Tips and Techniques for Self Improvement: Getting Back on Track

Since I discussed goal setting two weeks ago, I thought it might be interesting to look at how I get back on track with my goals if I find myself not really working at them or if I’m not making as much progress as I\d like.

In my opinion, getting back on track is one of the most difficult aspects of self improvement.  Setting goals and acting on them can be quite easy at first, especially if you set goals annually: we all have lots of energy at the beginning of the year when everything seems fresh and new.  As the year wears on, however, it becomes more and more difficult to stay consistent, especially when unexpected roadblocks or personal issues arise.  Here is the step-by-step process that I use when I need to get back on track after letting one or more of my goals fall by the wayside:

1. Ask yourself: is this goal important to me?

Everyone should be changing and evolving continuously.  Sometimes the main reason why we get off track with working on something is that it just isn’t as important to us in April as it was in January.  This was a significant issue for me in 2017, when I set several goals around social and political issues that I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about several months later.  When I sat down and thought about why I wasn’t making progress on those goals, I realized that there were other ways to accomplish what I had set out to accomplish in January that were more approachable and interesting for me.

In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing wrong with letting go of goals that you realize aren’t getting you anywhere.  Giving yourself permission to let those goals go will give you more time and energy to work on the tasks that are still important to you.

2. Ask yourself: is this goal realistic?

While it can be easy to roll your eyes at the SMART method (make goals Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timely), it really is important to ensure that your goals are realistic.  If your goals aren’t realistic and you routinely aren’t able to accomplish them, it’s easy to get discouraged and give up on trying to make progress.  Setting realistic goals can be difficult, because it’s always easy to imagine things we might want to do without thinking about how we will actually achieve them.  It’s important to have a good understanding of your limits and then challenging them in a way where you can set yourself up for success.

I’ll use a personal example to illustrate.  One of my main goals for this year was to write as much as possible.  Of all the goals I set for 2018, this has probably been my greatest area of success.  The goal isn’t particularly specific, but I felt that the easiest way to guarantee that this goal was realistic for me was to leave it a little more open-ended.  Of course, I have a posting schedule that I’ve been able to stick with, but I also have cancer treatments to deal with, a relationship, a parent who can use a bit of help around the house and a puppy to train.  By going easy on myself and not stating my goal as “I will blog three times per week” I’ve taken a lot of the stress out of the equation and allowed myself to just write as much as I’m able.  My desire to keep writing naturally keeps me on track and I don’t have to punish myself if I’m not able to stick with my schedule.

3. Where are the barriers?

If you’ve determined that your goal is still important to you and that it is realistic, it’s time to try and find the barriers that are getting in your way.  Do you have all the materials you need to accomplish the goal?  Are you giving yourself the time you need to work on the goal?

For me, my most common barrier is time.  I can be terrible at giving myself enough time to accomplish what I want to accomplish and I’m an artist at letting it happen in a lot of different ways.  In general, I am very good at making room in my life to be consistent at one thing at a time.  Right now, it’s writing the blog, but I need to give myself time to accomplish all the other things I want to accomplish as well.

4. Brainstorm tools and strategies

Once you’ve figured out what may be impeding your progress, it’s time to brainstorm and find strategies to help you get back on track.  I usually write this down in the notebook I use to record my goals and monthly review.  Having my raw ideas written down is always helpful for me because even if I don’t use all of the ideas immediately, I will sometimes revisit them and find them useful later on.

The strategies you brainstorm can be very simple.  I generally find that it’s best make use of tools that you’re already using for other tasks.  For example, I recently started using my planner, which I bought at the beginning of the year to keep track of my writing schedule and my appointments, as a kind of project planner.  I have quite a few small business and de-cluttering projects that I am currently working on and, since my planner has a substantial set of “notes” pages at the back, I’ve been using those pages to track those projects.  It’s been a great help to write everything down in a resource that I’m already looking at and using on a regular basis.

