As the New Year draws near, you might be wondering how to tackle some bigger goals — or changes — in the next 12 months.
The Denton Record-Chronicle asked some local folks (they might cringe if we called them experts) how they have cultivated everything from a tidy home to good financial habits.
1. Be more productive
Americans sometimes catch grief for wanting to do more, and to do more faster and better than before. Chances are, you're already busy.
So is there a secret to being productive? Is there a mantra you can chant to do more than cross tasks off of a list and actually cross a finish line?
Glen Farris, who works in sales and leasing for Verus Advisors, a local real estate company, doesn't have a clever app or technique to recommend. Instead, he looks back at his two careers — real estate and a musician with his share of recording and performing credits — and sees a pattern of thinking that runs along the lines of this: Believe in yourself. Mess up. Pick yourself up and get going again.
"Have an unshakable confidence in yourself and your vision to make a positive change in the world," Farris said.
Farris knows a thing or two about vision. He was one of the organizers of the 2013 Canned Festival in Denton, and he ran for city council. He didn't win a seat on the dais, but he's still in public service on the Downtown Denton Main Street Association. He's also the manager of the local website We Denton Do It, which posts articles, photos and occasional opinions on Denton arts, culture and politics.
Oh, and he recently started a weekly podcast, Politically Denton.
For Farris, getting results means pushing through any second-guessing and then cutting your losses.
"Really, just become fearless by making all the mistakes and being humble enough to learn from them. That's pretty affirming," he said.
2. Be more creative
Denton musician, prolific beatmaker and magician Ritchy Flo considers creativity one part appetite and one part practice.
Take the idea of motivation, for instance. A lot of people associate motivation with a feeling.
For Flo, motivation is inconsequential.
"Discipline yourself well so you don't have to rely on inspiration or motivation to be creative," said Flo, who recorded three albums as one-half of his former duo with Scott McBride in the hip-hop act XeGeSiS before releasing a solo album in 2015.
This year, Flo performed his first showcase as a magician. And when it comes to creativity, Flo advises showing up for yourself, just as you would for a team.
"Develop a creative routine," he said. "Most importantly, explore. Never be afraid to leave your comfort zone. In fact, always leave your comfort zone if you are trying to reach the full capacity of your creativity."
Oh, and you should be ready to violate one or two personal dogmas.
"Remember, you don't have to color in the lines. There are no lines. Just like there are no rules or boxes to really think out side of," Flo said.
And now for the hard part: consistency. If you were planning to run a marathon in 2018, you'd lace up your running shoes almost daily. And if you were planning to build a bookcase, you'd read up on tools you need for the job and then practice them.
"Most importantly, create often," Flo said. "Understand your tools and get to creating something new. Never feel like a slave to any medium. Create anything."
3. Get out of debt (or get closer to it)
January seems like the perfect time to re-evaluate your finances — often because holiday spending strains an awful lot of bank accounts. Pat Sherman is the vice president of community relations at Denton Area Teachers Credit Union, and she said there's a tried-and-true way to pay off your debt —or get a lot closer to it.
"Make 2018 the year to intentionally create and stick to a spending plan by tracking all the money you have coming in and exactly where and how much is spent," Sherman said. "Paying close attention and adjusting when needed will be the key to spending less than you make so that you can pay off debt and save for the future."
You can keep it simple, using a simple, free monthly budget template from Google (if you have a Gmail account, search Google Sheets in the Google Drive application.) Or you can consider personal finance software that can consolidate your bank accounts and your bills in one place.
Another tactic is to watch for Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, a nine-week group workshop (hosted almost year-round by different local churches) that teaches you how to budget as a family, pay down debt and have emergency savings. If you're the lone wolf type, you can take the course on your own using the downloadable videos, online tools and physical workbooks.
Yes, Ramsey is a multi-millionaire financial expert with a radio show, but he's been from bust to boom and knows what it's like to have collections agents calling you at work.
4. Develop a spiritual practice
The New Year prods many of us to evaluate our physical and financial health. But what about spiritual health? Could you stand to have more peace and quiet? Do you crave to be less reactive?
John Beckett, a Druid, a member of the Denton Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, and author of The Path of Paganism: An Experience-Based Guide to Modern Pagan Practice, said it's possible to craft a rich spiritual discipline in the coming year. Spoiler: It will take work.
"It is not the turning of the calendar that makes January a good time to begin a spiritual practice, but rather the end of the busyness of the holiday season," Beckett said. "As joyous as the Solstice and other winter holidays can be, they're also stressful. Now that they're over, we can slow down and turn our thoughts inward."
Here are four steps to beginning a spiritual practice.
Make a choice. When it comes to religion and spirituality, the only thing we can be certain about is that there is no such thing as certainty. All paths are not all the same: different traditions have different beliefs, practices, and ideas about the core questions that religion and spirituality should address.
What does your heart tell you is true? What does your brain tell you is true? What whispers that 'there's more to life?' Make a choice and commit to exploring it. You can change later if it doesn't work for you, but for now give it your full commitment. Make your practice narrow and deep rather than broad and shallow.
Build a cultural and intellectual foundation for your practice. Read the stories of our ancestors: the classics of Greece and Rome, the Norse Edda, the Welsh Mabinogi, and the stories of indigenous people around the world. Read the great works of philosophy and the wisdom and experience of contemporary practitioners.
You can't read them all at once — pick one and get started.
Begin a devotional practice. Who calls to you? A particular Goddess or God? Your ancestors? Nature itself? Speak to them in prayer and listen for them in meditation. Build a shrine. Make offerings. Learn their virtues and values, and then embody them as best you can.
Pick one or two things to get started, then add others as you go.
Be consistent. Start small — do the easy stuff first, whatever is easy for you. You'll get into the habit of practicing every day, and that will make it easier to keep it up when you add practices that are harder and less fun, but still necessary.
5. Tidy up your house
Last May, Denton homeowner and professional storyteller Shelly Tucker wrote an article in the Denton Record-Chronicle about her two years of clutter-busting.
Tucker — who hardly espouses the austere-but-trendy minimalism that has caught on (at least in theory) — found a way to display her favorite things, keep the items she needs at the ready and a make sure that she doesn't get buried in stuff again.
Her article details her process for big de-cluttering jobs.
Here are her daily practices to keep clutter at bay:
Don't put things down. Put them up. You've finished reading the newspaper? Don't put it down on the coffee table — "put it up" in the recycle bin. Don't take off your coat and throw it on a chair. Hang it up. It takes only seconds longer to hang an item in the closet. And finish the dishes.
If you train yourself to put things away as you finish with them, your decluttering will be drastically reduced.
Rule of 10: Either pick up 10 things and put them away or spend 10 minutes on a task that you've broken down into parts.
End the day with a little housekeeping. Spend 10 to 20 minutes putting away anything you used that day (and didn't already "put up"). When you wake up in the morning, you won't have to finish the dishes, fold laundry or file paid bills.