My 2021 plans, goals and dreams

Hi ! For those of you who haven’t heard of Bookending Winter yet, you can check out the announcement post on Clo’s blog – there’s a ton of blogging prompts for you to try during December, so come have fun with us and check out everyone’s posts!

Today’s prompt is hosted by Clo – you can see her post here!

Prompt Explanation : Share your plans, goals and dreams for next year! I always find December to be the month steeped in self reflection, planning for the months ahead and reassessing my situation. What you share is entirely choice, keep it to just blogs and books, or branch out!

I fully agree with the sentiment expressed in this prompt : December, and the end of the year as a whole, is an excellent time for self-reflection and thinking about one’s situation, whether you are where you want to be, or not yet.

For me, it’s going to be a month divided into two parts : the first one, from December 1st to December 16th, will be the most stressful part of the semester, as the final exams are approaching and final papers are due on the 16th. But from December 17th to December 31th, I’m officially on holiday (and, sadly, my workplace is still closed due to covid until at least January 11th) – my first real one since January 2020! I’ll finally have some good time on my hands to relax, lay down on the couch with my electric blanket and read a good book while the snow falls in the courtyard outside. Living my wildest holiday dreams!

So here’s a quick look at my plans, goals and dreams for 2021 :

Blog and books-related

Assessing my situation

This year has been super helpful for me to figure out what I wanted to do with this blog, where I wanted to go and what kind of aesthetic I wanted to have (I did a full redesign during the first lockdown, when classes were suspended, and I’ve been really happy with it so far!). I was way happier with my blog than I was before, and that had repercussions on my enjoyment of the books I read and the connections I made with other bloggers.

Posting regularly

I’ve been improving my posting schedule over the last six months, and I think I’ve finally found a rhythm I like, so I’m going to try to maintain it! I feel like getting back into a normal rhythm in my life in general, in November, has helped a lot with this, and given me back my motivation to do things in my free time, including reading and blogging.

Get better with social media

I’ve dusted off the cobwebs on my old Pinterest account, and began making new pins for my old blog posts, and I find it a lot of fun ! My bookstagram account, however, isn’t as nice as I’d like it to be. For 2021, I’d like to make it more personal and coherent for me, so I’ll try to work on that! Looking at other people’s bookstagrams really helps, and there’s so many good ones out there that I’ve been bookmarking a ton of posts for inspiration!

Participate in a blog tour

This one is in the dreams category, as I have a relatively small blog – in part due to the small number of free hours I have available to work on it, compared to a lot of bigger book bloggers – but it’s still something I sometimes think about, and go “huh, that’s be nice”, so. In the dreams category it goes!

Finish my pile of shame

Image by @daanouthere on Unsplash

I wrote a post in November about this – the pile of physical books that I bought / someone gifted me with, and haven’t read yet. I don’t own that many books, which means that each one I haven’t read yet takes a lot of place in my small bookshelf in comparison to the others.

I’ve been trying to alternate between reading one of these books, reading an ARC and reading a library book, to get through the pile without giving up halfway through – hopefully, that’ll be done in 2021!

Related posts : Tackling the pile of shame : my physical TBR

Personal goals, plans and dreams

Assessing my situation

2020 was bad for everyone, but I’m still in one piece, as well as the ones I love, and I know I’m very lucky for that. Still, it hasn’t been easy, and I’m more than ready for this horrible year to end.

My university grades have suffered a bit, but not too much, so I’m still okay on that – and, if everything goes well, on track to graduate in May 2021 with a Bsc in Psychology. On the work side, I was an essential worker for some time, then switched jobs to work in a restaurant – which ended up closing indoor dining in September, so I haven’t gotten a salary since. My partner got a full-time job in November, though, which helped a lot with the stress of our situation.

We haven’t been able to see our families for more than a year now, but we’re okay. There’s still a lot of room for improvement, though, which I why I have a ton of goals for the upcoming year!

Graduate and study more

I want to get into a selective program in my university – putting it out there, universe, please help me. I’m working hard for this degree, and I just want to get into the program of my dreams.

Still, I know that once I’ve applied to the program, asked for reference letters and given everything I have to have a good application, there’s nothing more I can do. The deadline to apply is February 1st, so after that date, I’ll just… try to not think about it until I get an answer, whatever it may be.

Take care of myself

Image by @contentpixie on Unsplash

All that studying and stress hasn’t resulted in excellent mental health for me, and I’ve had to ask for help a few times this year because I was struggling too much to be able to get back up by myself. And that’s okay, that’s a good thing to do – asking for help. It was the best thing I could do at the time, and it improved my situation by a lot.

Still, I know I haven’t been taking care of my mental well-being as much as I wanted to, and I’m planning on getting better with this for 2021.

