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Meal Planning and Learning French (or Monthly Challenge Time)

The start of a new month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the beginning of another! Of course, I’ve kept doing almost all of my monthly challenges beyond the end of that month so it’s really not the end to anything this time. First, a quick recap on my February challenge.

My challenge for February was to work on weekly meal planning. This is something I’ve tried to do multiple times and I was hoping that this time things would finally stick for me. Meal planning is something I know I should do for both my health and budget, but it has never been easy for me. I’ve tried different methods of planning and nothing felt right for me. So this past month, I decided to give myself the month to test out different things and to see what I could come up with.

I started with trying a couple of meal planning apps. I was only trying the free ones because I didn’t want to pay something that I wasn’t sure I would like. I know that some people love the apps, but for me they just didn’t work. I couldn’t see things the way I wanted to and it felt like more work than it was worth. I really wanted an app to work because it seems to be what so many people like and have success with, but I can’t force myself to work with something that doesn’t work for me.

After that, I did various versions of writing down a list for the week. I’m still testing out a couple of options, but I’m finding that having this list system is going ok for me. I can work on the week’s list on Saturday or Sunday (whatever day I can go get groceries), see everything that I have for the week, and make a grocery list based on that. I’m not buying things that I don’t need, so I’m saving money. And I’m finding that if I can cook one night at home, that covers me for 3 meals and I can eat something home cooked most days.

I’m not 100% perfect with following my plan, but I’m doing much better than I expected. If nothing else, this has helped me get into a schedule with my food and I’m not having problems with not having something in the house for lunch or dinner. There is still room for improvement with this, but I would say this challenge is a success!

Moving on to March now. It was a struggle for me to think up a challenge for this month. I ended up doing some searching online for inspiration on what could be a good month-long challenge. There were so many good ideas, but many of them are similar to things I already do so it wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for me. But I kept gravitating toward some of the educational challenges so I decided to look more into those. And I finally found something that seems good to me.

For the month of March, I’m going to work on learning a new language every day. More specifically, I’m going to work on learning French every day. I’ve wanting to learn French before and I’ve tried it a few times (sound familiar?) but it’s never been a habit that I can stick with. But I know that doing something educational every day will be good for me and learning another language will be a tough challenge for me.

I’m planning on using the Duolingo app to do this, which is something I tried before. But now, I have reminders set up for me to work on this every day and I’m connecting it to my social media so I can have friends checking in on me. I’ve liked the app before, I just wasn’t consistent with it. But that was before I got really into my monthly challenges, so I’m hoping that the motivation will be with me this time and I can stick with it.

I don’t expect to be great at French within a month. I know that it will take so much longer than that to be able to learn another language. But in 30 days I can learn some basics and get into the habit of working on this. Maybe by the end of this year I can feel comfortable with how much I know. I don’t have any reason I need to know French right now, but I’ve got some motivation to learn it in the long run.

12 years ago, my mom and I went to France and Italy together. We had a great trip and have said that we wanted to go again. And if we go back, we’ve said that we’d like to go to Disneyland Paris. I know you don’t need to speak French to enjoy Disneyland Paris, but I think knowing it would be helpful and would make that trip even better. My mom and I don’t have any travel plans any time soon, but we know that we want to go back one day. And when that happens, hopefully I will be able to speak a little French and understand it as well.

I’m excited to see how a brainy challenge will go for me because many of the ones I’ve done before aren’t as much about learning new things. But I know I should be doing more things to keep learning every day, and this is a great way to add that to my daily habits!

Time For Some Planning (or Trying A Challenge Again This Month)

It’s a new month and time for a new challenge in my Ink+Volt Planner! First, I want to reflect a bit on my January challenge. I set my challenge to be to work on tumor visualization every day. I set an alarm to remember to do this each morning and most of the time I would be able to do this before the alarm went off. Many mornings, I put my tumor visualization in my morning pages for “The Artist’s Way”. And if I didn’t write about it in the morning, I spent some time sitting quietly and thinking about my tumors getting smaller.

