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Unfolding the Year: 2020

January: Present

Happy 2020! I can’t believe it’s the start of a new decade. In the past, that’s struck me with some amount of horror at the pressure to make the most of the year, but this year, I just feel excited at the prospect of turning a new page and continuing to do my best each day – creating, doing good in the world, and trying to be kind to myself.

That’s the very spirit behind this little Unfolding the Year project! For this very first month, the theme I chose is simple: being present.

Well… perhaps it’s deceptively simple, because like all things worth aiming for, it’s something that in practice, I find is a lot easier said than done!

Let everything happen to you

Beauty and terror

Just keep going

No feeling is final

Rainer Maria Rilke

It’s hard for me to be properly “in the moment” because I’m almost always either thinking forward or back. If I’m planning, I’m thinking ahead, trying to anticipate everything I can. It’s a control thing, which means it can definitely veer into the unhealthy if I don’t keep tabs on it. But most of the time, I find a lot of joy in thinking ahead (you probably could have guessed that if you’re reading this blog!).

If I’m not thinking ahead, I’m often ruminating on things that happened in my day, week, or month that I’m not pleased with. Sometimes that can be helpful — after all, I’m doing this very project to be reflective! But sometimes thinking backwards can get more on the obsessive side: how I should have phrased something differently, could have gone about something in a better way, shouldn’t have done this or that. Those definitely aren’t helpful ways to reflect: if I’m honest, I’m usually beating myself up rather than learning for next time.

So what does it mean to be present in the moment?

For me, it means two things. First, it’s a constant reminder to bring myself back to the current moment I’m living in. If I find I’m obsessing over something I did wrong, or if I’m trying to over-plan something, those are both clear signs I’m not fully focusing on whatever it is I’m doing. So I gently, kindly try to remind myself to come back to the present; not dwelling, just accepting that I drifted, and trying to move back to the moment I’m in.

Second, actually being in the moment. Here are few ways I’ve found that help me stay in the moment:

  • Going through my senses (what does this moment smell like, taste like, feel like; what do I see and hear?)
  • Deep breathing exercises (count your breaths)
  • Intentionally schedule time to rest, relax, or do just one thing (resist multitasking)
  • Contemplate a good quote for a few minutes
  • Read an engrossing book

Oh! And you might be wondering: How does this relate to productivity or planning? I’m going to try to answer that each month too here in these posts, and I hope as we talk each month about these themes (either here in the comments, or on my Instagram!), I’ll learn new ways to relate these concepts to how we plan, too, from all of you.

For this month, I think being present helps me be more focused. Focus is a really difficult thing to attain — not only because of phones and notifications and emails and whatnot, but because in general, life throws a lot our way. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed. So if I can focus on one thing — whether it’s a task at work, or working on my bullet journal, or just doing something I want to enjoy, this practice helps me focus rather than giving into distractions.

Plus: if we’re always planning and looking back or looking forward, then without being present, how can we enjoy what we’ve worked so hard to carve out time for?


My challenge for this month is one thing that absolutely, above everything else, helps me immensely in being present in the moment. I hope you’ll give it a try with me too!

Do you find it easy or hard to live in the moment? Do you have any tips for being present?

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