Full Life Reflections

Striving for happiness, peace, and fulfillment in a chaotic world

The New Year and the new decade are now well under way! I like to start each year with a few posts that are focused on what I want to create for myself over the course of the upcoming twelve months. I started a bit early this time when I introduced my 2020 theme, “enough,” on the final day of 2019. Today, I’d like to share a helpful practice that I started last year but didn’t write about on the blog. I decided to share it this year because you might also want to give it a try, plus the accountability of writing about it on the blog may help me to be more successful.

Happiness writer and podcaster Gretchen Rubin and her sister/podcast cohost Elizabeth Craft come up with a series of goals each year, the number of which corresponds with the current year. Last year, it was “19 for 2019,” and this year, it’s “20 for 2020.” The goals can be big or small and can be related to any area of life: health, relationships, work, creativity, home, finances, etc. Some people have opted to incorporate the number 20 into the items on their lists, such as doing 20 things for themselves and 20 things for other people, doing 20 things that include the number 20, or working on a challenging item for 20 minutes per day.

20 for 2020 list

I created a list of 20 goals that I would like to accomplish this year. 

You can see Gretchen’s and Elizabeth’s lists, as well as some additional suggestions for creating your own list, on the show notes page for their January 8th podcast, when their “20 for 2020” lists were revealed. For the first time since starting this yearly exercise, Gretchen opted to divide her list into categories, while Elizabeth simply listed out her items in no particular order. If you want to find out why they chose the items on their lists, I recommend that you listen to the podcast (episode #255, around 49 minutes long).

My 20 for 2020 List

Below, I share my “20 for 2020” list, which is also divided into categories. It wasn’t easy for me to make my item selections, but I started out by listing various areas of my life and brainstorming for about 45 minutes about what I’d like to accomplish in each area. Then I put my list aside for a few days before coming back to it with fresh eyes. This allowed me to more intuitively make my selections, knowing that I can also revisit some items as the year progresses. That’s what I did last year, but when it was all said and done, I completed 15 of my 19 items. Being the perfectionist that I am, I wanted to complete all 19, but I’m satisfied with what I was able to get done and I know that it’s more than I would have done had I not created my “19 for 2019” list. There is definitely power in writing down our goals.

Wardrobe

  1. Sell designated items on eBay or similar.
  2. Pare down out & about wardrobe to 118-137 items (see the second half of this post for more information on how I came up with those numbers).
  3. Complete two wardrobe/style-related workbooks (TBD – I have several from which to choose, including The Curated Closet Workbook, Love Your Wardrobe, and Style Manifesto).
  4. Be comfortable physically and emotionally in all of my clothes.
  5. Stick to my clothing budget and out & about item limit (36).

Most of the above items are either self-explanatory or have been written about in previous blog posts. I basically want to get rid of some pricey items that I shouldn’t have purchased last year, so I’m going to try my luck at selling them online. I also want to honor my commitment to pare down my wardrobe to half its size, as I still have too many clothes for my current lifestyle. Completing the two wardrobe/style workbooks will help me to better hone my style and cultivate a smaller but more workable wardrobe (I’m sure I will write about some of the exercises in these workbooks).

My overarching goal for my wardrobe is that I feel both physically and emotionally comfortable in everything I wear. Basically, I want to put on my clothes and then forget about them, as my clothes should be in service of my life rather than something to fuss about and feel that I need to create occasions for wearing. Since I’m working to pare down my out and about wardrobe, I want to drastically limit how many new pieces I bring in in that category. I’m not going to limit other types of purchases (at-home and workout items, undergarments, sleepwear, accessories, etc.), but I do want to adhere to my clothing budget, which is something that I didn’t do in either 2018 or 2019.

Writing/Creativity

  1. 30+ blog posts.
  2. Re-read all Full Life Reflection blog posts from 2018 and 2019.
  3. New writing/creative project (book, blog, course, etc.).

