Goal Setting Series-Part 2- Dream about the future.

After reflecting on the past we need to look forward. But wait. Hold off your goal setting eager soul for just a bit. We are going to write our goals next time. Today, we are looking forward, way forward. We are dreaming about our future. We are doing that because we need more clues to know what really matters to us. Matters enough to transform into goals that we can write in detail next time.

In her PowerSheets, Lara Casey encourages us to think about our future in the big picture. If we determine what matters most to us in the big picture we will work harder to achieve it, we will get back up from setbacks faster and keep going.

Step 1:

You can uncover your most important life mission by asking:

Where do you want to be at the age of 80?

Make 2 lists.

What will matter to you most at the age of 80?

What will not matter to you at the age of 80?

Some of my personal answers when I did this exercise were:

What will matter most to me: strong loving relationships, good health, work legacy, exploring the beauty of the world, abundance, wisdom.

What will not matter: complaining, FOMO (fear of missing out on online lives of other), owning the latest gadgets, kids’ tantrums, how I look in photos, comments and likes received on my posts, number of followers.

This question adds a sense of purpose to your goals and what you do every day. Does your to-do list today or this week serve your big picture vision of yourself? Do they match at all?

We need to be also be super clear on why we want to make this big picture happen. If our how does not work our why will help us find another how.  

Add a few points stating why it is important for your big picture to become a reality for you. This would be aligned with your values and creating feelings of joy and satisfaction that you lived the life you wanted.

For example: my why for strong relationships is that powerful connections make feel alive and my heart full.

Have you noticed how your goals are getting clearer now? Your evaluation of the past and your big picture dreams are helping your heart know what it is your need to get started on.

Now for a very inspiring part.

Step 2:

What themes did you discover?

Spend some time reviewing all your answers from part 1 and the big picture answers.  You will notice recurring themes of areas that make you your heart sing and areas that need serious work to be back on track. Use a marker or a highlighter to circle or star those areas and then summarize them in few sentences.

This step took me around 30 minutes to do when I first did it. Some themes that popped up were:

Meaningful connections with family and friends. Slowing down. Self-Care. Spiritual practice commitment. Moving my body. Seeking new experiences. More fun. Go back to writing. Keep teaching.

Step 3:

Transform themes into goal ideas.

It’s time to transform those themes into goal ideas that you can start working on now. They emerged as themes for a reason. They are probably those dreams that felt most important to you in the big picture and maybe those that had the lowest ratings in your life audit.  Notice that maybe there is a lot to work on and that might feel a little overwhelming. This is why we worked on selecting what matters most to you. Goal ideas are easier to define after going all through the previous exercises. We’re only writing ideas and we will get into structured goal setting next post.

Some of my goal ideas:

Theme: teach moreà Goal idea: launch a podcast, revive my blog.

Theme: Spiritual practice commitmentà Goal idea: commit to the habit of meditation.

Step 4:

What are you saying No to?

What are you saying Yes to?

Lists are fun to do so now we are going to make 2 new lists of things we will say no to that hold us  back from being our best selves and say yes to things that expand our happiness and joy. These things could be inner thoughts/beliefs, habits/behaviors, things/possessions and type of people/relationships that we need to release and say no to in the next year/season or keep and embrace and say yes to more often. 

Personal examples:

No to: eating after 7pm, buying without replacing, sleeping less than 6 hours, meaningless outings

Yes to: planning family meals, finishing what I start, power naps.

Step 5:

Choose your word of the year

This word will inspire you when you are down, sharpen your focus, and will remind you of what is important.

How to come up with your word of the year?

Your answers to all the previous exercises will guide you, it could be a verb, an adjective or even a small phrase. What do you want to do/be/have MORE of this year?

You can google “word of the year ideas” and see what comes up and other people’s choices, it is so much fun.

Reminder: You can change your word of the year whenever you want, it does not have to be perfect and it is not final!

Write your word of the year on card and place it somewhere prominent that you will see every day.

My word of the year 2019 was Teach

My word of the year 2020 is Clarity.

Ready to learn how to set your goals in detail?  

Share photos of your goal setting notebooks with me in the comments or on my social media accounts. It is especially important to write down your goals in pen and paper, and I will tell you why in the next post.

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 8 of my podcast: 

Goal Setting Series-Part 2- Dream about the future.

