What worked for me in 2019

I love to do a little bit of reflection at year’s end, but I don’t make it complicated. Around my house we’ve been using the same two questions for years to help us take stock of the year gone by.

They are:

  1. What worked for me last year?
  2. What didn’t?

Today I’m sharing a few of the things (from significant to shallow) that worked for me in 2019. (I’ll share my list of what didn’t work in the newsletter, same as last year, and the year before that. Sign up here if you’re not on the list.)

Much is unchanged since last year; plenty of 2018 favorites (and even 2017 favorites!) are still working for me. These are my new (or new again) 2019 additions:

What worked for me in 2019

1. Running. Or maybe I should say my kids’ running. Several of my children (if you’re new here, I have four) started running on their schools’ cross country teams this year. Practice started way back in June, and Will and I spent many a summer morning driving them to practice. And often these practices were at beautiful parks that weren’t close to anything—not to our home, and not to a coffee shop where I could work for a while.

And so I decided to start running again for the first time in a few years. I was already at the park, and dozens of runners were about to get a nice morning workout in. Why couldn’t I be one of them?

Cross country season has been over for a while now, but I’m still running, and my endurance is better than it’s been in YEARS.

What worked for me in 2019

2. Audiobooks. All those extra miles have done good things for my audiobook life as well. I listened to more than usual this year, and so many of them were so good. (These are my favorite audiobooks of 2019.) This year thanks to Libro.fm I even got to advance-listen to a good number of Summer Reading Guide titles, which was incredibly helpful (and so enjoyable!).

At your all’s suggestion, I got myself a pair of these headphones so I could safely and comfortably listen on the trails—I love that I can hear my book just fine, but I’m aware of my surroundings because they don’t completely block out noise from traffic and my fellow pedestrians.

I love podcasts (of course!), and listen to those often while running (or cooking, or folding laundry), but finishing a podcast doesn’t generate the same sense of accomplishment that finishing an audiobook does.

3. Reading on the Kindle. I never thought I’d say this, because I’ve always greatly preferred reading on paper to reading on my ereader. But this year I finally made my e-reader—and sometimes even my computer screen—work for me.

Ebooks were invaluable for my Don’t Overthink It research, thanks to a combination of the search and highlights features. And for the first time, I didn’t hate reading e-galleys (that is, advance review copies that contain unfinalized text and are delivered electronically, instead of as a bound book). Learning how to make the highlights feature work for me was key: I explained how to export highlights from egalleys here.

What worked for me in 2019

4. In-person time. This year I’ve made it a point (once again) to get together with people in person whenever possible, for both my personal life and my work life. My family has hosted houseguests, carved out time to see friends in town, and gone out of the way to see family and old friends across the country.

For my work life, I was on the road a lot this year, meeting readers and librarians and booksellers all over the country. Because I believe in-person time is so valuable, this year we planned and hosted our first MMD Book Club Retreat, which affirmed both my love of book people and the value of gathering off-line. I also prioritized spending time with writers who’ve become friends over the years, which is good for the soul and—bonus!—good for my writing life.

It’s not always easy to make in-person time happen, but I’ve never, not once, regretted doing so.

What worked for me in 2019

5. Our neighborhood. While I’ve always been a why-drive-if-you-can-walk kind of girl, this year my whole family has been intentional about doing more things close to home, and doing those things by foot whenever possible. With that in mind, we made some big changes this year and I’m loving the difference in our rhythms.

And because it means more walks for her, Daisy LOVES these changes.

6. Fixing stuff. 2019 was a busy year, and it’s easy for me to leave the non-urgent, less-important tasks slide …. for a really long time. But this year we’ve been making a concerted effort to fix what needs fixing: the drawer that won’t close, the light that won’t come on, the showerhead that hasn’t worked right since we moved in nearly three years ago, the sweater with a hole in the shoulder.

What worked for me in 2019

7. Planning ahead—and not just for the big stuff. It’s been well-documented here that I don’t like taking the time to shop … so I don’t do it. And—funny thing!—if you don’t replace the clothes in your wardrobe as they wear it, then you don’t have clothes to wear.

This led to a couple of tricky situations last winter as I opened my closet to pack nice professional clothes for cool weather and realized I didn’t have any. My clothing isn’t of cosmic importance, but when people ask me to come speak in their community, part of the job is showing up and looking decent, and I wanted to be able to do that without stressing about it.

This year, way back in August and September, I took a little time (and got a little help) to plan a cold-weather wardrobe, and bought the sweaters and not-jeans bottoms I needed to fill the gaps in my wardrobe. It didn’t take much—I just added a few pieces. But it made a big difference.

Again, they’re just clothes—but it’s been such a relief to know that whatever I need is in my closet, already, and I don’t have to shop for it.

(Although as soon as I typed that I realized there’s a new hole in my favorite jeans …)

What worked for me in 2019

8. Visual planning. I’m a longtime fan of post-it notes, index cards, dry erase boards—basically anything that lets you put your brain on paper so you can look at it. When I can see what I’m working on, I can think clearly about it.

