Although reassessing and working to improve oneself can take place any time during the year, January seems to be the time most take stock and strive to make improvements. Several authors have posted about focusing on one word rather than a laundry list of resolutions and goals. At Mass on January 1st, our priest mentioned something similar, suggesting we each pick a virtue to work on the next 12 months. As he was going down the list of virtues, the one that resonated with me the most was diligence.

Diligence is a capital or contrary virtue, sometimes called heavenly virtues because they defeat the seven vices or sins. In the case of diligence, the opposite is sloth. I found this definition of Diligence on

Diligence is the virtue that tells us to fulfill our duties in life, even if they get to be tiresome. These duties include our work, our home, our country, our church, and our families.

As soon as I read that, I knew this was the virtue—my word—for 2014.  With my focus on diligence, I searched out some tools that might help me this year, in addition to prayer. Here's what I found and wanted to share with you.

52 Week Money Challenge – I love the idea of this. Not sure this truly counts as diligence, but it would help me with my financial stewardship come December time when it's time to shop for Christmas! How does the money challenge work? You save a set amount each of the 52 weeks of the year, starting with $1 the first week and increasing by $1 each week. By the end of the year, you've saved $1378. There are several forms out there. The one I'm using has check boxes. What can I say? I like check-boxes. Find a chart that works for you.

Pretty cool, right? I've got my jar, my chart printed out and my first dollar saved! The only thing I don't like about this challenge is there's no way I'll have enough extra money to set aside in December. The amounts for those four weeks are $49, $50, $51, $52. So I'm going to mix up my weeks a bit to spread the larger amounts through the earlier months of the year, rather than saving them for the end. That's where those handy dandy check boxes come in. I'll just check off the week I do. Who cares if they are in order? Happy savings!

Couch to 5K – When I'm not healthy nothing gets done. Things pretty much fall apart so for me to be diligent I need to take better care of myself.  Sleeping, eating and exercise are all necessary for better health so I need to make some changes to make sure I'm doing all I need to be doing for myself. I used an app like this to get ready for the Joggin' For Frogmen 5K in July. As soon as I ran the race and didn't have anything to follow, I stopped running. So I'm starting again to train for a 5K in March. I started Wednesday, January 1st. It's three times a week, doable for even my busy schedule. If you're not into apps, they have the entire program listed on the site I linked to. Happy running!

Writing Progress Spreadsheet – I've tried and failed keeping track of my overall word counts so many times it's sad. But 2014 is the year I'm going to make this work. I'm getting to the point in my career, writing for two publishers and wanting to do more, that I need to know where I am with projects and if I'm productive enough to get all the stories I have planned written without impacting my family in a negative way.

Enter the spreadsheet I found at author Jamie Raintree‘s blog. I'd forgotten about it until going through my excel spreadsheets last night after I'd achieved my word count goal yesterday. I used google to figure out where it had come from and requested the 2014 updated spreadsheet. It arrived last night, and I love it! Finding what works for you is key to making tools work for you. This spreadsheet suits me perfectly, but you might have better luck with another. Remember google is your friend! Happy writing!

Do you have a word or anything you're focusing on in 2014?