Planning the Year ~ UPDATED

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Yearly_Planning_2016_Printable_Episcopal

Yearly_Planning_2016_Printable_Secular

I’ve been obsessed with calendars for most of my life. I can easily buy and fill out three or four a year. They are never entirely satisfactory. So I have set about making my own calendars.

In order to plan my year, I find it helpful to be able to actually see the entire year at once. In the past I have purchased pre-printed calendars and then written my information in. But they’re never quite right. There are always holidays listed that I don’t celebrate. There are days with five things to put down, but not enough space to write it all. So this year I have made myself a spreadsheet, which I am sharing with you. I made two versions, both with US holidays, one secular and the other Episcopalian. Choose the one that you prefer, and then follow the instructions below.

Step 1:

After downloading and opening the file, take time to review what is already there and delete anything that is not relevant to you. I have some things that are only applicable to people who live in Houston, or in Texas, or in the US. So delete away.

Step 2:

Put in religious holidays that are relevant to you. Catholics will be able to use the Episcopal version with very little modification. Orthodox Christians will probably have more work to do; I am not very familiar with their calendar. People from other religions will likely want to choose the secular version and then add in their own religious celebrations. Maybe next year I will have more versions.

Step 3:

Put in civic holidays that are relevant to you. Start with national holidays, then state or province holidays, and finally local holidays. Don’t forget things like tax due dates, voting days, and work or school schedules. I’ve placed many of these for Houston, but your dates may vary, so move things around as needed.

Step 4:

Put in family celebrations, such as birthdays and anniversaries. Also consider travel schedules for work. I don’t put things that happen every month on this calendar to prevent it from becoming cluttered, but if doing so helps you visualize your year better then go for it.

Step 5:

Now the fun part! Choose vacation, travel, and play time. I’ve shaded weekends and typical days off for US office workers. Change the shading to suit your own devices.

Step 6:

Review your work, checking that you’ve included all the major things for the year. It’s ok to write on it after you print, too, so don’t get caught up in perfectionism. You rule the tool, not the other way around.

Step 7: ~NEW INSTRUCTIONS~

Now it’s time to print. I printed in four sections on letter paper in landscape view. Select the entire calendar area, open the print dialog box, and choose ‘Print Selection.’ You’ll have to tell the computer to scale the selection to the page at 39%. On my system, that meant going to print preview and then choosing page setup, where I could choose the print size. Print to a PDF to check that everything is correct before you waste paper and ink.

I ended up with four pages. The top is in two sections of Jan-Jun and Jul-Dec, and the side is in two sections top to Day 16 and Day 17 to bottom.

If you have printed on four pieces of paper like this, you now get to do a cutting and pasting activity. If you have a good print shop, you may be able to print all at once on a larger paper.

Anyways, I hope this inspires you to plan out your year. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions in the comments section. And have a Happy New Year!

~Erin

Keeping My Priorities Straight

When I was trying to get out of my PhD program with my sanity intact, I started to really assess what my priorities were, and how my life should look to better align with those priorities. I made a list, which I have tweaked and revised to the present version.

Faith
Family
Fitness
Friends
Finances

The alliteration of five things makes it easy to remember. These are the important things, the foundational things, the first things. For a given situation, one or the other may be most important in that moment. When it comes to a whole life view, however, I strive towards the order as listed.

Faith

Faith for me encompasses belief, hope, and spirituality, as well as religious practice. I have faith that God exists, that God is good even when we don’t understand His methods, that God created me with free will, that God loves me, and most importantly, that when I follow God’s instructions my spirit will be filled with joy. I act out my faith by taking time to allow the Holy Spirit to work in my heart. While walking with Christ may appear to consist of the mundane from the outside, on the inside it is inspirational and uplifting.

Prioritizing faith means that I put God first, sometimes practically, sometimes symbolically, and (almost) always with my whole self. In my daily and weekly activities, this can be expressed in a myriad of ways. When I make my calendar, I put liturgical cycles down first, then Eucharist, then other things. Attending church is necessary, as is fellowship, as is ministry. Daily devotions are an elusive goal, but I am finding ways to get a snippet here and there between the chaos of caring for a toddler. Incorporating the Christian disciplines into my life helps me to practice faith and to keep God always at the helm of life.

Family

Family has always been important to me. Family consists of the people who know you at your worst and love you anyway. Most of our family we don’t get to choose; they are gifts to us from God. But there are other people who can become family through choice, such as a spouse. And sometimes our closest blood relations will choose to not love us. You get to define the boundaries of your own family for yourself.

Prioritizing family means that I spend time in fellowship with them daily. It means that I take their needs and concerns seriously enough to take action towards a remedy. It means that I care for them by providing a warm, inviting home with good meals, by standing by their side when they are sick, by sticking by them even when things are difficult. Family fills my life with joy, and so they stay one of my top priorities.

Fitness

OK, you got me, this was originally Health, but then everything started with ‘f’, so I changed it to Fitness. Caring for my own mental, social, spiritual, emotional, and physical fitness is also important, mostly so that I am able to do the things that I am called to do. Given that we live in a health and fitness obsessed culture, I don’t feel like I need to expound on this beyond pointing out that fitness is not related to appearance but rather to functionality.