I want to write more this year, both on the blog and in other respects. I’m proud to have published two books previously, but as that was over five years ago, I would like to release a new book or another type of writing project this year. I also want to re-read the posts that I published on this blog the past two years, as I know there is wisdom therein that I would like to remember and apply. It’s likely that I will end up revisiting some of those previous topics in new posts this year as well.

Personal Growth

  1. Read/listen to 20+ books.
  2. Complete The Mindful Self-Compassion Workbook.
  3. 2019 Year in Review exercise (the link is for 2017, but I have been modifying the years accordingly for this useful exercise).

I would like to read more, as I have a backlog of books that I want to finally get to. I sometimes enjoy listening to audio books, so I’m including that option as part of my goal #9. I’m part of a book club that meets about every six weeks, but most of those books are fiction and I want to make sure to read a number of non-fiction books (my usual preference) this year, too.

I purchased the self-compassion workbook last month, as I completed a quiz that someone posted in a comment and received a very low score. Of course, it’s no secret that I’m extremely hard on myself, but that isn’t helping my life to work better or me to be more successful. In fact, I think it’s making my life – and my health – a lot worse, so I would like to learn to be kinder toward myself. The workbook includes exercises and meditations that I look forward to experiencing this year.

I plan to complete the 2019 year in review exercise shortly. I have done this exercise the past couple of years and have found it helpful. We often think more about what went wrong in a given year than what went right, but this exercise assists us in considering what worked well and celebrating our wins. It also helps us to get excited about the year to come and to look at what we want our lives to look like. 

Relationships

  1. Memory book for my mother-in-law (like this type of book).
  2. Find/cultivate a local community of like-minded people.
  3. Improve relationships with my family.

It has been almost six months since my mother-in-law passed away. I plan to reflect upon her life and death in a post shortly, but I also want to create a memory book for the family this year. It will be quite an undertaking because there are many photos to be scanned and a lot of memories to capture from an 86-year life. I have done memory books for cats that have passed, but this will be the first one I’m creating for a person. I hope to do the memory of this extraordinary woman justice.

While I appreciate and cherish my online connections, including with the regular commenters on this blog, I need more in-person interactions. In order to cultivate a community, I will need to put myself out there more, which is scary for someone as introverted as I am. However, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I will likely start with visiting a few Meetup groups, but I may also opt to get involved with other types of organizations (I’m open to suggestions).

I have been lamenting the lack of relationships with most of my family members lately, so this is something I would like to improve this year. I wrote about this back in March 2018, but I still haven’t made much headway in turning things around. My parents are now in their mid-seventies, which is still relatively young, but they’re both slowing down quite a bit. I know they won’t be around forever, and my mother-in-law’s passing underscored that point. I also have two siblings who I speak to only rarely, so I’d like to change that, too, as well as interact more often with other family members (niece, nephew, in-laws, etc.).

Fun/Travel

  1. Watch 50+ movies.
  2. Visit Santa Fe.
  3. Daytime outing once a week M-F (alone or with someone else) & monthly day trip with my husband.

I’m a huge movie buff and watching movies makes me happy. I used to go to a movie every week back in the nineties, but now it’s more like twice a month and sometimes not even that. I want to increase how often I watch movies this year, both in a theater and at home. I’d also like to visit Santa Fe, which is a place I’ve been curious about for a long time. I see it being a long weekend trip sometime in the summer or fall, and I’d like to also see Taos since it’s not too far away.

I want to get out more during the week during the daylight hours to do something fun (i.e. not just running errands) and take more frequent day trips with my husband on the weekends. The latter is a repeat of one of my “19 for 2019” goals. My husband and I did take a number of day trips last year and it’s amazing how long and memorable those days seemed (it’s all about novelty!). We’ll have to get creative about where to go and what to do, but I wouldn’t mind repeating a few of the things we did last year.

Other

  1. Just one thing” approach M-F before noon.
  2. Try 25+ new recipes (2+ per month).
  3. Solve the cooling and heating issues in our home.