5. Schedule time and give it to yourself

As I said above, time is usually a huge impediment to my making good progress on my goals and I think most folks are probably in the same boat.  If accomplishing a goal is really important to you, you have to give yourself permission to make time in your life for it.  I’ve found that a great way to do this is to schedule the time in advance.  It doesn’t have to be daily — you could schedule a few hours once per month or once per week.  Once you’ve chosen how much time you want to spend, write it down in your calendar (digital or physical) and set up reminders that pester you to work on it.  It actually works!

I’ve found this overall strategy to be super helpful for me over the years.  If you try it out, please let me know if it works for you!

Tips & Techniques for Self Improvement: Setting Goals

For me, setting my annual goals is the foundation of my self improvement regime: it’s tough to try to work on yourself and your life if you don’t know what you want to work on. I’m going to start with a more general discussion about goal setting and some different strategies that I’ve taken note of over the years, and then I’ll get in to my process in particular. Hopefully you’ll be able to find something in this post that will help you to set your goals for this year!

Recently I’ve noticed that there are at least two fundamentally different methodologies for self improvement. The first is introspective, which is what I feel works best for me. With a more introspective approach to goal setting, you would generally use a tool to evaluate both your previous year and your current circumstances and then set goals based on where you would like to make improvements. I will discuss how I do this in more detail below.

The second general methodology for self improvement that I have noticed recently has more to do with aspirations and, for lack of a better term, the “power of positive thinking.” For this methodology, you would review your previous year, think about what you want to achieve in the next year, and then write goals based on what you want to accomplish. When writing your goals down, you would write them in such a way that it seems like they have already been achieved. For example, if you wanted to save $5000 over the course of the year, you would write your goal out like this:

“I have saved $5000 in 2018.”

Based on the research and reading I’ve done so far, it is believed that writing your goals in such a way can essentially trick your mind into believing that they are more obtainable. I’m not sure how well this technique would work for me, but I’ve noticed that there are many writers out there advocating that this is an effective way to not only set goals, but also to use gratitude journals and affirmations. The gratitude journal that I initially tried out, for example, was formatted entirely on this methodology.

Being a fairly logical and realistic thinker, I tend to prefer an introspective approach to goal setting. My aim with goal setting is to make real and measurable improvements to my life and thus I have to carefully examine what isn’t working for me and then set goals that I feel will help me improve in those areas. I assess my current circumstances using a Wellness Wheel. I will be discussing wellness wheels in more detail in a later post, but essentially a wellness wheel divides your life into particular categories, and you assign a numerical score to those categories. I also write a narrative that accompanies each score, but this isn’t necessary unless you find it helpful.

Once I’ve completed and analyzed my wellness wheel, I think about ways that I might be able to improve in the categories where my scores are low. Because I want my goals to be specific and at least somewhat measurable, I tend to avoid setting goals like “improve my health score” or “improve my social score.” I try to think of smaller tasks that I can work on over the course of the year to slowly bring my scores up. I’m always looking for modest improvements that can be maintained over the long term. The whole point of using a wellness wheel is to gradually balance it out so that you have a decent score for all of the different aspects of your life.

After considering how I’d like to try to raise my lower scores and also how I’d like to work on balancing out my wheel over the course of the year, I then start formulating those ideas into goals. Generally speaking, I try to not make more than 10 main goals per year, because trying to change too much too quickly doesn’t work for me. Usually those 10 goals are a combination of elements in my life that I think are suffering and need improvement and new things that I’m interested in trying out.

The last step in my goal setting process that I’ll discuss today is writing everything down. In my opinion, writing down my goals is the most important part of the process for several reasons, but mostly because it allows me to efficiently review my progress on a regular basis and develop better strategies for staying on track. I use an inexpensive notebook and write one goal at the top of each page. On that page, I brainstorm strategies and ideas for how I can accomplish that goal and break the goal into smaller tasks if appropriate.

