Jan
03
2013

5 Small Steps That Changed My Life in 2012

by Kimberlee Stokes Affiliate Link Disclosure B

5 Small Steps That Changed My Life In 2012-One of my favorite things to do in January is to take a look at the previous year to evaluate what worked well and what areas I need to improve. As I reflected on this past year, I realized that there were five small changes that I made which truly improved my life, so I thought I would share them with you.

Making a Morning “Brain Dump”

You can read more here, but basically the very first thing I do every morning is to write down everything that is on my mind including any dreams I had during the night. Doing a “brain dump” enables me to clear my mind and focus on my priorities for the day. Important thoughts and tasks are recorded, rather than just swimming around in my head or being forgotten.

Making this a daily habit has increased my creativity, productivity and peace.

 

Honoring My “Power Hour”

I first heard about the “power hour” from The Barefoot Executive. The basic idea is to take one hour during the day where you shut everything off (email, Facebook, phone, etc.) and focus on work. I have expanded on the idea by focusing on my most brain-intensive work during this time (writing, planning, etc.).

I am a morning person, so my “Power Hour” is the first thing after my “brain dump”. If I prioritize and protect this time, and make clear goals for what needs to be done, I find that I am able to quickly accomplish tasks that would normally take several hours later in the day due to interruptions and brain fog. Another benefit is that the rest of my day goes much more smoothly because I don’t have important tasks hanging over my head.

 

Taking a Daily Walk

I have heard for years that I need to exercise 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes, but I was never motivated by knowing that I “should” exercise. I would exercise for a few months and then let the habit fall to the wayside. A few months ago I decided to take a walk/run every day. I have missed a few days, but I can tell you that making exercise a daily priority has helped me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Exercise clears my mind, helps me to cope with stress and enables me to feel connected spiritually (I often pray during my walk/run).

 

Carrying a Notebook (everywhere)

Early in 2012 I read a quote by Robert Louis Stevenson, “I always carry two books with me. One to read, one to write in”. I thought I would give it a try, so I started carrying a small notebook with me every time I left the house. I can report to you that this habit has made the biggest improvement in my life so far this year.

My best ideas have sprung up while I am taking those daily walks. Instead of letting the ideas slip off into oblivion, I record them immediately. One day I had so many ideas coming that I wrote for 20 minutes after my walk.

One awesome benefit has been that I quickly see that many of the things that I originally worried about, worked themselves out and turned out not to be a big deal. Writing everything down helps me to organize my thoughts and ideas, and enables me to plan better because I can incorporate those ideas into my life where they best fit instead of jumping into one idea, only to become distracted by another.

Of course, you can also record ideas and thoughts in an app like Evernote, but I really like handwriting mine for now.

 

Recording My Spending (all of it)

I have known for a long time that recording my spending could help keep my finances on track, but frankly I was just rebellious. I didn’t want to be accountable for my spending–I wanted to spend my money however I wanted. The last quarter of this year I decided that I would be a grown up and write down everything we spent. It was eye-opening, especially our annual totals. Even on our low-ish income, we spent hundreds of dollars on non-essential items this past year.

Keeping a record gives us a better idea of how to budget for this upcoming year and shows us where we can make improvements. I will be writing more about our financial goals for 2013 in an upcoming post, but suffice it to say that recording our spending will be at the top of the list.

 

Maybe these particular steps won’t help you, but the idea is that by making small changes consistently over time, you can improve the quality of your life. This time next year, you will be able to look back and see how far you’ve come!

 

What about you? Did you make any changes in 2012 that you will be continuing in 2013? Leave a comment.

 

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{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

Becky January 3, 2013 at 11:41 am

I will continue to use mint.com to keep track of our budget, and I will continue to write weekly goals every Sunday. It takes work to keep up good habits, but it’s worth it!

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Barb-Harmony Art Mom January 3, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Agreed…small incremental changes make the long term habits that will benefit your whole life. Great post.

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Kimberlee January 3, 2013 at 4:28 pm

Thanks Barb!

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Maureen R. January 3, 2013 at 1:36 pm

Doesn’t it seem that whenever you forgot your notebook, you have a brilliant idea? I have learned to carry one with me, even to bed, and to write down everything that worries me. It’s magical how helpful it is.

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Kimberly January 3, 2013 at 5:46 pm

I started a pray/thank you/blessing journal, spending time to pray, and reading a small passage from the bible the first thing in the morning. It reminds me of how much I have been blessed with and how far I’ve come.

