Staying on Track with a Monthly Review

I’ve appreciated other people’s monthly reviews, and am going to try out my own to help me stay accountable with my goals other than writing (as well as writing). In the past, I’ve tried to do mid-year or quarterly check-ins on my annual goals, but that feels a bit too intermittent, and easy to forget.

Structuring My Monthly Review

To start, I’m structuring my monthly review based on the priorities I identified for myself in my annual review process:

  • Creatively productive
  • Healthy habits & routines
  • Active lifestyle
  • Comfortable, sustainable home
  • Strategic spending & saving

For each priority area, I’ll assess how I did the previous month with a combination of tracked statistics and narrative evaluation. I’ll discuss my tracking tools and processes, then identify gaps and challenges that are holding me back from meeting my goals. Last, I’ll evaluate what I can do the next month to improve, whether it’s a new tracking method, a new technique to try, or a new habit to develop.

Baseline + Context for Priority Areas (as of July 2017)


Creatively Productive

My current major goal is finishing my novel.

Writing is a major focus for me over the past 5-6 years. I wrote the zero draft of a gaslamp fantasy last year that I’d like to adapt into a graphic novel script, and then illustrate. I’ve written several short story drafts that need revision.

While I don’t create much art anymore since I switched to design as a career, I’ve been enjoying doing illustrations for a friend’s literary magazine, and would like to develop my illustration skills and portfolio more.

I also have a creative bucket list of things I’d like to make before I die.

Healthy habits & routines

Health supports creativity, so I need to stay healthy to keep producing the work I’m passionate about.

I gained some weight last year, probably because I stopped climbing and have been bad about bike commuting. For the past couple years I’ve struggled with nailing the basics: daily physical activity, stretching, and eating out less.

Almost three years ago, I went three-quarters time to allow myself more time to create, and although I don’t necessarily get more done, I feel so much better having three-day weekends every week.

For stress relief, I’ve been working on mindfulness. From July 2016 to July 2017, I completed 100 meditation sessions. Mindfulness remains challenging ;)

Active lifestyle

Both for my health and to protect the environment, I want to bike more places, instead of driving. I’m currently a fair-weather bike-commuter, and commute by bike about half the time.

I love spending time outdoors, so I want to make sure I get out and camp or backpack this year. I’ve done one backpacking trip so far this summer and have another lined up, but have only done one hike. My 2017 goal is making at least four overnight trips outdoors.

Making my heart healthier is a key target.

Comfortable, sustainable home

I strive to live sustainably, and DH and I bought our house to help us reach that goal. We installed solar panels that provide all of our electricity, although we currently have natural gas for heating and I would like to get rid of gas completely. We replaced our lawn with an insect-friendly, drought-tolerant, part-native garden, and have been restoring the natural space that backs up to our house. Last year I got rid of hazardous household cleaning products and switched to homemade products with natural ingredients. We have one car, and hope to switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle in a few years when the price goes down.

Comfort is the larger challenge; most of our furniture is hand-me-downs or thrift buys that we don’t love, all the rooms are an uninspiring gray-brown, and the house has some layout and design issues that will cost $$$ or time to solve. I’ve been focusing on the little steps first since we don’t have much budget for home improvement.

One of my long-term home goals, silly as it may sound, is to get my home featured on my favorite design blog.

Strategic spending & saving

We have a major money goal: retire by 40 (or at least have the option to). That means paying off the house and building enough of a nest egg to live off the dividends for 40+ years.

We’re pretty good about saving and paying down the mortgage. I’m not worried on that account. We could do better, but it’s more an area of fine-tuning than making major changes.

Our spending, on the other hand, could stand to go down. Eating out at restaurants is a large expense, the main aspect of lifestyle creep we’ve allowed to take root.




About Tracy Durnell

Seattle-area graphic designer and SFF writer inspired by the Pacific Northwest, crafting a sustainable and intentional life.

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