After recording all of my goals in the notebook, I use the rest of the pages to record my monthly review process. It’s important to set goals, but I’ve found that I often don’t stick with them particularly well unless I spend time reviewing them and tracking my progress on a regular basis. I will be discussing my review process in a later post, so I hope you might find that interesting as well.

Did you set any goals for 2018? How are you progressing? Message me or leave a comment below! I’d love to know how you’re doing!

February Goal Review

A new month means it’s time for goal review!

1. Survive Chemotherapy

I’m making decent progress on my goals which, as I said last month, are all really in service of my goal of surviving chemotherapy.  My third chemo cycle (treatments 5 and 6 of 12) were much easier than my second cycle and I have physically and mentally been feeling much better.  Of course, I have been a bit overwhelmed by caring for our new puppy, but that has had many positive effects on my life as well.

2. Write as much as possible

I’ve still been writing as much as I had planned to do at the beginning of the year and recently, due to the new puppy, I have been much more efficient in my writing process.  I spent some time researching topics, which I will definitely do at least once in March as well, and I found some that inspire me.  Because I’ve had less free time, I’ve worked writing into my new schedule as much as I can and I’ve been successfully managing everything as intended.  I haven’t quite been sticking to my schedule of writing one full week ahead, but I’ve been getting pretty close, which is fantastic.

I’m a little afraid that I will run out of content for my Media Round-up posts.  I don’t have a lot of time to read and watch things right now, but if I have to skip those every once in awhile, I’ll just write a regular post in their place.

3. Develop a healthy nighttime routine

Results for this have been mixed.  Since we brought Frankie home, I have adapted to a new sleep schedule and have been going to bed early and getting up early.  The routine I wanted to develop had to change drastically and has been simplified a great deal, but I have been doing a better job at a lot of the basics.  In order to decompress after managing Frankie, I’ve had to start listening to sleep meditations and that is helping me get to sleep a little easier than before.

4. Be financially responsible

My spending freeze was wildly successful all through February and continues to be going well as we move into March.  I did receive a gift card for my birthday and was able to buy a few books, but apart from that I spent very little money in February.  I did make a small clothing purchase at the beginning of March (a sweater that I had been eyeing for months), but I’m hoping to keep this going for as long as possible.  Right now it looks like I won’t have any further income until some time in April, if my long term disability application is approved.

5. Take care of myself physically

Since we brought Frankie home there has been a tremendous improvement in my physical health.  I’ve adopted a healthier sleeping schedule and I’ve been eating well and getting more physical activity.  I’m feeling physically stronger and more mobile.  The new schedule has also helped me to ensure that I’m keeping up with the personal hygiene habits and routines that can be a bit tricky for me when I’m not feeling well.  Huge wins here in February.

6. Take care of myself mentally

This has been a little tricky since the puppy forced me to rearrange my life.  I haven’t been using my journals at all, which is probably better for the neuropathy in my hands, but I would like to get back into gratitude journaling again, as I think it will help me when I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Frankie has, essentially, served as a fantastic distraction.  I haven’t had much time to feel sorry for myself because I’ve had to worry about keeping her from peeing in the house and crying in her crate and training her to do things.  I’m not gonna lie, though, she’s been difficult and I’ve been struggling a bit.  There is no remedy for this other than time and patience, however, so I will stick with it and let her be what I need her to be in my life right now.

7. Learn something new

Success here has been mixed as well and my focus for this goal has, by necessity, had to shift a bit.  I was completely blindsided by how difficult Frankie was to manage.  We had been terribly spoiled by Daisy and how easy she was to house train and I thought I knew what I was doing.  It turns out, I had no idea.  I’ve had to do a lot of research and reading to help us get through some of the obstacles that have come our way.  As a result, I’ve learned a lot about dog training over the past few weeks, but I haven’t had the time to learn new skills that will help me move toward a new career path.

