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To finish up the year, I thought I’d focus today’s post on looking ahead and considering how to make the most of the blank slate that comes with January 1st. In my last post, I created a guiding list of questions for any teacher that wants to reflect on the past semester before the next one begins. Today, I go over my top four tips for leading a healthy and balanced life in the new year. I’ve also created a new digital planner for the new year.

Today, I go over my top four tips for leading a healthy and balanced life in the new year. Click To Tweet

Keep a Routine

Work routines are often built-in in office jobs. For teachers, though, the work hours outside of the classroom can be designed in many ways. Consider, then, what kind of work routine you think will work best for you. Not just what routine will allow you to get all your work done, but what routine will allow you to get your work done in a way that won’t negatively affect your physical and mental health. Part of creating that routine involves considering how you spent all your time in any given day. Here are some routines you might consider making:

  • Morning Routine: A list of activities you complete every morning to start the day off right. You might have different morning routines for weekdays you teach, weekdays you don’t teach, and weekends.
  • Night Routine: Like above, only these activities are done right before bed. It’s recommended that we stop looking at a screen at least 30 minutes before heading to bed. What relaxing activities would you like to do during that liminal time?
  • Block Scheduling Routine: For college instructors, our work is often divided into the big trio: teach, research, service. So, consider how you want to divide your days and hours doing these different types of work. Perhaps, Tuesdays and Thursday’s are days you focus on your teaching responsibilities. Mondays and Wednesday’s can be all about your research. Other than meeting times you don’t have much say over, Friday’s can be a day focused on service work. Or, maybe you want a time-based schedule: 9-11 AM focus on teaching tasks, 1-4 focus on research tasks, 4-6 focus on service tasks, etc.
  • Socializing Routine: While socializing in general can’t fully be planned via a routine, you can still create routines for certain types of socialization. For example, you can set a certain day or time to be the best time to call a family member to catch up. Or, you can join a community book club, running group, or other membership that designates a certain day/time for meeting.
  • Cleaning Routine: A clean and organized personal and work space can make all the difference. Setting certain cleaning tasks to certain days/times can make sure you’re not overwhelmed with clean-up tasks before your next get together at home or the next time you need to work on a big project and can’t find what you need in your desk drawers.

How to Make 2019 Your Best Year Yet (Infographic)

Create Healthy Habits

Habits are the building blocks of success or failure. [Check out this post/video about atomic habits.] You might already have a lot of healthy habits that are keeping you in peak condition physically, mentally, and emotionally. But, maybe not. It’s the start of a new year. Take advantage of that feeling of starting fresh and start creating habits that will help you in the long run. Start small, one or two habits at a time. Use digital tools or people to help keep you accountable until it feels instinctive.

I don’t have resolutions like, “Lose X pounds.” Instead, I have goals like “Form a workout habit” and action plans like, “Go to the gym in between the two classes I teach next semester.” [I work in Illinois, so the cold winter months zap my already little motivation to leave my warm house to go to the gym. To counter this issue, my plan is to go to the gym at times when I’m already required to be wearing layers and out of the house. Consider how you can use your responsibilities to your advantage in forming healthy habits.]

Here a some potential habits to consider starting in the new year:

  • Workout a designated amount on a weekly or daily basis: Most smart-watches now have a step counter built-in. It’s recommended that adults walk 10,000 steps a day. I’m nowhere near attaining that level of movement a day. But, it’s something I’m working towards with the help of my step and workout tracker (an iwatch I received for Christmas now, a Fitbit for the last few years). As for workouts, I’m working on creating the habit of working out 3 days a week.
  • Go to bed at the same time every day: Sleeping enough hours a night is so important for your health and productivity. Going to sleep at the same time can help make your wake-up time more consistent, as well. Of course, going to bed at 2 AM every night isn’t the ideal. I’m planning on 11 PM for now.
  • Answer work emails during a designated time: Constantly checking for new email is incredibly distracting. If you tell your students (and coworkers) you have a designated email time, then they can know when they can expect to hear from you and you can insure that your designated work and personal time is not interrupted by answering emails. I add my email times to my syllabus, under the office hours information.
  • Read a chapter of an educational/inspirational book before bed: As long as it’s not an ebook, this habit can be a great addition to your night routine. You get a break from screen time before bed, and you learn something new about topics that interest you.

Organize Your Tasks

For anyone familiar with me or my blog, you know I’m a planner person. Having goals or resolutions for the new year is good. Writing or typing them out and creating action plans for them is better. Whether a paper planner/notebook, digital planning tool, digital planner, or a digital notebook, keeping your monthly, weekly, and daily tasks organized in a central location can help make sure you stay on top of everything in your work and personal life. If you’d like some resources to help you figure out what will work best for you, I’ve written about this topic before:

Here are the digital notebooks I’ve created and my blog post about using them. 

Here are the academic digital planners I created in the summer and an additional blog post about using one.

I also have recommendations for professionally-made digital planners, in case you want to go all-out.

Finally, here are some digital tools that can help with goals and habit tracking.

Plan Ahead

While I’ve been using a planner and digital planning tools for years now, I’ve decided to take a different approach to planning ahead. Instead of planning on a weekly basis, I’ve decided to plan on a quarterly system this year. I have a list of “20 Goals Before 2020” in my planner. To help achieve them, I’ve started planning what tasks I need to work on during the first quarter (Q1) of the year (January – March). For example, one of my goals is to guest blog on another blog that focuses on teaching. So, two tasks for Q1 are to research five blogs that I would like to potentially guest post on and to write a pitch email for each blog with information on what types of material I could write for them in a post. I’ll send one pitch email out by the end of Q1. [I don’t want to over-book myself by sending more than one pitch at a time. I’m already writing plenty with my dissertation, my job materials, and my blog.]

A quarterly system might not work for you. All I’m recommending here is that you consider how you might break up your year and your goals down so that you can accomplish everything you want in the year to come.

Final Thoughts

I’d love to hear about your own plans for making the upcoming year even better than this last one on a personal or professional level. Any tips on how you plan to stay on track are very much appreciated, as well.

Comment Below: What are you planning on including in your routines? What habits do you want to start? How do you organize all your plans?

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Here are my four top tips for making the new year your best year yet! It's all about creating routines, habits, and careful plans! #planning #newyear