These last three items didn’t fit into any other category, so I’m listing them here. It has made a big difference for me to concentrate on one key task each day, but I’d like to “up the ante” by making sure I do my “one thing” earlier in the day. I also want to try more new recipes this year to cut down on the monotony I often feel related to food and eating. I have quite a few cookbooks and have also bookmarked a number of recipes online that I’m interested in trying.

I mentioned in my “enough” post that I want to cut down on home improvement projects this year, but I do want to make sure that the temperature is more comfortable in our house. It gets extremely hot inside during the summer months and it’s often too cold this time of year. So our one big home improvement project for 2020 will be to focus on improving both heating and cooling. I think this is going to happen relatively soon, which is great, as our first two summers here were brutal at times (and fans only help so much).

Conclusion & Your Thoughts

In addition to the 20 items listed above, I also have some “secret” items that I’ve decided to take on but don’t want to share on the Internet (Gretchen Rubin has the same sort of secret list – she calls it her  “shadow list,” which is where I got the idea). It’s possible that I may write about one or more of these items at some point, but I don’t wish to share them at this time. Even so, I will have plenty to work on – and write about – with the 20 items included in this post.

I feel happy with my list and believe that it incorporates many aspects of my life. I plan to review my list at least monthly and modify it if and when I feel it’s necessary. I didn’t make too many changes to my 2019 list, but I did opt to shift a few things later in the year (i.e. I changed my target number of blog posts from 25 to 22).  Reviewing my list regularly will help me to keep things top of mind and space the items out throughout the year. I don’t want to feel “behind the 8-ball” in the last few months of the year, but I will course-correct if I need to.

Now I’d love to hear from you:

  • Have any of you created a “20 for 2020” list or something similar?
  • Do you set New Year’s Resolutions or goals for yourself? Why or why not?
  • What would you most like to accomplish this year?

Please feel free to either answer the questions above or chime in on anything you’d like to share. I’ll be back soon with a couple of wardrobe-related posts, reflecting on my wardrobe in 2019 and how I’d like to see my style shift during 2020.

14 thoughts on “Why Not Try a “20 for 2020” List?

  1. Katrina says:

    Wow! Seeing everything written down on one list (or a set of lists) is overwhelming! I keep separate lists in separate places (physically and mentally) probably for that reason. There is also the risk that if I make a formal list it will feel like rules, and that will cause me to rebel. However, as you say, there is power in writing things down, and I always feel better when things are neatly organized.

    I hope you can get to your 20+ books and 50+ movies! Books are such a pleasure for me they are almost a bad habit. When I’m not working (like now) I will read most of the day and stay up late to read even more. Thankfully the library is pretty good at supplying me with 5 – 6 books per week.

    When you go to Santa Fe I look forward to reading your impressions (and seeing photos). I was there only once, about 18 years ago, and while the scenery and atmosphere were wonderful, the food was by far the most memorable part of the trip. Definitely plan to eat as many meals at as many different restaurants as you possibly can while there!

    As to a community of like-minded people, have you heard of Silent Book Club? It is essentially a place for people to meet and read quietly with a minimum of chit-chat. There’s no “required reading.” I joined my local chapter and will go to the February meetup to see what it’s like. You might have seen the NPR or sfgate articles:

    https://www.sfgate.com/sf-culture/article/Silent-Book-Club-women-reading-bar-San-Francisco-14954269.php
    https://www.npr.org/2019/08/12/740897970/a-novel-concept-silent-book-clubs-offer-introverts-a-space-to-socialize

    I expect due to the publicity all the SBC chapters are currently bursting at the seams with new members, but once things settle down it seems like it would be a good place for introverts to say hello, implicitly acknowledge their introvertedness, discuss books briefly, and then sit in a social situation without being excessively uncomfortable.

    Finally, please say more about what you might do to solve the heating and cooling issues! (If you want to. 😃) My HVAC system is a nightmare! I have an older home and even though it has double paned glass, good insulation, and a reflective roof, the summer heat turns the house into an oven. I think the A/C unit is oversized because it sounds like a jumbo jet taking off everytime it turns on, yet it underperforms in terms of cooling. Awful!

