Why you should create your 21 for 2021

“Trying new things and breaking out of your routine is a great way to improve your satisfaction with life.”

– Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps

Since January 2019, I have been making a list of things I could do to bring more joy and greater satisfaction to my life each year. I hope this year in review will inspire you to plan your highlights for 2021. This activity is fun and overall less goal-oriented than the Annual Review and planning. Like me, you can always do both since each process has its own benefits.

I recommend ordering your list so that one-time items are at the top and recurring activities are at the bottom (as I did in 2019). Since some of these items are easier to complete, you get the satisfaction of marking them done sooner. It felt like an accomplishment last year to immediately check off the purchase of a bag for my yoga mat and using natural tooth whitening strips for the first time.

By spring, however, it became unclear how many more items I would be able to complete during a pandemic. I had added “Get my first colonoscopy and complete all recommended preventative care/screenings” not as a highlight but to share for accountability. Ultimately, I decided a mammogram was the only screening I felt comfortable getting in 2020. This has been the year where each of us must evaluate the risks versus benefits of our plans.

I was motivated to reorganize the basement to create more space for exercise during the colder months. I also knocked my reading goals out of the park. But vacationing in a new city was not something I was ready to do during COVID. I also had to let go of biking to my office and coworking space because I wasn’t comfortable being indoors with people outside of my household.

Continuing yoga on a weekly basis was a repeat I was looking forward to. When my gym closed, I started a month-long daily yoga challenge in April. I enjoyed this so much that I changed my yoga plan to three days per week. While I didn’t return to the group outdoor yoga class, I enjoyed being able to do my own yoga practice in my backyard. Shout out to Yoga with Adriene for facilitating my at-home yoga practice by offering thousands of free videos!

My goal of meeting 20 new business contact for coffee quickly converted to Zoom or phone calls. By the end of the year, I had met with more than 50 people. As an extrovert, this helped satisfy my desire to converse with new people as well as expand my network. I was off to a good start with my live event goals with over 100 RSVP’s for Productivity with Heart in February. After a March event at Fueled Collective, it wasn’t until July that I transitioned to events online. I was eventually able to facilitate over a dozen virtual workshops including three events for Twin Cities Startup Week, my first 6-week course, and multiple collaborations. I am especially proud of myself for creating the modules for my Productivity Through Presence online course without a single call for technical support!

My intention to regularly meet with friends became less spontaneous and more organized. As I share in my workshops, if something is a priority for your time, then it should be on your calendar. I started scheduling monthly recurring phone calls with my friends in New York and weekly socially distanced walks with my local friends. Having these times on the calendar meant we not only followed through, but we also had these touchpoints that we could count on and look forward to during times when so much else felt uncertain.

For 2021, I am keeping the categories of one-time, ongoing, and upping my game. For January through June, I am adding a monthly challenge. I’ve left out ambitious travel goals and changed from visiting new museums to visiting new parks. And, if there is one thing we have learned from 2020, it’s that life can be unpredictable. My list this year will only include 19 items leaving space for two new items that may develop once my family and I have all been vaccinated. Some have also shared that creating a longer list each year is daunting and this year 11 for 2021 might feel more doable.

What items are on your 21 for 2021? This year I’m sharing my list on the Optima Results Coaching Facebook Page and I invite you to join the conversation!

Thanks to @GretchenRubin for this activity to help our year become “happier, healthier, and more productive.” You can listen to her podcast episodes #304 and #307 and on the subject.

Photo by Ibrahim Boran on Unsplash


Why you should create your 20 for 2020

“Trying new things and breaking out of your routine is a great way to improve your satisfaction with life.”

– Dr. Leslie Becker-Phelps

One year ago, I made a list of things I could do to bring more joy and greater satisfaction to my life. You can find my 19 for 2019 here. I hope this year in review will inspire you to plan for 2020.

My list was ordered so that one-time items were at then top and recurring activities were at the bottom. By then end of 2019, I completed 11 items on my list. It was fun to cross off one-time items like a new professional bag, taking a class with my daughter and vacationing in a new city.

It was surprisingly effortless to meet with friends and go to a new restaurant every month. So was the quarterly goal of visiting a museum or attending a live theater performance. Apparently I do a lot of these activities more often than I thought.

Likewise the quarterly goal of “reading one book for pleasure and one for professional development.” This year I listened to 10 Audible books (half were non-fiction/professional development), read 6 paperbacks and listened to a few dozen book summaries on the Blinkist app.

In addition, I read one young adult novel aloud with my 12-year old daughter and we listened to 10 audiobooks together in the car. This has been a great way to pass the time together and spark conversations. As much as I enjoyed reading as a child, I hadn’t considered myself an avid reader as an adult. It turns out, one of the greatest happiness boosters this year was dedicating at least 15 minutes to pleasure reading each night. It’s amazing how much more consistent I am with an early bedtime when I have a captivating book to look forward to.