I won’t know if this worked until I have my next MRI in March, but I’m going to keep doing this until my surgery and then after surgery I will be doing liver visualization to work on getting my liver to regenerate quickly. I know that in the past, the power of positive thinking has worked really well for me so I’m looking forward to seeing how well it will work for me this time.

I’ll admit that my January challenge wasn’t too challenging for me. It was something I wanted to do, but I didn’t have to work too hard to do it. So since I did something easier last month, I’m doing something that has challenged me multiple times this month. My February challenge is to work on meal planning again.

I’ve attempted meal planning more times than I can count. I’ve tried doing it with bulk cooking, delivery diet meals, meal replacements, and just trying to cook more at home. They have all had moments of success, but none of them have really lasted that long. So this time, I’m attempting another method to see if this time it will be one that sticks. I believe that eventually, a method will be the one that I connect with and I can’t find that out until I try different ones.

I’m doing a pretty basic meal plan set up. I don’t have a specific diet or plan I’m trying to follow. I’m just trying to plan my meals so I don’t have to think too hard about what I’m going to eat that day and to be better and only getting what I need at the grocery store. I found a pretty basic meal plan printable and I started using that this week.

Originally, I typed in what I was planning to eat but because things keep changing I’ve been crossing things out a lot. I’m thinking about printing a blank template, getting it laminated, and using a dry erase pen or post-its to plan so it is easier to switch things around. There is also a grocery list printable that matches this, but I’m used to writing grocery lists on envelopes (if I’m using coupons) or on scratch paper so I don’t feel the need to use a fancy grocery list.

My ultimate goal would be where I could plan things out on Sunday and do my grocery shopping for the week and be done with it. If I don’t have to go to the grocery store to find something for dinner, maybe I won’t be tempted by all the things I shouldn’t be eating. If I plan things out, I can know exactly how many of each thing I need and then I can make better grocery lists. This could potentially save me money too, but that’s not the focus right now.

My main goal with meal planning is to be successful with following the plan for at least 2 meals a day. Breakfast should be pretty easy, but I do struggle with lunch and dinner a bit. But by having a plan, I can look forward to what I will be eating that day and hopefully it will take my mind off of thinking about what I should go to the store and buy after I’m done with work. I’m also hoping that it will help me with eating a better lunch on days that I’m working out. Sometimes, I don’t make the best food choices on workout days and my workouts do suffer because of that.

I’m not expecting a miracle. I know that there will be a lot of challenges with this and that there is potential that I will not be as successful as I like to be with my monthly challenges. But I have to try because I know that I need to make a change in my life to get into recovery and to lose weight. And if nothing else, this will force me to be more aware and a more conscious participant in my food choices and help to limit the lack of mindfulness that I do struggle with.

This won’t be an easy challenge for me to do, but it’s an important one for me. I’m going to do my best to plan and to figure out the best way for me to do the planning, and hopefully in a month I’ll be able to share with you all that this worked really well for me!

My First 2017 Monthly Challenge (or Working On My Tumors)

It’s a new year and I’ve got a new year of monthly challenges! I did buy the Volt Planner for 2017 and I’m very happy that it’s a similar set up to what the 2016 planner was like. There are still the weekly and monthly goal setting pages as well as the monthly challenges. And I plan on doing a new monthly challenge each month just like I did last year!

I think that having the goals and challenges really did help to keep me accountable and focused on doing things to better myself. It’s one thing to say that I’ll be doing something, but to have a list in a planner where I can see what I set out to do is another. Having it on paper makes me want to make sure I don’t slack because I hate to see unchecked boxes on my goals and challenges pages in the planner. It’s the perfectionist in me that makes me want to get something done if I write it down in a planner.

I’ll admit that January 1st got here much quicker than expected so I didn’t have as much time dedicated to planning out my challenge for the month as I would have liked. There are some big ideas for challenges that I have for this year, but some of them involve planning or setting things in place that I didn’t have time to do for this month. Hopefully I’ll be able to do some of my big ideas later this year, but it will have to wait. But there was one thing that I started doing at the end of the year that I knew I wanted to continue to do this year and dedicate time to working on it.

