Ninety Days of Summer: Focus, Plan and Get Things Done

Sunday, 21 June 2015
euhnella | Ninety Days of Summer - 90 Days To Focus, Plan and Get Things Done

Remember when I made a vow to get my sh*t together?  Me neither, it was quite a long time ago, and after that post the subject was never brought up again on the blog. At the time, I had become acutely aware that my life wasn't as together as I wanted it to be, but I hadn't quite reached the part where I knew how to go about doing that. How does one go about getting their life together? I continued to float along in my unsatisfied uncertainty until I became so frustrated with my lack of progress that I sat down one evening and came up with a solution: I would only focus on 75 days at a time.

65 DAYS AGO

Exactly 65 days ago, as I poured my heart out into my journal, I realised that I was frustrated, overwhelmed and reaching worrying levels of anxiety because I was trying to focus on too many things at one time. I'd just come to the realisation that I needed to stop envisioning a future here in Belgium when deep down I had my heart set on moving back to England, exams were beginning to feel menacingly imminent and I was squaring my shoulders to spend hours studying a subject that I was far from passionate about (Belgian Law and I do not get on), I wasn't happy with my blog and I was still nursing a broken heart back (though luckily I had reached a bearable level of heartache and only belted out 'Someone Like You' on a weekly rather daily basis). 

It felt like there was so much to do and I didn't know where to start unraveling it all. 

So I decided to focus. Looking at my calendar, I picked the 1st July as the figurative date for the start of the Next Chapter of My Life. This gave me 75 days to focus on the things that I needed to do right now to close the Current Chapter of My Life. I wouldn't be moving until after that date, so there was no need to send myself into a spiral of unnecessary worry over whether David Cameron would even let me back into the country or if I'd find a job or a place to stay or if now was really the right time to move out. Since I wasn't planning on getting married and settled down in the next 75 days, my heart ache took a backseat and I promised myself I could go back to binge-watching Pretty Little Liars with a tub of ice cream after the 1st July if that's what I really wanted. 

I had no idea what I wanted to achieve or do when I made this decision, but I knew that I wanted to do my best and I wanted to persist until I reached the end

So I picked out a notebook I had in my ever-growing stash and dedicated myself to writing in that every day. A new page would signal a new day, and at the top I would write the date and how many days were left to go. As the days went along I figured out the areas I wanted to focus on, my daily priorities and the short-term goals I wanted to achieve. I'd write out a schedule for myself nearly every day, and even though most days I failed to stick to it, I still made one for the next day because all that mattered was that I gave my all each day. 

I wasn't after a specific result: I just wanted to stop feeling so aimless, feeling so overwhelmed and feeling like I wasn't giving my all to a life that I had come to realise I am truly blessed to have in the first place.

And 65 days down the line I can say that this is a method that has worked for me. Therefore I wanted to refine it, not only for myself but to be able to share it with others who might benefit from it. 

FOR EVERY THING THERE IS A SEASON

euhnella | "For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven."

"For every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under the heaven." 
- Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)

When I came across this quote, what I was doing seemed to make more sense. You don't have to be a Christian to appreciate the idea that everything we do in life has a time for it. There are times when your studies will take priorities, there are times when your work has to be a priority, times when your friends and family require your undivided attention and other times when you have to make yourself a priority above everything else. The way your priorities are arranged will always come to change, as surely as the seasons

This inspired me to stop my 75 days just a little bit earlier, and to use the actual seasons as markers for different phases in my life. A season is roughly 90 days long and this appealed to me because:
  • 90 days is three times the time it's said to take to build a habit so any changes I made and stuck to would definitely end up becoming habits.
  • 90 days is long enough to see if something is or isn't working but it's short enough not to feel like an overwhelmingly long time to plan for.
  • Using the seasons means that I can use the weather or certain events to shape my days, so I'm not always lost or unprepared for upcoming events. For example, summer is the time for outdoor activities, autumn has Halloween and things like National Novel Writing Month and winter (obviously) has Christmas. This would be great not only for my personal life, but for my blogging life. 
So how exactly am I planning to go about focusing, planning and getting things done throughout these next 90 days?

NINETY DAYS OF SUMMER

euhnella | Ninety Days of SUmmer - 90 Days To Focus, Plan and Get Things Done

Reading through the notebook I kept for the 65 days, I realised that as I went along there were three main steps that I took to figure out what I wanted to achieve (which took me about three weeks or so): Visualise, Clarify and Determine My Priorities. 

Visualise
On the first day, I sat down and I thought about what it was that I wanted to get out of the days. I allowed my thinking to be ambitious. It wasn't until I was looking back that I realised that I was using an important tool that I'd picked up from reading personal development books: I was visualising the outcome so that I had a picture of where I wanted to go, so that I could eventually determine the steps I need to get there. 
  1. Determine your areas of focus. Determine the three areas of your life you would most like to work on for the next 90 days. You can pick more if you like - I had four to begin with but I realised I didn't even get to touch on the fourth because we only have so much time in a day and being over-ambitious can lead to disappointment and frustration, so be realistic.
  2. Visualise what you would like to have achieved in each area by the end of the 90 days. Write it down. For example, one of my areas of focus was my studies. I was pretty ambitious, and wrote down something along the lines of 'I will have graduated with the highest of honours, after having studied at least six hours a day and given my all in actually understanding the course material rather than merely memorising it' I think it's important to be ambitious with your visualisation, so long as it remains in the realm of the reasonably possible given the time frame, because if you do fall short ideal (which you might because we're all human here after all), the reality will still be pretty awesome.

