Taking the time to reflect :: Powerful resources to try for 2014

January is a month when many of us take on the sometimes daunting task of thinking about self-improvement. After having time to think many of us end up creating a handwritten list of resolutions for the year ahead. From experience this can work really well or you can find yourself reviewing a list the following January that you've forgotten about and you never get the list completed. Perhaps this year you may like to do something different to help you plan and dream for the year ahead. I've found some really powerful resources in the blogging community that I have used this year, and last year, that have helped me plan and shape the year ahead.

I'm a huge believer in reflection and taking time to create and cultivate a life you want to live. For many years I loved the ritual of writing resolutions in January and enjoyed the process of ticking things off the list, but somehow by the end of the year there were always a few things on the list I never managed to tackle. I decided a few years ago to find new ways to approach developing myself, making changes and reflecting on life. I made reflection something I liked to pick up every few months, by revisiting plans and keeping a focus each month. I managed to make real progress with plans and experiences I was hoping to introduce into my life, I've moved on from things that were blocking the process, and took a step forward towards things I really wanted in my life.
January is a hard month to start brand new things, with the short days, dark evenings and cold weather, it can be a hard time to make a fresh start. Over the years I have found that the month of September tends to be the time when I really re-think things in my life and make changes. Perhaps the change of season brings with it a natural shift in my senses, a time to shed old leaves and prepare for new ones. September is a time of the year typically associated with the start of an academic year and the start of new courses. For me this time of year has always symbolised and signalled a fresh start during most years of my life. Perhaps this is why September ends up being my favourite month of the year. A fresh start. A time to focus on developing and growing.

So what about January I hear you say! I find that January is a great time to reflect back on the things I’ve tried to start making part of my life a few months previously. By January I've finally managed to shed last years leaves, and start preparing in January to hunker down, hibernate and get myself ready for creating a productive set of new leaves by Spring. I tend to spend a lot of time during the month reflecting on life past, life present and hopes for the future. During the month of January I have seen the start of real change...I've made some of my biggest decisions that have shaped the course of the year and outcomes for the years ahead...all of these big changes I had started preparing for since September.

With the start of the new year, a fresh push to start new things and create change, can really start to begin. Last January I started a few new ways of reflecting that I am excited to carry into 2014 and to tell you about.

Project Life...I started Project Life in 2013 to document each week of the year. I wrote a blog post about using Project Life at the end of 2013 and how it enabled me to reflect, think positively, and allowed me to be grateful each week, and get my photos into albums.

One Little Word...In January 2013 I started a year-long online class called One Little Word. The process is about having a word to help shape your year. For me it has been life changing, you can find out more about One Little Word in a further blog post this week.

In addition to these year-long projects, I completed a number of workbooks. A combination of all of these courses and projects brought with them real change and successes during last year. I've seen how impactful and felt the power that these resources were for me last year, so I've decided to make them a part of 2014...and add a new one, New Year's Revolution, into the mix as well!

Here are the resources that I’m using to reflect and plan for 2014...
Unravelling the Year Ahead 2014 is a free resource to download from Susannah Conway's website. I love the bite sized sections of the workbook that help you focus for the year. Working your way through the workbook takes you on a journey. Firstly you begin the process of 'unravelling the year behind', thinking about achievements, challenges, favourite moments and then processing anything that needs to be forgiven and things to say goodbye to from the year. The next part of the reflection journey is about 'unravelling the year ahead' and taking time to plan and dream. I settled down one Sunday afternoon and completed this in a few hours over a weekend listening to some chillout music and letting myself think and not get distracted. I would definitely recommend this workbook to work through if you think it would help you push forward for a fresh year.

Create your Amazing Year is a paid for resource to help shape your year ahead. You can buy the workbook online, or download it as a PDF and print it out or type straight into the workbook. As I did last year I decided to print out the booklet but this year I chose to buy both Life and Biz editions. I don't have a business myself but I was keen to see use this part of the booklet for thinking about my blog and other ideas I have buzzing round my head at the moment. These books are packed full and are definitely worth the small investment made.

