Monthly Review: January 2018

After the introspection and planning of December, I got excited to take action in January. I didn’t do what I’d intended during my December goal-setting, but I decided to follow my enthusiasm instead, with some home improvement projects and a new creative idea. It turned into nesting kind of month.

As a finish to my annual planning, I selected my three guiding words for 2018.

Last month’s review.

Creatively Productive — productive though off plan ;)

Playing around with layouts and content for a weekly planner

At the beginning of the month, I stumbled across a fancy planner, and realized that I could do just as good a job designing a custom planner. I’ve spent years refining my goal setting and planning techniques during my annual review process, and could meld my review process into a planner format. I wound up spending time on brainstorming, developing content (5.5 hours) and designing (9.5 hours) a rough draft planner rather than writing.

How’d I Do On My January Creative Goals?

  • Continued group writing sessions, and re-started solo writing sessions
    • After-work weekly writing session x3 (goal = 4)
    • Weekly morning writing meetup x3 (goal = 4)
    • 12 hours active writing time
    • Only wrote 4 Pomodoros all month
  • Drew x2 (goal = 5)
  • Wrote more of Beauty and the Beast, but not as much as I’d put as my goal
  • Did not finish re-reading WIP novel draft

Clearly, just saying I’m going to draw doesn’t make me actually draw — and saying I’m going to do Pomodoros doesn’t make me hit “start” on that timer ;)

Creative Work I want to Accomplish In February

  • Finish rough planner design
  • Rough design of a mountain poster, inspired by 59 Parks (something I’ve toyed with for years but never gotten more than a couple hours into)
  • Finish writing to midpoint of Beauty and the Beast retelling

process goals for Creative Work In February

For February, I’m going to make art practice more learning-focused; I signed up for Skillshare’s 99 cent promotion, so I picked out some classes to try. Traditionally, I hate video, but I know it should be an effective tool for learning art techniques.

  • Writing sessions / productivity:
    • After-work weekly writing session x4
    • Weekly morning writing meetup x3
    • At least 1 pomodoro at each writing session
  • Watch a skillshare class each week:

Play — OK, didn’t feel like it so not too worried

We both had MLK Jr Day off, so we headed out to Whidbey Island, one of our favorite places. The lovely sunny day didn’t feel like January! We walked along the beach at Ebey’s Landing with a view of the Olympic Mountains and even Mt. Rainier, then visited Fort Casey State Park, a series of batteries that still has two guns in situ, plus a cute lighthouse.

I always love riding the ferry, and we noticed that both directions, a pack of seagulls paced the boat, gliding above the front deck, weaving in and out. As far as we could tell, they were just having fun (they weren’t hunting for fish or even tourist food).

  • We headed down to our local brewery tasting room for a chill evening with our neighbor.
  • I didn’t feel much like reading in January so I dipped my toe back in to graphic novels (working through the Bride’s Story mangas) and mixed things up with Tommy Caldwell’s memoir about climbing.
  • A new “public house” in town had their soft opening, so we tried it out (verdict: good food, service has room for improvement)

Ways to Play in February

  • I’m going to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show for the first time! I’m hoping to see lots of cute container plantings for inspiration, and maybe grab some free samples ;)

Comfortable Sustainable Living — kicked butt this month :D

The PNW poster turned out to be brighter than I remembered ;) But it goes pretty well with that kingfisher print! (The other small print is by Yellena, one of my favorite artists.)


  • Scaredy Cat by Brandi Milne

    I framed five pieces of art I already owned, including my original art from Brandi Milne.

  • After years, I ordered a rug mat for my big living room rug. It’s so much squishier to walk on! Why didn’t I order one when I bought it originally?
  • Long overdue, I ordered two new sets of sheets and a duvet cover. I went for organic cotton and tencel, which is apparently made out of recycled eucalyptus.
  • I got carried away ordering curtain rods and curtains — but it’ll be nice to finally have something other than the broken blinds that came with the house.
  • For winter color, I added some ornamental kale to the pots along our front walkway, and planted ten hellebore in my front yard.
  • We started a cleaning service and got our first ‘deep’ cleaning.


  • Wanting to take advantage of things I already own, I fixed some produce bags my mom made that needed a new string. My girl scout leaders would be proud :P
  • I attempted to repair my fitbit with sugru. It didn’t work.
  • I played along with the minimalism game through January 18 before I ran out of steam. (Each day of the month, you find the number of items matching the date to get rid of, so one item on January 1, two items on January 2, etc.) In all, I gave away and donated 159 items, including posters, photography accessories, and baking accoutrements.

Ways to Make February Comfortable and Sustainable

  • I’ll need to plant the native plants that I pre-ordered.
  • I’m planning to add a row of heather in an area of the yard that’s proven challenging. Fingers crossed they survive!
  • Frame print for my office.
  • Take shoes to the cobbler for new soles.
  • Hang curtains in our living room and guest bedroom.

