What worked for me in 2017

As someone who is constantly evaluating (and re-evaluating) every practice, habit, and method in my life, a “what’s worked for me” post is something I’ve wanted to write for literally years. Every year around this time, I draft this post in my head, but it gets tossed by the wayside by the time February rolls around. But not this year!

If you’re not familiar with this format, here’s what to expect: a list, more or less, of habits/practices/techniques etc. that were new for me in 2017, and the value I got from them. I’m a fiend for this type of post, because inevitably, no matter how divergent the author’s interests are from my own, I always walk away with a recommendation, a new way of looking at something, or an honest-to-goodness endorsement of something that I’ve been mulling over, but hadn’t committed to. And that’s my hope for you: that you would glean something useful, and that your 2018 will benefit from my 2017.

And yes—if you’re wondering—I do intend to write a “what DIDN’T work for me in 2017.” (I’ll draft it today and get it up sometime in February.)

Alright, let’s talk about some wins! I’m presenting these in categories for easy scanning/sifting. Below you’ll find what worked for me:

  • Physically
  • Mentally/Spiritually
  • At Home
  • In Business

What worked for me PHYSICALLY

  1. SKINCARE: Sometime back in July of 2017, a friend of mine added me to a private Facebook group devoted to skincare habits that are founded in science and common sense. It has literally changed my life. I struggle with hormonal acne (it starts right below my cheekbones, and continues down to just below my chin-line), but by adhering to the “7 essentials,” I’ve not only reduced the number of blemishes that pop up every month to almost zero, but the early signs of aging I was beginning to notice have diminished a great deal.I’m going to describe the 7 Essentials extremely briefly below; if you want more specifics, comment below and I’ll email you with allllll the details. Bear in mind, these are not 7 steps, but rather 7 tools you’ll use to uncover clear, glowy skin. Also, there are many “extras” you might include in your process, but I’m just focusing on the must-haves.
      1. Balm Cleanser
      2. Milk Cleanser
      3. Acid Exfoliant
      4. Vitamin C
      5. A Retinod
      6. Moisturizer
      7. SPF
  2. CONSISTENT BASIC HEALTHY HABITS: This one sounds so basic and easy, but for whatever reason, basic good habits seem to be a struggle for almost everyone. Here’s what I managed to do well (most of the time) in 2017:
    1. Drink plenty of water—for me, that means 2+ Nalgenes each day
    2. Eat unprocessed foods—I cooked the vast majority of my meals last year and, surprise! I’m in the best shape of my life, and I have more energy than I did throughout my 20s.
    3. Get regular exercise—for me, this is like 90% barre classes at my local studio, and 10% hikes outside. This year I’m changing it up a bit, but my foundation will remain barre, as it’s keeping me strong and flexible, which is all I’m really after.
    4. Getting enough sleep—while going to bed is still a struggle for me (I cherish the quiet nighttime hours with my husband, after the children fall asleep), I finally took sleep more seriously, and typically get 7-8 hours a night. Optimum for me is probably more like 8-9 hours, so that’s an area of growth for me.
  3. WEARING A DAILY “UNIFORM” this one is so simple and small, but radically changes my mornings for the better. I wear the same thing (more-or-less) every day, and I set it out the night before (including undergarments, shoes, accessories, etc.) Now, the first thing I do when I get out of bed is get dressed, and even if the morning process lags with my children, I’m basically ready to go. No more frantically running around looking for a sweater, or a missing shoe, and it is GLORIOUS.

What worked for me MENTALLY/SPIRITUALLY

  1. INVESTING IN COMMUNITIES: I’m someone who needs to make a concerted effort to remain socially connected with others; I live in my head a lot, and if I’m not careful, I can happily go days and days without talking to another adult aside from my husband. So one way I keep myself grounded in community is by putting some skin in the game, and committing myself as a leader, or organizer. At that point, it’s natural for me to honor my social and service relationships, and respect them by showing up prepared, with my whole mind engaged on the people in front of me. Beginning in the fall of last year, I began volunteering as a table leader for our local MOPs (Moms of Preschoolers) group, and I’m co-leading a small group at my church’s women’s Bible study.
  2. INVESTING IN MY MIND: Like I mentioned, I’m someone who tends to live in her head, so this one comes more naturally to me. Here’s what I read this year:
    1. Wild at Heart Revised and Updated: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul
    2. Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
    3. Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids
    4. Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business
    5. Washington: A Life – Biography by Ron Chernow
    6. Alexander Hamilton – Biography by Ron Chernow
    7. The Pursuit of Holiness – Bible study by Jerry Bridges
    8. On Living – Beautiful and haunting memoir by hospice Chaplain Kerry Egan
    9. The Armor of God – Bible study by Priscilla Shrier
  3. DETACHING FROM SOCIAL MEDIA: after reading “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” and “Deep Work,” it was easy to step back from social media, and reevaluate how much brain-space I was affording it. No matter how well someone uses social media, or how knowledgable they are about its hazards, I’m less convinced than ever that it’s measurably good for us in any way. Furthermore, after reading about a few historical biographies in a row (I’ve been on a Ron Chernow kick for about a year), it’s hard to imagine any of these giants of history getting anything of significance accomplished if they had social media in their lives.As someone who used to make her living by crafting social media strategy, and teaching its use, I want to be very clear: I don’t think any amount of preparation, caution, or understanding is enough to buffer oneself (primarily one’s mind, and one’s ability to reason) from the harmful effects of social media.
    The creators of social media platforms specifically designed them to be addictive, and if you’re telling yourself that you’re unaffected, or immune, you’re literally lying to yourself. It’s not my intention to scare anyone, or be confrontational, but no matter how innocently, or for what good purposes you use social media: it is bad for your brain. Here: do a quick search and see for yourself.