The look is very artistic, so if you like very clean and simple this may not be for you. I love the artistic look and feel and can see the passion for art that Leonie has put into every page. The bright colours make the booklet really fun to complete. There are over 70 pages where you have the chance to explore how you can create an amazing year for your life, and if you buy the Biz edition too you there just over a further 50 pages. Then you get a calender to help you plan your year, so it is really worth the small investment!

Working through a number of sections in the Life Edition you start by celebrating and releasing 2013 using a number of prompts, and then set goals for the year ahead. Leonie's booklet helps you break your thoughts down and bring these goals into your life by getting them into your routine. There are lots of things to reflect on and plan for which I love. I decided to work through this booklet over a few days to keep my head fresh and have time to really think. I haven't completed the Biz booklet yet but I have an aim to work through this by the end of January. On finishing the Life Edition I felt really excited about what the year will hold.

This year I found a new resource from another one of my favourite blogs Do What You Love. The booklet is called New Year's Revolution and you can download it for free as a PDF document and print it out or type into it. There is a closed Facebook community too so you can have encouragement all year. The kit is divided into getting to know yourself, looking back on 2013 and then planning your perfect year in a section called retrospective visioning looking at the big picture and step by step. There is a calender included too to help you work your steps into a diary. I have completed everything up until the February calender so far with this kit. I enjoyed thinking about various things and reviewing my plans in a different way.
What I loved about all three of these downloadable workbooks was the process on reflecting on things I wouldn’t have normally have done. The journey you go through completing these workbooks encourages you to think about both positive and negative experiences that were part of the year past that enables you to and plan for the year ahead. Each of the booklets approaches this process in their own way and has a different feel about it. There are some similarities in the booklets but each of them approach reviewing and reflecting using different questions to help you reflect. Completing these booklets felt like having Leonie, Beth and Susannah sitting on my shoulder coaching me through the powerful reflections many of us need to do and appreciate at this time of year.

For me taking on and doing this for two years in a row has been so therapeutic. Having seen the plans and changes I made last year start to really unfold during 2013 was really positive. However tough feels to look back during January, a time of the year when all you want to do think about the future, the letting go and saying goodbye to the past year enables you to process thoughts and to successfully step forward. Working through the booklets I’ve learnt more about myself, about who I am, what makes me tick, and what makes me fold when times are tough. They have enabled me to explore different ways of reflecting and thinking.

The process of reflection cannot be rushed, I find taking time before the end of the year to start the reflecting process tends to anchor my thoughts and I spend January clarifying my hopes and dreams and plans for the year ahead. I took time to complete these booklets, it wasn’t a race to get them completed. If I wasn't in the mood to pick them up and write, I would skip bits and come back to them. If I found myself tired I wouldn’t push myself to think through the questions, I'd put it away and look at it another day. I didn’t want to miss the questions that required more thought as the outcome would have a powerful impact on how I approach the year ahead. I had space from the booklets for a few days after completing them and went back and reviewed things, adding new thoughts as I processed them. I will keep reviewing these booklets during the year and have added the printouts I have to a ring binder with a pretty cover so it is a pleasure to use it and go back.
Most of us experience a mixed year with highs and lows. For me 2013 had many very lovely moments, I grew, developed and started creating more of a life I loved and recorded it. However I’ve had some pretty huge and impactful down moments too… all of this can take time to process and work out. These booklets have all helped in their own way to process these feelings and experiences, and to help reflect on moments that haven't been the most positive. Doing this has enabled me to create the space to be positive, plan and look forwards for a fresh new year ahead.
I hope that by sharing these resources I have used, it may inspire you to download one, get a cup of tea, sit quietly and reflect. Combining these workbooks were a really powerful way for me to shape 2013. I am really looking forward to striving forward in 2014 with my plans and dreams.

Let me know how you get on and if you take a look at any of the workbooks.