mostly because I’ve been multi-tasking my heart out while the kids have played nearby.

It’s a good thing one of my projects has made progress, since I’m falling behind on just about everything else. I haven’t been sleeping well (thanks to interruptions by the kids, the dog, and even Kevin), and that means I’ve gone to bed early for the past three nights, eating into my prime productive time. I’ve been able to make some of it up in the early morning, but I’m still slipping a bit. I’m not nearly as far as I had hoped in my business paperwork and organizing, and I haven’t been able to tackle finances too much (except to get thoroughly depressed and stressed when realizing how much more we need to bring in each month). I have hopes, however, that I’ll be able to catch up and have these tasks done by the end of the month, at least well enough that we can get our taxes done. I just have to hope for sleep!

Since I’ve examined our finances enough to know we need to bring in more money, I plan on devoting at least a little time in the coming week to research online. I know there are places through which I can write for money, whether it be articles or blog posts or some other such thing. If I can find something worthwhile, perhaps I can sneak in a few hours here and there to get some writing done, even if it isn’t the kind of writing I’d like to do. I do hope to work on my own writing projects, and establish my gift business, but at the moment neither one has a high-enough chance of stable income; I’ll have to find something else. Kevin also plans on taking on more hours at his part time job (especially now that the other, more profitable, one has ended). Perhaps combined we can squeak by. If anyone knows any reputable sources of work-at-home income, I’m all ears!

Money and projects aside, we’ve been struggling a little bit with Avery’s mood and behavioral issues lately. We’ve decided to discontinue naps, and, while it has been overall beneficial, I’m concerned he’s not getting enough sleep. Naps were messing him up more than helping, but he’s not sleeping long enough overnight. He seems to have developed an internal clock that insists he wakes up at about 5:15 every morning, regardless of when he went to bed. While I’ve been trying to get him to bed earlier, I’m not sure how else to ensure he gets enough rest. I will likely need to discuss it with his pediatrician if the situation doesn’t improve. Lack of sleep definitely leads to more behavioral issues, and nobody wants that!

All in all it’s been a rough week, but there’s hope of improvement. With a few good nights’ sleep and a little willpower, I know I can move forward once again.

First Things First

The goals that I outlined last week are all fine and good, but right now I feel very far from them. Our house is a disaster area. I have paperwork to catch up on for my business, and that has to get done soon so we can file our taxes. I don’t know what’s going on with Kevin’s part-time jobs, so I have to figure out our financial status. And I feel I barely have time to breathe, nevermind move forward.

Keeping all that in mind, I’ve been putting priority on a few things (other than the day-to-day needs):

  • Using up and purging items around the house. My goal of cleaning up the house first requires clearing out all the items that we don’t use, or that have been sitting far too long without being used. The process has begun, and I’ve already accumulated quite a bit to sell at a tag sale I’m hoping to hold in the spring. I’m far from done, though.
  • Both for cleaning purposes and tax purposes, catching up on paperwork for my business and tidying up my craft space/office. I can barely move in that room as it stands, which is unacceptable, not to mention not exactly conducive to creative projects. I have to get it organized.
  • Evaluating our financial status so I can come up with a game plan. I need to make sure our never-late-on-payments streak stays alive, and that’s looking a little easier said than done at the moment.

Though my logical mind knows that these are the areas where I need to focus my attention at the moment, that doesn’t help the part of me that wants to move forward on my many projects. I still want to get my gift website and business going. I still want to work on writing and creative projects. I still want to work on my other blog, and the workshops and seminars I talked about. But I’m thinking that for at least the next month or so I’m going to have to focus. Bummer!

The good news is that if I can stay focused and make progress on these priorities, then I can tackle my projects and focus on those like I want to. As my dad likes to say, “one thing at a time.” Though, in this case, it’s more like three things at a time. For me, though, that’s progress!

Goals for 2016

When it comes to goals for 2016, I really have just one: to end the year happy and healthy, and to have my family and friends be the same. But that’s not exactly specific or measurable, so I suppose I’ll need something a little more concrete. Since I’ve already been dividing my goals and ambitions into categories, I shall continue to do so. Here are my goals for 2016:

Health
I gained weight in 2015. In addition, I feel like my entire family has been eating less-than-healthy foods. Not just snacks and treats, but too many processed foods and not enough well-balanced meals. It has been a challenge we’ve struggled with due to finances and taste preferences, but I’m confident we can do better:

  • Cut out all pre-seasoned, pre-packaged side dishes and meal preparation aids. Find homemade alternatives that still make meal prep easy, but use simple, whole ingredients instead of artificial flavoring and enhancers and tons of preservatives.
  • Start and maintain a garden so we can grow our own fruits and vegetables for consumption in the late spring and summer, and can/preserve enough to last into the fall.
  • Plant at least 3 fruit trees.
  • Cut back to one high fat/high sugar snack a day (while I would love to say I would cut out these snacks altogether, I know myself and my sweet tooth. I’ll settle for cutting back — for this year, anyway!).
  • Begin an exercise routine, most likely using Wii Fit or Dance Workout, that gets me moving at least 3 times a week (hopefully working up to 5, but at least 3).
  • These steps should help make my last goal more possible: lose weight. Ideally I would like to be down to 150 pounds, but my goal is to get to at least 160 (currently I am at 170+, though I will need to invest in a scale to get an accurate starting point and monitor this goal).