Active Lifestyle — working on it

I made myself a weekly health routine chart as a visual cue to remind myself of what I’d planned to do each day. I don’t think this format was super effective, but that might also be due to trying to start too many new (irregular) habits at once.

I participated in a walking challenge with a team at work, with a challenge goal of walking 10,000 steps a day. Even though the challenge started the second week, I started wearing my fitbit again the first week. I didn’t make a serious effort to reach the goal, wanting to just work on walking more. I only actually hit 10k steps 6 times during January, with a rough daily average of 7500 steps.

  • Continued walking with my neighbor (during the first half of the month)
  • Weekly team walks x3, plus a walking meeting with a coworker, and walking to an offsite meeting! (goal = 4)
  • Walked home with coworker x2 (goal = 4)

Active Lifestyle Outcome Goals for February

  • Reach 10k steps twice a week (goal = 8 times)
  • Increase average weekly step count to 60k

Active Lifestyle Process Goals for February

For me to increase my average weekly steps, I need to add some more planned walking activities. I’m adding four more weekly scheduled walks to my routine.

  • Walk home with coworker x3
  • Team walks x4
  • Afternoon walking break x4
  • Evening walk after writing meetup x4
  • Saturday morning walk x4
  • Sunday afternoon walk x4
  • Bus+walk or bike to writing meetup at least once

Wellness & Self-Care — mixed, but an improvement

I hate going to bed. I’m a total night owl (used to stay up till 4am regularly in college) — but I’m supposed to be at work by 8am :/ Partway through the month, we decided to start scheduling bedtime: we aim be in the bedroom by 11:30, and turn off the lights / start my meditation by midnight. We’ve tried something like this before without success, but I think we’re both trying harder this time.

How’d I Do on My January Wellness Goals?

  • Meditated before bed on weeknights x14ish (goal = 23)
  • Yoga during lunch x2 (goal = 2) 
  • Weights after work x3 (goal = 4)
  • Knee stretches on workdays x2 (goal = 18)
  • Delayed vision appointment due to issue with DH’s coverage

Wellness and Self-Care Outcome Goals for February

  • Get an eye exam and order new glasses
  • Get a bike fitting (recommended by my physical therapist for knee pain)

Wellness and Self-Care Process Goals for February

I’ve thought this before, and I’m thinking it again — I’m not someone who can take days off from exercise / wellness goals that aren’t driven by attending a class or going with someone else. So I’m increasing my meditation goal to become a daily practice.

  • Lunchtime yoga x3
  • Weights after work x4
  • Meditate every night before bed (goal = 28)
  • Continue 11:30 goal bedtime

Healthy Eating — getting better!

Meal planning for the week of New Year’s

  • Tracked meals on My Fitness Pal
  • Created 4 meal plans and hunted down lots of new recipes
  • Agreed on a regular dinner time

Lessons from Meal Planning

  • I’d prefer to make a one-pot recipe rather than three smaller dishes, especially when I’m trying something new
  • Every week it seems like at least two nights don’t go according to plan — so I just carry over those meals or ingredients to the next week
  • The second week, I never got around to grocery shopping. Must actually buy the ingredients! *smh*
  • I’ve started picking out a backup easy, healthy dinner (using pantry staples) that I can fall back on if I don’t feel like making what I planned

Healthy Eating Goals for February

  • Create a meal plan each week
  • Go grocery shopping after meal planning

Strategic Spending and Saving — doing OK

We had a scare at the beginning of the month, when we learned that DH’s health insurance did not auto-renew like we’d thought. Fortunately, some nice person at his work chose to re-enroll him even though he didn’t fill out the paperwork. Phew! I did a lot of research into other options at the beginning of the month though.

Since we’re planning for early retirement / financial independence, I considered hiring a fee-only financial advisor to give me a second opinion on my retirement plans — but then I researched how much it would cost. Yikes! Holding off for now.

How’d I Do On My January Spending and Savings Goals?

  • DH signed up for an expensive course, so I decided to wait to make a prior year contribution to his IRA
  • Successfully reduced our restaurant spending by $300 below our average (thanks to meal planning? Our grocery costs were $200 higher than usual.)
  • Spent less than usual (aside from the course for DH), but didn’t meet the new savings goals due to the course

Spending and Savings Goals for February

I learned about an option for pre-tax savings at work, so I need to look into it and determine whether we’d like to utilize it. That seems like it’ll make sense after we get our taxes back — so my goal for February is to read about the plan. I’m apparently also able to invest within my HRA account, so I’m going to investigate that option.

  • Make prior year contribution to DH IRA
  • Complete tax forms
  • Maintain reduced restaurant spending
  • Meet new savings goals

I also cancelled our Amazon Prime membership, so I’m curious how that will affect our purchasing (and whether we’ll sign back up…).

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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