Clarify
The next step for me was to clarify my intentions. I knew the areas that I wanted to work on, but just like I'd decided that my word of the year is 'persistence' I wanted to have a guiding intention, and to make that the priorities I had set were clear in my mind. For that I used the first 3 habits from Stephen Covey's '7 Habits of Highly Effective People': Be Proactive, Begin With The End In Mind and First Things First.
  1. Be Proactive. Declare your intention to be proactive throughout the next 90 days so you're clear that everything you want to achieve during this time is within your power and entirely down to you. Write it down. Here's mine to use an example: I am taking the next 90 days into my own hands. I acknowledge that I am the only one responsible for how every day turns out. Every day is a new day and every day I will strive to do my best. I will not give up. I will persist.
  2. Begin With The End In Mind. Create a mission statement for the next 90 days of your life. I often find it difficult (read: impossible) to come up with a mission statement for my entire life, especially when I'm questioning who and what I want to be, but this mission statement is just for the next season of your life, taking into account what you visualised you wanted to achieve by the end of the 90 days. For example: By the end of the 90 days I will be in England, settling into my new life and job and growing my blog in a direction I am happy and satisfied with. You could also write this at the beginning of each day so you never lose sight of your goal, or read it over when you're beginning to feel aimless, just to remind yourself that actually, you do have a direction you're headed in. 
  3. First Things First. Prioritise everything you want to do. This will essentially allow you to plan your next 90 days depending on what's most important. I did this in three steps: first I placed my three areas of focus in order of importance. I then took each area of focus and I made a list of all the steps I needed to take in order to achieve my goal within those areas. Finally I took a monthly calendar and placed those steps on certain days, depending on deadlines such as exams or how much time it would take to accomplish certain tasks. 
With all of this clear, I now I know what my focus is every day for the next 90 days! Of course you don't have to plan all 90 days but it helps to have some sorts of deadlines, so you can see where you'll be busier or where you'll have more free time. 


Determine Your Priorities
If the last step was about determining your overall priorities, this is about determining your daily priorities. I remember reading somewhere that saying 'I don't have time for this' is just another way of saying 'This is not one of my priorities' and it really struck a chord with me. I realised that there were times I just wasn't making the time for things that I considered to be important, and soon into my 65 days discovered that when I don't plan for something, there is a 100% chance it's not getting done. 

  1. Decide on things that you want to get done every day without fail. This will depend entirely on you and doesn't necessarily have to be your goals (though of course you have to make time for your goals). For example, I decided that every day I have to make time to: workout, journal and plan for the next day. 
  2. Pick set times at which you are going to do the activities. This is important so that it eventually it becomes routine which makes it much easier for it to become an ingrained habit. Of course, there are days where you'll have to change it up to fit into circumstances and you won't always be on schedule, but you'll know in your mind that at a set time you planned to do something. So my daily priorities are these: Work out: 5 AM, Journal: 8PM, Plan 9PM. I don't always wake up on time, but now my instinct is to drag myself out of bed and sleepily struggle into work out clothes (most days), and then my nighttime routine has become journal - plan - remove make up - sleep, regardless of the time. 

With these three steps - Visualise, Clarify and Determine Your Priorities - you should have a clear idea of what you want to achieve in the next 90 days. Honestly, you could start this whenever you want, for however you long want, planning and clarifying as you go along, or plan it all out before you start. What's most important is that you do your best every day and get to the end of the days you set aside. I promise you that the simple act of living each day intentionally will make a massive difference in your life, especially if like me you're prone to feeling lost or aimless. 

To help you out I've created some resources that you can download and print, and use to plan your own season of focus. No doubt with every season I'll be making improvements to the resources, so if you do use them, let me know how you're getting on with them! 

Free Resources To Help You With Your Own Ninety Days

I also highly recommend getting a notebook to write down your thoughts in every day. Write the date, and how many days are left to go, and then whatever you need to write, whether it's daily to-dos or how you're feeling (in the early days I mainly complained about how slow days seemed to go by, but this is an illusion - time speeds by!) or re-clarifying your intentions. 


WAIT, THAT'S NOT ALL

Other than Ninety Days of Summer being my first season of focus that I'm sharing with you, for me it's also about going back to the drawing board and actually implementing all the ideas that I have floating around my head concerning my blog. Don't get me wrong, I love my recent posts but I realised that I was posting half-thought through ideas on certain topics just to make sure that I was posting at least four times a week, when in fact I want to create informative, purposeful posts that require a bit more research and a bit more time to write and put together. 

I'm going to join the slow blogging movement, seen more frequently amongst blogging and creative business coaches/bloggers, and post less frequently but (hopefully!) more creative, more in-depth, high quality and well-thought out posts that will be useful to readers who discover them long after they're posted. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop blogging about beauty though! I just want every post to have a purpose. I'm sure in due time you'll see what I mean. 

