Happy (long weekend) Friday, beautiful people — and happy September, too! September is my birthday month (woo!), and it also kicks off an especially magical time in this city of mine. It’s cliché, I know, but there’s really nothing like fall in New York City. I already feel things shifting as my fellow New Yorkers wind down their summer travels and start reconnecting with their favorite friends and neighborhood spots. The city will probably empty out for the long weekend (which means we can go to great restaurants without having to wait for seats!), and then everyone will settle in to wait for the leaves to change and the pumpkin spice-flavored everything to become available.

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As I always do at the end of the month, I sat down yesterday with my Passion Planner (and my friend’s pup Sherman, who spent the day at my apartment instead of doggie day care) to recap August and make a list of goals for September.

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One of my favorite things about these calendar pages is the spot where you can fill in a more general personal and work focus for the month. In September, I’m prioritizing journaling on the personal side of things. For the last two weeks, before I even get out of bed, I’ve been setting a timer for ten minutes and using that time for writing in my journal. It’s never been easy for me to establish a regular journaling practice, but doing it every day before I do anything else has really helped me get into a rhythm with it, and I want to keep that up! I know meditation is supposed to be where it’s at, but I prefer this kind of mindfulness. It helps me keep my cool! I also snuck a little (27) in under my monthly personal focus, because I want to enjoy my birthday : ) Work-wise, my focus is simply new opportunities: pursuing them, embracing them, and rising to the occasion to do my best for them when I have the chance to do so.

Time to get more specific, though. Here’s how I did in August:

  • Create master list of story-worthy female professionals. I didn’t make this happen in August, but the good news is that there was no real deadline here. Since this master list is going to need to be updated on a rolling basis, anyway, I’m trying to grant myself a little extra grace. Moving it right over to the September list!
  • Brainstorm new blog content.√ YES! Stay tuned! There are lots of fun things to come as we approach year two (WHAT?) of Finding Plan A.  
  • Break into one new outlet.√ YES! I’m working on a really fun project for a new Web site. I’m excited to share it with you when it’s finished.
  • Finish first chapter of book.√ YES! Finished the first chapter and started the second.
  • Research writing classes and possible graduate programs. This task fell to the wayside this month, and instead of feeling guilty about it, I’m going to take it as a sign that this is probably not the right time for me to be applying to any kind of higher stakes graduate program. I’m going to shift my focus to writing classes that are slightly lower pressure so I can test out being a student again, and if I’m still itching to go back for a more structured grad program in a few months, I can pull my application together for next year’s deadline instead of this year’s.
  • Read three books.√ YES! Between a week at the beach and Matt’s study schedule, I really turned up my reading game this month. In August, I finished The Nix, Hunger, Lilac Girls, Startup: A Novel, and The Glass Castle. I would especially recommend Lilac Girls and The Glass Castle.
  • Higher quality “me” time. This is a tougher one to quantify, but I would say yes! I’ve definitely cut back on my binge watching time, and it’s made me a lot more creative and productive, while also giving me a chance to read and wind down in a more meaningful way.

Looking ahead to September, I’ve been taking a cue from the girls over at Cultivate What Matters (an awesome community of women focused on making meaningful things happen and supporting progress on each other’s goals) and thinking about the idea of margin. In the world of goal setting and planners, this idea of margin is all about knowing when it’s OK to leave yourself a little more physical white space as you organize your monthly outlook or to-do list. Creating this margin doesn’t mean that you’re not working toward a productive month or chasing big goals — it just means that you’re looking at a more focused set of items and being realistic about what’s achievable, which frees up your mental energy to actually achieve it, because you’re not worrying as much about whether or not you have enough time! I’m excited to see if playing with this margin helps me stay even more motivated next month. Here’s what I’m targeting for September:

  • Create master list of story worthy female professionals. Moving this from August!
  • Research “low stakes” writing classes. As I mentioned in my recap of last month, I’m going to shift my focus from full-on grad programs to online classes or local workshops.
  • Successfully complete project for new outlet. The story I’m working on for the new Web site is a pretty heavily reported piece, and I really want to impress this new editor!
  • Finish second chapter of book. Onward and upward!
  • Break into one new outlet. You know the drill, people. I have pitches in with a lot of new contacts and plan to keep up that momentum going forward.
  • Read four books. With Matt’s new study schedule (I wrote about that here), I have a lot more down time at night. I’m hoping to put it to work doing even more reading than usual.
  • Celebrate my one-year “anniversary” well. September 15 marks one year since I left my corporate job to start this journey. I’m planning to take the day off from work and really soak in all that these last 365 days has meant.

What are you hoping to achieve in September? Feel free to share in the comments!