While I know that I will need to have liver surgery no matter what, there are things that I can do to hope that the surgery and recovery will be easier. And one of those things is to have the tumors shrink. There is no medical way that I can do this (they aren’t cancerous tumors so I don’t need chemo or radiation to shrink them), but I can still work on doing it on my own. I’m a believer in the power of positive thinking and I’ve been trying to think that my tumors are shrinking every day.

My mom did the same thing when she had cancer, and her journey to being cancer free went much easier than most people thought it would be. She imagined her body healing every single night and I believe that doing that helped her so much. So I’m doing the same with my tumors. I had been doing this before the new year, but I still decided to make it my monthly challenge to make sure that I do this every day.

Like most of my challenges, I’m using the reminder app on my phone to alert myself every day to dedicate time to doing this. I’m not using my mediation app for this, but I’m thinking about doing that because there is a silent timed mediation option within the app. But for now, I’m just focusing on how I imagine the tumors getting smaller for a few minutes every single day.

It’s not a huge thing for me to do, but I know that doing it will only benefit me in the long run. And making sure that I do dedicate time every day for this will help me not to slack off and forget. I really do love having all the reminders in my phone going off throughout the day so I don’t zone out and then realize the entire day has gone by without me getting anything done. I feel silly that I hadn’t been taking advantage of those prior to the monthly challenges because they are so easy to set up. But at least now I have them and I am always adding more to my reminder list.

While this challenge is a smaller one, I’m really excited to have another full year of these challenges. From the ones that I set up last year, most of them are still things that I do every single day. I have slacked off on a few (mainly the yoga and mindfulness before eating ones but I’m working on that), but most of them have become habits and my day doesn’t feel complete until I accomplish them. And I know that building a few new good habits every year will add up and be something really great for me for the rest of my life.

Here’s to another year of monthly challenges and hopefully using my mind to get my tumors to shrink before my next MRI and we make my surgery plan!

December Monthly Challenge (or Wrapping Up For The Year)

It the last month for my monthly challenges for 2016! I’ve had a lot of amazing monthly challenges and they have really changed me for the better! But before I get into my December challenge, I want to do a quick recap of last month.

Last month, I set the challenge to drink more water. More specifically, I wanted to try to drink 80 oz of water a day. I picked that amount because the cup I use to drink water at home is 20 oz. So it was easy to say I wanted to drink 4 cups a day. I managed to accomplish this almost every single day last month. I was able to get the timing down to where I knew when I needed to finish each cup. The only time I really didn’t meet my goal was when I was out-of-town. This was mainly because I wasn’t focused on how much water I drank (plus I didn’t know how big the cups were at the rental house). But overall, I’d consider the challenge a big success!

I had some really big ideas for my December challenge, but after some consideration I decided to scrap that idea. I’ve already ordered a new planner for 2017, so I can do some of the big ideas next year. And there are some really big ideas (like having a month completely binge-free) that I’m very excited about. But for December, I decided that this monthly challenge is a time to do some reflection.

So I’ve decided that my December challenge is to rededicate time to the challenges I set throughout the year. Most of them have been easy for me, but I’ve totally been slacking on a couple. And being at the end of the year is the perfect time to make sure these challenges become habits and I make sure that I start 2017 in the best place possible.

The ones that I’ve been able to keep with pretty much no effort have been properly tracking my food intake (although there are some improvements I’d like to make), doing daily gratitude lists, not ordering delivery food (although I may get delivery Chinese food for my Christmas dinner), weighing myself every day I’m home, working on self-submitting for acting jobs every day, meditating every day (but there is improvement I can focus on), reading 10 pages of a recovery focused book daily, and my water intake.

While those have come easily to me, I know that I’m not doing them 100% all the time and I have taken notes on steps I want to take to make these new habits even stronger and better for me. I think those steps should be pretty easy since they are small tweaks versus starting from scratch. But I think improvement and progress with habits is a good thing so I’m happy to work on making these better.