Goal Setting Series: Part 1 Reflect on the Past

We practice goal setting all the time in business settings. If you’re an employee you usually receive your goals every year or every six months, which would align with the strategic goals of the company.  At the end of the semester you review your achievements with your boss against the defined goals, you discuss what worked, what didn’t, and why.  

However, we usually coast through our personal lives, letting things happen to us and reacting as necessary. We are not charting our own paths to where we want to go. We are walking pre-defined paths for us. That’s why our days and years look a lot like each other. We are not living goal-oriented lives, we are not living on purpose.  This gap in goal setting between our work life and personal life was an insight that clicked for me in a conversation with a business leader and a mentor I’m lucky to have met called Iman Mutlaq. I’ll be always grateful for helping me notice this.  

It’s true, many of us set new year’s resolutions, but resolutions without a plan are not goals, they are only hopes and aspirations, that’s why they fail by mid-February.  

Lucky for you, I have good news. Goal setting can be done anytime. You can do it at the beginning of each year, on your birthday, every month,  every quarter or whenever you decide to pursue something new. As Lara Casey always says: “There is nothing magical about  January 1st“.  

In this series I will share with you what I have learned about goal setting from my favorite authors on the subject Michael Hyatt and Lara Casey. 

This Post is part 1 of 4.  

Goal Setting Starts in the Past.  

Your past has only one value, learning from it. Reviewing your past will help you design the right goals for you. If you start goal setting with reviewing the past you’re more likely to set meaningful goals that you will invest time and effort to achieve. 

First: Do a Life Audit 

Our lives are multi-faceted as Michael Hyatt asserts. Our lives are not just our careers or health or families. These life domains are all connected. When we’re not doing well in one domain of our life we can feel it impacting the satisfaction we have in other areas. 

We start the life audit by rating the key life areas on a scale from 1 to 10 where 1 means you are not satisfied and want to see a big change there, and 10 means you’re happy with how you’re showing up in this domain. While at it, write a few words about the reason you selected the score for each domain. State facts and how you feel, honesty is key here because opportunity for improvement starts taking shape now, the lowest scores indicate the bigger opportunity to make a change.  

Life domains are differently grouped depending on the writer, you can add categories or remove those that don’t apply to you. Feel free to make your own life categories that work for your unique life. 

The categories I recommend are: 

  • Health: How you feel about your body. 
  • Mental/Emotional: How you feel about your psychological well-being. 
  • Relationships: How you feel about your relationship to: 
    • Spouse/Significant other 
    • Friends
    • Family
  • Finances: Your personal or family’s financial situation 
  • Work: Your job, your 9-5, and side projects.  
  • Spiritual Growth: You connection to God. 
  • Learning: Your educational development. 
  • Personal Environment: Your home and work environment.  
  • Fun & Recreation: Your hobbies, playtime, relaxation, and adventure experiences.  
  • Service & Contribution: how you serve the world/ volunteer work. 

You can also take an assessment I really like by Michael Hyatt to assess how you are generally doing in life’s different domains by answering a series of helpful questions. Make sure to save your answers so you can go back to them after a while. I guarantee you will see improvements after you commit to setting goals in areas where your satisfaction was the lowest.  

SecondEvaluate your past. 

Select how far you’d like to go in your past, 6 months, one year, 3 years? Answer accordingly.  

I assumed you want to go back one year and wrote the tips accordingly: 

  • Start with the positive: While our human tendency is to remember the negative first, it is recommended to start with the good. This will help us have energy to complete the past exercise. Write a list of the wonderful things that happened to you. What are you most proud of? What worked well last year? A few ways to remember:
    •  You can consult your family and friends to remind you of your highlights 
    • You can check your social media posts to remember  
    • You can go through your camera roll. 
    • You can check your calendar or planner. 
    • You can check your goals from last time, celebrate what’s done. 
    • You can check your past financial statements, this will remind you of you priorities and events. 
  • Name the challenges: Write a list answering questions like what did not work this past year? What disappointments or regrets did you experience? What goals you wanted to achieve but did not? What were some blocks you faced? What achievements you wanted to be acknowledged for but were not? It is hard to write our answers here. But power through it. This list will guide your focus when you set your goals, your challenges are your biggest opportunities for improvements.  
  • Distill the lessons: What did the positive and the negative from the past year teach you? Make them into short sentences of wisdom that you can repeat over and over to yourself.  

Third:  State what you are grateful for. 

  • Gratitude time: Write the names of people who helped you during this past year. Find a way to thank them for specific things they did for you or ways they stood by you. Feeling gratitude is one thing, expressing it to those who caused it is such an another level. They will be so surprised, and you are going to make someone’s day.  

