Tuesday 29 December 2020

End of Year Reflection and Goal Setting 2020-2021

I usually spend some time at the end of the year undertaking some kind of planning process. Some years this has been about setting a few clear goals, other years this has involved a detailed process of planning goals and actions for thee coming year. This year I decided to take it slowly and allocate one week to reflecting back on the year and one week to do some planning for the year ahead.


I have found that there is real power in taking time to think about worked and didn’t work and then articulating what it is you want going forward. I have often looked back at previous years plans and been surprised at the things that have been achieved even when they felt unrealistic or out of reach.


Over the years one of the things that as shifted in my planning process is that I have dropped many things that I think I should achieve and become more honest with myself about the things that I genuinely want - a more heart-centred approach that has me feeling more inspired and motivated.


This year, although I gave myself two weeks, in reality it was a few hours dotted here and there over the fortnight. For me the magic happens in the late hours at the end of the day. Once the kids are in bed and I have had a chance to rest and clear my head a little, I can start to think about things sensibly, or maybe daydream a little. For others the best time will be first thing in the morning before the day gets busy.


I break the process down into some key areas of my life to provide focus:


Family and relationships (including parenting and marriage)







Travel, Fun and Creative


These are the categories that make sense for me, but you may wish to include others or have a smaller number. For instance "home" may not be something included in the past, but with lockdowns and working from home, the way we feel about the spaces we live in and how they support us to function may be much more at the front of our minds in the coming year.


For each area I spent a little time thinking about what went well, what didn’t in the last year. I used my mini journal (about A6) and gave each theme a page each. This was enough to get some thoughts down and didn’t feel too daunting or like too much work, but in hindsight, it is worth spending more time and giving this process more space to really get to the heart of where you feel you are with each area. This gives you a really good understanding of the situation and creates a better foundation for deciding what you want to do next.


Once I had finished with looking back at 2020, I set aside a page for each theme going forward, using the following format:

The Big Goal - your priority for this area in the coming year, this should be what really matters and what you want the most.

Example: Faith - improve concentration and devotion in Sabah (prayer)

Habits - list the daily habits in this area, especially the ones that will help you achieve your goal.

Example: Faith - pray on time, make effort to pray your nawafil (non obligatory) prayers.

Goals - list your other goals for this area that you would like to work towards

Example: Faith - undertake Umrah (pilgrimage) this year, learn Quran in Arabic)

Long Term - Outline here briefly what the big picture is, where you want to be in 20 years, by the end of your life, or in the next life. This will help you make sure your goals are always aligned with your long term vision.

Example: Faith - Jannah, good death, closeness to Allah (SWT).


I’ve worked through this process and come to the end feeling inspired and motivated. I liked the simplicity of one main goal, giving you a sense of focus - the rest are a bonus. I like also that you can defer or let go of some things and clear your head of them. I have often felt down or aimless in the last year. Sometimes being busy doing stuff is not the same as being focussed and doing the right stuff. I intend to work less hours and less intensely this year

to bring some balance back into my life and hopefully having one goal or area for improvement for each area of my life will help me with this.


One of the things I have committed to is to write in my mini journal every day, whether a chance to create some mixed media art, reflect on my day and capture learning or record something I find inspiring. This means I will have to hand the goal pages and I can look back every day and ask myself if I am working towards the right things in the right balance insh’Allah.


Do you have a process to reflect on your year? Do you set goals, what do you find helps you to internalise and achieve your goals?

Sunday 27 December 2020

Live Online Shopping

I had fun today online shopping, but not how you think. My husband is in Pakistan at the moment spending time with his parents and is due to fly back next week. I spent the whole day with hubby sending me pictures of clothes from different shopping centres in Lahore and asking me if I like anything.

The whole clan have insisted on accompanying him, so with elderly dad, mum in wheelchair and various siblings and kids in tow he has been traipsing around the shops looking for cloths for the girls and me. I am not sure if he just has really bad taste or can’t find the shops with the good stuff or I am too fussy, but I haven’t liked almost anything he has sent me:

So, so far, my response to each pic has been:


Not really

Not keen

A bit bright

A bit short


In the end he video called and walked around shopping mall showing me stuff and I found a simple maxi dress I liked.

I enjoyed seeing the kids getting in the way, shopkeepers pulling things out, my brother-in-law giving advice and the general chaos.

Made me think of two things:

Shopping is wasted on him

I really want to go to Pakistan myself.

