There's something about the start of a new year that makes me all giddy inside. I love new beginnings, and I think the anticipation of what's to come (along with the glitter and excitement surrounding NYE) easily makes New Year's Eve/Day my favorite holiday.
Oh, but the resolutions . . . like everyone else I know, I've failed miserably when it comes to sticking to my New Year's resolutions. I do NOT handle failure well, AT ALL. So, over the past couple of years, I've found a few tools that have helped me stay on track, and I thought I'd share them with you.
Want to boost your productivity? Craving a life of simplicity and organization? Looking for more hours in your day to do the things you enjoy with the people you love the most?
- Lara Casey Power Sheets Goal Setting Planner - This planner is hands-down the best tool I've ever used for setting goals, and actually achieving them. In fact, I have 4-5 goals I'm working on for 2017, and thanks to my 2017 Powersheets Planner, I'm set up for success.
- Spark Joy: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Maria Kondo - Last year, one of my resolutions was to go through my entire home and organize it from top to bottom, a big task, especially with a newborn and a toddler! I found this book and it changed. my. life. If you don't just want to put your stuff away but rather revolutionize the way you look at "stuff," this book is for you. Your entire life will be clutter-free if you follow Maria Kondo's plan - it seems a little kooky at first (my husband can tell you all about that) but it works.
- Daily Planner - I have found that the best way to stay organized and on top of things is to use a daily planner system - and experts agree. Whether paper (which I prefer) or digital (which my husband prefers) or both (what I actually do), pick a planner that works well for you, and USE IT. Some of my favorites are listed here . . .
- My Life Organized - This digital planner has TONS of great tools like automated to-do lists, task hierarchy, daily outlines (!!!), and even location-based notifications! It's intense, and perfect for working moms/dads, business owners, etc. If you're juggling multiple balls and something's always "on fire," this tool is for you.
- iPhone iCal - my husband and I use this super-simple for both work and personal items, and we share our calendars to keep track of what's going on. Perfect for beginner planners, or paper planner lovers who also need something digital (that's me).
- Erin Condren LifePlanners - I used Erin Condren planners every year that I was teaching, and WOW! They are amazing! The traditional LifePlanner, which is for everyone (not just teachers), is equally as awesome.
- Plum Paper Planners - My new favorite daily planner! This planner goes above and beyond as far as customization, and let's be real - since we're all different, it's nice to be able to have your planner meet your exact style and needs.
Itching to lose those last few pounds of baby weight (yep, been there twice)? Hoping to eat healthier in 2017? Spending too much money eating takeout and not spending enough time planning your meals?
- Harris Teeter Express Lane - So, this tool could go under "money" and "fitness/health," because it's so awesome. I first found out about HT's Express Lane 2.5 years ago, shortly after my first daughter was born. As a new mom working full-time, going to the grocery store was (a) stressful, (b) time consuming, and (c) a little overwhelming. I bought myself a $99 yearly subscription to Harris Teeter's Express Lane service, and it's one of the best things I have ever done! It saves me at least two hours of time each week, I can shop the weekly sales flyer right from my computer, we actually eat the food I buy because I plan our meals for the week as I'm shopping, and I stick to my grocery budget because there are no aisle-wandering impulse buys. When you do the math, if you shop once a week for a year, that yearly subscription costs you only $1.90/week! BONUS - there's also an app. Score!
- Zombies, Run! App - Like to play games? Need some extra incentive to run? A fan of The Walking Dead? This app is for you! In this app, runners are plopped into a different world where zombies run rampant, and the only way to stay alive is to . . . well, run. I'm not going to spoil it for you, so I'll just say there's definitely a cool story line that builds each time you run with the app. When a zombie is "chasing," the runner must sprint faster, which can definitely up your game if you're training for a race or are working on speed. The best part? You can still listen to your music, and control how often the game alerts you. After each run, you'll check the app to see what supplies you've "picked up" along the way. Definitely worth a try!
- Runkeeper Website & App - Although there are a MILLION running apps out there, my personal favorite is Runkeeper. About 4 months ago I upgraded to Runkeeper Elite ($39.99/year) for extra support as I trained for the Disney Superheroes Gauntlet Challenge; I'm a total geek (and proud of it!) so I love seeing the extra metrics that are provided with the Pro subscription, and their training plans are easy to follow. I like tracking my runs, and I really like how the app "plays well with others" as far as cross-app integration and working with my Apple Watch.
- Daily Yoga App - It's no secret that I'm a fan of running, but my other go-to for exercise (and peace of mind) is yoga - I've had a steady yoga practice since 2008, 6 years before I started running! My favorite yoga class is on Sunday nights and it's called LSD (Long, Slow and Deep) - it's a deep stretch, relaxing class in a heated room . . . ahhh. The perfect way to beat the Sunday blues and get your mind right for the upcoming week. Sadly, we moved away from my favorite yoga studio (and my LSD class) 6 months ago, so I've really had to focus on developing my home practice. The Daily Yoga app has been an awesome tool for me, and if you're interested in developing a yoga practice, I highly recommend.
Some dude named Socrates once said, "Know Thyself." I don't know about you, but around this time every year, I go through a period of self-reflection and evaluation; am I happy where I am? Am I happy with WHO I am? What can I do better? How can I BE better? What are my strengths and weaknesses? What did I accomplish this year, and what are my goals for next year?