Bonus Step 

  • Identify your hidden opportunity. the opportunity principle, which states feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointments are strongest where the chances for corrective action are clearest. Consider your setbacks this past year, brainstorm how they might point you toward your next opportunity.  

Now you are ready to move on to the next step of goal setting which is: dreaming about the future. 

New post coming up soon. 

I’m deeply grateful for Michael Hyatt and Lara Casey for all what they taught me about Goal Setting that I have shared in this blog post.  

You can listen to this blog post in Arabic through episode 7 of my podcast: 

Goal Setting Series: Part 1 Reflect on the Past

10 Monthly Review Questions and my Quarantine Edition Answers

My 2020 Passion Planner

I will be sharing my answers to the monthly reflection questions in my passion planner, highlighting all my achievements and observations about April 2020. I usually begin to answer these questions after reviewing all my journals in order to remember details and also to be inspired.

Question 1: What was the most memorable part of this month? Describe it.

When outside life slowed down due quarantine I got the chance to achieve two important personal goals that were already on my 2020 goals list, which are:

 1. My Podcast

After launching my quarantine baby podcast in March 29th I managed to launch 4 episodes during April 2020.  This boosted my self-confidence as I learned so much about the podcasting process by putting in hard work and learning from my own mistakes each time.  The month felt like a crash course that will save me so much time in the future. I especially enjoyed researching the journaling topic using my old journals and reading about the habits of authors I admire.
2. Decluttering my home.

Decluttering was actually a big goal for me, however, I did not expect to make this much progress on it so early in the year, it needed time and I finally had the time. I covered the pain areas including my bedroom, my kids’ rooms, my multi-purpose office area. I discovered a lot about myself and my relationship to stuff has been definitely complicated. I’m improving and finding it easier to get rid of stuff that don’t add value or beauty to my life or simple taking space I’d better save for more meaningful items and activities.

Question 2: What were the three biggest lessons you’ve learned in the past month?

  1.  I love my home. I just did not have the time to appreciate it before. I finally cleared out stuff that blocked air and light and even my kids from moving freely in it and enjoying it.
  2. I am at my best when I create. When I ship my work like this blog or a new podcast episode, I feel the best rush of energy.
  3.  When I feel uninspired and stuck at a task- which I can tell if it’s taking too long, I’m making many mistakes, or I’m restarting over and over- just PAUSE. I should leave the task for a while until recharge. This way I‘d be able to finish it faster.

Question 3: Review your planner for the past month and assess your priorities. Are you happy with how you spend your time? If not, what steps can you take next to adjust them.

Yes, I am very happy of how I spent my time creating work I’m proud of and more space at home. I also noticed that compared to the first 2 weeks of quarantine back in March, I didn’t play much with the kids in April but I’m proud that I committed to daily bedtime stories, reading 4 stories sometimes.

There is always, however, room for improvement.

In May, I want less time on my phone and to make time on phone intentional for creating, engaging with others,  initiating or responding to contact. Not for mindless scrolling.

Question 4: What did you accomplish this past month? What are you most proud of?

  1.  4 Podcast episodes.
  2. 3 Blog posts
  3. 4 Instagram videos
  4. Finished 4 books (decluttering at the speed of life, how to manage your home without losing your mind,  money tree, life’s greatest question) the first 2 books helped me achieve the below tasks.
  5. Decluttering my bedroom 100% , kids’ rooms 80%, office room 100%. I would like to change its name to learning/arts room, since kids are spending most of their time with me there during the day when I work or home school, still thinking about it.
  6. Developing home management routines that helped make my home feel more comfortable (example: laundry day routine)
  7. Recording a Zoom call with my friend on how we are spending our time home positively as mothers.
  8. Starting a book discussion series about the (Power of Now) with my friend by video-recording the first episode.
  9. Developing a new habit of walking daily for 20 to 45 minutes.
  10. Commiting to my 5am habits and especially to meditation.
  11. Spending 2 social-media free weekends

Question 5: How are you different between this past month and the month before it?

I am closer to my kids and know them better and proud of their relationship’s progress and how they learned to get along better than before.

I am better aware of my triggers around my kids and working on enhancing my reactions especially during home schooling.

I feel more self-confident of my creative energy to ship my work to the world.

I now really know that what it takes to produce a podcast.

I feel lighter with less stuff at home and proud that my relationship to possessions is changing.

