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3 Tools To Make 2018 Your Best Year Yet

Woohoo! It’s that time of year where we all talk about fresh starts and new chapters, when gym memberships soar, and we parry the guilt of having eaten too much, or spent too much money in the last months of the year.

I’m smiling as I write this because for a large chunk of my life, I would incessantly scour over every productivity hack article I could find, especially coming into a new year. For 2018, things are a little different. While those articles still pique my curiosity, I’ve finally established a personal routine that I know works. So as a little gift to anyone that might benefit from it, I’m sharing three tools that helped me make last year my best year yet—and what will in all likelihood make this year even better.   


Tool #1: Schedule Everything (Including Breaks)

It all starts with finding a calendar or journal that works for you. Personally, I use a combination of the Apple Calendar on both my laptop and iPhone for appointments and work blocks, Google Calendar for my deadlines and editorial planning, and the SELF Journal for structuring my days. I have a total of twenty-one (!) different color coded calendars on my Apple Calendar, which allows me to visually track how much time I’m spending on any one thing during the week, helping me ensure that all the facets of my life are being attended to. The last week, for example, has no yellow or red blocks, which means I didn’t do any exercising or writing, but lots of teal and orange blocks, which means I’ve been doing a good deal of meditation and community service.


The SELF Journal has been a mighty help because of the following features.

1.      The entire journal only lasts 13-weeks (at which time a new one is delivered to my house) because the theory is that goals are best set at 3-moth increments. It’s pretty daunting (and unreasonable) to set goals for one year and expect to maintain the same intensity and focus.

2.      There are no fixed days or dates, which relieves the anxiety that a blank page can bring. I started my current journal in November, on a Tuesday, and don’t journal on holidays, but don’t ever waste any pages!

3.      There are areas for daily gratitude reflecting in both the morning and evening, plus spaces to track wins and losses, and remind yourself of daily goals. The habit tracker has also changed my life completely, helping me get healthier, keep in touch with my family from overseas, and get me into a great meditation routine.


Tool #2: Miracle Morning

This is something I picked up from the SELF Journal community. Every morning, for the first hour of my day, I dedicate 10 minutes each to six exercises before even touching my mobile phone or any gadgets. (On hurried mornings, even 1 minute per exercise will do!)

We call them SAVERS (and they are indeed life savers in the grand scheme of things!)

S - Silence. Sit quietly for 10 minutes and allow yourself to be present and mindful of the thoughts and ideas floating in your head; of the signals your body might be sending you.

A - Affirmations. I have a list of affirmations in the back of my journal that I add to every time I feel the need. Things like “My perspective matters” or “I am an excellent mother” or “I am a great conversationalist” help me when I start to get insecure about certain things. You can write and repeat your own, or search for affirmations on YouTube or as an audio file, and repeat aloud along with the track. The conviction in your voice makes a difference, so believe it when you say it!

V - Visualization. As anyone that has witnessed the power of the law of attraction will tell you, visualization is a game changer. I have a series of goals, spanning from 3 weeks, to 5 years from now. For this part of my morning, I either look at a slideshow of photos I’ve saved in a folder on my phone that line up with those goals, or close my eyes and imagine walking through my dream home, smelling the smells of freshly baked goodies from the kitchen, feeling the sunlight cascade through the french windows.

E - Exercise. Now, the more of a sweat you can work up for these ten minutes, the more ideal, but sometimes I choose to spend these 10 minutes doing dynamic yoga stretches on the floor, or simple sit ups and squats. Walking two miles in the morning takes more than ten minutes, but as part of my daily commute, I factor that in too.

R - Reading. I usually have a book by my bed that I read 10 pages at a time in the mornings. If you’re an online reader, an inspiring article would be perfect to go through in under ten minutes as well.

S - Scribing. Be it a loose leaf of paper, or a notebook just for this, morning pages are free-flowing written thoughts. They can be reflections of the journey you’ve been on, how you’re feeling today, or ideas for the future.


Tool #3: Whole30

After taking the food intolerance test early last year, I started becoming more curious about how my body was responding to the things I was putting in it. The Whole30 program, which was a strictly regulated eating plan for 30 days, allowed me to really understand what I was doing to myself every time I ate pasta, dipped sashimi in soy sauce, or enjoyed some ice cream. Turns out that dairy makes my skin break out with pimples, soy in large quantities gives me hives, and basically any wheat products make me extremely groggy. After eliminating then reintroducing these foods over the course of a month, I’ve become much more aware, and with adjustments, my skin, mood, and energy levels are much better than they used to be!


Hoping you find the same incredible results I have from any one (or all three!) of these hacks in the new year!