Protecting my mental health and improving my quality of life are two goals I want to make priorities next year – because no matter what, at the end of the day, they’re both essential to my well-being, and I know the consequences of neglecting them are definitely not things I want to have in 2021.

Do more sports

I’ve been doing kickboxing for a year and a half now, after doing karate for about 8 years when I was younger. University, work, and my boyfriend working full-time have prevented me from doing a lot of that lately, and I don’t want to lose all the progress I made over all those months. The plan here would be to do at least one 1-hour session every week, and maybe a short 20-minutes session whenever we’re both not too tired in the evening.

If the gyms reopen, I’m hoping I can have enough money from my part-time job (if indoor dining is allowed again) to pay for a gym membership, so we can have access to equipment and a better space than our 30 square meters apartment!

Win NaNoWriMo

Image by @craftedbygc on Unsplash

This one is a dream turned goal/plan. I want to write, but haven’t been able to take the time to do so. I think it’s time for me to try and put myself out of my comfort zone, and try NaNoWriMo seriously, to see what I can do and try to gain some confidence to write a little bit all year round.

I’m taking my time to plan this out – I’m definitely not a pantser (my partner lies to say I’m an Amy from his current favorite show, Brooklyn Nine Nine) so if I’m doing this, I’m going to be well prepared for it. We’ll see how that goes!

Save money to get my driving license

In my province, the process to get a driving license takes more than a year and a half, so I’m hoping to have the money to get started on this process in January 2022, and have it by the end of 2023. My partner has one, which means if we ever really need to go somewhere with a car, we still can, but Canada is a very large country compared to France, where we both used to live. At some point, I know I’m going to need to know how to drive and be able to. It’d be better if I had a license when that time comes!

What are your plans and goals for 2021?

Dealing with procrastination and avoidance

Procrastination isn’t good for you, and neither is avoiding the things you need to do. I know that. I know that for a fact.

Yet, the other day, I realized in a flash of panic that I had three extremely important things to do that I had just been passively avoiding for weeks – some for months, actually – and just had to muster the courage to face before it got too late. I needed to :

  • send a tax adjustment to the government (I made a small-ish mistake in my tax declaration and it’s been haunting me since I realized it)
  • send an email to my university’s administration to get my previous diploma’s classes credited so I can graduate this year (which. I’d like to be able to do. Tuition isn’t cheap.)
  • renew my medical insurance and my address on my social security card (it expires in a month and I have medical appointments I need to have that card / insurance for!)

Those three are, taken separately, pretty simple things that might take some time but aren’t necessarily complicated to do, and they’re clearly important enough that I should have come around to doing them a while ago. So how did it get to this point ?

It’s overwhelming

Sometimes, when something generates a lot of anxiety or overwhelms you, the unconscious reaction is to avoid it, as a coping mechanism : if you don’t think about that thing, then it can’t cause you any distress.

The problem with avoidance as a coping mechanism is that it teaches your brain that you aren’t capable of facing what causes you this type of anxiety, that it’s just so overwhelming that the only solution is to push it as much away from your conscious mind as possible.

Photo by @stilclassics on Unsplash

In essence, it’s the difference between stress management – the good thing, the one where you confront what’s stressing you out and deal with it in a way that makes you less stressed – and stress avoidance – where you ignore the stressors and hope they go away on their own (which they don’t.).

In the short run, sure, not thinking about it will make you feel better, help you not get overwhelmed by what you’re trying to avoid. But in the long run, it’s likely to turn your initial reaction to this stressor into an even bigger one – making it worse and worse until you either have to deal with the cause of your stress (in my case : those 3 administrative tasks that really really need to be done) or with the consequences of not doing it (here : losing my insurance so I can’t go see the dentist, or not being able to graduate this year because my classes haven’t been credited on time).

How to stop doing it

At the time I’m typing this, my papers for the class credit have been sent and half the classes have been approved, and my medical insurance has been renewed – I still have to take care of the social security and the tax returns, but it’s a work in progress. I’m getting there.

So how do you deal with avoidance as a coping mechanism?

I don’t have a universal method for this, but the thing that works for me – that actually works and forces me to confront what’s causing that behavior while not provoking even more distress – is to:

1 . Tackle one thing at a time.

Here, I’ve got three separate problems I’ve been avoiding unsuccessfully. I’m not going to try to solve all of these in the same day : that’s more likely to make me panic and quit / have a panic attack than succeed, and we’re trying to find a better solution than that. So I’m focusing on solving one after the other, step by step.

2 . Divide them into easily manageable chunks

Just like studying for midterms, if you try to do it all in one go, it’s going to be much more difficult than if you take the time to separate it into more manageable tasks that you can take care of efficiently and without too much stress.