8. Keep things tidier and work on decluttering projects

My success here continued in February.  I purchased a basic printer/scanner, scanned my important documents, and put the originals away in a safe place.  I also sorted through my physical collection of books and donated all over half of them to a fundraiser at a local elementary school.  Since Frankie came along, I haven’t had time to make my office very messy and, since I’ve had to be more organized about laundry, I’ve been doing a great job of keeping my bedroom tidier.

9. Leave the house to work at least once per week

For now I am going to put a hold on this goal.  Unfortunately, one of the main side effects of many chemo protocols is gastrointestinal issues and those have been keeping me in the house a little more often than I would like.  I’ve been feeling a little cooped up over the past two weeks, but this is mostly due to self-imposed puppy isolation.  Prior to the arrival of Frankie, I was feeling okay about just working at home and my productivity hasn’t suffered.  I may revisit this if the issues clear up, but for now it’s just a little too uncomfortable for me to spend too many hours without convenient access to a bathroom.

Overall, I’m pleased with my progress.  Frankie has changed a few of my priorities, but I’m plugging away and doing the best that I can!  Are you making progress on your goals for the year?  Message me and tell me all about it!  I’d love to hear about how you’re doing!

A Moratorium on YouTube

In 2013, my New Years Resolution was to stop mindlessly watching TV after work.  At that time, I was living and working in Red Deer, Alberta and I had cable.  I didn’t have a huge package with loads of channels, but I did have the two most important channels (for me): HGTV and the Food Network.  Due to the shortage of jobs in my field (and also to my own stupidity) I had been unemployed for some time before moving to Alberta.  I was unaccustomed to working full time and, for the first few months that I lived away, it was a tough transition.  I found myself spending far too many evenings lounging on my couch, mindlessly watching House Hunters and Chopped.

These shows are fine and I still love watching HGTV and the Food Network, but I was getting bored.  I was spending hours watching TV shows that I wasn’t engaged in and didn’t really care about.  I wasn’t excited about watching them or experiencing any joy or happiness, I was just tired after work and wanted to be halfway amused without making any real effort.  This was, in my opinion, an enormous waste of time.

If you can manage it (and I definitely could at that point), time away from work should be spent doing things that make you happy.  Things to which you are devoting 100% of your attention and that are bringing you a great deal of joy.  It could be watching TV series or reading or knitting or playing video games or sports.  It could be spending time with your family or friends or your partner.  In my opinion, no free time is wasted as long as you’re wholeheartedly enjoying yourself.

I’ve been wasting too much of my free time lately, mostly on YouTube.

We have cable in our home, but I don’t use it.  Since I went back to work in 2016, I have replaced HGTV and the Food Network with YouTube.  If I can’t decide what I want to do or I’ve had a tough day at the office and I can’t be bothered to make an effort to entertain myself, I watch YouTube videos.  Like most folks, I have some weird things that I like (studio apartment tours, Van Life home tours, videos about Japanese food) and a slate of YouTube channels that I watch on a regular basis.  I will also sometimes spend hours watching videos about a topic I’d like to learn about.  Sometimes all this can be valuable time spent and can be relaxing, but recently I feel like I’m spending too much time watching recommended videos from my home page that I am not particularly engaged by or interested in.

I want to spend my time in treatment doing things that bring me joy and enrich my life.  I don’t want to waste my free time vegging out with YouTube.  From today on I am going to stop being so lazy and put more effort into having fun.  Here’s a short list of things I’ll be doing instead of watching YouTube videos:

Re-watching my favourite anime series

When I’m working, I often feel a bit guilty about watching shows I’ve already seen, reading books I’ve already read or playing video games I’ve already played.  I have a unique opportunity right now, however, to revisit some of my favourites.  I think that this will be fun, relaxing and a great source of comfort.