I’ve never loved my home as much as I loved it this month.

Question 6: What or who are you especially grateful for this past month?

My home. The breathtaking sunset view. Spring beauty wherever I look outside and having lovely outdoors area for kids to run.

My husband’s energy who got so much done around the house and washed the cars many times followed by rain.

My father and mother in law who live downstairs and their love and attention for the kids and their great food.

After 40 days I got to spend few nights at my parents’, enjoyed being spoiled with food and staying up late with them.

My accountability partner Rania and our special talks.

My best friend’s patience listening to my long voice messages of frustration.

Ladies in my 5am group, their wonderful wisdom, energy, honesty and the momentum we enjoyed.

The amazing support and helpful feedback I received about my new podcast and all the amazing testimonials about it.

Dana K. white’s books about home management.

Question 7: Name three things you can improve on this upcoming month. What concrete actions can you take to work towards these improvement?

  1. Patience during home schooling by being more mentally prepared for class, adding more silence for my child to think, expecting different (I don’t know) scenarios and practicing my response to them because I get frustrated if we already covered the material. Also to keep consistent math and reading aloud practice.
  2.  More respect for my body by going back to intermittent fasting, less chips, replace it with yogurt and cucumbers and seeds. Also observe my coffee intake.
  3. Get in touch with parenting books to remember parenting strategies and leave the room when feeling frustrated to be able to respond wisely to kids.

Question 8: From one to 10, how do you feel overall about this past month?

7 out of 10

Other questions I like from PowerSheets Goal Planner

Question 9: In the new month I am saying no to:

Anger. Anger begets anger, just like any habit. I can break this habit by pausing and choosing a different response. Also by starting my day imagining things going wrong in advance with kids’ moods and behavior and practicing a different response (when they…. I will… ) example: when they start bickering /I will separate them kindly but firmly in their rooms until a timer goes off).

Social media in weekends and mornings. Mornings are way fruitful and weekends are more peaceful when I am off social media. I can check it after I create my own content. As Chase Jarvis always says: Create before you consume.

Question:10 In the new month I am saying yes to:

Flexibility, patience, adding 10-min strength training every other day, power naps, starting the day setting schedules with kids.

What’s Next?

After answering the 10 questions I fill the Tending List in Powersheets where I write the Monthly action items, the weekly action items and the daily action items/habits.

Example of monthly action items is launching 2-3 podcast episodes, organize summer clothes, finish chapter 3 of a course in miracles, finish contagious you book and deliver a project at work.

Example of weekly action items may be one podcast episode and one Instagram video per week.

In May my daily habits would include walking 30 minutes, writing in evening journals, having fruits and seeds.

Other funny things worth mentioning about this past month is that I finally had the time to read the dishwasher and the washing machine manuals. I found out what those little codes meant. I chose the best program for my dishwasher and I even adjusted the height of the racks, who knew this was even possible?  I am a bit embarrassed to admit that I learned the correct way to set up the cutlery  in the top rack.  For 2 years I did it as the handyman who installed it instructed me to, without ever verifying his advice. Perhaps I’ll share a picture later. It was so funny.

I hope this review encouraged you to start this practice and make it your own. This will help you track your successes and learn from your mistakes.

Let me know if you do a monthly review in the comments, and what other helpful questions we can think about every month.

You can listen to this epsiode in Arabic through my podcast:



10 Monthly Review Questions and my Quarantine Edition Answers

The Journaling Habit (Part 2)

My gratitude Journals from the past years.

Part 2: Your guide to Journaling

Why journal?

I write to stop thinking, I write to think, I write to look at my emotions and understand them, I write to feel better, I write to complain,  I write to pray, I write to remember and I write to forget. I write to focus on problems, I write to come up with solutions, I write to plan the future and I write to honor my past. I write nonsense and I write gems. Most importantly, I write every day.

Writing in a journal helps you clean your mind’s slate, so your mind is better used for creativity and solving interesting problems not storing trivial matters which our brains are not so good at already, this way you put your mind at ease instead of having it nagging you to remember. Writing freezes your thoughts on paper so that you can, detach from them, examine them as an outsider and see which of them is true and what’s obsessive repetitive thinking that is simply not serving you. You can tell paper what you cannot tell people. As Anne Frank said in her famous diaries Paper Has More Patience Than People. Keeping a journal helps you connect the daily events into meaningful conclusions. You understand your patterns, your triggers, what makes you thrive and what shuts you down, improving your self-awareness. Writing helps you put your heart’s baggage on paper instead of carrying it around. You feel lighter afterwards.

