Over the past few years, I have done a lot of experimenting when it comes to goals, routines, and habits. I have consumed a considerable amount of content—self-improvement books, productivity podcasts, goal-setting videos, etc.—in order to piece together something that works for me, and I’m really happy with the end result. I used to feel at war with myself or simply disconnected from my own life, and now I’m in a place where I feel content and at peace.
I’ve had a few people ask me about my process, so I’m going to share it in two parts: this first post will cover how I set up my goals for the year, and then my next post will talk about how I break those annual goals down into tasks by month, week, and day. I’ll also include any relevant resources along the way, so you can learn more, if that's your cup of tea.
Step 1: Establish the Vibes
I like the idea of picking a word for the year, something that defines or inspires how you want to act or feel. I also like answering a few basic journal prompts to get my brain in “daydream mode.” It’s really hard to plan ahead if you’re being too narrow-minded, and it’s also really hard to get started if you’re staring fearfully at a blank page.
I found some easy prompts in this "Design Your Year Challenge" video by Jules Acree and spent about ten minutes writing down my answers:
- Words of the Year: Delight, Belong, Bloom
- Unwind with Hobbies: learn French, play piano (for me), read, edit photos, bake, blog
- Give Back to the Community: donate blood
- Expand My Comfort Zone: join a fitness class, travel solo, stream on Twitch
- Financial Goals: stay debt-free, move into my own apartment or home
- Travel Goals: visit Chicago, visit New York City, get a passport, take more road trips
- Celebrate Wins: bake something tasty, dance to a fun playlist, order a fancy drink from Starbucks, write a blog post, order fresh flowers
Step 2: Write Out Your Dream Day
In this step, you want to be as detailed as possible—and as vulnerable as possible—when writing out what your dream day looks like. Reality has no business being here. Pretend you live in your dream home in your dream location with your dream people, working at your dream job and spending your free time doing your dream hobbies. You aren’t going to be able to achieve that dream life unless you’re honest about it. Also, since you already put in the hard work of answering the prompts above, use those to inform your dream day.
I first learned about this from Sarajane Case in one of her former courses, and I read about it again in Girl, Stop Apologizing, a book by Rachel Hollis. It’s also something my therapist recommended! The endorsements for this strategy add up. Here’s my take on it for 2024:
I wake up with the sunrise and stretch in the middle of a cozy king-sized bed with a remote-controlled fireplace at my feet. I light the fire and prop myself up in bed as I prep myself for the day. I start with a glass of water, a meditation, and some self-care (gua sha, cuticle oil, seated yoga). Then I pull my planner from my nightstand and review my upcoming tasks and appointments—making sure they’re also in my digital planner.
With my mind at peace, I head downstairs to make breakfast and a cute cup of coffee in a kitchen that was tidied up the night before. (I am reunited with my pink dishes, and I am so happy about it.) I eat my food at the oversized kitchen island while sitting on a cozy stool and either reading a book or doing a crossword puzzle.
After breakfast, I tidy up the dishes and blast some cheery music while starting the rest of my morning routine: brushing my teeth, washing my face, getting dressed, putting on some make-up, and releasing my hair from my overnight curlers. After a quick spritz of my favorite perfume, I give myself a few minutes to dance and sing along.
I consult my planner again and get started on my tasks and appointments. I keep a full water bottle with me all day for hydration, and I take plenty of breaks to slow down—for tea, for stretching, for exercise (at home or in a park), for connecting with friends and family.
In the evening, I put together a nourishing and delicious dish that was meal-prepped over the weekend (or order a pizza for special occasions—or go out with friends!). I clean as I go, so the kitchen doesn’t become a source of overwhelm. I take my dinner to the couch and eat at the coffee table, watching a YouTube video or TV show or Twitch stream while wrapped in a cozy blanket and enjoying the warm lighting of lamps and faux candles. After an hour of unwinding, I call a loved one and chat on the phone while cleaning the kitchen and resetting the rest of the house.
To end the day, I allow myself fifteen minutes to reconnect with my body through yoga in the living room. I refill my water bottle and bring it upstairs. Then I shower and brush my teeth, do my evening skincare, and put on my pajamas and robe. I curl up in bed to journal about my day and plan for the next day. I dim the lights and enjoy reading more of my book before drifting into a restful sleep.
