This is from my monthly personal letter, sent out January 25, 2018.
It’s hard to get back into the swing of real life post-holidays: the work, school, and messy house slams into my reality and I’m rarely prepared for it.
Not that I’m not wanting it—after the twelve days of Christmas, I’m eager to box up the decor and get back to predictability. But still… the kids’ first day back at school is always a “mack truck to the head,” as we say in our house.
When I was just a few meager years into being a solopreneur, I’d jump all in with the new year, forcing myself to plan my year, set my goals, clear the mental cobwebs, and generally force excitement into my bones about working hard for the next twelve months.
(Remember? This personal email is now about working from a place of love instead of fear.)
But I don’t do this anymore. In fact, I now hardly do any Big Work at all the first week back to my January routine.
Before I make any plans, I have to have my first Think Day of the year.
A Think Day is exactly what it sounds like: a day where nothing is scheduled and the only thing on my agenda is thinking.
Sometimes this thinking begins with a question (“Do I want to change up the podcast?”), but after doing these for several years now, I find it’s often better just to show up and see what comes my way.
There’s something about having an unforced agenda that frees my creativity to play in a part of my brain and soul I never would have guessed. It quiets the voices that scream all the Shoulds, because the only should here on a Think Day? Is to show up.
None of them look the same, and I don’t put any pressure on myself to make them magical and Instagram-worthy. They usually involve coffee and a journal, often a long walk, and sometimes a book or a few podcast episodes later in the day to grease the wheels.
(They almost always involve zero internet.)
I make them long enough to really go somewhere mentally, but not so long they require a departure from real life (I’ve got kids to drop off and pick up from school, after all).
I come with no agenda, but I admittedly do have an inkling of an idea of what I’d like to figure out—because, I mean, my brain is usually already on overload by the time the Think Day rolls around.
These Think Days work best quarterly for me. I think sorta big picture during the year’s first one, yes, but typically I focus my thinking only on what the next three months might look like.
I think both about my work and my personal life, because for me, there’s too much overlap to bother separating them.
And I loosely break up the day into three parts: the past, present, and future.
About the past, I ask myself questions like these:
- What was the best thing about the past 90 days?
- What was the biggest challenge?
Regarding the present, I ask myself stuff like:
- What’s something, big or small, that I’m enjoying right now?
- What’s challenging me in my work right now?
- Is there a burden I’m carrying right now?
- What relationships are most valuable in my life right now?
- Is there anything that feels missing in my life right now?
And then regarding the future, I’ll ask:
- What from my current reality do I want to continue in the next 90 days?
- Is there anything I need to ditch? Anything to add?
- Is there anything important on the calendar in the next 90 days?
- Is there an exciting risk I feel compelled to take in the next 90 days?
- What relationships should I focus on in the next 90 days?
- By my next Think Day, where do I hope to be?
I’ve never gone through all these questions in one Think Day, but I’ve focused on some variation of all these over the past few years. And without forcing it, I’ve had more than one book idea, course topic, and podcast series birthed from one of these Think Days. I’ve grown to depend on them as part of my quarterly work routine.
(My new podcast that just launched, Women’s Work? Came from a Think Day.)
And because my work life bleeds into the rest of my life, this also gives me a chance to reflect on my personal health, my kids, my marriage, and my long-term personal growth.
This year I’m trying something new, too… I’m doing a Think Weekend. Late last summer, before I could talk myself out of it, I booked a weekend at a quiet house on a gorgeous slice of land here in central Texas. I’ll lose the deposit if I don’t go, and because it’s been on the calendar for months, it’s officially etched in stone for my 2018 schedule.
I’m eager to see what I think of this—if I like it as much as I’m guessing I will, this may become an annual part of my routine. We’ll see. (I can’t remember the last time I was alone for more than a day.)
If it feels like your head is full of wrackspurts, you’ve yet to come up with a work strategy for 2018, or you’re already feeling overwhelmed by all there is to do and it’s not even the end of January… perhaps you should add a Think Day to your calendar.
Think of it as a date with yourself. Make it an appointment, like you would a work meeting or health check-up, yet block out at least a good 3-4 hours. And don’t cancel.
Trade babysitting with a friend, if you’ve got a little one at home. Head to a new-to-you part of town to get those creativity juices flowing. Go on a long hike—the outdoors does wonders for my mental health. Do some yoga. Or just go for a long drive to nowhere; sometimes my best thinking happens in the driver’s seat.
If you decide to try a Think Day, I’d love to hear about it. Keep yourself accountable by hitting reply and telling me what day you’ve got yours scheduled. I promise to read it.
Until next month, my friend…Keep your soul fueled with the good things it needs. And say no to the junk it doesn’t.
All the best,