goals

2018 Recap + How I'm Approaching 2019 Differently

Welcome to 2019!

Welcome to 2019, happy to be here!

Before I get into planning the new year, it’s really important to look back on the year we’re finishing, and acknowledge all that was learned and accomplished (even if you feel like you didn’t do that much, I bet that it’s a lot more than you thought!) I’m posting my highlights, not as a brag or an encouragement for comparison, but to set an example that we all deserve to recognize our accomplishments and be proud of ourselves!

2018 was a really big year for me, crazy and challenging, but overall a good one. Here’s some of what I did:

WORK

PERSONAL / TRAVEL

  • Celebrated my 35th birthday + Tom’s graduation (after 4.5 years in school) on the same day!

  • Denver to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday

  • New York City to see the installation at MoMA PS1 that Tom helped with

  • Cabin weekend in Northern Minnesota

  • New Orleans to attend Being Boss NOLA

  • Door County, Wisconsin for a wedding during the peak of fall color

  • San Francisco Bay Area for a gig and to visit family

  • Celebrated my 12th anniversary w/Tom!

  • Purged a lot of stuff from the apartment, which was years overdue and felt amazing!

LOW MOMENTS

(I share these in the name of keeping it real - it’s definitely not all highlights around here)

  • Being on my own for almost the entire Kickstarter - Tom was gone in NYC, working on the aforementioned MoMA PS1 installation

  • Sick with the worst cold I’ve had in years while recording my album

  • Felt burnout / “post-partum depression” after album release, which coincided with the sudden onset of winter and seasonal affective disorder

  • Tons of moments of “can I do this?”, “how am I going to do this?”, and other self-doubting thoughts (they’re not very Instagrammable, but we all have them!)

FIRSTS

  • First time feeling positive about winter, by getting outside for a walk most days (it made me happier than going to the gym)

  • Started writing my first piano trio

  • First in-person breathwork experience - I participated in a circle at Constellation Acupuncture with Amy Kuretsky on New Year’s Day

  • First craniosacral therapy (I’ve never been more relaxed - my friend Sara is made of magic!)

  • First time being a podcast guest (on the Essential Omnivore podcast, hosted by my awesome nutritionist Lucia Hawley)

  • First time getting cupping

  • Finally got comfortable with talking at performances

  • First sheet music sale

  • First time dying my hair - purple highlights!

  • First Kickstarter

  • First radio interview (on Jazz88, to talk about my album)

  • First album

  • First Facebook Live video that was entirely spoken (on holiday self-care)

CONNECT (My 2018 word of the year)

I really embraced this word of the year by collaborating with and meeting lots of other cool musicians and artists, some of whom even became good friends! I also attended some great events such as the Minnesota Music Coalition Summit, New Music Gathering, Giant Steps, and Dissonance’s Unhappy Holidays.

Looking back on this list, it’s really clear to me that I did too much in 2018 - I don’t regret having done any of this stuff, but I worked too hard! I am feeling pulled toward being more present/intuition-focused, and away from tying my worth to achievement (oof, that's going to be a process.)⠀

So what’s in store for 2019?

I’m approaching this year very differently than past years.

After all that I did last year, I have a strong desire to simplify, in terms of things I’m doing, and in the material and digital realms. In the past, I have often treated new year planning and goal setting like arriving hangry at a delicious buffet - I always overdo it!

I don’t normally plan for a whole year at once, but this year I am being very choosy, so only things that truly feel good and right will make my list. (And permission to change our minds whenever we want is implied!)

In support of these goals, I also joined Mara Glatzel’s yearlong circle called Cycle, “conscious planning for women who want to get shit done without sacrificing their self-care” - rest is not optional! The first retreat was last weekend, and I’m already really excited about being part of this community. (This is not an ad, I just really love Mara’s work and have found it so helpful.)

So, appropriately...

This year my word of the year is JOY.

  • Joy as a goal instead of a byproduct.

  • Doing things that feel good just for the sake of feeling good (something that I often ignore in favor of getting the next thing done, and the next, and the next…)

  • Making music that brings me joy, which I can then spread to others

  • Helping others find their own joy

Feeling good is not frivolous - it helps us show up for the important people in our lives, and do work that impacts others positively.

I do have a short list of things I’m excited about doing this year:

TASKS

HABITS (small changes work!)

  • Re-starting a daily practice and/or composing habit that feels good

  • Reducing my mental input (consuming too much information on the internet is like the mental equivalent of eating too much) by utilizing the Screen Time feature on my phone, and not picking it up immediately in the morning

  • Setting aside time in the morning for journaling and meditation - I know that I need more space in my life for thinking and processing

But, I also plan to check in with myself regularly to make sure that my goals still feel aligned with what I want and need - no “shoulds” allowed, unless they’re practical things in service of goals I’m excited about.