Step 3: Setting Annual Goals
Behold, the cutest vision board I have ever created. This step actually starts with written goals, but there is a lot of power in creating a visual reminder of those goals—whether you write them on your mirror or create a desktop wallpaper (like I did) or make them into a custom coffee mug. I looked for images that represented my written goals and then plopped my three words for the year in the middle.
Adorable hedgehogs aside, the point of this step is to focus your previous work into ten achievable goals that move you closer to your dream life. These are the things I look at when I’m planning my months, weeks, and days, making sure I take practical steps toward achieving each one. (Thanks again to Rachel Hollis for explaining how powerful this tactic can be.) My 2023 goals included getting out of debt and fully decluttering my home, and I achieved both of those things by September. A few of my other goals just don’t make sense anymore, and the rest are mixed in with my goals for 2024:
- I am intentional about budgeting my energy, using my planner and apps to set aside time for self-care routines and achieving the rest of my goals.
- I spend lots of quality time with loved ones: spontaneous phone calls and body doubling, in-person visits, and handwritten cards.
- I remain debt-free.
- I move into my own home or apartment.
- I nourish my body through thoughtful meal planning.
- I set aside time for fun hobbies: editing photos, blogging, baking, reading, playing piano, and learning French.
- I tend to my physical needs by hydrating and moving my body daily.
- I budget time and money for travel goals: visiting Chicago, visiting New York, getting a passport, and taking more road trips.
- I start streaming video games on Twitch.
- I celebrate my wins by baking, dancing, or treating myself to coffee or flowers.
We are two weeks into 2024 now, and I'm so happy with my overall plan! In lieu of a real fireplace to wake up to, I play a faux fireplace video on my laptop every morning. I created my own Discord server to prepare for the launch of my Twitch/YouTube streams. I pushed through my social anxiety and celebrated a friend's birthday in-person. When I finish publishing this blog post, I'll celebrate with a dance party.
And obviously, it's fun to start something like this at the beginning of a new year, but it's also totally okay to start a new plan on February 29th (we have one of those this year!) or October 4th or later this afternoon. What are some of your current goals? Let me know in the comments! 💕
Any links to Amazon products in this post are through their affiliate program, so I get a small commission if you buy one of those products using that link. But what I'd rather get is the smug satisfaction that you are making smart decisions with your money, so prioritize that, friends.
I set my word of the year as “flourish” in 2023, and in many ways, I feel like that was a success. There was some genuine heartbreak along the way, but even in the midst of it, I felt so serene—and oddly prepared—thanks to all of the work I’d been doing in therapy and on my own time. Because I had set up my environment to be supportive (and because I was willing to ask for extra support when I needed it), I could flourish through every season this year. I am so proud of myself and also so grateful for the help and encouragement along the way.
Wishing you all a very happy new year! 💕
Friends & Foes
Best Tennessee friends left behind: Jim, Jacquie, James, and Christy
Best new friend in Ohio: Lauren
Best BFF: Tyler, always
Best brother: Adam, always
Best new therapist, and not just because she complimented my brows one time: Ashley
Best community: basically all of the Souls streamers and their respective communities, but specifically the cuties of Twitch and YouTube who watch @LilAggy with me most nights (I got asked to be a moderator! It has been super fun!)
Best person who will haunt me for the rest of time: whoever was dressed as Winnie the Pooh and slowly trudged through an abandoned part of rural Tennessee in the pouring rain on January 22
Best worst temporary coworker, who managed to call me fat and unlovable while smiling and making a mess of my paperwork: Doreen
Home & Abroad
Best city abandoned forever: Crossville, TN
Best thing I did for myself before moving: playing the Minimalism Game, twice (I purged 1,000+ belongings in total, and I cannot even tell you how life-changing it was)
Best thing I decluttered: probably the lavender toga and coordinating purple sash I made for an eighth grade party celebrating all the Latin we had learned that year
Best thing I absolutely did not declutter: the Laura Ingalls Wilder dress, apron, and bonnet that my grandma made for me when I was young
Best mini road trip: Chattanooga, TN, to go to the aquarium and bully my friend into getting pedicures with me
Best reminder that I need to travel more in 2024: this blog post
Health & Wellness
Best life change overall: learning to ask for help, oops
Best result of asking for help: getting out of debt completely
Best new hobby: helping other people declutter and get organized—being bossy and helpful at the same time
Best physical health investment: that very trendy Stanley water bottle that holds 40 ounces and actually keeps me hydrated somehow, gross
Best mental health investment: the revamped chocolate croissant from Panera (or maybe the Calm app? hard to say)
Best worst illness that I wasn’t prepared to experience in my thirties: SHINGLES. ON MY FACE AND HEAD.
