Ah, the start of a new year. With it, comes a beautiful, blank canvas. Best of all, it’s yours to paint. We’re gifted countless moments to manifest our dreams, whittle down our to-do lists, and uplevel our habits. There’s something so invigorating about turning the calendar to the next month, and with 2023 under way, there’s no better time to get organized. After all, an organized start to the month (heck, an organized start to the year), can set you up for success in every way: personally, professionally, financially, and spiritually. Today, I’m sharing my tried-and-true monthly routine.
This is a step-by-step guide to create—and implement—a productive monthly routine. If you’re looking to feel less frazzled and more in control of your time, a monthly reset is just what the doctor ordered.
Featured image by Michelle Nash.
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Why It’s Important To Have A Monthly Routine
This goes without saying, but a monthly routine—otherwise known as monthly planning—is akin to having a monthly budget. It helps you stay on track, lowers your stress, guides your decision-making, etc. Ultimately, monthly planning does two things: reinforces your goals and hones in on time management. And time is of the essence. You waste fewer days and achieve optimal results when you plan your tasks before you embark on them. Said differently: rather than dive headfirst, take a moment to scatter the puzzle pieces on the table. Taking 1-2 hours to plan your month ensures that you prepare well for what lies ahead. A little bit of strategy does the mind (and body) good. *Trust.*
A Monthly Routine in 7 Steps
Although we’re sharing these tips at the beginning of the year, don’t be fooled—this guide works for every month (not just January!). Once you read through it, pick and choose the habits, tools, and resources that best fit your lifestyle and personality. Remember, your zone of genius isn’t the same as mine. We all work differently—and it’s important to honor that.
Regardless, make this monthly reset a priority. I’ll leave you with something my dad always says: Stick with the plan but go with the flow. You can do your best to plan your month, but it may take a completely unforeseen turn. And that’s okay. Life happens. But at the end of the day, it’s our responsibility to turn obstacles into learning opportunities and seek the silver lining(s).
1. Set An Intention
When it comes to creating a productive new month routine, begin with an intention. What do you want to manifest for the month? What is (or are) your intention(s)? What do you want the energy to be like? Is there a particular word—or words—that call to you? Jot this down. For example, maybe your intention for the month is to be more conscious of your spending. Your theme would be financial boundaries.
Getting clear on your intention for the month will help guide your choices and decision-making. With the theme of financial boundaries in mind, the next logical step is to create a spreadsheet of every expense. Keep this tab open on your computer or phone for easy access. Update it every day. By the end of the month, you’ll have undeniable data. Thus, you’ve taken the first step to conscious spending.
2. Do A Mind Dump
Ever tried tackling a project without organizing all the pieces first? Consider your start-of-the-month mind dump as the precursor to tacking a project. The goal here is to get everything on paper. This mind dump can include things like returning clothes, paying bills, cleaning the toilet, or baking a cake for your child’s birthday. Anything goes—tasks, responsibilities, happy hour with friends, and random to-dos. It’s whatever you must get done during the month (or things you’ve committed to!). I’m old school, but I like to mind dump in a bullet journal. Otherwise, you can use your computer’s built-in notes app, Evernote, or an iPad app for note-taking.
3. Separate Priorities From To-Dos
Yes, there’s a difference. Your priority list and your to-do list aren’t the exact same. Priorities are your bigger “rocks” (the pillars of your life and your values). For example, priorities might include cooking seasonal meals, moving your body every day, balancing your blood sugar, and spending time with your family. Our to-do list, on the other hand, is all of the random tasks and responsibilities we have—emails, work projects, picking up the kids from school, etc. Once you do your mind dump, separate your long list from priorities vs. to-dos. Ultimately, the goal is to find a balance between both. If we only tackle our to-dos, we aren’t prioritizing what’s important in life. Vice versa, if we are only focusing on our priorities, it’s likely that we’ll eventually get bogged down by to-dos.
4. Transfer Your List To A Calendar
Next step: put your mind dump in your calendar. Google Calendar, iCloud, Monday.com, Asana—whatever floats your boat. Here at Camille Styles, we use combination of Google Calendar, synced across our devices, as well as Asana. Make your system work for you. For example, color code according to the type of event (personal, work, kids, family, etc.).
Keep in mind that you may need more than one calendar, i.e. a handwritten calendar in the kitchen and events on your Google Calendar with notifications. Lastly, as you organize your calendar, choose 1-2 days during the month to get “home admin” tasks done. These are things like paying bills, sending snail mail, and cleaning out the pantry.
5. Get Your Inbox Under Control
Does your inbox need a declutter? Same. I’ve learned that one of the best things you can implement in a productive new month routine is an inbox strategy. Whether you jive with folders, labels, or any type of structure, a clean inbox is an easier-to-manage inbox. If you haven’t tried batch responding to your emails, give it a go this month. A few other tips: try Spark (zero inbox, baby!) and Leave Me Alone (to easily unsubscribe—forever—from emails). Don’t become a slave to your inbox. Make it work for you.
6. Set Boundaries
Calling all people-pleasers: begin setting boundaries this month. You’ll quickly avoid certain situations, tasks, and experiences that currently cause stress. In turn, you’ll make space for more of what makes you feel grounded, inspired, and happy. When you get clear on what you’re comfortable with—and what you’re not—you’ll protect yourself from relationships that may cross certain boundaries. This also means putting your phone on Do Not Disturb as frequently as necessary. It takes practice, but standing firm to what you will (and won’t) tolerate is game-changing. Highly recommend this book to get started.
7. Acknowledge That Self-Care Is Productive
When we prioritize the important things, we live and breathe the essence of self-care. Unlike we’re led to believe, self-care isn’t just candlelit baths and face masks. Self-care means building a life that sparks joy. Said otherwise: productivity doesn’t mean living in a constant state of burnout, running on coffee and cortisol every morning, or working a stressful job.
At the end of the day, we must acknowledge that self-care is productive. As we create our productive new month routine, we need to think about our feel-good habits—movement, meditation, listening to a podcast on a leisure walk, etc. At the end of the day, a productive month includes daily self-care. The more efficient, intentional, and productive we are with our time, the more ease and rest we can fit into our days.
And with that, here’s to a fulfilling month ahead. Cheers!