In Essentialism Greg McKeown reminds us: “The words journal and journalist come from the same root word.”  Instead of writing meaningful stories to an audience of a newspaper, covering the who, what, when, where, why andhow of a story; keeping a journal is about being a journalist of your own life.  

Journaling is a mix of keeping a diary and introspection for me, and the difference is that diaries are for logging what happens in your day while introspection could include reflecting about the meaning of events and your responses to them and planning for the future.  Naming this habit as keeping a diary is more helpful to people who are about to start it. Why? Because when I tell beginners to journal by reflecting on their emotions and thoughts many would get too overwhelmed to start.

Accordingly, I divided journaling into 3 styles. Writing any of the below on consistent basis is journaling, start where you feel most comfortable.

Journaling Type 1: Keeping a diary


  • It marks your days because they are not the same and we humans are forgetful by nature, so we need something to remind us, better in our own handwriting. It’s like writing your own personal history book.
  • It helps you catch your patterns in terms of (good) days vs. (bad) days so you identify people and activities that make you feel alive the most. For example, you start noticing that when you eat a certain type of food you feel bad few hours later. Or when you talk to someone your heart beats faster than normal.


  • Write down about your past day and how you spent your time. What happened? Who did you meet with? What did you do? Where did you go? What did you read or listen to? What did you eat? What did you buy? What is something you want to remember about your day?  Your mood from 1-5? Your energy level?

Journaling Type 2: Reflection

  • You may practice gratitude by aiming to list 3 to 5 things as an answer to What and who am I thankful for right now?
  • You may scan your body for emotions. What am I feeling right now? It is important to name your emotions to defuse their power over you, which helps you watch them as an observer with acceptance and understand the events and thoughts that caused them. For example, you examine yourself and find you’re not feeling great, journaling about it may lead you to learn you’re feeling lonely, so you acknowledge the emotion and take action if possible to change it, by seeking companionship for instance.
  • You may practice what is called expressive writing, by describing important past events, and your deepest thoughts and feelings by asking what am I feeling? What am I thinking?  Privately exploring past negative experiences in expressive writing for few days scientifically proved to help long term recovery from high stress levels caused by them.  It is not recommended, however, to do it for too long for one event, neither to overthink positive events to keep their magic.
  • You may write about a situation from someone else’s point of view to understand their behavior and reactions. Attempting to see what they see and feel their fears increases your compassion and empathy.
  • You may talk to God in writing prayers about your most pressing issues. You may try writing God’s answer too which is always loving and all-understanding.
  • You review your day by what is called daily check-in by asking What went well? What didn’t work? What did I learn from this? How will I be smarter tomorrow or next time I face this? This helps you derive insights about yourself and people around you that improve your life steadily.

In practicing reflection, it is recommended to avoid asking why questions as your mind will come up with answers upon demand that may not be accurate and will not always support your growth. For example, why questions may lead you to act like a victim, example: why me? Replace why with what. What is going? What does this remind me of? And so on.

Journaling Type 3: Planning

  • You use your journal to set your intentions and organize your thoughts about upcoming events or your future goals by asking What kind of person do I want to be today? What am I going to do next to move forward with my goals? What can I be excited about today? If I get stressed today, what will I do or who will I contact to feel better? What is my most important task for the day?

One of many examples when journaling solved a problem for me was a couple of years ago. While I am a positive person and complaining is not a habit I like to indulge in with colleagues, I confided to paper how I felt every day about my workday. I logged the events. I reflected on them noticing how I could learn from them for next time. Reading my journal entries, however, I found a consistent negative pattern in my feelings about my job. Then, with time, I felt I was not learning as the lessons were just reruns. I realized it was time to move on, especially that my feelings were not improving. As a result, there in those journals, I decided it was time for change. I came up with a plan that started with updating my CV and pursuing certificates I was putting on hold, until I successfully managed to change my job one year later.

Are you ready to start journaling? Keep reading.