For the class credits, I divided it like this : check out necessary papers / fill out class credit form / retreive official grades from my previous university / write email to the person in charge of class credits / add papers to the email and send.

While that may look like a lot of extra steps if you’re someone who’s not bothered with anxiety at the idea of doing important administrative papers, this was the right way to do it for me : it helped me stay focused on the small tasks I was doing, instead of thinking about the issue as a whole and getting overwhelmed by what was at stake here (and panicking. A lot.)

3 . Don’t hesitate to ask for help

Photo by @nate_dumlao on Unsplash

It’s easy to drown in something like this if you’re alone and have to do all of it on your own. But if you have anyone you can count on, someone you can ask some help from, then don’t hesitate to do so. My partner helped a lot, actually – not in actually doing the tasks that generated all that anxiety, but in making myself confident enough that I could handle them on my own.

Be it someone who can re-read your email before you send it for that internship you really want, someone who’s there to help you figure out which papers go where, or even just a friend to stay with you at that party where you’re so anxious to go because you won’t know anyone else… A little support can go a long way.

And if you feel like you don’t know where to even start, or that anxiety is significantly deteriorating your mental health, please consider speaking with a licensed therapist, who has the skills and knowledge needed to best assist you with these issues.

I hope this post was a little bit useful – if you have any tips on how to deal with avoidance as a coping mechanism, or with procrastination in general, feel free to leave them in the comments!

10 things I’d like to do in October

If there’s one thing I love and will always keep using in my day-to-day organization method, it’s to-do lists. There’s something very satisfying in writing out your goals, and how to reach them, and then crossing items off the list one by one.

A particular type of to-do list that I’ve been doing for a while now, is a monthly “10 things I’d like to do this month” page in my bullet journal. It usually includes some really important things – papers to sign, contracts, etc. – and then some more personal items, and a few vague ones (like “eat more cooked vegetables – it doesn’t specify how much, how often, just that… it would probably be good if I tried to do that).

So here’s my “10 things I’d like to do in October” goals list !

emma-matthews-O_CLjxjzN3M-unsplash.jpg

1 . Fill out my student loans application

This is one of the serious ones. There’s a TON of papers I need for this, and I still don’t have all of them, but I just can’t afford to procrastinate on this any longer.

2 . Get more invested in the events that happen at my new university

The fun part ! I moved recently, and have been getting used to my new campus and all my classes in September. Now that October’s here, it’s time to go out of my way to meet people, make friends, go to events that may be interesting and get involved in the local student groups. This is something I know I love doing – I just need to push myself a little bit to get out of my comfort zone at the beginning, and I haven’t regretted it yet.

3 . Find a new therapist in my new city

Mental health is important to maintain, and a university student’s mental heath isn’t usually the best there is. I’m trying to know my limits and see if I can’t deal with something on my own, and ask for help when I need it.

N.B.: If you need any help, please don’t hesitate to go see a psychologist. They’re trained professionals who aren’t here to judge you – they’re here to help. (Depending on where you live, there might be programs that offer a few appointments for free, or for a very low price !)

4 . Get better at fashion

That’s a much lighter one, and somewhat inspired by my binge-watching of Ashley at bestdressed’s YouTube videos.

I recently realized that most of my wardrobe is made of : stuff people gave me for free when I had only really old clothing; the really old clothing; and stuff my mom bought me when I was 1 and that I never wore or got rid of. There’s probably some changes that could be made in there.

5 . Cook more meals at home instead of dining out too often

In September, I spent SO MUCH MONEY on buying food outside… I’m not doing a “no-spend-October”, but I probably should. Instead, I’ll be trying out a softer “try-to-spend-less-October”, and leaving my credit card at home every other day, just to be sure not to buy too much stuff. We have food at home. Let’s see how it goes !

6 . Get a library card form my new city’s library

I’ve been living here for more than a month now, and I still haven’t gotten a library card. At this point, I’m pretty sure it’s criminal. I really should get the necessary papers and just. Go out and do it. (But I’ve been procrastinating so much…)

7 . Apply to as many jobs as possible

I worked hard during the summer to put some money aside for my tuition, and 2 months worth of rent, but it’s getting more and more urgent for me to get a job now. University books aren’t cheap, and food is really expensive in a big city.

8 . Do some form of exercise every 1/2 days

I am SO BAD at exercising. I know it’s good for you and all, but… going outside ? In the cold ? To move ?

That probably means I should try to do more of it.

9 . Try to control a bit more my phone addiction

I’ve been spending a lot of time on my phone this past month – and I mean, a lot. It’s definitely time to monitor that a bit, and see just how bad it is. (And then maybe do something about it.)

10. Try to study well, not read my class notes for hours on end without understanding what’s going on.

This is something I’ve struggled with in the past. I’ve been too focused on the time I spent studying, that I didn’t actually focus on the material of the class I was studying for, and it never ended up getting me the grades I hoped for.

