10 Monthly Review Questions and my Quarantine Edition Answers

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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

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

What does Audible have to do with Traffic?

Everything.

See, I have an average of 40 minutes commute to and from work. In 2014, I started using Audible application on my mobile while driving, and it was one of the smartest things I have done. My library consists mainly of self- development, psychology and business books. My life has changed with all those books. They were my companions during travel that I barely listen to radio anymore

I tried to listen to short fictional story once,  the narration was great but I  prefer this genre on  paper and kindle. Audible is fully packed with the best seller novels nonetheless if interested.

If you haven’t heard of it before, Audible is a company owned by Amazon with the mission to “Unleash the power of the Spoken Word”  where you can find over 180K titles narrated by world-class narrators.

With my schedule, which is mostly like yours, the best way to get so much reading done is audible and I’m happy to have few friends and family members take my advice to use it.

New to audible? or thinking about joining? Here are my tips for a great and lifelong experience:

  1. The first book is free. If you like the experience you can subscribe for 14.95$ monthly which gives you one credit that allows to buy any book on audible no matter the price. If you see books much cheaper you can also buy them directly and enrich your library and save your credit for something else.
  2. Read book reviews before buying an audio book. Not just on audible, but also on goodreads to see if the content is worth your time not just the narration quality.
  3. Browse your favorite subjects and top rated books in your preferred genre and start with them first then experiment with not so famous books to get the habit going rather than getting discouraged by some titles. (I highly recommend to start with any book by Seth Godin or Brene Brown: The Power of Vulnerability)
  4. Speed up or slow the narration according to your preference and how you perceive the narrator. Many books felt much better when I sped up the narration by 1.2X
  5. Add audible shortcut to mobile home menu so you’ll start listening as soon as you get into the car
  6. If you don’t like a book you can return it. I did it only once because I thought the topic of the book would be different when I bought it.
  7. When you finish a book (self-development or  business type books), don’t start a new one immediately.  I recommend to do a quick re-listen. It has to be a fast one (1.1 or more) to review the key concepts and get them to stick, especially that you sometimes get distracted and paragraphs get read that you don’t even remember going through the first time. I didn’t do this until a couple of months ago and it made all the difference. Usually, I can’t wait to start another book after listening to one book for couple of weeks but trust me, this would do wonders to help you learn new ideas.
  8. Subscribe to audible’ s daily deal to get notified about discounted books for the day. So you can get books without waiting for your monthly credit.
  9. Add books to your wish list and audible will notify you if it’s on sale by email.
  10. Their customer care chat is very helpful, use it if needed.
  11. Ask for titles on audible that you can’t find and maybe they will consider your request. For example , I had all Zig Ziglar series and one was missing  ( I think it was the goals program) so  I asked about it. Few weeks later I found they added it. I’d like to believe i had something to do with it.
  12. Try the great courses series, lectures by great professors on various interesting topics.  my favorites topics are business and psychology.
  13. If you have  a book on kindle and you’re so into it that can’t stop reading it you have the option to buy the audible version at a reduced price if you see “whispersync for voice-ready” and the narration will start where you left off in your kindle
  14. You can also listen to podcasts, news on your audible. Choose your favorite channels and you can listen to nuggets of wisdom or humors segments everyday  like HBR ideacast and  TED talks. There are even audible original series which I still haven’t got the chance to listen to.
  15. You can bookmark audio segments you like and share them with your friends. I particularly do that for parenting books.
  16. I recommend not getting carried away by purchasing many books and take it one book at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.
  17. I enjoy listening while doing some mundane house chores, that way I’m always learning.
  18. Getting a Bluetooth headset also really enhanced my listening experience.
What does Audible have to do with Traffic?