New Years Day has always been my favorite holiday. (Not to be confused with New Year’s Eve, which I despise.)
I love the start of the new calendar year and the blank slate it offers. I love all the absolutely cliché rituals: waking up early with a blank notebook, new pens, and a hot cup of black coffee. Spending the day imagining what the year might hold and how I’m going to get there. I even like pretending I’ll start going to the gym on a regular basis.
We owe ourselves these little lies sometimes, right?
Before I start setting goals for the next year, I like to reflect on what happened over the past 12 months. And 2019 was one for the books:
2019 in Review
- Jan: House inspection and appraisals.
- Feb: Promotion at work. Bought our first house.
- Mar: My first trip to London + finished house projects.
- Apr: 27th birthday. Hosted family for Easter!
- May: Trips to Mobile & GSO. Five-year anniversary.
- Jun: A restorative week at the beach w/ Tom in an RV
- Jul: Sydney, Australia. (I can still hardly believe it.)
- Aug: Trip to Phoenix, AZ
- Sep: Mexico. London again! Washington, DC.
- Oct: Mother-daughter Seattle trip.
- Nov: First time in LA. Trip to NC. Thanksgiving in AL.
- Dec: NYC with Tom. NC, then VA for Christmas.
Highlights of 2019
Traveling the world
One of the most notable differences between 2018 and 2019 was how much I traveled: I went to London twice, visited Australia (see above), vacationed in Mexico, and to visited several US cities for the first time including Phoenix, DC, and LA. I got to work out of our office in Sydney overlooking the harbor and our office in NYC in One World Trade. Another big highlight was Seattle with my mom — the first of many mother-daughter trips to come. Then, of course, there was the traveling back home (to both Greensboro and Mobile) to see family and old friends.
Buying our first home
After going under contract on multiple houses only to have them fall through during inspection, we finally closed on our first home in February 2019. Even though we were hesitant to give up the flexibility of renting, we have absolutely loved being homeowners. Our house (the most compact and adorable place you’ve ever seen) is the perfect low-maintenance home.
Personally, I’ve loved sourcing furniture and decor over the past year, taking our time in what I proudly called “slow decorating”. I would say I’m putting the finishing touches on our rooms but let’s be honest — I look at interiors as dynamic, not static. They’re places for creative expression that grow and change as you do. Which means they’re never actually finished.
Learning how to lead
This past year has been a huge learning curve for me professionally — I started managing a team for the first time in 2018 and took on even more responsibility when I was promoted to Director of Marketing in early 2019. The biggest part of that transition was people management. I was suddenly responsible for an entire team of people: their careers, their growth, and their success at work. I made it my goal to learn how to lead.
While I wouldn’t say that I have it figured out by any means, I discovered new resources, and strategies for seeking guidance from folks I respect, and opportunities to educate and be educated through organizations like WiTT and Ladies Get Paid. The thing I’m learning about leadership is that the longer you do it, the more you realize you still have to learn. And I’ve gotten much more comfortable with that over the past year.
Trading TV for books
I have always loved reading, but I let the habit slip over the past couple years as things like after-work commitments, the internet, and Netflix encroached on my spare time. In 2018, I only read 13 books — an alarming low for me! In 2019, I renewed my focus and managed to read 36. In 2020, my goal is 50. And I’m making up for lost time: I’ve already finished nine just in January! I’ve found that habit tracking is key to my success (more on that below). so I’ve become an enthusiastic Goodreads user. You can follow along here.
Spending more time with family and friends
Living far away from family has been tough, but it was made much more bearable when my sister Libby moved to town. And it’s nice to split the 8+ hour-long drives back home three ways instead of two. Since we bought our house in February, we’ve been also able to host family in our home for the first time, which means getting them to take trips to Nashville has become just a little easier. As an added benefit, this year I discovered that I absolutely love hosting. Having friends over for dinner and a bottle of wine (or two) is the best way for a homebody to socialize. I’m just surprised I didn’t figure it out sooner.
Committing to secondhand & ethical shopping
This year, I purchased 100% of my clothes secondhand and had so much fun doing it. 2019 was the year that Thomas and I fully committed to secondhand and ethical shopping. While we started this journey for ethical reasons, it has had financial and creative benefits. Financially, I’ve saved tons of money by finding beautiful brand-name items at a fraction of the price at places like Buffalo Exchange, Goodwill and ThriftSmart. Creatively, shopping secondhand has completely reinvigorated my love of style and a playfulness that I felt like I’d lost a bit over the past few years. This wasn’t a one-year “fast” or challenge though: It’s a lifelong habit that we are excited to continue.
Then there’s all the stuff that doesn’t fit neatly into a calendar view of 2019 but was transformative nonetheless: Growth in my marriage, my friendships, my community and sense of self. There were probably a million moments I could highlight about last year but I’ll stop there and just say that 2019 will always be one of my most cherished.
My Goals for 2020
This year, I’m taking a cue from Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier” podcast and doing 20 for 20: 20 goals (big and small) for 2020. They range from things like “organize all my 2019 photos” and “host a dinner party for 6+ people” to “create a will” and “triple our cash savings.” So it really runs the gamut. I love this approach because it combines small wins, stubborn to-do list items that I never seem to find time for, and big ambitious goals all in one tidy list. She recommends adding at least one thing to the list that you can get done on January 1st for a quick win. Mine was hanging a new piece of art in Thomas’ studio. ✔️
And then, as an overachiever, I also started a 20 for 20 list for my career. I wanted to keep this separate from my personal list so it didn’t take over, but it’s important to me to be really intentional about my professional growth over the next year. I’ve always given a lot of thought to my career but I’ve never taken a disciplined, habit-first approach to cultivating the professional skills and development that I know are essential to long-term success. This list looks a little different than my personal one, with things like “Find a mentor”, “Update my portfolio”, and “Start peer group for young female leaders.” I’ve got to say, as much fun as I have planned in my personal time, I’m equally excited about the things I’m planning to do professionally in 2020.
My Habit Tracker (+ Template)
As a Questioner, I have learned that I love quantifying and tracking things in the pursuit of self-optimization; Rubin calls this the Strategy of Monitoring. If I can check a box or color in a square at the end of the day for completing a task, I somehow become 10x more likely to do it. For this reason, I’m using a habit tracker that I created in Google sheets (here’s a template you can use) to track my daily goals.
The Habit Tracker has a row for everything I want to do on a daily basis, such as exercising, stretching, journaling, reading, and column for every day of the year. I check in every day and giving myself a simple score: green (I did it today!) or red (I didn’t) as represented by a filled-in square. I created this because I know that, for me and probably for most people, goals require constant attention and accountability in order to transform into true habits. The tracker has already been remarkably effective at providing accountability and encouraging follow-through. (I am now beholden to the green squares.)
These new processes and templates are a new way of doing what I’ve always done at the start of the year. Only a month in, but so far they seem to be providing a helpful structure to the things I’m trying to achieve. I’m looking forward to the next 11 months and seeing what they bring.