Making a Difference
My coin collection was quite successful last year, especially in the last few months. Since I’ve been using primarily cash, the coins add up quickly. And yet putting them aside doesn’t hurt the budget. I was able to finance a good portion of my holiday donations using change I had collected, and I didn’t have to stress about how I was going to afford all the giving I wanted to do. Thus:

  • Continue using cash and putting all (or at least most) coin change aside for donations. Roll and redeem this change periodically to be spent on food and toiletry donations, or gift donations throughout the year.
  • Get Avery more involved by bringing him with me for donation drop-offs, and asking for his “help” in purchases.
  • Look into family volunteer opportunities and participate in at least one next fall/winter.
  • Create a workshop or seminar to help others save money — most likely on groceries to start. Discuss with local libraries to offer this workshop for free to local residents.

Career
I made very little progress in my career last year. In some ways I even took steps backward. Fatigue and a seeming lack of time caused me to put my career on the back burner. But this year I want — I need — to get back to it. And with this mentality comes the reassertion that I want to get back to my writing and creative endeavors, rather than any other career options I’ve discussed in the past. I’m thinking any coaching or guidance endeavors may have to be purely volunteer. I don’t think I would feel right charging people who are already having financial issues. So, back to writing it is:

  • Publish posts for this blog and A Life You Want at least once a week.
  • Complete at least a first draft of the novel I have started (the first novel in what will hopefully be a series).
  • Create a workshop or seminar that relates to A Life You Want and hold at least one at either a bookstore or library.
  • Create Your Gift Finders website with informational articles already written and links to coordinating eBay store.
  • Stock said eBay store with a more well-rounded assortment of items.
  • Participate in at least 2 craft fairs and/or vendor days.
  • Create Your Money Plan website with informational articles already written.
  • Write at least five additional articles each for Your Gift Finders and Your Money Plan.

Money
Money has been and continues to be our biggest challenge. Our debt is not going down nearly as quickly as I would like, and Kevin’s side jobs are undergoing changes, meaning less predictable income over the next several months. Still, I’m hoping with his efforts and with my efforts we can pull through and get ahead:

  • Pay off in full at least one credit card (not counting our gas card or Firestone card, which should be paid off anyway).
  • Build an emergency savings account of at least $1000.
  • Build a buffer to cover preschool expenses.
  • Create (and add to on a regular basis) savings accounts for: vacations, gifts, and car expenses.

Relationships
Between working constantly and dealing with the kids, Kevin and I haven’t exactly had a lot of “us” time. Add to that behavioral issues that have popped up on occasion from Avery, and crankiness that pops up on occasion from Emily, and my relationships have fluctuated from content to challenging and back again:

  • Revive date nights: at-home date nights once a week, and out-of-the-house date nights once a month. Try to broaden the scope to include more than just food and TV.
  • Practice patience with Avery and Emily. Utilize and make habit the 1-2-3 Magic method to prevent meltdowns and major issues.
  • Resume Family Fun Days and hold them once a week as often as possible.

Life
For everything else, and all those things that touch on all aspects of my life, I have goals, too:

  • Use up and purge to clean up the clutter and unused items that are filling our house.
  • Deep clean the house.
  • Create a regular routine that makes all the goals I’ve made possible.

Some of these goals are fairly simple. Some are pretty ambitious. But if I’m able to complete even half of them in the coming year, I would be pretty happy. Now I just need to come up with game plans to tackle it all. Wish me luck!

 

A New Year

I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions. It seems that every time I’ve made them in the past — and every time I’ve heard of someone else making them — the result is less than satisfactory. You tell yourself you’re going to do something — often something unrealistic or so demanding of yourself that you’re destined to fail. You set out motivated and excited to fulfill your resolution. Then you falter in some way, whether it’s missing a day at the gym or having a lazy day that results in your slipping in your ambitions. At that point motivation goes out the window. Suddenly the resolution seems hopeless, pointless. That one misstep results in a total dissolution of your resolution, and the rest of the year is spent feeling guilty.

Instead, I believe in New Year’s Goals. You evaluate where you are, and determine where you want to be. The year is spent reaching that destination. A new year, a fresh beginning. The perfect time to take a look at what you’ve done, where you’ve been, and where you want to go. And a goal is something to achieve, something to strive for — not something that is failed after a single misstep. You can spend the rest of the year planning and taking steps toward your goal. Bumps along the way? They’re to be expected. Motivation lacking? It can be rekindled without losing your focus or timeline.

So, that being said, I’ve once again decided to make renovations to my blog. I’ve decided to again separate my personal journey from the guidance I offer others. I don’t want my path to overshadow others’. But at the same time I’ve decided to make this the year that I take strides in my personal goals. I have a lot I want to do. I have high expectations of myself. And I have high hopes that I can reach my goals.

This weekend I plan to outline the goals I’ve set for myself. I’ve discussed some in the past, on A Life You Want, but that site will no longer have my personal journey on it, so I’ll be reiterating everything as it pertains to my current status and journey. Then I will be posting weekly updates to let you know how I’ve been faring on my path.

2015 was a challenging year. I hope 2016 proves to be more successful in terms of getting me where I want to be. I know I’m motivated. And I know I can make it happen. This will be my year. Care to join me?