The ones I’ve been struggling with have been practicing mindful eating, a yoga class online (or at least a yoga pose) every day, and doing a daily task sheet. The mindful eating one has been very tough. I have an alarm to remind me of it, but because my eating schedule isn’t the same day to day, sometimes the alarm is too early or too late. I need to work on a different system, but I’m not totally sure what that is yet. But I’m happy to be working on it this month. Yoga was working really great for me for a while, and then time just got away from me. It’s another thing that I have an alarm to remind me of, but I need to make it more of a priority in my life again. It was a good thing and I know I need to work on bringing it back. And while the daily task sheet was a challenge I didn’t end up liking, I know that having a daily to-do list is good and I’m seeing how that could be most productive for me.

I think spending the month working on the year’s challenges will put me in a place where I’m ready to take on 2017 head first. I know that 2017 has the potential to be a very rewarding yet very challenging year so I want to be in the best head space possible. And getting back to my challenges will be a great way to accomplish that.

My new planner should be arriving in the next week or so, and I’m so excited for it! Buying this planner really was one of the greatest things I’ve done for myself and I’m so excited to make next year’s planner even better!

And because the team at Ink+Volt know how much I have loved my planner this year, they gave me something to share with you all! This is a link to the entire 2016 planner that you can download and use! Even though 2016 is almost over, you can use the December pages to make sure you also end 2016 the best person ever! And if you love it, you can still buy the 2017 planner and hopefully get it delivered before the new year starts!

I’m really excited for this month’s challenge/reflection/rededication and seeing how I am able to solidify my challenges in my life. My next monthly challenge post will be my first challenge for 2017!

Almost Through A Year Of Monthly Challenges (or Picking A Good Challenge For November)

I’m on to my 11th monthly challenge! I’m still so happy that I have my Spark Planner this year (and I already ordered my Volt Planner for next year) and while it’s not always easy to think up of monthly challenges I know they are good for me. But before I talk about my challenge for this month, I want to recap my October challenge.

I had decided that creating daily to-do lists would be a great challenge and I really though that they would help me stay as productive as possible. And at first, they were working well for me so I wouldn’t forget random things that I knew I needed to get done that day. Also, once something it written down I feel obligated to get it done. The first few days were great to remember weird things that aren’t a part of my normal day that needed to be done.

But after that, I discovered that these to-do lists really weren’t changing that much from day-to-day. I’m pretty set in my schedule most days (I’m still working on scheduling my afternoons better, but that’s another issue) so I was just writing the same thing each day. Those lists ended up being something that seemed more like an obligation that I had to do to complete the challenge instead of something that helped me. I don’t love that I didn’t have the best experience with this challenge, but I guess I had to do the challenge to find that out.

I still think that writing out a to-do list on my busy days is a great idea. There are times that I have a bunch of random things I need to get done and I don’t want to forget anything. So those lists can help me remember things that I can easy forget. But to do it every single day isn’t looking like being the best use of my time or focus. Toward the end of the month, I even started to get out of the habit of looking at what I had written so I was starting to forget what I had planned. But I tried and that’s all I can do.

Even though I’m not continuing with the challenge I had done last month, I’m excited about the challenge that I’m doing this month. In the past, I had no issues with drinking enough water. I actually had issues with drinking too much water so I started to track water to make sure I wasn’t drinking too much. But I’ve noticed lately that there can be days where I only drink half of what I know I really need to drink for the day.

So my challenge for November will be to drink at least 80 oz of water every day. I have a tumbler that I drink out of at home that is 24 oz and my workout water bottle is 20 oz. So my plan is to drink 4 full tumblers or water bottles a day. That will get me a bit more than 80 oz a day, but it won’t be too much water either. On the days that I seem to be drinking water endlessly, I do try to keep it under 100 oz of water, but if I go over that by a bit it’s not dangerous. When I used to drink too much, it would be more like 200 oz of water or more in a day.

I used to think that since I had issues with drinking too much water that I’d never have an issue with drinking enough. But I think that thinking made me a bit lazy and got me to where I’m not tracking water or making sure I’m getting enough. And with all the random health issues I have, drinking enough water is important. So I’m glad that I’ll be focusing on it this month so I can get back on track and help to my hydration a non-issue with my health.