Playing simple video games

Normally, I play a lot of console video games; however, since starting chemotherapy, I have had significant issues with neuropathy in my hands and fingers.  This makes it difficult for me to play games on handheld consoles or using a controller.  Fortunately, I can still play simple mouse and keyboard games, such as as visual novels and adventure games.  I have a nice backlog of simple PC games already installed on my laptop that I hope to start playing soon.

Reading books

I often think that going to school for as long as I did ruined reading for me.  After finishing my two degrees, I associated reading books with work and not with relaxation.  I am ashamed to admit that I haven’t spent much time reading since 2008.  Since I haven’t been able to play video games the way I could prior to my diagnosis, however, I have been reading constantly.  My goal is to get through 2-3 books per month while I am in treatment.

Playing with my new puppy

We will be bringing home our new puppy from the breeder on February 19th.  I am assuming that house and obedience training will be taking up a good chunk of my time from that day forward.  I am so excited that I can hardly contain myself.  I have a significant update to share on our puppy situation, but that can wait until we get her home and settled.  Please look out for it.

There plenty of other ways that I can purposefully and joyfully spend my free time, but it is my hope that these will be my focus over the coming weeks.  I will still watch YouTube from time to time, but I don’t want to let it swallow so many hours from now on.  Do you sometimes feel like you aren’t spending enough of your free time doing things that actually bring you joy?  Do you have any YouTube guilty pleasures that you can get lost in for hours?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear all about them!


January Goal Review

At the beginning of each month, I will be reviewing my progress on my goals for 2018.  In order to keep myself accountable and to better work through strategies to stay on track or help me to improve in areas where I am struggling, I have decided to post a version of my goal review on this blog.  I will not be covering everything, as some of my goals were a little too personal to write about in public, but I think it might be useful for others to see how I do things.  I’ve found that reading about the progress of others and the strategies that they use to stay on track can be super helpful and I’m often able to glean a lot of good ideas.

1. Survive chemotherapy

I would say that all of my other goals are in service of this.  Overall, I think that I have been making satisfactory progress on my goals for 2018.  I have been very successful in some areas and I have been struggling in others, which is to be expected.

2. Write as much as possible

This is the area where I have been the most successful.  I have posted in my blog three times per week and most of my posts have been well thought out.  There have been a few posts that I would say aren’t my best work, but I’m mostly proud of what I’ve written so far.  I’ve also been mostly keeping up with writing one week ahead to ensure that I have posts ready to go for when I’m not feeling well.

Ideas for improvement: brainstorm more often for topics and inspiration to make it easier to get excited about what to write each week.  I may schedule a particular time or evening to spend an hour or so doing this once per week.

3. Develop a healthy nighttime routine

This has been one of the areas where I have struggled the most.  Going to bed at a regular time is always difficult for me when I’m not working and I typically stay up as late as I can and then skip my self care routine in favour of going directly to sleep.  I have some strategies in mind that I think will help with this.  I will try those for the month of February and, if I don’t see a significant improvement, I have another idea in mind that I will try in March.

Ideas for improvement: schedule a time each night when I will stop what I’m doing and start on my bedtime routine.  Use an alarm on my cell phone that will annoy me so that I will actually stop what I’m doing to prepare for bed.

4. Be financially responsible

As I discussed a few weeks ago, my spending was way out of control in December and the beginning of January.  In order to assist with getting back on track, I am doing a spending freeze.  The spending freeze is necessary now as my EI will be running out next week and my long-term disability won’t kick in for some time due to some administrative hassles.  The freeze has been fairly successful so far, but I have spent a bit too much on takeout.

5. Take care of myself physically

In some areas this has been going very well.  I’ve been drinking loads of water every day and I have been walking a little bit (I hope to work up to a minimum of 150 minutes of walking each week).  Where I am struggling is with personal hygiene.  This is mostly due to depression and not structuring my bedtime routine.  The last two weeks have been especially tough, as I had some personal issues come up that put me completely off track.