Here are some tools to help you "Know Thyself Well" in 2017:
- Gallup Strengthsfinder Assessment - This $15 test has taught me more about myself than any other tool I've used or book I've read, hands down. I had never even heard of the StrengthsFinder Assessment tool until I applied for a job at Proverbs 31 Ministries in December 2015, but I think it's crucial for everyone to take at some point in their life. My top 5 strengths are: Learner, Achiever, Positivity, Relator, and Includer. Once you take the test, the Gallup website has TONS of resources for you, including diving into what your strengths mean, and what the "balcony" and "basement" are for each of your top five. Definitely worth $15!
- The 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership by Jenni Catron - Part of our weekly "team time" meeting at work is centered around professional development; each week, we cover a chapter in whatever book we're reading as a group (sort of like a 10-minute book club). My favorite book by far has been Jenni Catron's book on the 4 Dimensions of Extraordinary Leadership; she walks you though the heart, soul, mind, and muscle behind good leaders, and why each of these is crucial to positive leadership. This is great for anyone, because aren't we all leaders in some form or another?
- The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren- I know, I know, this book has been around for over a decade so it's not a shiny new tool. I don't know why, but the title is kind of intimidating, no? Maybe it's just me, but I'm constantly asking God, "Hey, what's my purpose?" Sound familiar? Pick up this book. The 10th anniversary edition (which I have and LOVE) has some revisions, along with additional free resources and audio sermons that go along with each chapter. The chapters are short and remind me of a daily devotion book, so they would even be good for a small book club or Bible study group.
My faith is of huge importance to me, but I'll be the first to admit that when time gets away from me during the day, one of the first things I let go of is my quiet time with God. If you're looking to center yourself and focus your eyes on Him, here are some great resources that will help strengthen your faith.
- First 5 App - Yes, I work for Proverbs 31 Ministries, so I'm probably a little biased when I say that if you're truly serious about diving into God's word and making your walk with the Lord the first priority of each day, this app is perfect for you. All of our tools (devotions, experience guides, First 5 app, Online Bible Studies, and books) are incredibly good resources if you're a girl looking for God in the everyday chaos of life. Trust me, I followed P31 for many years before joining the staff and it has truly made a huge impact in my life and my walk with the Lord.
- Anne Neilson Scripture Cards - I'm a huge fan of art, and one of my favorite artists (and fellow Charlottean) is Anne Neilson. If you've never seen her work, you're missing out - Anne paints the most stunning angels, and while you can buy prints, she also compiles her pieces into inspirational books. One of my favorite items in her online bookstore are her "100 Days of Scripture" cards. I love seeing her beautiful work, paired with a scripture. I think one of the best ways to strengthen your faith is by memorizing scripture, and these are a great way to encourage you to not only memorize the scriptures on the cards, but meditate on them and open your heart to what God is saying. She also has a set of "A-Z Scripture Cards" in the online shop. Check it out!
- FaithBox - I had never heard of FaithBox until this summer, when Lysa Terkeurst (President of Proverbs 31 Ministries) released her newest book, Uninvited, and included it in the August 2016 FaithBox; since then, I've been a loyal subscriber. On top of receiving a monthly devotion, each box includes five products from companies all over the world that are focused on making an impact in the lives of others. One of my favorite products to date has been a mini candle from Eleventh Candle Company (previously Legacy Candle Company) - their Oh Holy Night scent is the epitome of Christmas!
- Headspace App - I think one of the most important practices a Christian can develop is meditation. I know this might sound a little counter to Christian culture, but hear me out. You know, it's that whole "Be still and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10) thing. When we meditate on God's word and allow stillness into our lives, we are able to open our hearts to best receive God's message for us and direction for our lives. In the rat race of life, finding stillness is nearly impossible; that's where the Headspace app comes in. Pop some headphones in and with one click, you're on your way to stillness, mindfulness, and an open heart.
What's a New Year without a resolution about money - am I right? Whether you want to save more, spend less, or just appreciate what you have, at some point we all want to manage our money better.
- The Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey - When Chris and I first finished graduate school and bought our first home, we quickly realized that adulthood meant debt and responsibility. Two very exciting/fun/awesome words (UGH - NO WAY). Dave Ramsey's Total Money Makeover was an exercise we started in 2010, and it's guided how we think about money ever since.
- How To Be Rich by Andy Stanley - No, this book isn't about getting rich quick . . . it's the exact opposite. Andy Stanley's How To Be Rich is all about seeing the wealth we already have - the richness that surrounds us and appreciating it so much that we begin living a life of gratitude and generosity. Talk about revolutionary thinking! I loved this book, and I hope you pick up a copy.
- Local Facebook Buy/Sell/Trade Groups, Facebook Marketplace - This tool goes hand-in-hand with Maria Kondo's book, Spark Joy. When I started the process of tidying up my home and getting rid of items that no longer "sparked joy" for me, I started selling things on local Facebook groups . . . and I made A LOT of money doing it. For example, at the beginning of December 2016 (yep- this month!), I made $567 - just by selling stuff I no longer wanted or needed! Here's the drill: at the beginning of every month, I go through my daughters' clothes, toys, and baby items, and pick out what they no longer need (kids grow fast!). I'll also do a quick pass through other parts of my home, along with a glance at what's hanging in my closet (I have my husband do this, too). I'll spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon taking pictures and posting the items in my favorite local Facebook sales groups, and then wait. If anything is still unclaimed after the first week, I'll drop the price. If I still don't have any bites two weeks later, I update the price to FREE. This helps clear things out of my home and it also blesses someone else. Win-Win!
Let me know your resolutions and if any of these tools look exciting to you! Cheers to 2017 being your best (and most successful) year yet!