If all of this new year talk doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay, you do you. I fully believe that the new year can be a fresh start, but shouldn’t elicit pressure or frustration. If you’re feeling a fresh start next week, or on a random Thursday in March, go for it - I’m wishing you an inspiring start to 2019!

If you chose a word of the year, share it in the comments, or share something you’re excited about doing in 2019!

Keeping Your New Years Resolutions Beyond January

A lot of people roll their eyes at the idea of New Year’s resolutions, either because they bristle at the arbitrariness of January 1, or because they, smugly annoyed at the huge crowds in the gym for the first few weeks of the year, think that no one actually keeps resolutions.

I might be guilty of being in the second camp, as someone who actually exercises all year long (not a humblebrag: I mostly do it to maintain my mental health and avoid feeling terrible). But I get the eye-roll - the reason why resolutions often don’t work is because they can be pretty wishy-washy. Stating your intention is a good first step, but if you don’t make a plan for actually doing these things, you risk getting overwhelmed and not starting your big goals, or forgetting about them entirely! (Not that I’ve ever done that…😳)

We're hitting the time in January where the freshness of the new year is starting to lose steam, so here’s what I do to try to keep my goals rolling all year long:

Regular Check-Ins

Truthfully, I haven’t always been the best at these (often the urgent tasks push out the important), but I’m trying some new things lately:

  • CEO Day

I got the idea for this from the amazing Being Boss podcast - they sell a bundle of worksheets that I’m sure are amazing, but instead I made up my own process (and am continuing to refine it). Each month I schedule a whole day to look at my big picture/overall vision for my work, including an emotional check-in (how am I feeling about my work), financial update, systems, things to delete from my life, and surveying upcoming goals and projects.

  • Desire Map Planner

I’m trying out Danielle LaPorte’s daily Desire Map planner this year - it has spots for core desired feelings, gratitude, and things to stop/change, in addition to the usual to-dos. It’s giving me a more positive vibe for my daily tasks, which is always welcomed - mindset is the underpinning of everything!

Also Being Boss-related, Kathleen Shannon devised this method: each quarter you make a chalkboard (mine’s a bunch of post-its on posterboard) with blanks for the things that you want to invite into your life, such as clients, gigs, certain amounts of income, followers/subscribers, and unexpected extras. I also have spots on mine for my word of the year (Connect) and 2 daily habit trackers, one for meditation and one for piano practice (from Elise Blaha Cripe’s newsletter). I have been doing chalkboards for about a year now, and they continue to evolve (as our goals do).

  • Weekly check-in

I admit that I have gotten lazy about this one (because sometimes there is just too much to do, and it’s not as essential), but I have a checklist of things that I try to accomplish on a weekly basis (keeping up with financial stuff, updating my main Trello board, sorting through my unruly downloads folder, and checking my Goals Trello board. This might soon just be replaced by the CEO Day.

Make non-negotiable daily habits (one at a time)

I am the kind of person who’s motivated by keeping up a streak of days and not breaking it, so coloring in little circles on a chart, or using an app that tracks these things (I use Insight Timer for meditation). We all miss days of our daily habits, and that’s okay - don’t get discouraged and quit - but missing two days in a row greatly increases your chances of quitting entirely, so avoid that, if possible. Also, only adding one thing at a time (or maybe two) also increases the likelihood of keeping that habit (as I wrote about here).

Set goals whenever you want, not just on January 1

The beginning of a year, or any time after a period of rest, can be great opportunities to revamp our routines and habits. For teachers like me who operate on an academic calendar, that’s September, after Thanksgiving, after winter break, after spring break, and the beginning of summer. So, I could easily take any of those opportunities to reboot.

But, something I often need to remind myself is that we can create fresh starts whenever we want to - today or even on a Saturday night at 10pm. As the writer Alexandra Franzen is fond of saying, “Today is not over yet!” It’s easy to let mindset get in the way, but with a little self-compassion (doing and committing to new things is hard - give yourself some credit!), we can keep moving forward.

Break everything down into bite-size pieces

 

Q: How do you eat an elephant? A: One bite at a time!

(I say that to my students a lot - they don’t think it’s that funny, either.) The fact remains - we can accomplish big things in small chunks, especially committed, consistent small chunks. In 2017, I did two 100 Day Projects in which I wrote 8 measures every day, and ended up with dozens of finished pieces and tons more ideas. It didn’t feel like I was doing much each day, but those small efforts really do add up.

As for big, overwhelming projects, I often find that when I’m procrastinating the most, it’s because I haven’t broken down my tasks into small enough pieces - “Launch sheet music store” needs to be broken down into: “Decide which pieces to publish”, “Edit Piece 1”, “Fix layout of Piece 1”, “Research legal concerns”, “Look into how to set up Squarespace shop”, etc. (That’s on my list for this week.) Our brains are way more capable of handling a bunch of small tasks, one at a time.