Ideas for improvement: see #3.  I think if I can get into a good bedtime routine, that will help immensely.  I see how things go next month and re-evaluate from there.

6. Take care of myself mentally

Overall, I have mostly been able to maintain a neutral outlook.   I went for my first counseling session at the BC Cancer Agency and I like the social worker that I’m working with.  The second half of January was difficult for me and I have slipped into some of my depression behaviours, such as neglecting my personal hygiene and not cleaning up after myself.

Ideas for improvement: I will schedule time at least once per week to work through my CBT workbook.  I also think that #3 will assist me in getting back on track with my journaling practice.

7. Learn something new

In January I didn’t make enough time to try out new things or start working on taking some courses that will help me along what I hope to be my new career path.  I did do some research on online learning services such as Skillshare and fortunately, a YouTube channel I like had a promotion with Skillshare and I was able to get three months of premium service for less than $2.00.

Ideas for improvement: I will schedule time at least once per week to take a webinar course on a topic that I think will be useful to my carer development.

8. Keep things tidier and work on de-cluttering

In January, I managed to tackle a few small de-cluttering projects and I am very happy with my progress in that area.  I hope that I will be able to complete a few small projects every month so that when I return to working full time, my spaces will be tidier and easier to keep clean.  I have also been moderately successful at keeping my spaces tidier on a day to day basis.  As I said earlier, I had a bit of a setback over the last two weeks in January, but I’ve still seen significant improvement.  I just want to keep this up!

9. Work outside the house at least once per week

I have done well with this, but I have been going not quite every week.  Some weeks I feel better than others and chemo side effects can make it a challenge to haul a bunch of my stuff around.  I haven’t been feeling too cooped up, though, so I am okay with how this has been going and don’t feel like I need to be doing anything differently.

I think that making better use of my planner could aid me in some areas where I’m not seeing as much success.  It can be difficult to schedule your time when you don’t feel well, but I think it will help me to be more productive and make better use of my time off.  I think I can also use my planner to help track my physical self care and try to motivate keeping up those habits with stickers and positive self-reinforcement.  As I said above, overall I’m pleased with my progress so far.  I’ve made some significant improvements and have good strategies in place to work on areas that aren’t going as well.

Are you making good progress on your goals for 2018?  Let me know what you’re doing to stay on track!

What to expect from Stand Commonly in 2018

If you read my posts on my goals for 2018, then you know that one of my most important goals for this year is to write as much as possible.  As such, I will be creating a great deal of content for this blog.  I have exciting plans for the year ahead, including:

1. I will post entries on general topics at least twice per week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

I have loads of ideas for potential series, such as:

  • Living with cancer and surviving during chemotherapy
  • Mental health and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT)
  • Techniques and tools for self-improvement
  • Career development and learning new skills (mostly depends on how I’m feeling)
  • “Me and …” where I discuss significant developments in my life and how I currently feel about them
  • My de-cluttering journey
  • Progress updates on my goals for 2018

2. I will post reviews of video games I play, books and manga I read, and TV series and movies I watch.

At the moment, I have the Media Round-up format, where I plan to write 2-4 short reviews and post them in one long entry per week.  This format makes sense for now as I like to keep album reviews short and a lot of the other media I have been consuming has been on the shorter side.  I may change this format in the future, however, depending on  whether I feel like I’m able to say what I want to say without writing posts that are 2000 words long.  It’s possible that I may write a few more substantial reviews as regular Tuesday/Friday posts if I feel like whatever I am reviewing deserves a little more attention.

3. I will be updating the visual style.

I’m quite new to WordPress and I’m terrible at web design, but I would like to experiment with customizing Stand and see if I can make it a bit more representative of my personality.  I think the experience will be valuable for me and make the blog look a lot nicer.  It’s not bad right now, just very simple, and I think it could look much better.

4. Include more images.

I have never been a photo taking person, but I would like to start learning a bit more about photography and including more photographs and images into Stand’s content.  I also plan to start actually using my Instagram account, which I hope to integrate into the site.