Tips to Activate the habit of Journaling:

  • Start with keeping a diary and gratitude practice then expand to other journaling suggestions.
  • Start small. Just one page every day, no matter how tempted you are to write more. Still too much? Use or create a one-sentence-a-day journal.
  • You can start with journals that have built in prompts to answer everyday so get your habit going. Such as (what are you grateful for? How do you feel today? What is the important task of the day)? Check bookshops for beautiful notebooks to use.
  • Place your journal on your pillow if you want to write at night or by your coffee mug if you want to write in the morning. If I had not done this I would have simply forgotten or ignored my new routine because the notebook is out of sight.
  • Some of my friends worry about their privacy and tear up their negative journals. I say that’s perfectly fine. The act of writing itself is therapeutic. The act of keeping paper, not so much.
  • Some of my friends choose drawing instead of writing in their journals to express themselves and track their days. I believe this is a form of journaling. Go for it if it gets you excited and committed.

Finally, increase your self-awareness by reading your older journals. I usually read my journal at the end of each month or quarter. This always reveals something about myself and my happiness, especially my gratitude journal. I recommend planning a time to read yours. Maybe you would find something interesting that you wrote casually the other day or remember some past dreams and ancient heart songs that ignite your passion for life. Who knows?

Note: I’m in gratitude to Michael Hyatt, Ryan Holiday, Austin Kleon, Greg McKeown, Brendon Burchard, Tim Ferriss and Tasha Eurich whose valuable work and advice I included in this post. Thank you.

Find the above journaling guide in Arabic by listening to my podcast here:

The Journaling Habit (Part 2)

The Journaling Habit (Part 1)

I prepared for this post, and the next one, researching my own personal journals, in addition to what my favorite writers said about it, to understand why I committed to journaling all this time and distill for you my personal process as an answer to a question I received many times but couldn’t seem to prove a satisfying answer before: What’s the point of journaling and how do you journal?  

My goal here is to share with you what I’ve learnt and encourage you to consider this habit as part of your daily routine, maybe when you are up at 5am too.

This outcome of my findings is divided into 2 parts. This post is part 1. where I will share my personal journaling journey, while the next post is a detailed journaling guide for you to kick it off.

Continue reading “The Journaling Habit (Part 1)”
The Journaling Habit (Part 1)

Tips for 5 AM Club beginners

  1. Define your why. The first thing I ask people who want to start waking up at 5AM is why do they want to do that? what’s missing that waking up would help them accomplish? Waking up at 5AM is not for everybody, especially not for those who already have the time to work on their self -improvement activities like journaling, reading, planning and so on during the rest of the day. Or those who appreciate their nighttime outings and want the freedom of going out any night of the week without thinking they will wake up at 5AM next day. Write your why. So when you lose your initial enthusiasm your why would remind you. Maybe it would be something like: I don’t want to feel the morning rush ever again. I want to feel I can start my day slowly and with intention. I want to go to work with my to-do list ready. I want to increase my knowledge/self-awareness/muscles.
  2. Work on your evening routine first. Observe your current bedtime and what gets in the way of sleeping on time. How does going out affect your bedtime? Notice your habits of consumption at night, whether content on TV or social media or food or caffeine. It is recommended to cut off coffee 6 hours at least before bedtime in many studies.
  3. Create something to look forward to in the morning. Examples could include fancy coffee or hot beverage or a mug you get especially for this habit. A new shiny notebook and set of pens. An exciting book you want to read. An online course you subscribe to.
  4. Dedicate a corner in your house for your morning time. It could be chair facing a window, it could be your kitchen table or a small desk you get especially to place your morning tools on it. I used an old outdoor table as a makeshift office for years before replacing it with my shiny new office from IKEA few months ago.
  5. Look for or ask some friends to join you in this new habit for accountability and to create momentum. It’s much more exciting when you wake up knowing others are sleepy but awake like you. You can create a whatsapp group and send good morning to each other like I do with my small group. You can also ask to call and wake up each other if you don’t show up on time.
  6. If no one is interested to join your challenge in creating this habit, start a public challenge on your social media announcing your implementation intentions (this early, this many days) and report on your story daily indicating how super early you are and how far you are in the habit. This is how I started and how I recommitted to it.
  7. Speaking of social media, post that update or send good morning your 5am group then put your phone far away for an hour at least to do the things you wake up for. You can’t underestimate the allure of your phone screen and how it will steal precious minutes and attention from you if given the chance. I set appblock on strict mode the night before to guard my morning routine.
  8. Change your alarm ringtone, you got so used to your current one and your body is learning a new habit so it needs a new trigger, Also put your alarm (I’m assuming phone) far from your hand’s reach so you have to stand up and walk to turn if off and you might as well leave the bedroom as planned.
  9. Remember the 5-second rule. When you hear the alarm, count down from 5, 5-4-3-2-1, and launch out of bed like rockets launch into the sky. This would not give enough time for your foggy self-talk to start, which wants you warm and cozy in bed, forgetting and abandoning your budding habit.
  10. If your feel too sleepy after you wake up and want to go back to bed, remind yourself how you would feel in 2 hours if you stay awake and true to your new habit. Like I did once, blast some music in your earphones and do some jumping jacks to wake up that body.
  11. Make your habit rewarding. Use a monthly calendar to cross off each day you wake up with a big fat X. Don’t break the chain of X. Include the X in your social media photo.
  12. Set a reward for yourself when you complete X number of days in a row. Make it so attractive and worthy of your efforts.
  13. Remember it takes an average of 66 days to make a new routine a habit. Keep going. Don’t assume it has become a habit too soon by giving yourself days off way too early. If you quit too soon you might think you are fine and you don’t need it but before you know it the old symptoms that propelled you to start will come back. They will not feel so great.
  14. Prepare for failure. Set a rule that if your break the chain you don’t break it more than 2 days. Don’t let the perfectionist in you say it’s all or nothing (I thank this book for teaching me this). Forgive yourself and jump back to it because your previous efforts are not wasted. New neural pathways are being forged in your brain as you are creating this habit and they will stay there for the days you break the chain as long as you go back.