Schedule everything!

If you have a big goal for the year (one of mine is recording my first album, eeep!), it’s easy to sit around on January 1 and make your big dreamy list (yes, this is also an important step), but never convert that into actual bite-size action steps or make time for doing each one. It seems so obvious, but when I don’t get projects done as fast as I’d hoped, it’s because I didn’t make time for them, like actually putting it on the calendar on a certain day (or at a certain hour if you really mean it!) I love using Trello’s calendar function, so that each card that you’ve designated a due date for fills itself in on a month view of the calendar, giving a great big picture view of when everything has to happen.

Make sure deadlines are realistic

I am often (okay, most of the time) way too ambitious when planning out what projects I want to accomplish in a month. It’s a fine line, because setting a deadline makes me finish sooner, but when I have too many things to focus on, I either get overwhelmed and don’t finish many of them, or get burned out. This is definitely something I’m still working on.

Regular journaling

I’ve started and stopped this habit so many times, but I got a fresh start on it this week, starting each work day with some journaling. It’s not something that I want to pressure myself to do daily, but definitely want to do regularly, so that I can stay in touch with my thoughts, ideas, and dreams, and also have a dedicated place to process my experiences.

Don’t give up!

As a recovering perfectionist, this is one I've worked on a lot (and continue to work on) - part of me is dead set against failing at anything. But, the more I soften this viewpoint, the more I can embrace learning as I go (since that’s actually what we have to do), and adjusting what doesn't work right away, making getting started less scary.

If that goal is really important to you and you still haven’t done it, figure out why - could you tweak something about the process, are you just resisting getting started (if so, set a timer for 10-15 minutes and make yourself work on it just a little bit), or do you need to make time in your schedule? Maybe there’s a little shift that you could make in your lifestyle or your mindset that would really help.

Bottom line: don’t be afraid to start, and restart (again, and again) - a little flexibility with yourself goes a long way, especially if you have the illusion that everyone else has it together and you don’t. (I might sound like I do, but I have to work really hard to stick with things, too.) It’s all a process, we’re all just doing our best.

How are your 2018 goals or habits going so far? Are you going strong, or losing steam (or some of both)?

2017 Recap + Welcome 2018!

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Welcome to 2018!

And, congratulations, we made it through 2017! (Phew.)

I certainly am happy to turn the page on the calendar - 2017 was a difficult yet rewarding year of growth, in which I did lots of cool things but also dealt with burnout and a lot of anxiety. After trying everything holistic that I could think of to help, I finally decided to try going on meds, and after some extra rest and big lifestyle changes, by the end of summer, I was feeling a lot better - I had to actually listen to my body when it told me what it needed, again and again. I think this stuff is important to mention (#endthestigma), because we all struggle behind our highlight reels that we show to the world on social media - you’re not alone! And, every time we go through a big period of struggle, it brings us to the next, more evolved version of ourselves, which I’m always grateful for afterward.

Some firsts from this year:

  • Getting a studio to teach private lessons at MacPhail (a long time coming!)

  • Seeing Hermeto Pascoal and his band at SFJazz in April

  • Creating and facilitating a set of composition prompts for creative musicians, which is now a free 5 day-course (more about that below!)

  • Starting a regular networking happy hour for women musicians in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area with my friend Lauren Husting

  • Receiving my certification from MTNA and became a Nationally Certified Teacher of Music

  • Attending the Giant Steps conference here in Minneapolis - so inspiring!

  • Prioritizing rest and self-care for real (instead of just talking about it a lot and not giving myself what I need)

  • Trying breathwork as a way to turn my mind off (it works) and connect to myself

  • Going back to eating meat again after 14 years without it (with some excellent help from Lucia of Essential Omnivore!)

  • Getting really into drawing, so much that I decided to get one printed!

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Other highlights:

  • Performing 3 sambas that I arranged for solo piano at a MacPhail faculty recital (what I learned from that process: here and here)

  • Choro rodas with local and visiting friends

  • Playing more Brazilian gigs on piano, especially at the National Flute Association Convention with Jane Lenoir and Tim O’Keefe

  • Finishing 2 100 Day Projects of writing 8 measures of music per day

  • Performing my own music several times

  • My 6th time at California Brazil Camp - ensembles with Hermeto Pascoal, Jovino Santos Neto, Vitor Gonçalves, and Alessandro Penezzi!

  • Seeing Anat Cohen and Choro Aventuroso (including my teacher Vitor) at the Twin Cities Jazz Fest in June

  • My 11th anniversary with Tom (celebrated with sushi and sculptures)

  • Growing new friendships with a few awesome women musician/artists

  • To my surprise, I also somehow managed to read 54+ books this year (and I didn’t start tracking my reading until March, so it was probably more like 60!)

