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Last week the ladies of Brooklyn Betrothed got together for our first meeting of the new year. For a few hours we excitedly talked our way through an incredibly lengthy agenda setting goals, sharing ideas and celebrating the many successes of 2012.

After our meeting, over a glass of wine (or two), a few of us discussed how we are personally taking on 2013.

It seems like 2012 was a struggle for a lot of people I know. I felt like every day I received another piece of sad or disappointing news. In truth, as the year dragged on, it became tiresome and overwhelming.

Anni made me chuckle during this conversation, when she informed us of how she names all of the years. 2012 was “the year of lowered expectations,” but 2013 is “the year of clarity”.

It just seemed so fitting! Personally, I started off the year trying to de-clutter, resort, build, grow and shift perspective, moving away from the gloom of 2012. Our conversation was motivating and it made me want to share with readers my approach to ‘The Year of Clarity.’ I hope that readers will share their approach as well!

1) Morning Pages. I’m not really big on self-help books, but as I discussed how I was feeling in 2012 with friends, many of them recommended The Artist’s Way to me. I reluctantly picked it up and I am loving it. Morning Pages are three, hand written pages of  stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning (I pair mine with coffee, of course). There is no right or wrong way to do them. Mine often go something like this, “When will I do my laundry? I really wish there were a container sore in Brooklyn I need to pick up coffee and cat litter. Oh, I forgot to call Stacy back, again. I wish I could afford a new bike, because I really miss riding mine. Why did I watch six hours of Once yesterday instead of working on my website?”

The simple practice of taking time to clear my mind in the morning has definitely helped me start in on the day’s work with improved focus and direction. I won’t lie, the task felt daunting at first, but after about a week, I was sold.

2) De-cluttering. Before 2012 ended, I labeled my clutter and decided to clear it one ‘clutter cluster’ at time. Everyone will have their own ‘clutter,’ but I found categorizing it made it more manageable. For example there was the ‘work clutter’, ‘kitchen clutter’, ‘memory clutter’, ‘media clutter’, ‘comfort clutter’ and so forth. The best part about doing this (and I’m not done yet, it’s a project!) is watching my apartment seem lighter and airier. I now have empty (yes, completely empty) shelves. It’s like a clarity miracle!

3) Reaching out. This may be specific to just me, but I wanted to share. When reflecting on 2012, I realized that I became so consumed with my own stress and work that I became very solitary. Wait, what? I’m a super social person by nature and recognized that this pattern was only making me feel worse! I started 2013 off by emailing, calling or even just texting the people that meant a lot to me. The people who I know help keep me sane and improve my well-being. I said hello and sometimes let them know just how important they are in my life. It felt really wonderful and I plan to devote time, daily, to correspondence regardless of how small. 

4) Adding rather than subtracting. When I set goals, they tend to be worded negatively. “I’m going to stop eating so poorly.” or “I will quit… blah blah blah.” Change is hard and who wants to take things away from their life, especially if these things are serving as a comfort to you? When I looked at my goals, even though they’d effect me positively, they felt awfully heavy and negative. As a result, I took all of my goals and reworded and restructured them to be things I actually wanted to do! “I will stop eating poorly” became “I’ll cook a healthy meal for myself or friends twice a week.” I love to cook, but I rarely give myself the time to do so and giving myself permission to take time out to cook a great meal is WAY more fun than telling myself I can’t eat unhealthy things anymore!

5) Artist dates. Okay, this is another lesson from the Artist’s Way, but it’s amazing to me. Spending hours daily, alone, behind my computer is draining. Sometimes I feel like the creativity is being sucked out of me. In truth, it is. Why did I never think to replenish it? Who knows. But thanks to the idea of an ‘artist date’ I’m starting to do just that. That’s right, I’m dating myself (the artist) and it’s awesome. It’s a once-a-week block of time where I get to explore something I like. It could be as simple as the streets of Brooklyn with my camera… the art of cooking something new or playing with new art supplies. It’s suggested you ask yourself, “What’s fun?” and then explore that fun. Cameron offers 101 Suggestions for Artist’s Dates on her blog. Check them out here!

I’m guessing if you’ve read this far, you’re invested so I’m going to share two more things with you! I recently read about an iPad app that I’m loving. It’s called Unstuck and it is free. I often have a hard time breaking things down, because the big picture overwhelms me! Unstuck is great for identifying where you’re getting stuck in any task or goal and helps you break down steps and restructure your approach.

Lastly, another app called Songza! The other morning, I was particularly grumpy as I set out to grab a morning coffee. I opened the door of my local cafe and Salt-N-Pepa’s Push It was playing (at like, 7:45 am!). I instantly smiled and began chatting with the barista about the mood change due to the song choice. He quickly schooled me on Songza, explaining that he had selected the “Waking Up Happy” mix. Songza organizes music by mood, time of day, activity, etc. It’s fun. I definitely recommend checking it out as a Pandora alternative.

So what are you doing differently in 2013? I can’t wait to hear!