Productivity: 7 Things To Help You Plan For A New Month

Any one else not quite believe that we’re half way through the year already? It’s so easy for the months to blend into one another without feeling like you’ve achieved anything that you wanted to at the start of the year. So what’s the best way to prepare for a new month so that you can get the most out of it?

At the start of this month, I was feeling like I lacked a bit of purpose – 3 months not working will do that to you! I’m also very much of the mindset that if you declare something on paper, the more likely it is that you’ll achieve it. There’s studies to back up that way of thinking too. So I decided to create a mind map of everything I would like to do this month. I intend on doing the same for the rest of the year too.

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It doesn’t matter if I don’t manage to do them all, but just writing them down has already got me feeling more motivated and intentional with my actions. It’s a technique I’ve used before with planning out my goals for the year ahead, and it can work for you too.

So grab a pen and paper, and use these 7 areas as a monthly planning template for everything that you want to happen in the weeks ahead.

Mental Well-Being

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A great question to ask yourself in relation to this is; how do I want to feel this month?

More than likely that will then guide you to the kind of activities you’ll want to be doing on a daily and weekly basis to keep you’re mental well-being in check. If you’re not sure what mental well-being is, I’ve got you covered in my easy guide here.

This month, I want to maintain my feelings of calm and being in line with the universe. (I bit woo I know, but that’s just me) Bearing that in mind, I’ve written on my monthly plan that I want to incorporate affirmations into my morning rituals, and to keep up with the daily meditation practice that I started last month. If you’re intrigued as to what affirmations are, and want to give them ago yourself, check out my blog post here.

Physical Well-Being

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Physical well-being doesn’t just cover moving your body, it’s what you put into it too, so it’s important that you consider both when you’re putting your plan for the month together.

Do you want to build strength with your workouts? Or feel like you need to stretch more and focus on your breathing? Or do you just want to drink more water?

Figure out what apps or equipment you’ll need in order to do what you have planned. Write these down too so that there’s no nasty surprises and you don’t end up feeling defeated before you start.

The likelihood is that your plans for your physical well-being will link in with what you want to do to aid your mental well-being. For me, I’ve really been reaping the mental benefits of exercising pretty much on a daily basis, and as part of my plan for the month I’m making sure I get in 5 short workouts a week. I’m a sucker for the endorphin high and just feel so much more motivated for the day ahead after I’ve worked up a sweat.

I have realised though that my body needs the time to recover more than I’m allowing it, so I’ll be making sure I fit in at least one session of yoga or stretching a week so that I’m not pushing things too hard.

Budget

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First of all, if you’ve not already got a basic budget of your monthly bills, other out goings, and how much you want to put away to save, I would definitely recommend that you get one sorted ASAP. This blog post should help with that.

There’s so much power to be had from knowing exactly what’s going in and out of your bank account on a monthly basis. Trust me, this comes from a girl who used to ignore her statements for months on end before she pulled her head out of the sand and started working to pay off her debt.

Once you’ve got your basic budget sorted out, you can plan what you want to spend your money on that’s fun. Have you got a Zoom murder mystery with you pals that means you’ll have to buy an outfit for your character? Or do you have date nights with your other half on the cards?

I’ve got my boyfriend’s birthday coming up, so I’ve taken the time to figure out how much I want to spend on gifts as well as topping up my skincare and book addictions.

Work Life

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Again, you can link this back to your mental well-being.

If you wanted to feel calmer, perhaps this means that you make time at the end of each week to plan out everything you need for the following week. This could be making sure you write a to-do list before you leave your desk on a Friday, or spending an hour on Sunday prepping your lunches for the week ahead.

On the other hand, if you’re after a sense of achievement, it could be that your plans for the month involve figuring out the steps you’ll need to go through in order to complete an important work project or goal.

As my work life is looking uncertain after my time on furlough ends, I’m going to spend time updating my CV and scoping out the jobs market in my local area.

Relationships

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Relationships don’t just mean your significant other. (if you have one) It’s your friends and family too. Take time to think about how you want to nurture each in the month ahead.

The likelihood is that your plans will link back to your budget too – so make sure they’re factored in. Now that we can go to pubs, are you planning a few drinks with friends? Or maybe a picnic in the park?

It could simply be factoring in time each week to catch up with loved ones over the phone, Face Time or Zoom.

My boyfriend is a key worker, so although I’m spending pretty much all my time at home, he isn’t. We’re getting to see each other pretty much the same amount as before lock down kicked in. I therefore make it a mission each month to make sure we get some quality time together.

This used to be a classic date night out for dinner, but we’ve had to get more creative recently. Last week we spent a lovely afternoon out in the sun drinking gin. We do also love a good Scrabble tournament. If you’re stuck for date night ideas at home this blog post has you covered.

Home

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If you have home improvements planned, or a DIY project on the cards, this is another area that you’ll want to link back to your budget. Making sure you have the money set aside for all the supplies you’ll need will hopefully stop there being any road blocks further down the line.

Are there cupboards or drawers that are annoying you so much that you really want to get them organised this month? I find that when there’s a task that I’ve been putting off for ages, it’s best if I break it down into a few steps so that it doesn’t feel so overwhelming. I also put my favourite music on whilst I do it!