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Also, in 2017 I picked two words to focus on for the year, guided by Susannah Conway’s workbook Find Your Word: LISTEN and INTENT (see last year's recap post for explanation). Those words kind of worked for me last year, but they didn’t really stay at the forefront of my mind, although I think that I still made some changes in those areas.

New Year’s resolutions get a lot of flak, but as long as they’re specific and actionable (actual goals), I’m into it - I’ll take any fresh-start energy I can get. All of the reflection that I did in 2017 has enabled me to have more clarity about what I want from 2018, and to feel more ready to begin (or really, continue).

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Ways that I want to CONNECT this year:

  • To my own intuition and purpose

  • To the expansive feeling I get when I’m doing things that bring me joy (in work and in life)

  • To a sense of ease and lightness

  • Being mindful and present in my interactions with others

  • Forming meaningful connections with other musicians and composers (especially women)

  • Showing my work as fearlessly as possible

  • Letting go of things that don’t give me meaningful connection or help me get closer to how I want to feel (hello, mindless scrolling!)

I’m not the type to plan out my whole year at once, but here are some of my big goals for 2018:

  • Revamp my morning routine to always include meditation and journaling (probably 10 minutes of each) before I exercise

  • Record an album of my Brazilian arrangements and compositions (finally) and crowdfund it

  • Collaborate with more women musicians (already talking with a few people)

  • Launch a sheet music store of my compositions and arrangements (this one I’m committed to doing by the end of January!)

  • Publish 1 piece per month for the rest of the year

  • Start writing more pieces for instruments other than my own (and start writing a trio for my trio)

  • Start using my voice more (literally) - starting with Instagram Stories

  • Leave time for fun and hobbies (reading more fiction and graphic novels, drawing, crafting, etc.)

And one I already completed this week:

Launch my free 5-day course of bite-size composition prompts

If you're a musician who has thought about writing but didn't know where to start, if you're looking for some idea generation, or camaraderie with other creative musicians, this is for you. If you're interested, sign up below and join us!

I have a good feeling about this year - I’m wishing you an inspiring start to 2018! 

If you chose a word for the year or have music-related goals you're excited about, share them in the comments!

Q1 Goal Check-in

Since the first quarter of the year is wrapping up, and I’m on spring break next week, I’m taking some time to reflect on my year so far.

For the last six months, I’ve been trying Kathleen Shannon’s chalkboardmethod for goal setting, in which you make a chalkboard (mine’s really a piece of thick paper board with Post-Its on it) that lists your goals for the quarter, and also leaves spaces open for things you want to bring into your life.

Here’s my chalkboard from Q1 of 2017:

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At the beginning of the year, I picked LISTEN and INTENT as my focus words for the year, and I talk more about that in this post. I also had RECHARGE as a bonus word, which I am clearly still working on

I still like these words, and I always aim to be intentional, but INTENT doesn’t resonate with me as a focus anymore, so I’m sticking with LISTEN, with RECHARGE as a component of that. I might add another word, too, but haven't decided yet. 

Here’s how I did with the things I tracked during January, February, and March:

Daily Habits

  • Piano practice: 78 out of 90 days

  • Meditation: 84 out of 90 days

These are both things I plan to track for the whole year, on a goal tracker from Elise Blaha Cripe (coloring in circles is satisfying!)

Creative Music Pursuits

  • Arrangements written: 3

  • Arrangements shared: 3 (online + live performance)

  • Compositions written: 1 (partial) out of 2

  • Compositions shared: none, because I haven't quite finished the last section yet

Performance

  • Solo Piano Gigs: 2 out of 3

  • Times playing Brazilian music with others: 21 out of 15

Website/Social Media

  • Blog posts: 25 out of 27

  • IG Followers: ~288 of 400 goal

  • Newsletter subscribers (besides my gig list): didn’t get off the ground yet

Unexpected extra: Some unexpected gigs for summer.

What worked well to track

Tracking things easily quantified by number of times worked the best (not surprising): daily habits, arrangements written (completed because I had a deadline/performance), blog posts, and playing Brazilian music with others. 

What worked well but didn’t meet goal

Number of compositions written, and solo performances. I need to schedule more time dedicated specifically to composing, and to have some accountability in the form of showing my work at a specific time. I'm planning on doing a 100 Day Project with composing, starting on Monday (more on that soon!)

Even though there are things I didn’t get done, like make progress on publishing my arrangements, or launch an email list associated with my blog (I already have a different one for gigs), there are plenty of other things I did do, (like my daily improv project), and I’ll just have to hone my focus more for the next quarter. I haven’t decided what will go on my chalkboard for next quarter yet, but it will likely be similar, with the addition of more scheduling of the activities that matter. 

Stay tuned for updates on my completed daily improv project and my 100 days of micro-composing project soon!