I am so excited to get started on making Stand something that I can really be proud of.  I hope that all of you reading this will be able to learn something new or find something to entertain you here.  Let’s have a creative and peaceful 2018!

Goals for 2018: Part 2

Today I’ll be continuing my short series on my goals for 2018!  If you missed the first post, please read it here.

6. Care for myself mentally.

It’s no secret that I have issues with depression and anxiety and my current health crisis means that I will have to work at looking after my mental health this year.  I will have my bad days, but it is imperative that I keep up a positive (or at least neutral) attitude more consistently than usual.  I have several plans to assist me in accomplishing this.  First, I have been referred to the BC Cancer Agency’s counselling department, so I will be getting some professional help that is designed specifically to assist me in coping with cancer and treatment.  Second, some of the aspects of my journaling routine are focused upon positive thinking, affirmations, and gratitude.  Third, I have loads of video games to play, books to read, TV shows to watch and a forum to express how I feel about them.  I’m the most excited about that part!  Fourth, it is my hope that I will finally start working through the CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) workbook that I purchased earlier this year when I had my first panic attack.

7. Learn Something New

As I said in Goal #2 (Write as much as possible), it is my hope that I will be able to devote some small amount of time during time off examining how I can make career change to something that is more flexible and location neutral.  While I know that I can probably make some income with freelance writing, I would like to explore some other avenues that might be a bit more fruitful.  I plan to research and take some courses via educational websites such as Skillshare to see what kinds of skills will be necessary to obtain the kind of job that I want.  I’ve always been a fan of throwing myself up steep learning curves and I feel like now is a good time to start.

While I am enthusiastic about this goal I am, unfortunately, not certain how much I will be able to work on it.  My ability to take courses and learn things might be diminished by chemotherapy side effects.  I’m willing to give it a try, however, and I know that, from a practical perspective, it will be easier to do this when I am not working full time.

8. Create and maintain tidy spaces in my home that I can be happy spending a lot of time in.

I am an extraordinarily messy person.  Super organized and terribly messy.  While my messiness is consistent, it tends to get a lot worse when I’m depressed.  I would like to work toward making a significant change in this area in 2018.  While I am in treatment, I will not be returning to work, thus I will be at home most of the time.  If I’m going to spend most of my time in my office and my bedroom, I think it’s important that I try to keep them tidy so that I will enjoy my spaces and feel less stressed out and sad that they’re a mess.  I’m not exactly sure how I’ll be accomplishing this one, but I will start making some more specific plans and strategies over the next week or so.  I do already have some de-cluttering projects in mind.

9. Leave the house to work at least once per week.

This depends a bit on how I’m feeling, but I think it’s important for me to try and get out of the house at least a few times per week.  I can get a lot of work done in a few hours of crowd buzz and good music, so it’s worth it for me to get out and work in a coffee shop or somewhere similar.  I have a great little Chrome book that’s great for basic writing and web browsing on the go.  It’s my hope that I’ll be able to get out and work more than once per week, but I like to keep my goals as manageable and realistic as possible.

10.  Be supportive of and express gratitude to my partner and maintain a healthy and loving relationship.

A serious illness like cancer can have a significant impact on your romantic relationships.  Right now, my illness consumes a lot of my time and energy and it’s important to me that I don’t allow it to bleed too much into my relationship.  Of course, I will share my thoughts and feelings with him and I am counting on him to listen to me, be respectful, and provide love and moral support.  What I can’t do, however, is forget that he also needs love and moral support — I plan to do my best to make sure that his needs are being met and that everything isn’t about me being sick.

Have you set your goals yet for 2018?  Is there anything that you’re hoping to accomplish this year?  Leave a comment and let me know or message me privately — I’m interested to hear about what you’d like to get up to.  Let’s all have a better year than we did in 2017!

