The holidays are over and while the new year has just begun, things have settled back into their everyday routine. And yet January always feels kinda special. All the hectic that surrounds us by the end of the year seems to fade away. We pause a moment, take some time to breathe, look back on the past and start making plans for the weeks and months ahead. I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions but, feeling the magic of new beginnings, there are so many things in my head that I would like to do (differently) or stop doing at all.
Why you should swap your New Year’s resolutions for intention setting
Hands down, January first isn’t more than just another day in the calendar. So why should we feel particularly motivated to start exercising, spend less time on our phones or get up earlier in the morning? Way too often resolutions are quite toxic reminders, rules or even constraints that feel pushy and stressful. We mistakenly tend to think that as precise as we define our resolutions the easier it gets to stick to them. What we don’t take into account is that our everyday life rarely goes according to plan. Life’s inconsistent, sometimes even messy. Strictly defined resolutions don’t leave any room for flexibility and therefore limit our actions immensely.
Intentions on the other hand are closely linked to emotions, wishes and goals, that aren’t set in stone yet. While resolutions often feel like imperatives, focusing on rules and restraints, an intention is a process leaving room for growth, change and development. Since there’s less pressure, intentions easily fit into our day to day lives. To me they are gentle guidelines, supporting me in navigating mindfully through the year, bringing me closer to my goals.
How to set your intentions?
As writing is my #1 tool to articulate goals, wishes and emotions, I’m setting my intentions with paper and pen. Over the last few years I developed a routine that feels good and helpful to me. While it might not always be possible, I prefer to take a little break after the festive season and the beginning of the new year. Taking a step back from work, but also from everyday life and the familiar surroundings has proven to be super helpful to gain a fresh perspective while also finding some inspiration and clarity. But even if it’s just a short break, basically two things are always part of my routine:
The New Year’s Journaling Challenge by the inspiring author Suleika Jaouad is step one of my yearly routine and became a beloved tradition. Before I’m actually setting my intentions, I take some time to do an internal inventory with the journaling prompts I find in my inbox at the beginning of each new year. What happened last year – what went great and what didn’t? What am I longing for and what am I afraid of? What resources can I rely on and what are my wildest dreams? This process of intuitive writing opens my mind and always reveals thoughts I wasn’t aware of before.
In the next step I start expressing actual plans, goals and intentions, using Ein guter Plan. This planner is way more than just a calendar and I already talked about its many helpful features – monthly reflections, personal development or mindful time management – here. Prompts, lists and impulses provide guidance and remind me to check back with my intentions on a regular basis. Am I still on track? Do my intentions still serve me or do I have to adjust?
My intentions for 2023
In order to give you some examples, I’d like to share a few of my intentions for 2023 with you:
Phone, laptop, tv, tablet – a great deal of my life happens in front of screens. Technologies are a huge part of my work as well as my time off. Lately I’ve been questioning these habits more and more and I’m seriously starting to doubt that my relationship with technology is as healthy and mindful as I’d wish. Am I really doing enough to avoid digital burnout?
Reading Cal Newports’ Digital Minimalism I’m starting to realize that I am not. And, I do want to change that. So in the upcoming weeks and months I’m trying to figure out, how to truly establish a mindful way to use technologies. By reflecting my behavior and habits, decluttering and practicing digital minimalism, I’m hopefully able to lead a more focused life. I want to be present in the moment and keeping screen time to a minimum.
Bye, bye homeoffice
For a long time I’ve been dreaming of being able to work wherever I want. Being a self-employed writer and editor this is now finally possible. My first months as a freelancer though, where affected not only by the pandemic, but also by the quite challenging kick-off and organization of my business. So actually ditching my home office for working remotely wasn’t a top priority.
That is all supposed to change now. To actually transform my vague wishes into actions, I’m soon off to the UK for a month. I can’t wait to start my day with a walk by the beach and spend my after-work hours exploring sleepy villages by the sea. However once I get back, I do want to make sure to continuously switch up my work-environment.
taking time to get creative
Working on my clients’ projects has been my top priority so far. And don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely grateful and want to continue this way. However, I do have a few own plans and ideas, I do want to start working and focusing on. Time is quite limited though or to put it more accurate: I never really devoted time to my own projects.
I definitely won’t have more time on my hands this year. In order to work for my clients as well as for myself, I do have to manage and divide my time mindfully. I’m not quite sure how exactly this is going to work out except that I will have to say no every once in a while, just as I will have to be patient.
Not all of my plans have to be implemented overnight. Some things just take a while and all that matters is finally starting somewhere.
education + networking
The past months have shown me how important and precious communication and networking actually are. This is something I will keep up in 2023. The regular meetings with my colleagues are appointments I definitely won’t skip, as we keep learning so much from each other.
Truth be told: Starting to freelance was a jump into the deep end for me. Of course I made money writing, proofed myself as an editor and managed different projects before. But, with my Bachelor in Social Work and Philosophy I learned my skills by actually doing them. So I feel it’s time to add some theoretical knowledge to my portfolio.
In order to level-up my professional skills, I do want to learn more about the tools and guidelines of journalism. This way I’m able to improve myself as well as the work I’m doing for my clients.
work-life-balance + taking breaks
With all these plans and ideas in my mind and some already in motion, I want to highlight one more intention: Taking breaks.
I love my job and everything related to it. Taking a step back to relax every once in a while is actually quite challenging to me. With my mental and physical well-being in mind, I do have to take this one seriously though.
Again, I’m not entirely sure how to life up to it. I do have a few ideas though: scheduling time off and communicating it, setting clear boundaries and allowing myself to rest.
“Perfection is static, and I am in full progress” – Anaïs Nin
I know it is not enough to set intentions, we do have to act and maybe even change our habits which can be a lot of work. But I feel like they aren’t as restrictive and paralyzing as resolutions. Intentions leave space for change and imperfections. We don’t have to aim for perfection, all that matters is to set ourselves in motion.