How I am trying to love people well

20 February 2017

How are you all feeling about your 2017 goals, if you made some? (My company actually declared last week “Cultivate What Matters Week” because February 15th is statistically the day that the majority of people give up on their yearly goals!) I am feeling pretty good overall. I’m particularly excited about one practice I’ve implemented to help with my second and third focal areas: loving my loved ones well and cultivating a rich life for my family.


If you’re curious about my planner, you can read more about it here!

It’s my monthly prep days! When I thought about what had stopped me in the past from doing kind and fun things for the people I love, it wasn’t a lack of money or time, it was a lack of preparation. This came up over and over again as I filled out my PowerSheets, and eventually led to my word of the year (preparation!).

Starting in January, I’ve designated one day a month my monthly prep day. They’re usually on the last Sunday of the month, and I’ve already put them on my calendar for the rest of the year. I’ve noticed a huge difference in just the two months I’ve tried them so far, and wanted to share! Here’s what I do:

— After June goes to bed, I sit down with a few supplies: my laptop, my planner, my perpetual birthday calendar, and my phone.

— First, I note any birthdays coming up in the next month. If I’m going to send a card, I write the card, address it, and put a stamp on it. If I’m going to get a gift, I decide what it’s going to be and order it (or make a plan to buy it). I also set individual reminders on my phone to call or send a text to each person on his or her birthday.

— Then, I look through my planner and note any upcoming holidays or events. Where appropriate, I decide how we’re going to celebrate, and then make a plan. For example, in February, we had the Super Bowl, the Walking Dead premiere (ha!), Valentine’s Day, the Oscars, my Favorite Things party, and my birthday. Right then and there, I decided what special game day food we were going to make for the Super Bowl, I made a note to buy a Valentine’s Day card for John, I decided what we were going to do for June’s teachers for Valentine’s Day, I made the invite for the Favorite Things party, and more. Not everything gets done that evening, but I try to at least make a plan for anything I can’t do right then.

— I run down some of our normal monthly happenings and consider whether we want to schedule anything for the month: dinner with friends? A date night? A trip to the Museum of Life & Science? Some other sort of adventure? If necessary, I reach out to friends, make a restaurant reservation, etc.

— If a babysitter is required for any event, I text our babysitter and try to get on her calendar.

— Finally, I try to think if there’s anyone that’s been on my heart — someone who’s been celebrating or hurting, or who I just haven’t connected with in a while. If applicable, I take some sort of action there!

All told, my monthly prep usually takes about two hours. I do NOT do it perfectly, it needs to be said. Even with all this forethought, I forget things, I leave things to the last minute, I say the wrong thing or don’t say anything at all when something should be said. But I’m trying! And instituting these prep days has helped me immensely.

The downside? Decision fatigue can set in big time, and John is not always on board to be peppered with questions about what we should do for this or that (which is fair enough, since I’m working on my timeline, not his!).

One final tip: If you see someone celebrating in a way you love and you want to try it yourself, write it down! I have a simple doc on my computer, split into months, where I write down cute or clever ideas I see. Just got a lot for Valentine’s Day 2018 from all the sweet things you guys posted last week :)

I’d love to hear: do you have any systems for thoughtfulness? Or are you just a naturally, spontaneously fun and celebratory person? :)

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February 20, 2017 7:28 am

This is such a great idea, Emily! I am going to have to steal this! I started a “gratitude list” where I write down all the ideas I have for nice things I can do for people, but this is next level! Will and I also have a Sunday night meeting for the week after church where we check in with each other and plan out our week, which helps a lot!
Catherine: Classic Catherine

February 20, 2017 8:09 am

Ooh! I think I’ll need to steal this. I already love planning for special events ahead of time.. but having a designated time for it would be so helpful. I’d love to hear about the ideas you saved from people for next Valentine’s Day!

February 20, 2017 10:29 am

I have on my monthly to-do list an hour to write birthday cards for everyone on my team at work. I work on a team of 250, but ~20 cards a month makes me feel connected to everyone — even if it’s just a little wish!

I love your idea of having setting a text or call reminder for all birthdays in advance!

