Many of us have long fallen off the New Year's resolution bandwagon and forgotten about the promises we made to ourselves to be more productive, conquer our life admin and just generally take better control of our lives.
So we could learn a thing or two from Sabrina Hersi Issa, an award-winning human rights technologist focused on global advocacy and media innovation, who has an ingenious personal ritual for getting shit done and keeping track of her life goals.
To balance her jam-packed work schedule with a thriving personal life, Issa harnesses the power of personal inventory days, a ritual she invented and revealed in a recent episode of the podcast Call Your Girlfriend. If you're terrible at staying on top of deadlines, checking your bank account, just generally being an adult or ensuring you're hitting your long-term goals, you should probably follow her lead.
The concept is simple. Set aside one day each month – Issa's is her birthday day, mine is the last Sunday of every month – for personal life maintenance, namely, checking in with yourself and your goals and resolutions, however big or small they may be.
Throughout the month, Issa keeps a running list of things she wants to achieve on her personal inventory day (she uses Evernote), and then on the 16th, without fail, you'll find her doing things like making doctor's appointments, looking at her savings goals, tracking the progress she's made towards her annual goals and reflecting on her achievements over the last 30 days. She stores her monthly notes and goals in a Google Doc that's attached to a bit.ly link.
Taking a personal inventory day reminds her that, ultimately, she runs her own life – and no one else is going to help her build the life she wants. "If your dreams are important to you, don't disrespect them by cramming them into arbitrary New Year's resolutions or birthday deadlines," Issa said during the podcast. "Get really honest with yourself for yourself and no one else.
"Be unapologetically focused on what your needs are and write it down. Write down your goals, make a plan, and then put it someplace accessible you can easily pull up and reference in the future."
How to get started
• Choose a date every month to make your personal inventory day. Add it as a recurring event to your calendar, and maybe even give it a cute name to make it sound less businesslike and admin-y.
• Set your priorities in the month running up to it. Make notes of what you need to do on the day, whether that's booking a holiday, paying a bill, applying for a job or planning that novel that's been knocking around in your head for months. Whatever.
• On the day – the most arduous bit – slay those goddam tasks. Find a positive, comfortable space, make your favourite coffee and have a fun activity planned to celebrate afterwards.
• Do some big-picture thinking once the more tangible tasks have been ticked off. "I also use this as an opportunity to take stock and reflect," Issa told CYG. "You can use this monthly trigger to sit down and ask yourself – this is what I usually ask myself – what did I learn this month? What surprised me and why? What am I grateful for? Who am I grateful for? And because I'm all about that gratitude life, every month on this date is when I sit down and I send short gratitude notes to those people I'm grateful for. It's all built into a system. There's no stress. I actually look forward to this now. It brings me a lot of joy."
The idea may sound straightforward, but we know how easy it is to neglect even the basics – sleep, nutrition, exercise – when we're up against it, let alone our long-term goals and plans, so it's worth scheduling your personal inventory day (or whatever you want to call it) as a recurring event in your calendar.
"Most importantly," Issa said, "it allows me to free up the brain space that I used to spend irrationally worrying and now I get to reinvest that into time that I can make memories with my family and friends with."
Consistency is key. If you dedicate this time to yourself every month without fail, end-of-year regret will become a thing of the past and you won't end up making the same resolution(s) year after year. Just imagine how smug you'll feel come 1st January 2019.
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