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Yeah, Katrina, it kind of DOES seem overwhelming to see all 20 items in one list, but I also like that it’s all together and that I broke it down into categories. I’m just going to do my best and course-correct later if necessary. It sounds like you read A LOT more books than I do! I used to read more books, but then I got more into reading articles, forums, and the like, so I’m trying to ease back into books because I find that type of reading ultimately more fulfilling. I actually had NOT heard of Silent Book Club, but it might be right down my alley. Maybe I will look into it later int he year when perhaps the hype about it has died down a bit. I will let you know what I think of Santa Fe and what we end up doing regarding the heating and cooling issue. I know it won’t be easy, but it would definitely be a big happiness – and comfort – boost, so that’s why I made it a priority. It sounds like you have worse challenges in that regard than we do here, as our insulation is sub-standard and we don’t have double-paned glass or a reflective roof. We don’t get huge temperature variations where I live on average, but when they happen, it can be quite miserable. Fingers crossed that we find a solution that doesn’t break the bank (and that it might be an option for you, too).

  2. Jenn says:

    My sister and I are regular listeners of the “Happier” podcast and often (very loosely) compare ourselves and each other to Gretchen and Liz. (I’m Gretchen, and she’s Liz.)

    My “18 for 2018” list was kept very simple. It was comprised of eighteen new recipes I wanted to try. Check.

    I didn’t create a list for 2019 and hadn’t planned to create one for 2020, but as usual, your post has inspired me, Debbie. And not surprisingly, your list includes some specific items that piqued my interest.

    Sadly, about three weeks ago, my “Liz” was diagnosed with Stage 3 Breast Cancer. She is otherwise fit, possesses a positive attitude, and is ready to fight this battle. I intend to support her all the way. But between treatments, phone calls, texts, and baked oatmeal casseroles, I’m having trouble maintaining focus.

    Before her diagnosis, I read “Getting Things Done” and am trying to incorporate some of what I learned into my days. Maybe I’ll add a “20 for 2020” list to my projects page.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      How cool that you are your sister are like Gretchen and Liz, Jenn! I’m more like Gretchen, too, but Liz seems like she would be a fun person to hang out with. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister’s breast cancer. It sounds like you’re a great support for her and she’s lucky to have you in her corner. I really hope that her treatments will be successful and she will be able to put it all behind her before too long. Wishing both of you strength and fortitude along the way.

      I love that you kept your “18 for 2018” list simple. Maybe you should adopt the same attitude for “20 for 2020” if you end up deciding to do it this year, especially given all that you have going on. Maybe you could focus it on fun things to enjoy with your sister and/or self-care activities to help during this difficult time. I haven’t read “Getting Things Done,” but I’ve heard about it and have wondered if I would find it helpful. As you know, I’m always looking to increase my productivity, but I’m also wanting to do LESS tracking and keep things simple and it can be hard to balance these two aims. Please let me know if you end up incorporating a “20 for 2020” list. I will be checking in about my list periodically throughout the year.

      1. Jenn says:

        Possibly the most helpful tip I gleaned from “Getting Things Done” was the idea of having a “Someday/Maybe” list. I have a nine-page, single-spaced list of books I think I’d like to read, sorted only by whether or not they are available at my local library. Every time I look at the list, I am overwhelmed. But my desire or rush to read those books varies significantly. In fact, probably more than half of them would fall under the “Someday/Maybe” category. So I’m currently going through the list to see which ones I want to read now and which I may want to read someday…maybe.

        1. Debbie Roes says:

          I love the idea of a “Someday/Maybe” list, Jenn. I’m doing something similar now with my to-do list and it’s helping me to feel less overwhelmed. I can see using such a list for books I want to read, too, as there always seems to be a lot of them! But if I’m honest with myself, many of them really do fall under the “Someday/Maybe” category, which is a big relief. Thanks for sharing this helpful tip from GTD.