Friends

I had making and keeping friends as my lowest priority for a long time. But that turned out to be lonely. So, slowly but surely, I have been vesting more time and energy into forming lasting friendships. It has been a challenging practice to learn. I find that the more touchpoints I have with someone, the easier it is to bridge the gap between being acquaintances and becoming friends. The bridge still does not build itself, however. In order to get to friendship, it is necessary to spend time hanging out outside of institutional events. Having the time, energy, and courage to make friends is something that I struggle with. Placing friends on my top priority list pushes me to keep trying even though it is hard.

Finances

Some people make money their top priority, and some make it their last. I find that either extreme leads to problems. So having a profession is important, but not the most important thing. Accumulating wealth is not a worthy goal past providing stability for the family. Working to the point of neglecting the people in your life might bring more income, but it is unlikely to bring more happiness. As with most things, the key is balance.

Everything Else

Those are my top priorities. I spend time doing other things, also, but they take a back seat to the Big 5. Much of my time is spent watching television, for instance, but that is not my priority. If John needs attention, or work needs doing, I turn it off. And I have additional goals outside of those priorities, such as getting the house clean and orderly. Except that a clean and orderly house helps me stay calm and collected, and also provides a comforting home for my family, both of which are top priorities. Everything flows together in the end. The best way to make sure that you are constructing the life that you would like to lead is to start by getting your priorities in order.

 

You Know the Dementors Are after You When It Takes All Day to Get through Your Morning Routine

I’ve been having a rough month. My stress has been ridiculously high, and then I forgot to take my medicine for a few days. My mood subsequently tanked out, and I’m having a difficult time keeping my life on an even keel. My routines are an important tool for managing my life. When I stop following them, things like forgetting to take my medicine happen, which then causes life to spiral downward rapidly. Stopping that downward spiral can take a gargantuan effort. Starting the routines again takes time. It can take a week or longer to get to where I can accomplish most of the dailies consistently. It can take months to slog through the backlog of weeklies. I’ll admit, I haven’t yet made it to the monthlies or beyond. I will eventually.

When I began to climb slowly  this time, I noticed simultaneously that I would get to bedtime without having finished my morning routine, and that I felt like the life was being sapped out of me. I thought, “I’m being followed around by a dementor.” Because, my friends, that is exactly what mood and anxiety disorders feel like. J.K. Rowling knows the feeling, and she was able to capture it in a story in a way that no other ever has. So, I have put together a step-by-step guide to dealing with dementors.

STEP 1: Identify that you have a dementor following you.

This is both the easiest and the most difficult step. Most people will notice that something is wrong, but will quickly make excuses for why that is normal. “If I would eat better, I would feel better.” Or, “If I would exercise, I would feel better.” Or, “If I could quit my job, I would feel better.” Or, “If I just had a million dollars, I would feel better.” Except, demetors don’t pay attention to any of those things. They follow you around, and no matter what you do they will continue to suck the joy out of your life. I highly recommend seeking professional help if this might be the case for you. Only witches and wizards can see the Dementors, after all.

STEP 2: Find someone to make a Patronus so you can have a break.

Because really, who can learn how to make their own Patronus with a Dementor breathing down their neck? This is where friends are invaluable, and where it is ok to pay someone to take care of the problem for you. You might need medicine, you might need to talk…a LOT. You might need to make drastic changes in the way you deal with your life. Just to relieve the pressure enough to breathe for a minute. It is important to understand that not everyone finds this sort of help. Being followed around by a dementor saps your motivation, turns you into the sad sack that no one wants at their party, leads to the inability to work which leads to the inability to pay a witch or wizard to scare off the dementors for you. Medicine doesn’t work for everyone. Therapy doesn’t work for everyone. Finding a therapist is an exhausting endeavor all on its own, forget about dealing with insurance, forget about taking time off of work. Bottom line: A lot of people get stuck here. If you can make a Patronus for someone, you just might save their life.

STEP 3: Learn how to make your own Patronus.

How do you go about producing a Patronus? Well, you have to find something that produces joy for you, even in moments of despair. My son is my Patronus. He keeps me on my toes, won’t let me cycle into the depths, brings joy and light into my life. I believe that he is a gift from the Holy Spirit to keep me from permanently falling into the deep well of despair. For some people, religion provides sufficient joy and connection to scare away the dementors. For others, it could be spending time outside, taking care of other people or animals, or membership in some other sort of tight-knit community. Each Patronus is unique to the individual; they cannot be copied and pasted. Learning how to make them requires hours, days, months, years, and maybe even decades of practice. It cannot be accomplished over night. But if a person can learn how, they will be able to banish dementors on their own.

All of this to say that crawling out of anxiety or depression requires a lot of TIME and ENERGY. So if someone you know seems to be struggling, but they do not seem to be “trying hard enough” or “getting help” the way you think they should, then take a step back and reassess the situation. They likely don’t have anything left within them to try any harder. When it requires every ounce of motivation just to get out of bed, a person cannot be expected to just “buck up”. THEY NEED YOUR HELP. They need someone to help with the mundane so that they can take a breath. They need someone to listen without judging, and to stick around even though they never have anything positive to say. They need someone to speak with the First Sergeant, because saying the words themselves is just too painful, too shameful, too hard.

This is not to say that you will be able to help everyone. Some people refuse to seek treatment, and at some point you have to discern between enabling bad behavior and giving help to someone having a hard time. But don’t give up before you even start. Stay up with them all night, because now you know how to save a life.