SALE ALERT: Your Best Year 2017 Goal Setting Workbook

Hey y'all! Hope you had a nice Thanksgiving and break. I'm back at it and will be buried in writing all month since I have an end of the month book deadline, but I wanted to pop in to let you know about a great sale going on today.

If you follow this blog regularly, you know that I'm all about the planners, goal-setting, and productivity. And the end of one year, beginning of another is always the logical time to do some review of what's worked and what hasn't and then make new goals going forward. This past year I used a goal-setting workbook called Your Best Year by Lisa Jacobs. 

This is not a traditional day planner. This is specifically a goal-setting workbook for people running a small business. It's not specific to writers, but I find it fits well for that. There are exercises to fill out that help you evaluate the past year--what's worked, what hasn't, the whys. Then it leads you through setting goals and habits for the next year. After that, it's a month by month guide of setting goals, evaluating them as you go, and adjusting as needed. 

I've found this system really helpful for me. Sometimes by the end of the year, it can feel like nothing worked because we're all tired and a little burnt out. But being able to look back at what I set as goals for the year in January helps me to see--oh, hey, I did accomplish some of this. It also helps me see the areas I'm still struggling in. Overall, it's a great exercise in mindfulness and thinking strategically about life and work.

And today for CyberMonday it's 50% off, which makes the download only $7.50. This workbook can be ordered in print or as a download. I like getting the download because then I can put it in my own binder and reprint a page if I mess up something. (By the way, I haven't been asked to feature this and I don't know the author. Just passing along my experience with it.)

So if you're looking to do some goal-setting for 2017, check it out.

There are also some alternatives to this workbook:

If you want something writer specific, Bria Quinlan has created the AuthorLife Planner. This can also be purchased as a print book or download. I haven't gotten a copy of this one yet, but lots of my friends have been raving about it. I believe there are exercises in the front and then it has an actual planner in the back with dates/calendars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you're not an author and not running a business but want to set personal goals, I've heard a lot about the Powersheets workbook. I haven't ordered these and they're on the pricier side (the spiral bound book is $55) but they seem to get great reviews and are very pretty. If you end up going this route, let me know what you think! I'm curious. :)

UPDATE: I ended up buying the Powersheets and I'm really impressed with them. Functional and lovely. :) (And yes, I have no willpower to resist these things, lol.)

All right, now I'm off to the writing cave.

Anyone into yearly goal-setting? Have you used this type of workbook before? What method do you use?

Video Flip Through of the Ban.do Agenda and Sticker Books

Hey, guys! I didn't plan to do a blog post today, but I realized that I filmed a flip through of the Ban.do Agenda and their sticker books and never posted it here. So for you planner nerds out there, here it is!

A flip through of the large 2016-1017 Ban.do Agenda.

And here's a quick flip of the sticker books that you can buy to go with the agenda (or for any planner, really.) This one has music in the background, no narration, so feel free to mute. :)

A quick flip through of the Ban.do agenda sticker books.

Have a great Thursday! 

Listify Life: The Things You Splurge On

This week's Listify Life is Things You Splurge On. Basically, your indulgences. A lot of times it's the little things that can perk us up during an otherwise dull or difficult week, so I think little indulgences are vital. We all have to treat ourselves sometimes, right? As long as it doesn't put us into crazy debt or danger, what's the harm? 

So here are mine, but I'd love to hear yours, too!

Listify Life - Indulgences

1. Books - I know you're stunned that this is the top of my list. Although, now I guess I don't even have to count them as indulgences because they're "work", right? Lol. I'm doing "market research." It's glorious.

2. Pens - Man, I love a good pen. I have way too many but I like different colors and different types for different things.

pen collection

 

3. Planners - You're shocked, right? *cue everyone rolling their eyes* My running count now is 5-6 right now. I'm not using all of them though. Two haven't started yet. And yes, I don't NEED that many, but they're not very expensive in the grand scheme of things and they make me happy.

4. Concerts - Hubs and I love love love rock concerts. This year has actually been a slow year, but usually we try to go to a concert every month or two.

5. Gourmet Grocery Stores - Yeah, they're more expensive and I don't go every week, but I love the feel of the organic/hippy/gourmet stores. Plus, I love to cook and often need speciality ingredients. Central Market is my favorite here in Texas, but it's far from me. So more often it's Whole Foods or Sprouts.

6. Vacations - Obviously we can't do these too much, but I'd much rather spend money on experiences than things (save the few things I'm mentioning here, lol.)

7. Massages - Last year I finally decided to treat myself to a monthly massage. It always felt super decadent to spend money on that, but I sit at a computer all day, have mild scoliosis, and get super tight muscles in my neck and shoulders, which causes pain. So even though this is still an indulgence, I also feel like it keeps me healthier and happier. 