February 20, 2017 9:52 pm
Reply to  Marisa

I bet that’s something you will become famous for one day, if you’re not already! The birthday card gal! :)

[…] loved this post by em for marvelous — how I am trying to love people well.  Picked up a few tips […]

February 20, 2017 3:22 pm

i love the idea of a planning day for the month ahead! this would so help me stay on top of birthdays, weekend plans, etc. thanks for the idea!

February 20, 2017 4:07 pm

Aww, I love this idea! I am determined to get better about birthdays–I always see them on Facebook but never comment (I kind of hate Facebook birthday comments, ha), intending to text someone instead, but then way too often, I forget to! Planning ahead would be so much more effective. Putting a March planning day on my calendar :)

February 20, 2017 9:51 pm
Reply to  Lisa

I also kind of hate Facebook birthday comments – there’s something about commenting after dozens of other people that feels kind of lame, even if you come up with something original!

February 20, 2017 6:36 pm

I love this! I have a little ‘Monthly Checklist’ I go through at the start of each month that reminds me to do things like look up birthdays and change my contacts, but I had never thought about setting aside super intentional time to think about how I can care for people, plan ahead for holidays, etc. I am definitely going to try this- thanks for sharing!

February 21, 2017 12:42 pm

This! This is why your blog has quickly become my absolute favorite, Em! Thanks for inspiring me and so many others through your honest, intentional, thoughtful approach to life. <3

February 21, 2017 1:56 pm

I love this so much! I love celebrating birthdays and your monthly prep idea is so helpful for planning. Thanks for sharing :)

Victoria B
February 21, 2017 2:10 pm

I love this and I am definitely going to start incorporating this into my monthly routine! You are so thoughtful.

February 21, 2017 5:23 pm

Fabulous post! I want to implement some of this into my routine.

I have a rando. new mom question/maybe blog topic. My son is almost June’s exact age, and though he sleeps pretty well, I often feel tired from keeping up with him or the zillion cold bugs we seem to get. Have you and John gone through the same thing? I eat super healthy, but am starting to wonder if I’ll ever have energy again. (Dramatic!) ? Maybe just in time to get pregnant again! ?

February 21, 2017 8:28 pm
Reply to  Gillian

Hi Gillian! So fun that our littles are almost the same age! I wish I had some better advice for you, but I wouldn’t say tiredness is a huge issue for me right now! June sleeps about 8-8 at night, so we are able to go to bed early if we need to, which helps. And for whatever reason, though June has gotten some colds, she usually does not pass them to me. I guess we are just lucky?!

February 21, 2017 10:08 pm
Reply to  Em

You are so lucky on the cold front! Thanks for your honest answer!

February 23, 2017 3:40 pm

I love these tips! I also keep a card box on hand with extra cards in case something pops up and I don’t have time to run to the store. I love when you share easy, practical tips for life – Keep up the great work!

March 1, 2017 8:54 am

I love these ideas! I love including “people who are on your mind” as a category. It is so thoughtful to reach out to these people but easy to miss in an already busy schedule if we don’t make a conscious effort. I have started entering birthdays of my friends and family members into my phone/computer calendar with reminders one week before (in case I need to get a card or make a treat), two or three days before (so I can stick a card in the mail), and one on their birthday so I can text them. I do this for Valentine’s Day too and make personalized Valentine’s cards for each friend. I always love getting snail mail and it is so fun to get a card when you least expect it! :)

March 2, 2017 9:45 am

[…] March Goals 1. Grow deeper in my relationship with God through Lenten sacrifices and devotions 2. Start Couch to 5K over again and stick to it 3. Host a Blessed Brunch (email me if you’re local and want details!) 4. Read three books 5. Get all March baby shower and birthday cards/gifts together in the first week of the month (inspired by my friend Emily’s post) […]

[…] of wise ladies, I read the best post by Emily Thomas recently and finally implemented her monthly planning day this week! Emily is full of great ideas, […]

April 2, 2020 9:40 am

[…] monthly prep days: This is inspired by my favorite blogger, Em for Marvelous, I have started grouping together some tasks that both make my month run smoother and allow me to […]

February 18, 2021 8:04 pm

[…] completing my monthly prep days (I will write a post about this, but they are heavily inspired by Emily’s monthly prep days!), and catching up with far-away friends at least […]