Who knows, maybe next year if the world is a little less crazy and it feels safe insh’Allah

Wednesday 23 December 2020

2020 Stories: Corona, Tier 4, Exhaustion and Gratitude

Assalam-alaikam to anyone reading this and especially to those who make an effort to stop by and read despite my inconsistency in writing.

I have taken two weeks off work and a quarter of the way in, my head has cleared enough that I am motivated to write again.

It’s a curious time with Tier 4 Lockdown, winter solstices and the “Great' Conjunction” of the planets. I am off work; the kids are home from school and hubby is on his travels in Pakistan.

I hope sisters and brothers reading this are keeping well and are not suffering too much from the physical or mental effects of corona virus or a year of lockdowns and isolation insh’Allah.

It has been a curious time for the children, my oldest two have A ‘levels and GCSE’s in the coming year and so have been studying without knowing if they will have exams.  My younger son has missed a lot of school between lockdown and bouts of an ear inflammation that made him too dizzy and nauseous to go school.  Thankfully after multiple doctor’s consultations and finally a trip to emergency, he is now well and managed to get back to school before the holidays started.  I can tell he is well because he is back to annoying his little sisters until they scream and teasing me non-stop. The youngest two have been playing catch up at school, with their teachers making sure they know how to use google classroom in case schools can’t open in January.

All of them have been inundated with homework and tests, but alhamdulillah have just got on with it. I have tried to focus on how they are getting on emotionally as much as on their studies and just make sure they have what they need. My work has really made me realise how many children are going to fall so far behind that they won’t be able to catch up. For reasons as varied as not having devices, or enough data, having to help with taking care of siblings when they are home, parents that don’t understand how to get their children online, or just the stress of households that have lost income or are dealing with sickness, mental health issues or domestic violence. I noticed when Darling’s class had to go online for the first time, only 6 children showed up (one spent the entire time shouting “I CAN’T HEAR YOU” and had to be put on mute by the teacher). Lots of the children in her school are from newly immigrated families, I suspect a good number from families that don’t have a right to stay in the UK yet or much income to provide a phone or tablet for the children to use.

Hubby left for Pakistan in early November, he worked throughout the pandemic but by that point in the year I could see how down he was and how much he needed some time to focus on his faith. He travels for dawah for six weeks every year, this year there are no dawah groups (or jamaats), so he stayed in one part of Pakistan in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. He has finished his six weeks stay and is spending a few days with his parents before he flies back (if flights are still running…). We have the annual list of things we have broken ready for him 😊

Mum and dad-in-law didn’t come to stay this year due to the Covid situation being worse here than in Pakistan. That was until things got really bad there too, but by then the flights were grounded.  We will have to see about next year, it is always good to have them, but it was also a break for me from caring duties and the constant squabbling between my opinionated oldest child and her equally opinionated grandmother.

Work has been a non-stop fiesta of long hours, new projects, intense learning and often just sensory overload. It has left me fit for nothing for months but evenings of binge-watching rubbish or scrolling through social media. All of my focus, creativity and mental space has been used up working on projects as varied as youth participation, community engagement, sourcing translations for covid information, looking at how we support people with no status to be here (no recourse to public funds) during the pandemic, improving access for people with disabilities, work around racism and women’s experiences – you get the picture…lots of things to fill my brain.

I kept going full speed with work, home and the kids until about autumn and then started to lose sight of why I was bothering to do any of it. I found myself waking up every day sad and then spending the day sad and then starting to feel ok by about the time I got to bed. This went on for weeks and weeks of me feeling miserable and telling myself I have everything to be grateful for, to be positive, to pull myself out of it.  In the end, it took to the end of November and lots of prayer and being still and allowing myself to feel the misery, for me to find my mojo again. I slowly found my heart lifting and seeing the good in the day again alhamdulillah.


At the moment I am taking it easy, going through my to-do list of things I have been putting off (what I call “life admin”) and organising the corners of the house where bits and pieces have been accumulating. I am cooking whatever the kids want, having way too many movie nights with the youngest two and have started journaling after a very long time. I intend to spend these two weeks running in the morning, going for walks, filling out my Filofax like a geek, journaling and reading. More importantly, I want to spend the next two weeks reflecting on the lessons from 2020 and dreaming up my plans and intentions (Allah SWT willing) for 2021 insh’Allah.

How has the last year been for you? What has helped you cope? Do you have an intentional end of year process?