This year I added dry erase boards to my office, and—when I didn’t want or need an actual board—I relied heavily on these wall-sized post-it notes for dreaming, planning, organizing, and brainstorming.

9. Superhero summer (and fall and winter). We’ve never been on the superhero train … but this summer one of our kids came home begging to watch Guardians of the Galaxy, and we watched it as a family, and we all enjoyed it. Do you know how hard it is to find a movie six people aged 9 to grown-up will all enjoy? (That’s especially impressive because that was the wrong place to start in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.)

After that, we all wanted to see the next one, and the next one. And so we called it our superhero summer, and attempted to make it through the entire catalog. We didn’t make it through, but we’re okay with that, because it’s so nice to know that we all have a movie to look forward to for family movie night. (Next up: Spider-Man: Far From Home, and then we may rewatch the Ant-Mans because they’re so darn fun.)

What worked for me in 2019

10. TSA pre check. I’m a nervous flyer, and pre-check takes some of the stress out of it. I wish I’d done this sooner. (I can’t believe I didn’t get this before my I’d Rather Be Reading book tour!

11. More walking and less sitting. Notice a theme here? I love the writing life, but like any job, it has its occupational hazards. I work from home most days, and spend a large percentage of my time staring at a screen. I like working this way, but it has its downsides.

About this time last year I realized that thanks largely to big writing projects-in-progress, I’d grown a lot more sedentary, and that wouldn’t change unless I made a conscious effort to move more. Getting out in my walkable community was a start, but I also finally learned how to put the hand-me-down treadmill desk Will got from an old employer to use. I was so excited to bring it into the house, but it’s not easy for me to type while I’m on it, and it’s impossible to write neatly.

I figured out that while I can’t write while I’m walking, I can review content just fine, and it’s great for reading emails and taking phone calls.

What worked for me in 2019

12. Values-driven decision making. And everything else I learned writing a book called Don’t Overthink It. In a nutshell, I’ve learned to view my calendar with an eye towards what matters most to me, and have made it a point to make sure my life as I live it actually reflects my priorities. It’s not foolproof, but it’s not an exaggeration to say learning to think this way has changed my life.

I know the dessert photo seems out of place here, but I chose it for a reason: what I especially love about this mindset is it applies to major life decisions and seemingly small ones, like Do I want to try this dessert while I’m traveling?

I’d love to hear what worked for YOU in 2019, and what didn’t, and why. Tell us all about it in comments.

P.S. I’ll be sharing what DIDN’T work for me in 2019 in the newsletter later this week. Click here to make sure you’re on the list.


Leave A Comment
  1. Gina says:

    Learning to gently but firmly say NO worked for me. Letting my family learn to do more for themselves has been good for me. I always want to help everyone but bring myself needless stress in the process. Exercise! Joining a gym has been a true life changer for me!

  2. Alison says:

    One thing that worked for me this year was working out regularly – including completing my first half marathon!

    One more thing was blending what I learned from 3 books (Essentialism, Refresh and When to Walk Away) to make my life more focused on the important things and not let others drag me down.

  3. Bettye Greenwood says:

    Seriously tracking my goals has been an eye opener for me in 2019. I track goals in my planner each week and it just helps me see how I’m doing and motivates me to improve. Also I can adjust goals. I ask myself if I am not making any attempt to meet a goal, then why is it on the list?

  4. Lakeisha says:

    I had to take a moment to say that I enjoy every post that you submit! Thanks for helping my reading life!😊 Happy New Year! I love this post!

  5. Dana says:

    Walking with buddies really worked for me this year. I tried to keep a walking fitness routine ( can’t run anymore after meniscus surgery a couple of years ago), but I didn’t do well by myself. In August I started walking with 3 other women I knew from my quilt guild 4 mornings a week. We walk for an hour in a state park along the river and talk the entire time! The hour flies by as we chat about everything from books, to quilting, to family, to recipes, to big life moments…I look forward to it so much and I’ve made 3 new good friends. Plus I get in my steps for the day!

    Entertaining casually at home has worked well for me. We have never done much of that before. We had new neighbors that moved in last fall and we have frequently invited them over to watch sports ( baseball and football) or a movie, or to sit on our deck for drinks and munchies or cook out steaks or burgers. It has been a fun and stress-free way to socialize and make new friends.

  6. Peggy Coffey says:

    My husband and I evaluated our life three years ago. We were mid 50s and wanted more out of life. Our children were grown and gone. We decided to sell our home and gave everything else away and bought a 40 ft RV. We travel the country, our children call us nomads, but we have met some amazing people and seen so many beautiful things. Every year we ask if we’re happy and if this us still right for us. So far, we wouldn’t have it any other way. I do miss my bookshelves though. Everything is on ereader or audiobook. But your podcast keeps my TBR list growing.

  7. Annette B Silveira says:

    It’s so fun reading what worked for everyone this year. After a decades-long struggle with migraines I’m finally on a medication that allows me to live my life. Most recently, my migraines have been food-triggered and I’m now eating foods I haven’t eaten in years. I’ve just discovered the values-based planning method and am implementing it for 2020.