8. Stickers and office supplies - This goes hand in hand with the planner addiction. But the kid in me still gets excited about cute stickers. (First pic is from the Stick with Me shop, the writer and adulting stickers are from Sierra Godfrey designs.)

stickers
sierra godfrey stickers

So those are mine. Now it's your turn! What are your indulgences or things you splurge on? :)

Seeking Novelty vs. Finding Tried and True: What's Your Style in Life?

This week when I was buying yet another planner (the Ban.do Agenda in the photo), I had that moment of "you're being ridiculous." And maybe I was. I don't need another planner. And do I think I'll use that planner for the next 18 months? Hell, no. I doubt I'll use any one planner for more than three months in a row. 

But then I decided the hell with it because a) planners have become my hobby, b) I recently posted about not apologizing for the "silly" things you're into if it's not hurting you or someone else (or spending money you can't afford to spend), and C) This is a personality quirk. I like variety. The variety is what keeps me interested and motivated to continue planning.

I get bored easily. And that's when I saw that this is an overall pattern in many areas of my life.

Some examples:

1. I rarely cook the same recipe twice because what keeps me excited about cooking is testing out new recipes.

2. I have trouble reading books in a series back to back (unless it's a cliffhanger book.) I need to read something else in between.

3. I never reread books, even my favorites.

4. The books I write don't follow a standard pattern even though they are in a series. I need a new concept, conflict, taboo topic, trope, setting, whatever it is to hook me into writing it. 

5. Vacations - I don't want to go back to the same places all the time. The world is too big and I want to see as much as I can. But my parents love going back to the same spots and I know a lot of other people love that idea of having their same summer getaway each year. 

The only areas I could think of that I don't seek variety and prefer tried and true are:

1. The hubs - Which is a good one to be tried and true about obviously, lol. We've been together 17 years and it still feels new every day. :)

2. Favorite movies and TV shows - I enjoy watching my favorite movies or TV shows over and over again. Every few years, I'll pull out my Dawson's Creek or Friends boxed set and watch them from start to finish.

3. My car - I'm on my third Hyundai Sante Fe. I found the vehicle I like and I'm good. And I keep my car long after it's paid off. 

But anyway, all this got me to wondering how other people are when it comes to this. So I want to hear from you. Do you tend to seek out variety? Or do you like finding the thing that works and sticking with it? Or does it vary depending on what area of your life?

What's Your "Escape Hatch"? The Importance of Hobbies

Today,  author Jaye Wells did a fantastic post on burnout. Go read it. I'll wait. She explains how she got burned out when her passion and escape (writing) became her job and took over every aspect of her life.

I so relate to that article. I've talked a little bit about it here, but I definitely was burnt to a crisp by the end of 2015. I love writing. It is my passion. But when it became my job and my world became deadlines and constant writing and promotion and all the business that goes along with being a writer, I lost what Jaye calls the "escape hatch."

Writing used to be my escape hatch. I started writing in high school not just because I loved reading and creating stories but because it gave me a break from the angst of being a teenager. It was an escape from every day life. That's one reason why I went back to writing after I had my son. I was a new mom who had no idea what she was doing and was dealing with a very colicky, non-sleeping baby. When I needed to take a break from all that, I escaped into writing.

That was the best thing I could've done because that's the point where my passion turned into my career. I got my first publishing contract when my kidlet was three. From that point on, writing became my full time job. 

I love it. I feel lucky every day that I get to do this for a living. BUT, it means that writing is my job. It's what I *have* to do now. That takes some of the "escape" out of it. Where do I get to escape when writing gets hard or stressful or a book is fighting me? And books always fight.

That's what led me to my burnout. I didn't have that other outlet anymore. For a while at the end of last year, I didn't even want to read because that's tied to writing. And, believe me, if I'm not reading, that means there's a major problem lol. *cue warning sirens for meltdown*

So after turning in my book, I stepped back and evaluated and took a break. I read non-fiction since fiction wasn't calling to me. I painted and redecorated my office. And I got a planner--seemingly to be more organized--but it ended up being more than that. I discovered there was this whole planning community. And it was a crafty pursuit. There are pretty pens and washi tape and stickers involved! That has become my version of an escape. It's a hobby that will not make me money, that has no pressure attached to it, and that relaxes me. From the outside, it seems like a silly thing. I mean, how many pens do I really need? This many, btw:

My pen/pencil collection

My pen/pencil collection

 

But after reading that post, I realize--no, it's not silly or indulgent. It's necessary. It's self-care.  I found a crafty, creative outlet to be my little escape hatch when I'm not writing. And looking back, I've been doing this all along. When things get stressful, I seek out hobbies. Maybe I start cooking a lot. Last year, it was canning and pickling things. I took a photography course a few years ago when I definitely didn't have time for it. I rebuilt my website because I enjoy the process of taking things apart and putting it back together. It's even in my author bio:

"If she’s not working on her latest sexy story, you can find her cooking, watching reality television, or picking up another hobby she doesn't need--in other words, procrastinating like a boss."