I’m looking at how to best track water in my planner. I’m thinking maybe checkmarks or making some stickers at home so I can mark each glass down. I know it will be easy to forget if a glass of water is my 2nd or 3rd for the day, so I want to make this as error free as possible. But no matter what, I know that this is going to be a very positive step for me and my health so that I can focus on more important things regarding my health.

Almost a full year of monthly challenges is done! I feel like I’m going to have to do something huge for my December challenge (originally that was going to be my yoga class a day challenge, but I’ve already accomplished that!). Fortunately, I’ve got an entire month to decide what December will be! Then after that, it will be an entirely new year of monthly challenges to take on!

Getting More Productive (or More Monthly Challenges)

I’ve completed 9 monthly challenges so far this year and I have to say that each one that I set for myself has made such a huge improvement in my life! It’s so crazy to me that I haven’t been doing these before because they aren’t hard for me (which makes me wonder if I’m picking challenges that are too easy) and I’ve pretty much been able to keep up with every single one.

I’m not 100% perfect, but I’m learning to be ok with that. But for the ones that seem to make the biggest difference, I’ve had no issues continuing with them. Reading recovery books has been one of the best ones for me so far and I’ve been learning so much with each book I read. And I think after that challenge is when I felt more inspired to push myself more and more.

Last month, I challenged myself to do 1 yoga pose a day. I really wanted to challenge myself to do 1 iPad yoga class a day, but I had been having so much trouble doing those classes on even a semi-regular basis. I had been making those classes part of my weekly goals for so many weeks, and most of those weeks were not successful.

Even though I set the bar really low for myself and I decided to do the best I could to do one iPad yoga class most days of the month. If nothing else, I’d learn more yoga poses I could do as my pose for the day. With the app that I have, there are a bunch of classes but you can also create your own class. Since I’m new to this, I stuck with the pre-made classes. They ranged from 5 minutes to an hour and I started with a short class.

It quickly became a habit to do one of my classes in the morning. When I couldn’t do one in the morning, I was feeling off and was missing how good I was feeling when I did the class before breakfast (which was most days except Mondays which I didn’t do since I have an early workout).

And wouldn’t you know it? I managed to do one iPad yoga class every single day in September!

yoga-challenge

I plan on continuing this, but I’m not sure if I’m going to stick with just this app. There are so many yoga classes on YouTube and I think I might try exploring those. This is something that I’ve been wanting to do for a while and for some reason when I set it as a challenge it finally kicked in!

And that helped to inspire my challenge for this month. First of all, the Volt Planner (the planner I use that has these challenges in it) is on Kickstarter again for the 2017 planner. They are way beyond their goal, so the new planner will be printed. And while they do try to sell them outside of the Kickstarter, those are limited so I recommend buying one on the Kickstarter if you want to join me in all the challenges next year!

I became a backer of the Kickstarter within the first few hours that it went live. I had no doubts that I needed to get a planner for next year, and I’m so excited to continue doing amazing with my goals. As a backer, I get updates on the campaign from time to time and one of the recent updates had a nice perk in it! It was a daily task sheet with a to-do list along with space to write notes, write where you need to follow-up, and set daily priorities.

I make to-do lists from time to time, but they usually are just on a post-it with a few random things that I don’t want to forget. I don’t plan out my day, especially since things are pretty consistent from day-to-day. But that also makes it where I will have a day and wonder what I actually got done outside of work. Sometimes I finish work and just don’t do anything else. And I need to make sure that I’m not slacking on things outside of work and being as productive as I can.

So I’m setting my monthly goal to be to use the daily task sheet every single day. I printed them out so there are 2 on a sheet and I’m not sure if I’m going to keep them together or just grab one each day. I’m not sure if setting up my tasks the night before of the morning of will be best so I’m going to play around with both options. Whatever I end up doing, I have a feeling that this is going to make October the most productive month for me!

I’m lucky that I got inspired by the Kickstarter for this month’s challenge since I was really drawing a blank on what I want to work on. There are a couple of fitness related challenges that I want to try, but I don’t want to do 2 fitness ones back to back. I think this is going to be a great way to start getting ready to close out 2016 and help me get even more productive than I ever could have imagined!