I like my life to be organized, and I want to see it move forward. Therefore, at the beginning of every month, I sit down with my computer, my planner, and my notebook and map out a few things to help make that month a success.
It takes a little bit of time, but I’ve found that it both prepares me and helps to keep me focused during the month. I used to be among the floaters and just drift through the days mindlessly without any overarching plan for my time. Now, however, the half hour I spend mapping everything out gives me a goal, a plan, and a purpose to help me to make my life meaningful.
These are the five things I do:
1. Set goals and strategies.
There are three kinds of goals I like to set: personal goals, project goals, and reading goals. The personal goals are two or three aspirations I have for self-improvement, whether they be as superficial as to drink water first thing in the morning or as profound as to search for the cause of my daily anxiety. The project goals may be something like “Declutter the hall closet” or “Store outgrown clothes.” I try to limit these to one or two in number so that they are possible to complete. Finally, for the reading goals, I decide I want to read or begin or finish a certain book.
Along with the goals, I come up with strategies for achieving them. How specific I am varies, but I think it is important at least to have a general plan for carrying out the resolutions I have formed. I don’t always come up with strategies for all the goals, but I do at least for the personal goals. It makes all the difference having action steps rather than a mere vague aspiration.
2. Create a shopping list/wish list.
If there are certain purchases I know I will have to make during the month, I make sure to plan for them. I write down in my notebook what I will have to buy (outside of groceries, gas, and normal necessities). To this I add two or three things I would like to buy. This second part of the list I formulate strategically because if I keep in mind the costs and ensure that I write down a combination of things that will fit into the budget, then I know I can probably get them.
3. Plan for birthdays and holidays.
This part tends to fall under the heading of those things that I would like to do each month. I do usually remember to circle the dates on the calendar, but ideally I would also prepare cards so that they are ready to be mailed on time. Instead, the birthdays come and don’t find me prepared, and I send my greetings late.
4. Set up the budget.
This is something I never can skip. Every month I start a fresh page in Google Sheets and budget money for the expected expenses that month. If I do this, I find that we usually save money at the end of the month. When I used not to do this, it was easy to overspend.
5. Evaluate cleaning needs.
And by cleaning needs, I mean extras outside the usual routine. I have my deep cleaning tasks on a three-month rotation, so each month I need to see what are the chores which must be completed. This helps me, first, not to forget to do them, and next, to make sure to map out the time so that they can all be done.
This is all I do, but I find it to be extremely helpful. One thing that I’d like to mention is that it is important to put your thoughts and plans in writing. They will stick in your memory better, and you will be able to refer to them throughout the month. Writing things down also seems to institute a certain measure of accountability because we have something to remind us of what we need to do and what, perhaps, we have not yet done.
These few practices help to keep me focused and organized month by month. If you want to keep on track, consider trying them in your own life. Or if you have your own monthly routine, I’d love for you to share it in the comments below.