Anything I missed? What’s your favorite tip? let me know your own secrets to waking up early.

Listen to these tips in Arabic in my podcast The Paradise Project
Tips for 5 AM Club beginners

Digital Declutter Challenge in Review

Last week my digital declutter challenge was officially over. In this post I will share with you my insights about this experiement and how I spent the new free time I had.

As the challenge progressed a lot changed in my rules, they actually became tougher. By the mid of the month I announced on instagram that I removed Netflix from my phone, and would only watch it on TV in social situations or as quality time with my husband. Those limited 10 minutes of streaming shows on the phone as per my original rule were not worth it anymore. The pain of the interruption of entertainment outweighed its pleasure. Now, when I watch my shows on TV, it feels way more intentional, therefore more enjoyable and truly entertaining. Plus, streaming shows has become more inconvenient because I can’t watch any while the kids are still awake, so it is now a very limited window that is not one click away as it used to. Inconvenience is a secret to getting rid of negative habits and it definitely curbed this tendency of mine.

During this challenge I generally committed to my whatsapp rule of 30 minutes per day and none after 7pm. The evening rule was not easy to apply whenever I had an outing where we confirmed time and locations of meetup so I think that is ok. The rule was easier to apply after I turned off whatsapp notifications, a highly recommended strategy. Funny thing is that I used to have so many unread whatsapp messages before this month, but now I have none as it’s practically the only app left with connection to the outside world. I also recommend using whatsapp web at work which makes the experience quick to the point and less distracting.

In the last week of the challenge, I uninstalled instagram as a last tweak to my rules, thus removing the 10 minutes allowance I enjoyed during the month. To my dislike, It turned out to be too hard in the first couple of days. I still had the compulsive habit of looking for instagram as a quick way to “feel connected” which I thought I got rid of by reducing my scrolling/story checking to 10 minutes. Not true. It turns out that I scattered using those 10 minutes throughout the day so the habit was not vanquished. What I should have done instead is to specify a certain time of day to check instagram during the challenge, not just limit it for 10 minutes to be consumed whenever I wanted. Interesting indeed, no?

I managed to unsubscribe to a lot of noisy commercial emails in my personal email and that way I was able to see the important content I pre-subscribed to and overcome my FOMO by hitting unsubscribe to some other newsletters I kept convincing myself I would get to someday. It’s still a process I have not completely finished.

I noticed I can now read longer articles because they feel fresh to me as I was hardly consuming any text content during the challenge. I also noticed that my online attention span on desktop is increasing versus my previous behavior of switching tabs for checking later.

How did I spend the leisure time I had thanks to my digital declutter during March?

Overall I felt I had more time at hand. This time was spent being more present with my kids and getting more done at work as I had no other choice but to finish what I had to do. I managed to commit to my 10-minute exercise habit right when I got home which is great; creating this habit was on my goals since the beginning of the year.

I applied Cal Newport’s advice of spending more time on real-time conversations with people that matter in my life instead of counting on post likes and quick texts to show we are still in touch. I started telling friends that they can call me anytime between 5pm and 6pm during workdays as I would be driving home in my usual long commute. This indeed made a difference as I specifically managed to contact 2 important friends who live abroad.

