Onwards to 2016

sunrise

I wrote a recap of 2015 in my previous post Adieu 2015, Hello 2016. This post is about things I did in 2015, what worked and what I will keep doing, and what didn’t work and what to change.

What worked

Using a calendar app to manage my schedule
I used to keep my schedule in an old fashioned way with a Moleskine weekly planner. One of the productivity tips I often read is keeping a “one calendar to rule them all” – and it was difficult to do it with pen and paper.

I started using the Google calendar app on my phone since October 2013. Along the way I experimented with several calendar apps and found one that worked really well called Business Calendar, I’ve been using it since then. Leaving a 9 to 5 job and switching to freelance yoga teaching made my schedule became more varied and flexible. Having a digital calendar on the phone means it’s always with me, can be quickly updated, and I can modify it from the computer as well if needed. I’ve been relying on it more and more. I will continue to use it, and I’m going to use it more by scheduling in my other activities too.

Cook more often
I’ve been cooking more last year, mainly because I’ve been at home more. I started to stock my fridge with relatively hardy vegetables like broccoli & zucchini, and started to stock aromatics like onions garlic & ginger as well. Prior to 2015 I hardly cook, and I rarely bought fresh vegetables as they tend to just wilt in the fridge drawer. When I did buy them, I bought those ready to cook portioned & packaged veggies, so I used everything up in one go. Now I’m comfortable with buying a whole head of cabbage as I’m cooking it up in a few days.

I think cooking is like a chicken & egg situation for me, I didn’t buy vegetables because I didn’t get to cook them and they just ended up in the trash. On the other hand I couldn’t cook because I didn’t have anything to cook with. Now as I always have something around to be cooked, I cook more. So I’m gonna keep the fridge stocked, not overwhelmingly ambitiously so, just enough to allow me to whip something up quickly.

Keeping a gratitude journal
For years I had journal that I write on, but I had never been able to consistently keep it. I wrote everyday for a few days or weeks the most, and somehow trailed off, not writing for weeks or months, and then came back to it, and same thing happened again, writing on it for a few days, and off again.

I stumbled upon this Five Minute Journal with this headline “The simplest, most effective thing you can do everyday to be happier”. I agree, I think journaling is one of the things we can do to improve our quality of life, if only I can do it everyday. The creator of Five Minute Journal, Alex Ikonn & UJ Ramdas, posted a digital version of the journal that I can flip through. Essentially it’s a journal with prompts, so one just need to write responses to that prompts. A set of prompts is for the morning before we start the day, and another set of prompts for the end of the day.

The journal ships internationally but I couldn’t wait that long – plus the shipping charges makes it very expensive. I decided to try creating my own, using a plain notebook and writing the prompts manually.  At the beginning I wrote the prompts at the same time as writing the answers. After a few days I tried writing the prompts ahead, and I found that having the prompts already there worked better. After a few more days I tried differentiating the color of the prompts and the color of the content – I use black for the prompts and blue for the answers. After a few more weeks I tried writing the prompts with capital letter. I’ve been keeping it that way since then.

How did I fare? I started the journal on 23 July 2015. Out of 162 days ( from 23 July to 31 Dec 2015) I wrote on the journal 94 times, that’s just slightly under 60%. There were two main reasons for not writing. First reason was I finished the first notebook, and I didn’t have a new notebook ready. I meant to immediately set up a new notebook, but it dragged on for more than a week. Lesson: prepare the new notebook  a few days in advance when the existing one is almost finished. Second reason was because I didn’t bring the journal with me when I was traveling, because the notebook is a bit thick and I wanted to travel light. Lesson: make a lighter, portable version to bring when traveling.

Did it work? Yes I think it worked. The journal made it really easy to write things – literally just five minutes a day – so easy that my success rate is close to 60%.  I think the journal helped setting up positive condition at the beginning of the day, and closing the day with a short reflection. I’ll keep at it hopefully with better percentage in 2016.

What didn’t work

Exercising regularly 
With a flexible work hours I should be able to find more time to exercise, yes? Well it didn’t work so well. When I was still working in an office, my weekdays schedule was rather predictable; I woke up at the same time everyday, did morning meditation, left the house around 5:40 am, arrived at the gym or track around 6:15, did my work out, and be at the office by 9. Now as I teach morning yoga classes, I couldn’t exercise in the morning. Theoretically I could use the time after teaching to exercise, but I didn’t, for various reasons, that boiled down to the failure of setting up a new exercising habit.

What will I change this year so I exercise regularly again?

  • I will try to actually schedule exercise time in my calendar, just like my teaching schedule
  • In the days where I’m not going to the gym, I can run around my neighborhood. Or I can do a functional type exercise at home with a youtube video

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So that’s three things that worked and I will keep doing and one thing that didn’t work and I will change in 2016. What about you? What worked, what didn’t work, and what will you change in 2016? 

Image: Sunrise over the mountains – November 2015, Dharamshala, India.

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