Goals for 2018: Part 1

It’s been a tough few days.  Chemotherapy side effects have been hitting me quite hard and I’ve had significant pain and discomfort.  I suppose it’s as good of a time as any, then, to start thinking about one of the main ways that I plan to take care of myself in 2018: by setting my goals for the year and developing mechanisms for tracking my progress.  I will be writing a post next week about what to expect from this blog in 2018 and a good bit of my content will be somehow related to my goals for the year.

I have 10 main goals for the year, many of which will divided into smaller, measurable tasks.  I will cover 5 goals today and 5 goals on Tuesday.

1. Make progress toward beating cancer.

I think it’s fairly obvious that this is my first priority in 2018.  I was tempted for my goal to simply be “Beat cancer” but I don’t like to set goals that are unrealistic.  Of course, it would be great if my six month course of chemotherapy was 100% guaranteed to cure my cancer, or at least force it into remission.  Given that the cancer has spread, however, I’m trying to be realistic about the fact that I may need further treatment down the road.  Given the side effects I’ve been experiencing recently, I feel like this could also be “Survive chemotherapy.”

2. Write as much as possible.

I am hoping that, within the next two years, I will be able to have a significant career change.  I have several reasons for this.  First, while I have a decent job that is moderately interesting, it isn’t the type of job that’s feasible to stay in for the long term (poor benefits, no pension plan, very high stress).  Second, I believe that the best career move for me at the moment is to transition into a job that is more flexible and, preferably, location neutral.  This means working from home.  I think this is the best for me due to my partner’s career being on a much better path than my own (it would be great to be able to pick up and move wherever he might need to go) and also because my cancer may reoccur or I may develop cancer in another part of my body.  A more flexible career would allow me to continue working during another period of illness.

During my time away from my day job, I plan to write as much as I can about a variety of topics and in numerous different formats, because I believe that writing is my best work from home skill.  I will also be working to develop new skills that I think will be useful to me in pursuing this path, but I’ll talk about that next week.

3. Develop a healthy and relaxing nighttime routine that will allow me to disconnect, focus and rest well.

I am terrible at going to bed for a whole host of reasons, but mostly I just dawdle a lot.  I scroll social media on my phone late at night when no one is posting anything, I watch YouTube videos that aren’t interesting, and I will often sit for 30 minutes just thinking about things.  I plan to shut my devices off earlier and journal every night to focus my thoughts and make sure that I don’t waste time that my body needs for rest.

4. Maintain my low credit card balance and manage my spending according to my reduced income.

2017 wasn’t a great year for me.  My dog died, I was diagnosed with cancer, and physically I just didn’t feel very well.  I also struggled a lot to accomplish the goals I had set for the year and I did a terrible job of managing my free time effectively.  The one aspect where I saw some significant improvement in 2017 is my finances.  I did a lot of research about managing personal finances, paying down debt and saving money.  Unfortunately, I didn’t end the year with much for savings, but I did end the year with way less debt.  I plan to maintain what I started last year and, if I am able to go back to work, start saving a substantial emergency fund.

5. Take care of myself physically.

Physical self care is an important priority for me this coming year — not only because I am in treatment for cancer, but also because I’m bad at it.  When things aren’t going well for me or I’m depressed, I often don’t take good physical care of myself.  I skip brushing my teeth, I don’t apply my psoriasis ointment, I don’t moisturize my skin (which I desperately need to do because I have such sensitive skin) and I stress/binge eat junk food.  I will need to manage all of this a lot better in order to keep myself positive and comfortable.  My doctor has also recommended that I get 150 minutes of physical activity per week, so I’m hoping to stay on track with that as much as I can, though I think it might be a bit of a challenge on the weeks when I am recovering from my treatments.

Stay tuned for Tuesday’s post, where I’ll be discussing the rest of my goals for 2018!  On Sunday I’ll be posting my new Media Round-up.  Watch out for it!