However, some items were just not in the cards. The timing didn’t work out for a family meditation retreat in California, although we did start going to our local meditation group more consistently.

A knee injury kept me from training for an indoor triathlon (or running at all) and I had to “retire” from martial arts. But I did meet my goals of weekly yoga and biking to the office in warmer weather.

As a substitute for the activities I gave up, I joined a water aerobics class. I enjoy the benefits of low impact cardio and interacting with my classmates. Since the class is at 6:30 am, these days I’m up a little earlier, complete my exercise and can be even more productive and positive throughout the day.

I fell short on reconciling my finances weekly but did change to a more user-friendly accounting system. The goal of filing paperwork more consistently was also not met. I’ve decided not even bother adding this back to my 20 for 2020.

I learned that I underestimated how much I was already doing activities that make me happy. The novelty of pushing myself to go to visit new places added another layer of satisfaction.

For 2020, almost half of my list will carry over either because I didn’t complete the items or I enjoyed them so much I want to ensure I complete them again. Maybe this year I will clear the happiness stumbling block of decluttering my basement or the fun goal of taking a girls trip. Or perhaps add the arduous challenge of giving my website a makeover? Maybe this last one should go on my Annual Review which takes a deeper dive into business planning.

What are a few items you plan to add to your 20 for 2020? This year I’ve decided to share my list with the Creating Time group and I invite you to join the conversation!

Thanks to @GretchenRubin for this activity to help our year become “happier, healthier, more productive, or more creative.” You can listen to her podcast episodes #250 and #255 on the subject.

Photo credit: Matthew Sleeper on Unsplash




Create Your 19 for 2019!

Create Your 19 for 2019!

This activity is fun, and easier than the Annual Review for goal planning. I made a list of all the things I could do to bring more joy and greater satisfaction to my life. I then ordered the list so that one-time items were at then top. Since some of these items are easier to complete, I will have the satisfaction of marking them done sooner. Here’s my 19 for 2019:


  • Family meditation retreat in MN or CA
  • New professional bag
  • Complete an indoor triathlon
  • Organize basement
  • Donate Maya’s old toys
  • Take a class with Maya
  • Redecorate home office
  • KonMari my clothes or get rid of one clothing item for every new item
  • Take a girls trip
  • Vacation in a new city


  • Automate finances and reconcile weekly/monthly with Mint
  • Simplify filing and file weekly
  • Get another yoga mat and do yoga weekly
  • Bike to office April-October weekly when temps above 40F
  • Meet with at least 1 friend each month
  • Go to a new restaurant or venue every month
  • Quarterly museum or live theater visit
  • Read 1 book for pleasure 1 for development each quarter
  • Give 4 coaching talks

For some of these I did not set the bar very high because I really want this entire list to be achievable. My theme for the year is “Embrace” so there is an emphasis on relationships, enjoyable activities and simplifying.

I want to give credit to Gretchen Rubin for the idea of the “19 for 2019.” You can hear more about it on her Happier Podcast – Episode #203.

I’m wishing you a wonderful and satisfying 2019. Get in touch with me if you’d like some strategizing and accountability along the way!

Better than any resolution

If you’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past and had trouble lasting through the first month or even first week, it’s time to try something new.

The top reasons why so many people fail to achieve their New Year’s resolutions are:
1) they don’t have a clear plan of action
2) they don’t assess their progress

When a colleague introduced me to the Annual Review almost a decade ago, it immediately made sense to me. Chris Guillebeau, entrepreneur and author of The Art of Non-Conformity, addresses these challenges in his Annual Review. While it sounds like a retrospective of what you’ve accomplished this year, this resource facilitates planning for success with clear and actionable steps.

A summary of the steps to complete your Annual Review:
1) Make a list of what went well and what did not go well
2) Choose categories to focus your plans on such as Business, Friends/Family, Health and Service
3) Identify “Actions Required for Each Goal”
4) Plan for monthly and quarterly assessments of your progress and add them to your calendar
5) Optional: Choose a theme for year
7) Optional: Metrics you want to track such as Income, Charitable Giving, Number of books read, Number of new cities visited etc.

For a spreadsheet and more details on how to make use of this framework, read Guillebeau’s original post:

If this sounds like a lot of work, it is! I am setting aside a few blocks of time to complete this process in late December. This is an investment of time that will provide great returns by helping you more successfully complete your personal and professional goals. Having an accountability partner can help. Reach out to someone in your inner circle and invite them to complete their own Annual Review.

If you’d like support in completing your first Annual Review, message me on the Optima Results Coaching Facebook page!