Best TV show, which I will bully you into watching: Only Murders in the Building (affectionately referred to as “the Murder Cuties show” by me)
Best movie, and yes, I dressed up in pink to watch it in the theater: Barbie
Best new-to-me musical artist: Emei
Best Emei lyric that I will always scream-sing in the car: “Who’s your therapist? . . . Fire your therapist.”
Best book that I actually enjoyed (instead of hate-reading): The Book of Boundaries
Best streamer, and not just because he made me a chat moderator: LilAggy
Best streamer to introduce me to “gyatt” and other Zoomer slang: BanjoTheUncle
Best cozy content gamer: OlaOh (please, please, please check out her short-form content on YouTube, too)
Best simplify-your-home content on YouTube: The Minimal Mom
Best manifesting-your-dream-life content on YouTube: all of those crackling fireplace videos, which I use while saving up to buy my dream home with a fireplace in the bedroom, eee 💕
I have been meaning to reply to this tweet for well over a year now:
“Casual reminder to drop the books you are reading for pleasure but not enjoying. There are millions of books worth reading. Your time is better invested reading one that actually nourishes your love of learning.”
—@iconawrites (February 6, 2022)
This is such sage advice. When your entertainment of choice is no longer entertaining you (or otherwise benefitting you), let it go. The first time I understood this was when I played the World of Warcraft video game with a group of friends in my early twenties. As we got better at playing the game, the challenges required more and more time—sometimes five-hour commitments that we would schedule together. It started feeling like a part-time job, and I felt so free when I realized I could just opt out of that experience. The same can be true for television shows, movies, magazine subscriptions, etc.
AND YET. I have never ever given up on a book, and I probably never will.
Hello, my name is Skirts, and I love hate-reading.
My bestie, Tyler, has probably known this longer than anyone else, even me. He has been on the receiving end of hundreds of angry text messages with photos of whatever book I’m reading and a short (or not-so-short) rant about the crimes being committed by the author and/or editor.
For example, I was honored when my (very shy and reserved) boss told me about his favorite book series that he reads every year. I immediately borrowed the entire trilogy from the library. In the first book, the author used the word “crepuscular” at least fifty times, and the main character absolutely could not stop taking pee breaks behind bushes. I screamed.
I was delighted when a group of friends and acquaintances, many of whom are English majors, started up a book club. The first book they picked was written so terribly that it took me fifty pages to figure out that the author was (unintentionally) bouncing between first person and third person, present tense and past tense. No one else noticed. I screamed.
I was excited when Amazon Prime debuted their First Reads program, allowing subscribers to download one free Kindle book a month from a selection of new releases. But one of the books was a seemingly verbatim transcription of You've Got Mail but with two young women as the protagonists; the author didn't even bother changing the name of Brinkley, the dog. One of the books ended in the middle of a conversation, the only conversation that had the potential to move the plot forward. And the book that finally got me to stop falling for the First Reads scam described a group breakfast with this sentence: "There was a period of dedicated chewing until she returned.”
I am still screaming.
Yet amidst the screams, I have finished every one of these books. Did the experiences make me miserable? Yes. Do I also find it fun to read terrible books? Yes. Do Tyler and I still reference one of my most-hated phrases, “the chickens blew into the sea,” as a cherished emoji meme? 🌊🐓🐓🌊🐔🐔🐔🐓🌊🐓🌊🌊🌊 (Yes.)
Now, I will add one caveat, which is that I read abnormally quickly—speed-reading levels, apparently. So at most, I’m wasting three or four hours of my time on any given book. I assume that hate-reading would not be a good hobby for someone who reads at a slower pace or someone who listens to audiobooks. Also, while I log all of these books on Goodreads, you won’t catch me leaving a snobby written review—that’s a curse you must opt into by being a close friend.
So if you’re thinking of inviting me to your book club, please reconsider. If you want to recommend a book, please leave a comment. If you want to know what I really thought about the book you recommended, please ask Tyler.