Starting off 2011 with a fresh perspective, new goals

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

It’s been a while since my last post. For the month and a half leading up to Christmas, I felt as though life kept sprinting ahead of me and I couldn’t keep up. We had just redesigned the website I write for — Poynter.org — and we were short-staffed at the time. I needed to find a balance between reporting stories and overseeing the new How To section of the website. I’m excited to curate, edit and write stories for this section, and I enjoy being given additional responsibilities that will help me learn and grow as a journalist. But the additional responsibilities were unnerving at first.

Switching from the old site to the new one instilled a sense of loss in me and it disrupted my usual routine. Having lost my mother at age 11, any sort of loss always seems exaggerated and takes me a little while to get used to. I write about change all the time when covering the new ways that journalists are telling stories, so I realize its importance. But experiencing it is much more difficult than writing about it.

Luckily, I have a supportive boss who recognizes that transitions and changes in workloads can be difficult. We talked about the importance of having something constant in life when your professional or personal life gets chaotic.  Running is a constant in my life that helps me feel grounded. When I run in the morning before work, I get less antsy and feel better about myself throughout the day. I also find that running motivates me to go to bed earlier and eat better. When I get stressed, I tend to stay up late and then my eating gets thrown off, which in turn affects my mood.

Photo of the collage I made during the holidays.

Visual aids also help me. When everything else seems to be changing, I can look at these aids as a reminder that it’s possible to restore order amidst chaos. Handmade collages that feature photos of things that relax and motivate me are especially helpful. Having a break over the holidays gave me some time to make a collage, relax and do other things that I enjoy but can’t always make time for when I’m swamped — running, being with friends and family, browsing bookstores, reading for pleasure. And it reminded me that I need to make time for these things on a more regular basis. So, as part of my New Year’s resolution, I’ve put together a list of my goals for 2011, many of which are aimed at personal fulfillment. I always feel fulfilled when I’m accomplishing a goal at work, or when I’m taking time out to be good to myself. With that in mind, here are my goals:

1.) Do yoga once a week. I used to go to yoga on a pretty regular basis, but then I stopped. I figured I was getting a better cardio workout by running, and I didn’t want to spend money on yoga classes. I always felt so relaxed when I did yoga, though, so I want to make time for it, even if it means spending a few extra dollars.

2.) Find time every day to do something that makes me happy. I recently bought a ceramic plaque from Target that has a saying about making yourself happy. Spending time with my friends and boyfriend, blogging, painting my nails, listening to music, watching movies (and really watching them rather than doing five other things at the same time), all bring me joy.

3.) Acknowledge at least one work-related accomplishment that I’m proud of each week. By the end of the work week, I usually focus on what I haven’t done rather than looking back and recognizing what I have done. I realize, though, that it’s better to look at what you’ve accomplished along the way rather than only doing so after you’ve finished a long-term project. When you regularly recognize your accomplishments, you can keep better track of how you’ve improved and what you want to get better at.

4.) Run at least one half marathon. I wanted to run a marathon in 2011, but I have to see if I’ll have time to train for it. (I’d love to run the San Francisco women’s marathon in November.) At the very least, I’d like to run the Gasparilla half marathon next month or the women’s half marathon in St. Petersburg in November. I ran my first half last year — the Disney Princess Half — and felt such a great sense of accomplishment when I crossed the finish line.

5.) Cook more. Every year, I tell myself I want to start cooking more, but I always have difficulty following through. By the time I get home from work, I’m tired and don’t want to cook. I usually just throw together something quickly but rarely cook a hearty meal for myself. Having people to cook for helps, so I think the more I can embrace the communal spirit of cooking and eating, the better.

6.) Continue to be a Big Sister. Being a Big Sis has given me a chance to volunteer and be around kids again without taking up too much of my free time. I’m involved with the school-based Big Brothers Big Sisters program, which means I visit with my Little Sis at her school for an hour once a week. This is a little more manageable than trying to find time after work or on the weekends to get together.

7.) Be more decisive. I’m sometimes indecisive, in part because I don’t want to make a decision that would go against what someone else wants. (Can you tell I like to please people?) I’d like to get better at making decisions and then confidently following through with them.

There are a few words that I want to keep in mind as I venture off into 2011:

Gray: I have to remember that not everything has to be black or white. I want to start asking more questions like, “What are our options?” Maybe that story I’m working on, for instance, doesn’t have to be done tomorrow. Maybe there are other options that will give me more time to finish my story and tend to other work that needs to get done that day.

Balance: I need to strike more of this. We all do!

Moderation: As my grandma says, when it comes to eating, everything in moderation is OK.

Rest: I often underestimate the perks of a little R&R.

Fun: I got a Mary Engelbreit calendar for Christmas that says “Have! More! Fun!” on the cover. This is similar to the motto that my college friends and I shared — “Fun Before Work.” Though we almost always put schoolwork before fun, we looked at our motto as a reminder to have fun even when we were bogged down by finals, classes and extra curricular activities.

What are some of your resolutions and/or words for 2011?

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