Ever since our daughter started school, our son started nursery, and I went back to work, my mental to-do list has felt longer than ever. Every time I tick something off, three more items somehow appear.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy. I like all of my life’s component parts very much. 2022 came to teach me that you can feel both happy with your lot and overwhelmed by the logistics of keeping it all ticking over. I believe this is called adulthood and I was not ready for it.
So I’m in no position to set ambitious New Year’s resolutions. I won’t be learning a new language or running a marathon any time soon. But I do intend to stay upright and continue moving forwards, which is all anybody needs from me anyway.
Rather than setting goals for 2023, I’m setting more of an approach to it, hence: Keep what’s working, bin what’s not.
Because some of the stuff I’ve been doing over the last year has made a positive difference to my life. And some things… less so.
Things for the bin
For example, the length of time it takes me to fix simple things is ridiculous. It took me more than two years to glue a toy back together. The job took less than five minutes when I finally did it.
I was given a photo frame for Christmas 2021. It took me 11 months to have two pictures printed for it. I am still yet to put them in there. WHAT AM I WAITING FOR?
This quirk can definitely go. Taking advantage of quick wins might make me feel more productive too – bonus!
Another habit that’s been doing me no good, is feeling guilty if I stop and do nothing. Ah yes, the classic trap of the overwhelmed! You think that if you just keep going and going forever, you’ll magically feel on top of things.
But guess what? None of us will ever conquer our to-do lists without rest. And sitting on the sofa feeling bad that you’re not folding laundry does not count as a break. I need to do proper, mindless nothing at some point everyday. It’s really not too much to ask.
Like most people, I spent too much of 2022 on my phone. You shouldn’t beat yourself up for it as so much of our lives happen on them. But it’s when I’m scrolling late at night that I do myself damage. I end up feeling hungover the next day. So I’m trying to establish a more healthy boundary around that. WhatsApp will still be there in the morning.
Things I’ll keep
But it’s not all bad news. There are plenty of things that are working for me, so they can come with us into 2023.
2022 was a horrible year for some of the people I love. I learnt more about what it means to be a friend in the last 12 months than I ever have before. I check in with people now more than ever. When you can’t help in any other way, you can at least stay in touch. They may not have it in them to chat back right now, but if they know you’re there, they will when they’re ready. So, friends, expect to hear from me in 2023!
The only reason I’ve survived the last few months is because I’ve started writing down every single thing I need to do. Whether it’s a deadline I need to meet, stuff I have to buy, or messages I want to reply to, it needs to go on the list. I realised that I can’t focus unless I can see on paper that I will eventually get to everything.
And before you ask, yes I do also add on unanticipated tasks after I’ve done them so that I can still tick them off – because I know how to have a good time.
Speaking of lists, I’ve mentioned before that I like to write a quick list called ‘Today’s good things’ in my diary at the end of each day. It’s a chance to stop and notice the high points of even the most exhausting days. I adore the simplicity of it. I did this almost everyday in 2022 and now I have a book filled with notes on nice moments I might otherwise have forgotten, and reasons to be grateful. This habit is 100% staying. I’d love to find more time for longer, just-for-fun writing in 2023, so I’ll be on the lookout for suitable windows.
After I write each night, I read before I go to sleep. Not for long. Sometimes it’s just a page, but it always makes me feel calmer. I think I also love it because this time belongs to me, and so few minutes do these days. Perhaps I’ll be able to grab more moments with a book this year, who knows.
In the spirit of taking time for myself, I’ve been investing a bit more money, time and energy in my skincare over the last few months and I like it. I’ve no idea if it’s making a difference to the way I look, but caring for myself feels good, and that’s worth just as much to me.
Anything that increases your confidence is worth having really, isn’t it. And I’ve realised that reframing how you boost your self-esteem is key. Somebody told me that doing things that scare you is really about expanding your comfort zone. So yes, they may make you nervous, but that’s just a normal part of embracing opportunity.
I’ve tried to keep this in mind when driving to new places, meeting new people, and saying yes to new work, and it’s helped a lot. Here’s to more comfort zone expansion for all of us in 2023.
Happy New Year!