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Kimberlee January 3, 2013 at 5:59 pm

I like that idea Kimberly!

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Lori May 20, 2013 at 10:58 pm

I applaud you and want to do that more! Instead of making some unrealistic goals of my own doing, at the first of each new year I pick a theme from a verse in Scripture. For instance, this years theme is God as my stronghold. It is amazing how God reinforces the positives and doubles the blessings of keeping him in my days.

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Kimberlee May 21, 2013 at 7:44 am

I like that idea Lori! Thank you for your encouraging words. :)

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Jennifer Brown January 3, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Its funny you mention the notebook. Just the other day I was shopping at Publix and seen the prices of some items that I had wondered about. It was then that I had the AH HA moment. So I went over the stationary section and found a small notebook and some pens on clearance. It was then I decided it would be a good idea to make sure to take one with me anytime I was out.

Great minds think alike :)

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Emily L. January 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm

It is amazing how by small things we see big changes over time. I’ve been setting time aside each morning for scripture study and journaling. My day just is better when I do this and I feel closer to our Heavenly Father. I like the journal with you everywhere. I have a small journal and used to be good at taking it places with me. I think I will have to give that and the brain dump a try.

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becky January 3, 2013 at 6:14 pm

love the thought of keeping track….whether it’s the brain dump, the spending or the notebook. I am going to give a few of these a try. thanks for sharing them.

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Nancy L. January 3, 2013 at 9:08 pm

Kimberlee – I so appreciate you! You don’t have to share your life on this blog, but you do, and I appreciate it! Can’t count the ways you’ve helped me see things from a different perspective. I’m grateful for you.

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Kimberlee January 3, 2013 at 11:42 pm

Thank you so much Nancy. I truly appreciate your encouragement!

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keshiaw January 3, 2013 at 11:58 pm

I feel like stealing all of these, lol. I really want to start taking daily walks, simply because I feel SO MUCH BETTER when I get fresh air and exercise. I do usually keep a notebook with me, and when I don’t I regret it, because I have ideas pop up at the most unexpected times. I also know I need to start recording our spending–I feel like the main reason why I don’t do this is honestly just pure laziness. I really ought to give it a try. . .
The brain dump thing unfortunately wouldn’t work for me, because I have two toddlers so my mornings are not my own. They function as my alarm clock (and even when I try waking up earlier they sense that I’m awake and come out to join me) and demand that I immediately set about meeting their needs for food and entertainment first thing in the morning. I used to pray and journal for an hour every morning and LOVED it, but I guess it’s just not the season of life that I’m in.

Something we’ve implemented in the last year has been living more simply in regards to possessions by paring down what we own. It has improved our quality of life and we are continuing with it through this year.

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Kimberlee January 4, 2013 at 12:23 am

I remember those toddler alarm days–I used to leave my Bible in the bathroom so I could read for 30 seconds while the kid’s little fat fingers were sticking under the door trying to get to me! Enjoy it. You will have time later to have hour long Bible Studies. :)

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Corinne January 4, 2013 at 12:36 am

Where are your kid/kids during your brain dump/power hour/walk/runs? I only have one child and she is with me all day, every second…

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Kimberlee January 4, 2013 at 6:53 am

My kids are older now, but I get up before they do for my Power Hour. When my kids were very young, I got up before they did (on the days that we had not had a sleepless night) for some “me time” and I took walks with them in the stroller. Different seasons of life require different strategies, but you should try to find some way to have a little time to yourself whether it’s getting coffee while daddy watches the kids or trading babysitting with a friend so you can do some shopping.

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Holly Cochran January 5, 2013 at 12:10 am

May I link to this article from my blog
http://www.iamintellectuallypromiscuous.com

This is one of the best pieces I have seen in a while.

Thanks!
~HollyinKC~

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Kimberlee January 5, 2013 at 5:16 am

Sure Holly–thanks!

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Holly Cochran January 6, 2013 at 1:18 am

http://iamintellectuallypromiscuous.com/amazingworld/advice/#

Here’s the link to the post on my site. Thanks so much for posting your advice and letting me repost.

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Deedee January 6, 2013 at 3:47 am

We actually have a pretty high income & a family of 3, but I save almost no money (though I’ve paid off most credit card debt & don’t use them anymore). We spend a lot on travel. I’m glad I’ve found your blog to help keep me motivated to save. I have a goal of putting a lot in savings this year!

