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.
- What worked for me last year?
- 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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …)
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.)
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.
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.