Even though we’ve lived in our new flat for over a year now, there are still some walls that are looking a little bare, so my plan this month is to source some posters and frames to make our place seem that bit more homely.

Passions/Hobbies

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For the benefit of your mental well-being, I would personally recommend that you try to factor in time each day to do something that you enjoy.

One of the big lessons that I’ve learnt in lock down was that before the pandemic I wasn’t getting enough time to do the things I loved because I was too ‘busy’. I think that making time for ourselves is actually key to our overall happiness. I know I have a much better day when I’ve done something I’ve loved.

This could be as simple as reading each night for 15 minutes, or making a new recipe from scratch a couple of times a week. Or, it could be a bigger project that you’re working on such as embroidery or crochet.

As you’ll have gathered, I’m passionate about writing and helping others, so a big thing for me is making sure I have time each week to work on my blog content and the social media channels I use to promote it.

Have you ever made a plan for the month before? Do you think they help? Let me know what you want to achieve this month in the comments.

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A Beginners Guide to Meditation

I’ll be honest, before I really understood what meditation was, I thought it was a bit woo woo. I thought that to do it you would have to light incense, sit on a special cushion, and start chanting.

That can be part of it if you want it to, but really isn’t what it’s all about. My first impressions couldn’t have been more wrong.

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What is Meditation?

I think Headspace (more on them later) describe what meditation is perfectly:

Meditation isn’t about becoming a different person, a new person, or even a better person. It’s about training in awareness and getting a healthy sense of perspective. You’re not trying to turn off your thoughts or feelings. You’re learning to observe them without judgement. And eventually, you may start to better understand them as well.

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My Experience

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that I’m divorced. [read Everything I’ve Learnt From Getting Divorced here] I was first introduced to meditation when the relationship with my ex was falling apart and my mental health was starting to suffer as a result. I definitely needed a healthy sense of perspective.

My friend recommended an app to me (more on those in a sec) at the time, and suggested that I give guided meditations a try.

I knew that I needed to get a handle on my thoughts, so it giving it a try seemed worth a shot. I struggled with the guided meditations initially though – maybe it was the voices on the app that I was using that I just couldn’t get on board with, or that I was finding it hard to let go into it, I don’t know.

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After that first introduction I’ve then dipped in and out of meditation over the years when I’ve felt I’ve needed it. (which I know isn’t how you’re meant to approach these things)

When lock down started, I knew that meditation needed to be a solid part of my daily routine again. In the first few weeks I found just focusing on my breathing really helped.

That was working fine for a while, but at the start of last week, I felt like I needed to get back into meditation ‘properly’. As well as the mental exhaustion that comes from navigating lock down, I now have the possibility of redundancy thrown into the mix.

I’ve just finished a guided meditation series to help with the anxiety I’ve been feeling, and it’s really helping. Some days it’s easier than others to get in to, but the clarity of mind that comes afterwards is like a fog being lifted.

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What Are The Benefits?

Many people, myself included, start meditation for reducing stress and anxiety and cultivating a more peaceful state of mind.

There’s further benefits though that aren’t quite so obvious. Such as growing a greater sense of compassion, awareness, clarity, focus, and increased mental resilience. All, I think are extremely underrated, but deeply needed in our current society.

I’ve certainly been feeling the effects of the less obvious benefits, and once you get over the mental hurdle required to start any new habit, the results are definitely worth it.

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Where To Start

Find a time of day that works for you

There’s no use meditating at night if you’re just going to fall asleep 2 minutes after closing your eyes. Equally, there’s no point doing it in the morning if you’re rushing around trying to get sorted for the day.

It doesn’t matter what time it is, just so long as you will have the mental capacity to focus for 5-10 minutes

Designate a quiet spot

Ear mark a quiet corner in your house or flat that’s comfortable and you know you won’t get disturbed. Hopefully you’ll have already picked a time of day that means you’re less likely to be interrupted any way. (one thing that used to stop me from meditating was paranoia that my flat mate would walk in!)

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Let go

This is often easier said than done, but in my experience, completely letting go into either guided meditation you’re listening to, or focusing on your breathing, is likely to be the only way you’ll feel like meditation is ‘working’.

If you feel yourself getting frustrated, or like you’re fighting the thoughts that you have, rather than just observing them, try to loosen your grip. This takes patience and practice, (trust me!) but it’s worth persevering for the benefits that I mentioned earlier.

Top Apps To Use

The two apps I hear about most in relation to meditation are Headspace and Calm. Both have similar offerings, so it’s really down to personal preference.

Both also include free trial periods. However, I would recommend making the investment in yourself and paying so that you can access the full library of resources that both of them provide. Such as meditation series for relieving stress, anxiety, mindfulness in daily life, improving self esteem, and feeling more peaceful.

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Calm even has a series based on the Winnie-the-Pooh characters. As I discussed in my very first blog post, the characters relate to common mental health issues, and each character has their own dedicated meditation.

I personally use Calm because I prefer the voices they use for the guided meditations, that, and their sleep stories. Narrated by the likes of Stephen Fry, Matthew McConaughey and Leona Lewis, 9 times out of 10 they send me drifting off to sleep quickly and easily – so much so that I have know idea how any of the stories end!

Have you given meditation a try? If not, what’s holding you back?

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