  3. Juhli says:

    I think you have a nice mix of types of goals and activities for 2020. I have made a list too that is heavy on spending more time with others or connecting long distance and having more new experiences. My 20 for 2020 items are: buy no more than 20 items of clothing/accessories; buy no more than 20 (used) books but increase library use; buy no more than 20 home furnishings incl. kitchen items (preferably used). These 3 are all about reducing my environmental impact and curating my belongings.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Good to see you comment here, Juhli! I remember you from back in the Recovering Shopaholic days… Your list sounds great and I like how you incorporated the number “20” in a few places. Even better that you’re looking to reduce your environmental impact and curate your belongings. I often feel guilty for the ways that I have adversely impacted the environment with my overshopping over the years, so I’m hoping to do much better this year. We don’t need as much as we think we do… My mother-in-law was a frequent visitor to the local library and always had a stack of books checked out at any one time. I think a lot of us would do well to increase our library use. Best wishes to you with your admirable 2020 goals.

  4. Tara C says:

    20 sounds like a lot of goals, but if I think hard about it, I might have more than I realize.

    Like you, I want to improve family relationships, do more trips with my husband, read more books and get involved with a community. In addition, for my creative endeavor, I am re-learning to play the piano. I also want to spend more focused time with my dog.

    I’m still struggling with how to regulate all the time I waste online and developing a regular meditation practice. I think for the first time since retirement I’m actually going to have to start scheduling time slots for all these things if I want to accomplish everything on my list.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      Yeah, 20 goals IS a lot, Tara, and I also have those “shadow” goals, too. I doubt I will achieve ALL of them, but Gretchen Rubin and her sister didn’t, either, so I was in good company last year (and maybe this year, too). How great that you’re re-learning to play the piano. I wish you the best with that and your other aims. I know it’s all too easy to waste time online. You’re definitely not alone in that! As for scheduling, maybe start small with that and schedule just an hour or so per day to work on the items on your list. You can always up it later if it feels right. I’m finding the “just one thing” approach to be helpful and not overwhelming. I always want to do more (and I often do), but this approach pushes me to identify what’s most important on a given day and at least get that done. That is helping me to feel more accomplished, which is good.

  5. Maureen says:

    Ooh, that mindful self-compassion workbook sounds really helpful. Just ordered a copy for myself!

    I’ve also been loving the Just One Thing method.

    Regarding wardrobe, I’ve found a lot of peace by deciding to wear a black t-shirt and jeans almost every day (I have four identical black t-shirts). It might sound boring, but actually it’s really relaxing to not have to think about what to wear.

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      How great that you ordered the workbook, Maureen! I hope you’ll find it helpful and I hope you share your thoughts about it down the line. I’m glad that you’re love the “just one thing” approach, too. It has made a big difference for me. Regarding your new wardrobe approach, I actually get it. There’s something to be said for a “boring” and minimalist wardrobe. I have been wearing more of my black pieces lately and I have also felt more peaceful. I feel guilty about not wearing a lot of the other stuff, but feeling peaceful is more important than wearing everything in our closets.

  6. Sally says:

    Hi Debbie

    Happy New Year, I see that you are raring to go.

    I am exhausted just reading your “20 for 20” list. If you add up all the sub-tasks you have set yourself within your 20 list, you have given yourself 260 things to do in 2020:

    Wardrobe = 6 (4+ 2 wardrobe workbooks)
    Writing = 87 (write 30 blog posts, reread 56 posts from 2018/19 +1)
    Growth=22 (read 20 books +2)
    Relationships=3
    Fun=115 (50 movies + 52 daytime outings + 12 day trips with husband +1) Other=27 (25 recipes +2)

    I wish you every success in achieving all these things, but please don’t beat yourself up if you don’t, as this is a humongous amount for anyone to achieve in a year and please know that whatever you achieve, it is enough.

    I am taking a different approach, in line with my word for the year of self compassion.
    As I don’t know what to do with my life now that I am not working, I found this article which has been helpful to me:

    https://www.thinklessandgrowrich.com/i-dont-know-what-to-do-with-my-life/

    Here are the key points:

    “5 Things To Do When You Don’t Know What To Do With Your Life:
     
    1. Know It’s OK Not To Know:

    When you are unsure where life is heading, embrace the uncertainty. Don’t create additional layers of stress by beating yourself up for not knowing. Consider the kind of person you want to BE and make that your focus instead. This you can always do— whatever work or activities you’re engaged in. Who you are is more important than what you do.