But maybe it's not always procrastinating or a hobby I don't need, after all. Maybe it's making room in my head for the writing. It's giving my brain space to "breathe" and refresh. 

And I know that Jaye's post was specifically about writing, but I think it applies across the board if you're doing a job you love. Or being a parent. Or even a job you hate. We need that time to play. We need those things that don't have any stakes tied to them.

So, I'm curious. What's your escape hatch?

Eating Healthy At Home: How I Meal Plan and a Free Weekly Menu Printable

Weekly Meal Planning Roni Loren

If you follow me at all online, you know I love to cook (and eat!), but I'm not one of those cooks who just comes up with inventive meals on the fly. I've spent hours writing fiction most days, so my creativity is drained by the time I get to dinnertime. I don't want to think about what to cook or how I'm going to make it tasty, which is why for years I've sworn by weekly meal planning. Without my weekly meal planning, I'd end up going out for fast food or ordering pizza every night. Meal planning keeps me (and the fam) on track with healthy eating.

Here's my general routine. On the weekend, I set aside some time to grab a few of my cookbooks off the shelf (or to go to my saved recipes online) and I sit down and choose what I'm cooking for each night of the coming week. This is even easier if you have few main go-to recipes that you use each week. I'm weird in that I like to cook different stuff pretty much non-stop. I have very few go-to meals and those are usually brought out when hubs is out of town and I'm just cooking for me and the kidlet. My theory on why I like novel cooking is that I like to eat in restaurants. But restaurants are expensive and somehow they manage to pack twice as many calories into things--even things that seem healthy. So what keeps me from eating out too much is creating new stuff for me to try to each week, so it feels like I'm going to a new restaurant. (See, told you, I'm weird.)

And luckily, I have a family with an open-minded palate, so they're pretty go with the flow on whatever I decide to cook. (I set up the expectation early with kidlet--you eat what I cook. I may alter his slightly, like not make his serving as spicy or keeping onions out of his or something, but he's expected to eat what we're having for dinner and to try things he may not be sure of. And he does.)

But anyway, I think through my week--which nights are going to be more hectic than others, what nights I'll have more time, etc. Then I lay out the menu on this sheet I designed (see the free printable below if you'd like to download it) and make my grocery list as I go. Then I post the menu on the refrigerator so everyone knows what's coming. Sometimes I'll switch days around during the week--much to the distress of my order-loving kidlet--but otherwise, I stick to the plan. And usually we save eating out for once or twice on the weekend.

The Quick and Dirty Tips on Meal Planning:

1. Gather your supplies: cookbooks/magazines/internet/whatever, a notebook or meal planning worksheet, and a little bit of time.

2. Think through what supplies you have or what you need to use up. (This is where cookbook indexes and internet search comes in handy. Have a cabbage and some chicken to use up, look up the more specific ingredient and work backward from there.)

2. Figure out which days you need to have quick meals and which you can spend more time on so you can plug in meals accordingly.

3. Fill in your go-to meals if you have them. Bonus tip: Pick theme nights like Taco Night, Sandwich Night, Slow Cooker Night, Stir-Fry Night, etc. and then your meal planning will go even quicker.

4. Write down the name of the recipe and where you found it (don't forget page numbers) then plug it into your menu sheet on the appropriate day.

5. Make your grocery list as you go. Bonus tip: There are lots of printables online for grocery lists. If you find one divided by section of the store, you can already have your list done and  sorted by the time you're done meal-planning. 

6. Put the menu on the fridge for you and your family to see, and then stick to it

7. After the week is done, mark down the new recipes that went well to save them for the future. 

It sounds like a lot, but really, it's not. Plus, there are so many benefits.

Benefits of Meal Planning:

1. Eat healthier.

2. Less waste because I know what I need to buy for the week.

3. No thinking involved when I'm brain-drained at dinner time.

4. Saves money.

5. No, "What are we having for dinner?" questions from the family.

5. Yummy, delicious meals every night.

So it's a no brainer for me. I've done it this way for almost a decade, and it becomes like clockwork. Plus, it gives me a good reason to feed my cookbook addiction. :)  Which reminds me, stay tuned for Wednesday when I tell you about my favorite cookbooks, recipe resources, and apps I love for meal planning and cooking. 

In the mealtime, here's your free Weekly Menu printable download if you'd like to give meal planning a shot. Let me know if you do! :)

Click to download

Click to download

 

So do you do any kind of meal planning? What's your process? Any tips to add?