    • Cynthia says:

      After 40 years of migraines, I completely understand. Has your doctor prescribed Ajovy for you yet? Self administered shots that lower the frequency of migraines. Miraculous. Hope this helps!!!

  8. After reading Atomic Habits last fall, I realized keeping a chart would fit well with my Gretchen Rubin Tendency (I’m an Upholder) as far as habits go. I committed to 300 days this year to drink 8 oz of water, to jump rope, and to forgo sweets. If I hold to my schedule today and tomorrow, I’ll hit 339 days on the water, 298 with the jump rope (plantar fasciitis set me back somewhat), and 300 sweet-free. Keeping a chart has been a very small thing that has brought tremendous satisfaction and motivation. I’m geared up to do the same (with different goals) next year!

    I wanted to thank you for your Modern Mrs. Darcy Reading Challenge. This is the first year I participated, and I decided to combine your challenge with my own that I called Clear Your Shelves. I picked 25 books I already owned to read this year (in addition to my other regularly-scheduled reading), half of which met your requirements. I’ve got 50 pages left in my last book. It has been wonderful to finally tackle books I’ve meant to get to for years. With a job that is all about keeping current with new titles, this has been a gift. I’ll keep clearing my shelves (and Kindle) for years to come.

    Happy New Year to you!

    • Denise losh says:

      Ha, what you listed looks very much like me. In 2019: Water, 1 glass when I wake up. Jump rope 2x week. Did well on those, so building on them in 2020. Also in 2020, cut back on sweets, from something every day to some days….a girl has to look forward to something. And plan on reading 1 book from my shelves each month. With 1 of those books being Atomic Habits. Big believer in habits and how they make you who you are.

  9. SS says:

    I can’t believe you didn’t have pre-check!

    My husband started a new job this summer, and now that we are both commuting in the same direction we can often carpool. Spending more time together is working for us.

  10. Mary Taylor says:

    Trying to get better handle on my diet, read and incorporated some ideas from the book the Economists’ diet by Christopher Payne.Not a diet that tells you what to eat, which I would never follow, just ideas for how to control your eating.Have gone through my bookshelves and cleared out books I knew I would not read or reread. For this year doing your reading challenge, the unreadshelf book challenge and popsugar reading challenge. that should keep me reading my bookshelves. Happy New Year

  11. Elly says:

    After staying with us at our home for a few days after the birth of our third child, my mom just got us a new shower head to replace the one that hasn’t worked *quite* right for about three years now. It’s funny how easy it is to let those little (but everyday) things just slide! And funny how much we appreciate the fixing because it’s used so often.

  12. These are all really great things — it is so important to look back on what did and did not work for the previous year. Often it is great advice to carry into the coming year! I’ve been running a lot more this year, also! It has seriously helped my mental health so much. My youngest is in soccer so our summer was constant soccer practices and games. I learned very quickly that it is hard to keep up with him on the field! Thank you for sharing your list ♥

  13. Mariah Hanley says:

    I’ve been using Daylio every day this year to track my mood at the end of every day. It’ll be 365 days tomorrow, and it’s really helped me see what makes me feel better and worse. Walking/hitting my step goal helps me have better days. So do sunny days, reading, 8+ hours of sleep, and spending time with my friends, family, and mentors. I feel worse when it’s dark and rainy, when I don’t walk for a few days, and when I’m not getting enough sleep.
    I’ve also been tracking what I eat since August and it’s helped me realize what works and what doesn’t. Because of it, I’ve cut out pizza almost entirely and am way more aware of what I’m eating and how much.
    I read less this hear than last year, but I still read a lot and I know that I read less because I wasn’t very sick (chronic illness), depressed, anxious, or grieving and isolating. So even though my number of books is less, it’s a win overall. I have less time to read because I’m living life more.
    Little other things that work: liking the work I do. It’s been huge. Scheduling the stuff that has to happen, like oil changes and watering my plants. Changing into comfy clothes when I get home. Creating a bed routine.

  14. Carey Hall says:

    Yoga has been a wonderful addition to my life these last few months of the year. I don’t like to exercise and I have a hard time quieting my mind to focus, but yoga seems to help with that. I usually end up so focused on not falling over and not making weird sounds, that I forget to be stressed out or anxious. It has made me feel so accomplished to see my skillset improve with poses.

  15. Totally with you on values-based prioritising and decision making! For me, 2019 was a big wake-up call on letting go of the little pieces that didn’t actually align with the big picture. Also, a part of that was making myself focus on what was in front of me (the page, the task, whatever). Great wrap up Anne, already looking forward to hearing about what works for you in 2020 😉

  16. Becky says:

    To respond to your what didn’t work list in your email — I also have larger, ridiculously wide feet, and the struggle is SO real in finding shoes that fit. One place that I’ve had some good luck in finding shoes that actually work for me is called Hotter USA. They’re originally based out of the UK, and have a good percentage of shoes that also come in the wider sizes. I’ve never bought booties from them, but I do have a pair of shorter gray boots that I wear frequently, and a second pair of flats that I have from there were one of my primary pairs of shoes for walking around Paris with minimal blistering. (A big accomplishment, since my feet are also quite prone to getting those.)

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