    2. Divide You Life Into Bite-Sized Chunks

    Instead of wondering what to do with your whole life, focus on the next small step. Do what makes you happy now, focus on the small stuff and the big stuff will reveal itself—when it’s time

    3. Drop What You Are No Longer Able To Accept

    If you don’t know what you want to do next in your life, maybe you could focus on dropping some things from your current situation that no longer serve you, that drain your energy and leave you feeling contracted and disconnected.

    4. Live Life Moment By Moment

    Life is a great mystery. If the next step is unclear, don’t worry about it. Enjoy the moment. Learn to engage fully with whatever is right in front of you, this very moment. Life is a sequence of moments. And you can live them one at a time.

    5. Be Like A Kitten— Let Life Carry You 

    There are two ways to live your life—like the baby monkey that clings tightly to its mother, relying entirely on its own strength as it hangs on for dear life. Or like the kitten, that is relaxed and trusts the mother will look after all its needs as it is gently carried around from place to place.

    Most us live like the baby monkey. We rely entirely on ourselves, trying to figure everything and believing that it’s through our own efforts and hard work alone that we get by in life. 

    Focus on being present, living in the moment and being the most loving, most caring version of yourself that you can be and life tends to take care of where you end up and what you end up doing.

    If you choose to go it alone, LIFE will take a back seat and let you get on with it.
    If you invite Life in to carry you around like the kitten, it will.”

    I wish you every success and happiness for 2020.

    Love Sally

    1. Debbie Roes says:

      I appreciate your always sharing such useful information, Sally. I like the “5 Things to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do With Your Life,” as I am in a very similar situation to you. I have had trouble embracing the uncertainty, as I have been in that place for a long time, including having some big “false alarms” of things I thought I wanted to do but didn’t pan out. But I like the idea of considering the type of person I want to be, as that is actually more important than any actions I might take or work I might do. I definitely do the “bite-sized chunks” approach and that has helped a lot, and I’m better at living in the moment than I used to be. I think age and realizing my mortality has helped with that. Point #3 is especially relevant to me at the moment, as I’m trying to simplify my life more and more to what is truly serving me. That’s part of my “enough” theme.

      I definitely live my life more like the baby monkey, as I’m notoriously bad at asking others for help or support (with the exception of my husband). I know I need to reach out and be less of a loner, but that’s really hard for me. Since I’m such a big cat lover, I like the idea of living more like a kitten and will try to keep that concept in mind.

      As for my 20 for 2020 list, I’m looking at it differently than what you described. I would never think to add up the numbers as you did and that definitely makes me feel overwhelmed! I don’t look at reading the books, watching to movies, trying the recipes, or doing the fun outings as “shoulds” or a burden. In fact, it’s more like giving myself “permission” to do more fun things rather than spending so much time and energy on getting things done. I also want to give myself the permission to re-read my blog posts, as this is something I’ve wanted to do but never seem to get around to. I think that will help me to celebrate the accomplishment of my writing and to further absorb previous insights I have (and from the comments others have made).

      Yes, there are a few things on my list that are more like “shoulds” and that’s okay. I like the idea of “stretching” myself in some ways. Also, I plan to review my list at least quarterly and made adjustments as necessary. I’m not “wedded” to completing everything on the list and I won’t beat myself up if I don’t do it all. This is a shift I have made because I’m focusing more now on trying to enjoy my life. As I look at my list, I think I will enjoy doing most of the things, even if they are time-consuming. I’m okay with re-adjusting because I know I have a tendency to over-plan (a lifelong way of being that I haven’t been able to change). I appreciate your concern for me and I love your approach and your word for 2020. Self-compassion very well may be my focus next year, but it will still come into play this year, too, with my doing the workbook. Best wishes to you!

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