Meanwhile, I'm also going to be more active on social media: mainly Instagram and Tumblr. 

Instagram: I've had the idea to do a summer scrapbook for awhile now, and this ties in perfectly with my idea of using the seasons as focus points. So I'll be taking at least one picture a day with the end goal to have them printed out and make a scrapbook or make Pinterest-worthy room decor. I'll also be sharing my focus and planning sections there, so head over there if you want to see how I use my own notebooks and the resources for some ideas.

Tumblr: Since I'll be posting less frequently here, I still want a way to touch base with everyone and share the challenges I might be facing with focusing, or just what I'm getting up to every day. Think of it as the vlog channel to my main channel. I'm also conscious that as an aspiring writer I do a pitiful amount of work on my craft, so I think this will also be a good space to explore that.

Basically, one of my blogging aims is to be more transparent with you lovely readers. I'm still figuring out so many things in life, but I want to share that with you all as I go along in case it helps even just one person. 

I'll no doubt also be working accompanying emails to accompany these Ninety Days of Summer, to share with you words of encouragement, personal insights or more detailed resources, so be sure to sign up to the mailing list if that sounds like something you'll be interested in: 





I feel that the summer of 2015 is going to be a season of growth. 
Let's grow together.

23 comments:

  1. Amazing post dear!

    https://www.bloglovin.com/blogs/printed-sea-3880191

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  2. I love how that verse from the Bible fit right in :) I know for a fact that everything will happen at the right time and I need to have patience, that quote reminds me of that every day :)

    Pam xo/ Pam Scalfi♥

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    1. Me too! When I came across it, it brought a sense of peace and cleared up so much for me! :)

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  3. Hi Ornella, I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award! Here → http://www.mystictales.co/2015/06/the-versatile-blogger-award.html

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    1. Thank you! I'll check it out :) x

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  4. This is an amazing post and I've got to say I agree with you! School has been extremely overwhelming and hectic over the past month or so and I realised I've lost track of who I am and what I want to do with my life. This 90 days of summer is perfect for me. I need to breathe and re-focus xx

    La'bell | labellwong.blogspot.com

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    1. I really thought I'd replied to this! I hope you're feeling a bit more like you're back on track now x

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  5. I've been feeling so distracted and annoyed and frustrated and overwhelmed and unfocused and just plain terrible. This was a month or so ago (I've gone through periods of this) and I always had a resolution to just restart my life with a new chapter, and I have to say this chapter right now in my life isn't going as well as I planned it to go lol so I'm going to use this post as a guideline! To breathe, to think and to start afresh.

    I think it's great that you're sharing this, and that verse hits home so hard. There's a season for everything. How simple yet profound. Good luck, Ornella, and I'm looking forward to more of your posts (and IG scrapbook thing yay!). <3

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    1. Thank you so much for this comment! I really hope that the next chapter of your life feels so much clearer and focused and that you are able to find the space you need to breathe and figure out what you need in life :) <3

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  6. such a very inspiring and informative post! thank you for sharing :)

    xx Jamie| Love Peace and Shimmer

    giveaway

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you liked it :) x

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  7. Hi Ornella I just want you to know that I nominated you for the Versatile Blogger Award :)

    xx Jamie| Love Peace and Shimmer

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  8. Honestly, wow. I feel as it is the most inspiring post I have ever read. And I'm not lying.
    Like, you know there are some stuff you read, then close the page and forget about it afterwards? Your post is not even nearly belongs to those. God, I grabbed my notebook and wrote down few points. Thank you a lot for sharing with such amazing advices! I am going through kind of "low moments" of my life when everything seems black & white, but I will do my best to bring more colours by using your tips :)
    I also hope you will achieve goals you've set, because you worth it and you deserve it x

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    1. Thank you! I'm really glad that this post could inspire you! :) I hope everything seems better now, and your life is full of the wonderful colours it deserves x

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  9. Thank you <3 Such a good post!!!

    lostinthefairyland.co.nr

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    1. Thank you! I'm glad you think it is! :) x

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  10. Thank you <3 Such a good post!!!

    lostinthefairyland.co.nr

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  11. great post and topic! I can relate, it is hard to feel focused sometimes especially when a bunch of different things are going on at once. I am having a similar feeling and had to reschedule, reorganize my calendar to get back into focus. :)

    xoxo
    smudged-fingerprints.blogspot.com

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    1. Thank you! I think it's one of those topics where we can all relate, and we just need a reminder to stop, breathe and regroup before we get going again x

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  12. Great post! You are so productive! At 31 weeks pregnant I have that 'ughhh' feeling far too often and wind up feeling very unmotivated and unfocused!

    I want to follow your blog but the only way I really follow blogs is google plus and you don't have a button :(

    Pop over and let me know if you add one! I'd love to keep up to date with your blog https://the-johansens.blogspot.com/

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    1. Thank you! I never thought I'd see the day when someone called me productive - guess it really is a skill ;) Glad to hear you liked the post - so I'll think you'll like the direction I'm taking my blog x

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