6 Things I Learned this Winter

This is a new quarterly series inspired by Emily P. Freeman, an author and podcaster whom I fell in love with last Autumn. She began these 90-day reflections years ago as an encouragement to look back on the previous months and celebrate what we learned. I'm picking it up as a new practice. I hope you’ll join me.

As much as I wished for it, this is no admission that Winter is over, but simply that I’m treating December through February as Winter. Now that it’s March, we can hope that Spring is on the way, right?

Here’s a handful of the things I’ve learned recently, from the serious to silly to just plain practical.

6 things I learned this Winter that have nothing to do with Branding by Michelle Clayton of Let Her Fly

1 | Bullet journaling is not at all what I assumed it was, and now that I’ve dropped the assumption, I’m kinda in love with it. 

You’ve probably seen them – the gorgeous, colorful, highly ornate pages of self-drawn calendars and planners. My 15-year-old has even dabbled in it. But I couldn’t figure out why anyone would want to create their own calendar every week or month. I mean, who has the time? I always just wanted something I could fill in and have it work for me.

While falling down a Google rabbit hole sometime late last year, I discovered that this was not at all how the original Bullet Journal was intended. It is, in fact, the creation of Ryder Carroll as a very simple, black and white system to help you organize your time and get focused. Without washi tape or watercolor pens. Along the way, some people started making it really fancy-schmancy and sharing their creations on Instagram. Which led to my misunderstanding and perhaps yours too. 

Mine follows Carroll’s original system. (See photo 1 below.) It’s kinda messy, boring, and very unglamorous, but it’s definitely working. It allows me to capture lots of info in one place and, yes, be able to find it again later. Weekly calendar, to-dos, inspirational quotes, client notes, journal entries – it’s all there. One thing I really like is that I’m capturing my own thoughts more often because it’s finally easy to do. No more sitting down and staring at a daunting blank journal, feeling like I have to fill it up perfectly. I just add an entry whenever I feel like it, as part of my regular week. No pressure. 

Plus I started this whole thing in early December, right as life was hitting warp speed and I needed somewhere to park all my lists and to-dos leading up to the holidays. So while that may seem like a strange time to start a new planner, it worked brilliantly!

If you’re curious about what the Bullet Journal really is instead of what Instagram leads you to believe, you can read more on the website or in Carroll’s new book.

(P.S. It’s a lot easier to look back over 90 days when all your thoughts are collected in one place.)

2 | You CAN fit a 20” down pillow insert into an 18” sham. 

That means that I can rotate through different decorative pillows in our living room, only storing the folded shams instead of a pile of entire pillows. Nice. Marie Kondo would be so proud!

Note: I doubt this would work for polyester pillow forms since they don’t squish as much as down does.

3 | Checking off a massive, overdue to-do list feels even better than tidying up.

My husband, John, and I have renovated or built multiple houses throughout our marriage. One thing that was always such a downer was completing all those tiny little details right as we were about to sell the house to someone else. You know, all those things that give such satisfaction and make the place finally feel finished – the missing piece of baseboard, nail holes to fill, or alllll the touchup painting. Anyone else? We never completed those so we could enjoy it. We did it for someone we didn’t even know so they could enjoy it after we moved out. I hated that feeling.

We’ve been in our current home for almost 7 years and, in typical Clayton fashion, have done tons of renos, so the incomplete projects were starting to pile up. And I was determined to actually FINISH all those projects. So around New Year’s, we dove into my massive list (see photo 3) and completed nearly everything on it. You’ll see that there are still a couple incomplete items, but what you can’t see is that the momentum from completing everything else motivated us to tackle some additional even-bigger projects that weren’t on the original list. It’s so satisfying to have things finished and to complete these jobs before jumping into the next one.

Sometimes you just gotta buckle down and do the thing.

bullet journal basics
20” pillow form in my 18” sham
a massive, overdue to-do list
I miss running. Yea!

4 | If you want to remember something, write it down. Science says it'll stick in your brain better.

Palindrome = those words that are spelled the same forward as backward (racecar, madam, taco cat). I knew this but could never remember what they were called. Until I wrote it in that Bullet Journal. See the theme here?

5 | Your “word of the year” can be very unconventional. So unconventional that you don’t want to tell anyone what it is.

I don’t know how you feel about a “word of the year”. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s something I’ve done for the past few years, often changing it during the year which, of course, is allowed. My word, my rules.

But this year’s word kept showing up in late 2018 through books I was reading, podcasts I was listening to, and conversations I was having, and I kept thinking “this can’t be it." As a business owner and someone who considers herself a strong woman, this wasn’t supposed to be my word.

Because the word is: SMALL.

Before you freak out or call me a hypocrite, let me clarify.

This “small” does not mean “less than”, “insignificant”, or “shrinking”. Hopefully you know me well enough by now that I would never stand for that. For me, it’s a simple awareness that I’m one small-but-significant piece in a very large puzzle. And it’s my job to do my job without worrying about everyone else doing theirs. I don’t have to scream the loudest, be the flashiest or strongest, or do anything the way someone else does. I can be the quiet, sincere, introverted me that I was created to be. My job is to show up, take the next one step, send one next letter, start one conversation, give one thoughtful “yes”, write the proposal, ask for help, be generous, and be present. Small steps.

I think Emily P. Freeman captures it best in her book Simply Tuesday

“We don’t have to fear this small way. We don’t have to worry that embracing smallness will shrink our impact… 

Small is the position of my soul, the posture by which I approach others, God, and myself. When I’m small, I know I can’t control opinions, manipulate outcomes, or force my agenda on others. When I’m small, I can move into the world confident as the person I most deeply am because I know I don’t move into the world alone.

If this is true, then small is my new free.”

Believe me, small is still pushing me way out of my comfort zone. Small doesn’t allow me to sit and hide. But if the beginning of 2019 is any indication, small is working beautifully for me. It just might work for you too. You’re welcome to take this word and make it your own!

And if “BIG” is what you really want, then, honey, go for it. The whole point is to know what’s important to you and how you want to show up, and then SHOW UP! 

6 | I miss running. And I never thought I’d ever say that.

February was one of our coldest months on record in the entire history of weather recording. Like bone-numbing, nostril-hair-freezing cold. Ouch. And since I don’t own and don’t want a treadmill, running hasn’t happened here since late January, right as I was getting to my longest distance and fastest time. To be honest, I’m grateful that Winter was so mild up until then. But I’m itching to get back at it. And that feels good. Have I mentioned yet that I’m really looking forward to Spring? You too?

So what have you learned over the last 90 days? I’d love to know. I’ll ask you again at the end of May, so if you don’t already, start keeping track. You might be surprised.

P.S. This weekend marks the 3rd anniversary of this small studio! Funny, I never really celebrated the 1st or 2nd anniversary, but somehow this one feels significant. Thank you for being an important part of it! And to those of you who have been here since the very beginning, I don’t have enough thank you’s for you. You have been here every step of the way and I’m deeply grateful!

Here’s to many more!