This past year, I’ve been trying out new methods, studying for shorter amounts of time but focusing more on how much I know, and how much I still have to learn, and it seems to be working pretty well !

Hopefully, I’ll be able to accomplish some – if not all – of those this month. It’s pretty ambitious, or at least it feels like it, but I’m positive that I can stay ahead of things and manage pretty well this semester. I’ll keep you updated on how it goes !

Do you have a monthly goals list, or something that you use in the same way ? I’m always looking for new bullet journal layouts to try out, so feel free to recommend your favourites in the comments !
N.B. : All the photos in this post are from Unsplash.

My days are too short.

Do you have these days when you feel like there’s just not enough hours in your day to do all the things you want to do ?

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 7, feeling tired and drowsy from lack of sleep. I went to bed at 10pm the night before, thinking a solid 8 hours of sleep would help me get back on my feet the next day and perform better at work… but my flatmates had decided otherwise, and invited their friends for a dinner party in our apartment, that rendered me unable to sleep until 1:30am. Instead of the good 8 hours of sleep I had wished for, I barely managed to get 5:30.

I couldn’t stay in bed any longer, so I took a couple more minutes of rest and then went to take a shower, get dressed and start my day – make my lunch, take a shower, go to work, work for 7 hours with a 30 min lunch break, get out of work, go to a meeting for my volunteering activities, go to the community garden to water my crops, realize that I need to go to the grocery store get some gardening supplies, move my schedule around so I can take an hour for that and leave immediately for the store, go home covered in dirt and mud, take another shower, answer my professional and personal email, wash the dishes and make dinner, check my social media and play a small video game for 20 min to relax a bit. And then it was 11pm and I fell asleep.

My day went by extremely quickly, and I didn’t do half the things I wanted to – or was supposed to.

  • Cleaning my apartment ? Taking out the trash ? That was put aside in the morning, in exchange for those few extra minutes of rest.
  • Going out to meet a friend, maybe get some bubble tea ? I went to buy gardening supplies instead, and told the friend we’d catch up another day.
  • Calling the tennis club to ask if they had any adult beginner’s classes that I could attend ? Sadly, the club was already closed by the time I got home and started sorting through my professional and personal communications.

And then there’s the things I would like to give a little more of my time – taking photos with my camera, for example, would be a nice addition to any day, really, but I can’t carry the camera to work, and would have to go home and then get out again to take pictures. It would take an extra amount of time that I just can’t figure out where to take.

“But Maude”, you’ll tell me, “why don’t you just get rid of superfluous activities in your day ?” That would give you more time ! And yeah, sure, I could cut on those 20 min of video games (or reading, depending on the day) – but would it really do me any good ? Cutting back on your leisure activities often means cutting back on the things that help your mental health and well-being, and I have a feeling that that’s not the right way to go for this.

I don’t have a miracle solution – but I do have some tips that I use to try to make it work :

  • I plan my day in advance, the day before, and go over what I have to do in the morning, to make sure I don’t have to make more than two different trips during the day. I know myself and my strength, and I also know that past 6pm, if I get home, I’m not going out again if I can avoid it in any way.
  • I consider my weekends to be vacation days – and by this, I mean : no work, at all. No thinking about work either. I’m lucky enough to have a job that I can be completely disconnected of during my days off, and I use that fully.

If you don’t have to answer emails this coming Friday, don’t do it. Give your brain the time to power down. Vacation is seen as a luxury, instead of a right, and it’s made it so that few full time working Americans are taking time-off. In 2014 42% of working Americans didn’t take a single vacation day.

(from the blog create and cultivate)

  • I always take the time to do at least 1 leisure activity in my day, usually after dinner – whether it’s video games, reading, editing photos or browsing the web for cool blog articles to read, I know that these briefs moments help me maintain my mental health, and that’s a thing I do NOT want to neglect in any way.
  • I eat good food. And by good food, I don’t mean “healthy” food, just food that makes me happy when I eat it. If ramen makes me happy, I’ll eat ramen. If breakfast food makes me happy, I’ll eat breakfast food, whatever the time may be.

Even though I try my best to stay positive and not let myself be influenced too much by that feeling of not being fast enough, not doing things the way I should, I still have those days when I feel like I’m running out of time and don’t have enough hours to finish everything I have to do. Like I’m not productive enough, and am a bad person because of it. And that’s okay – as long as I know what those emotions are, where they come from, and how I can manage them for the time being, until I feel better about what I do and remember that extreme productivity at the detriment of my mental health isn’t the path I want to follow.

Do you have any tips on how to deal with that ? Any blog posts on that topic that I should read ? Feel free to link them in the comments !