A peculiar thing happened too during this month;, I took really long naps every weekend. It has been so unusual for me. I don’t know if it was boredom or I was generally following my body’s rhythm and listening to it. I really wonder if it was some sort of me running away from the quiet. I didn’t think I depended on social media that much during weekends before this challenge, as my usage dropped in general. But I can’t help linking long naps and no phone together. I’m still figuring it out to make sure it’s only about resting and not numbing, all while embracing those feel good mid-day naps.

Your attention is one of the most valuable things you possess, which is why everyone wants to steal it from you. First you must protect it, then you must point it in the right direction

-Austin Kleon, Keep Going 

At the end of the challenge I felt a bit of agitation as an achiever type. I could not show certain work accomplished during this month other than the above mentioned observations.  My analysis is that I have not specified enough the activities I would pursue in the newly found free time as Cal has advised in his book as one of the secrets to succeed in this digital declutter experiment. My new free time was in fact small pockets spread over the day. I was not spending stretches of long time on my phone before but I definitely was a compulsive screen checker. Even though, it would have been much better if I was more specific on the activities I would pursue during the challenge.

As I practiced digital minimalism I also really started to notice the amount of clutter in my physical space and this is driving me to take my decluttering initiative to my home in the 2nd quarter of this year.  Not an easy task I tell you.

In the coming posts I will share with you how my digital life looks like now. As Cal says in his amazing book, it is not a onetime process but a new life you choose for yourself and keep improving to reach your sweet spot.

Adopting digital minimalism is not a onetime process that completes the day after your digital declutter; it instead requires ongoing adjustments. In my experience, the key to sustained success with this philosophy is accepting that it’s not really about technology, but is instead more about the quality of your life. The more you experiment with the ideas and practices on the preceding pages, the more you’ll come to realize that digital minimalism is much more than a set of rules, it’s about cultivating a life worth living in our current age of alluring devices.

Cal Newport, Digital Minimalism


Digital Declutter Challenge in Review

Digital Declutter Challenge-10 Days In

Via Unsplash.com

Digital declutter during weekends has had a completely different vibe for me compared to work days, where weekends so far have been easier for disconnection versus being at the office in front of a tempting computer screen most of the day.

As the work week started I found myself missing my personal email the most. It turns out I am addicted to the stimulation it provides, even more than Facebook because, surprisingly, I hardly miss the latter.
My personal email is mainly made up of favorite blogs subscriptions, amazon deals and make-up and kids’ clothes deals, in addition to linkedin updates. As a result, my initial rule of checking it during the weekend for 30 minutes only could not stand, so I amended it to checking it daily, only on desktop, for 5 to 10 minutes while the timer is set and running. I also started unsubscribing to many commercial newsletters because they are crowding my email that I can’t find the important communications fast.

I have also modified the Netflix rule where I can now watch 3, not 2, episodes of Netflix a week. I did this because I mostly watch comedy series which usually take 20 minutes per episode and that would have finished my allowance in 4 days only according to my 10 minute rule which was too extreme for me.

As a matter of fact, minimizing streaming entertainment has been the most challenging for me, 10 minutes a day only is not easy, where I mentioned before that I already have this particular habit of enjoying evening meals while watching something, mostly comedy, on Netflix. I used to think of this time as my mental break, so it is going to be interesting to see what will happen in the coming 20 days as I change my relationship to entertainment , not that it is harmful or anything, but I do believe that depending on something this much must be unhealthy for us and a red flag we need to take care of.

During digital declutter I also noticed I’ve been missing local news, because I barely listen to any radio show and never buy newspapers and Facebook and twitter were my sources. Since I’m not using them now I decided I need to stay more tuned to morning radio shows to keep up to speed with local or even international news that are relevant to us and maybe read news online once in a while.

I also happen to love music apps, like anghami, and I didn’t even consider them in my digital declutter challenge. However, I noticed a funny thing about the human brain; we always want a way out. So, skipping songs and looking for the perfect song or playlist has become my new thing while working or while doing house chores. Our brains got so used to entertainment that even music apps could be addictive and time wasting. This is not a totally finding, I experienced this in my reading fasting last year.
Don’t worry though, I have not set rules for those apps during digital declutter. It’s just about mindfulness of the exit strategies we implement to avoid the present moment.

It’s been indeed a very interesting challenge so far, and I wonder what more insights I would enjoy finding out during the remainder of the month.

Stay tuned.

Digital Declutter Challenge-10 Days In