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Julie Quinn January 6, 2013 at 6:50 pm

Wonderful post. I am feeling very motivated at the moment to get in shape due to my own discomfort and to the concern my 7 yr old has expressed. I will use many of these ideas to help me stay on track.

Blessings!

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Kimberlee January 6, 2013 at 7:24 pm

That sounds like a great plan Julie! Happy New Year!

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Whitney Lowry January 30, 2013 at 6:28 pm

I love these ideas. I don’t carry a notebook everywhere, but I do take it many places – so I think I’ll expand to everywhere!

I saw one of the comments said mint.com – I recently started using it. While it tracks the things that come out of the bank account, it doesn’t track specifics – like what I paid for that package of hamburger. We have been collecting our receipts so we can look back and see what store has the best prices for certain products. We are in the process of creating a database of stores & general prices, which we will change as the prices change.

Right now, for exercise, I’ve been doing a lot of crunches. My husband has been trying to motivate me to do more stretching activities, and not focus on the crunches so much. I think adding a walk to the stretching routine would be a great benefit. Only, I’m not so good at walking during the cold weather.

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Kimberlee January 31, 2013 at 12:12 am

I like your price database idea Whitney–smart!

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Iris Pulga February 28, 2013 at 7:21 pm

I found all these very helpful, Kim. Thank you as always.

I’ve faced crossroads before and now at 33, I guess I am facing some crossroads again.

I’ll be forever grateful for bloggers like you who never falter to share parts of their lives to inspire others to do better in certain areas.

Thank you Kim, thank you.

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Kimberlee February 28, 2013 at 10:26 pm

You are very welcome Iris!

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Laura March 2, 2013 at 5:17 am

HI Kimberlee, just found your blog today through a rabbit trail. On tuesday I bought a lime green (one of my fav colors) candle holder that says “From Small Beginnings Come Great Things.” I wanted to be reminded of the sentiment so I do the small things I can do instead of thinking how big everything is. Bless you, Laura

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Kimberlee March 2, 2013 at 8:30 am

Welcome Laura! That is a great saying to remind yourself not to get overwhelmed. Thanks for sharing it.

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David Turnbull March 2, 2013 at 10:44 pm

#1 – An absolute necessity
#2 – In my dreams
#3 – I have to say I’m addicted
#4 – Iphone. I have so many notes I don’t have time to go back and enjoy them.
#5 – Awww. Now did you have to go and meddle in that? Now I’m convicted and have to do it or feel like a sloth. Thanks.

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Amy June 20, 2013 at 3:32 pm

Thank you! I really am going to review my past year even though I am a bit reluctant. :0) Old habits are hard to break, but not impossible!

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Kari July 9, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I try to carry a notebook, but I tend to set it down and then not have it when I need it! I’m loving this site, reading at work in between calls. (yes, I work at a call center).

I enjoy hearing about homeschooling days! I homeschooled for 9 years and only stopped because my husbands health became such that he couldn’t work for a while.

The kids are all but grown up now, (I have a granddaughter who is beautiful!) and life is good!

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Stacey July 16, 2013 at 11:33 pm

These are such good ideas. My power hour is pretty early in the day too. I need to make sure I don’t get on the computer at that time. The computer is such a drain of time. The walk needs to be on my daily list too. For years my next door neighbor and I walked 3 miles/day. We’ve both moved though so I need to train myself to walk alone and enjoy it.

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Kimberlee July 17, 2013 at 1:28 am

I know a guy who saves his favorite podcast for his morning run so he is motivated to go. Maybe you can use something like that to help. :)

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Tamara Tufts September 9, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Great site! Your ideas are helping to deflate my stress bubble. I’ll start trying these one at a time. Small steps! I have a disabled husband, two teenagers still at home, elderly parents, and watch two of my grandchildren daily. I tend to laugh a little hysterically when I’m asked where I work now. I thought I’d be getting a grocery list on this site, what I’ve found is priceless!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thank-You

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Kimberlee September 9, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Welcome Tamara! I am so glad you are here and that I can make that stress bubble diminish. :)

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Bridget J. November 6, 2013 at 10:42 am

I came for the GF recipes and found a fabulous blog with lots of wisdom. Following you through Bloglovin <3

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Kimberlee November 6, 2013 at 5:57 pm

Welcome Bridget! I am so glad you are here. :)

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