    Now, for many of us, participation in some social media is a non-negotiable, and for others of us, the only way we can effectively promote events and happenings is via Facebook. I get that. I’d encourage all of us to think of social media usage the same as smoking cigarettes: we know that they’re bad for us, and we know that they’re specifically designed to be addictive. How much risk are you willing to assume? That answer is entirely up to you.

  4. EXPERIENCING SOME GOOD ART: in 2017 I saw Hamilton, attended several classical music concerts and ballet performances, went to several museums, and enjoyed lots of beautiful architecture. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that 2017 saw in an uptick in my own creative output and ideation.

What worked for me AT HOME

  1. THIS INSTANT POT RECIPE FOR CREAMY THAI COCONUT SOUP You can also make this with a slow cooker, or on the stovetop. Either way, it’s DELICIOUS.
  2. CLOTH DIAPERING: I was too overwhelmed and intimidated to try cloth diapering my first, but we gave it a shot with our second, and it is SO MUCH SIMPLER than I was led to believe (the internet is really good at scaring us, isn’t it?). We use Grovia hybrid diaper covers, and pre-folds on the inside. They all get tossed in the wash with a scoopfull of Tide, and they come out perfectly clean. No stress. Better for the environment. Less money. All good things.
  3. THIS IKEA CART, for dragging our homeschool books, notebooks, math manipulatives, etc. around the house
  4. RESALE AND BUYING USED: in 2017 I began selling my children’s gently used clothes on Kidizen, and buying needed items on the same app. To date I’ve earned more than $250, and I keep that in Kidizen to use when I need to buy a bigger pair of rain boots, the next size up of jeans, etc. I barely buy anything new anymore, and I LOVE IT.
  5. WEEKLY MEAL PLANNING: Now, I know this is super old-hat for many of you, but halleleujah! I LOVE knowing what I’m making for dinner for the next week, and the fact that I can buy stuff in bulk, and save money. Last year I made the same 7-10 dinners each week for a season, and then I’d swap out half the recipes for the next season. If you like to make something new every night, this system might not work for you. But if you like clearing your mind of “what’s for dinner tonight?”, or you want to limit your trips to the grocery store to once a week, then try weekly meal planning!
  6. MASTER GROCERY LIST: This follows the previous item nicely. Instead of writing a new grocery list every single week, I have one “master grocery list” on my computer, and I just delete the things I don’t need. There have been so many times where we were out of something, and I would have totally forgotten to add it to my list, except that it was already ON my master grocery list. I never ran out of coffee creamer once in 2017! And that’s what matters, right?
  7. “DOUBLE THE RECIPE, FREEZE THE EXTRA:” I almost never cook a single batch of anything. If I’m going to be in the kitchen for an hour, you better believe I’m getting more than one meal out of it. Having meals on-hand has reduced the amount of times we order takeout to almost zero, which has saved us a ton of money, too.
  8. LAZY-DINNER NIGHT: One night each week I’ve cut myself slack and made something simple, like tuna sandwiches. Everyone is happy with it, and I get more time with my family. (I might increase this to twice a week!)

What worked for me in BUSINESS

  1. FINALLY TAKING AN AMY PORTERFIELD COURSE: after many years of “I should really do that!” I finally took an Amy Porterfield course, and I am SO GLAD I did. The course I took is called “List Builder’s Lab,” and it guided me through the process of building a self-sustaining email-list-building strategy that is adding new people into our “sales funnel” on a daily basis. The fact that the whole thing (including the nurture sequence) is automated has lifted a HUGE burden off my shoulders. If you are involved in any business or nonprofit, your organization needs to do this. Do it this year!
  2. KEEPING MY HEAD DOWN + TAKING ONE SMALL STEP AT A TIME: I’m a dreamer, and an idealist. I have this massive vision for what’s possible, but when I lift my eyes to the summit ahead of me, I get incredibly discouraged by the distance I’ll have to travel to get there, and I never get moving.Last year I committed to breaking projects down into smaller pieces, and then breaking those pieces down into discrete steps. After I write the big fat vision down, and break it down into pieces, and break the pieces down into steps, I almost never dare to look at the big fat vision again, preferring to keep my eyes down on the next step I have in front of me. As a result, I made more progress on our business than I had in the past two years combined. This year I’m applying the same tactic to my personal projects, and it’s already helping. (Here I am, with two blog posts in January!)I hope you glean at least one useful tidbit from all of this! Any suggestions for me? What should I consider next? Did you write a “what worked for me” post? If so, please link to it in the comments to so I can read along!I’ll be back with a “What DIDN’T Work For Me in 2017” post sometime in February.

Peace to you!
Melissa

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