Given the political and social stresses of the world around us, and how dead and depressed I felt at the end of 2016, I knew I would be in massive amounts of trouble if I didn’t take a firm hand with 2017. So, I went back over my planners from the year (I keep one for to-do lists and one for long-term goals), rooted out all of my best days and weeks, and looked for commonalities between them. Then I made a set of systems based on my “best day habits” and launched them on January 1st.
It’s been going pretty well, so far. As long as I don’t procrastinate what I know works for me, I get stuff done, feel healthy, and make strides toward year end goals. So I thought I would share some of the habits that are helping me out, in case you’re looking for ideas.
Here’s what works for me…
I’ve always worked best with a bit of time for morning reflection. The trick is to set a reasonable time limit on this reflection so that you a) don’t overspend yourself here and push back the rest of the day; b) don’t deny yourself this time if you need it.
I’ve been doing about fifteen minutes of meditation. That’s enough time for me to go over my plan for the day, think about how each thing on my to-do list furthers my personal and practical growth goals, and build myself up to fend off anxiety about things out of my control.
I’ve also been marking this time with a definite open and close. I light a candle at the start and blow it out at the finish. It’s a vulnerable feeling to be this exposed to myself, and I like having a visual that helps me to open up and then move on with my day.
I get a lot of exercise in retail, but it feels like work. So, I mark out time in my schedule for intentional exercise, where I can just focus on building strength and determination.
I’ve been doing a workout at 10 am every day, followed by the completion of one pre-assigned chore. It’s a great way for me to feel productive even before I head out the door to work. And the chore assignments keep me from a) letting things pile up until I have to spend my days off cleaning and budgeting and whatnot; b) procrastinating exercise by finding busywork around the house.
I also stretch after work. Like, I come home, hang up my coat, change into flexible clothes, and immediately stretch. It helps me to de-stress.
It’s a tricky thing to be both locked into what you are doing in the moment, and anticipating what is to come next. I have by no means mastered it, and I often find myself having to shut down the anticipation part, as it has a tendency to turn into anxiety about the amount of stuff I want to get done in a day/week/month.
But on a good day (which, with practice, are proliferating) I can power my current task with thoughts of succeeding on the next one.
Sort of like, “When I get home, I am going to cook the hell out of some soup. It’s going to smell wonderful and nurture me, and that is going to feel great. And then I’ll have even better food to sustain me at work tomorrow!”
*furiously sells tea so I can go home and cook soup*
When this anticipation exercise works, it really helps me to get stuff done in the evening. If I wait until I’m home to think about being productive, it’s too late. I’ll already be watching Netflix.
My reptilian brain thinks my ideal evening consists of Criminal Minds binge-watching, lazy tasks, wine, and 2 a.m. bedtimes.
But the rest of my brain knows that in order to complete the tasks I’ve set out for myself in 2017, I have to have excellent systems that force me to utilize my time well. And that when I utilize those systems, I feel great.
So, one of the major things I focused on in my 2016 review was crafting a straight-forward series of P.M. time blocks that give me purposeful things to do, keeping the laziness at bay. It varies slightly based on the day of the week, which provides enough variation to keep me interested.
It’s going…pretty well? I still procrastinate bedtime, which I need to get a handle on, because every time I go to bed late, I cheat myself out of morning productivity.
The mind needs a day of rest as much as the body. Unfortunately, I can’t take an entire day of rest anywhere in my schedule. My part time job runs between 25-30 hours a week, and my “weekends” belong to my dissertation, errands, and tutoring.
So, I picked the day with my shortest work shift, and gave myself the mornings and evenings off. I still get up and meditate, and I still stretch after work and complete a task, but I focus my Thursdays (mid-week check in) on things that make me feel whole. Right now that means I use the mornings to email friends, and the evenings to read about Druidism and watch online writing seminars.
I also try to build one restful thing into every day of the week. On my busiest days, that’s often as simple as stepping outside for five minutes. But this time also includes calling my mom, catching up with a friend, reading a frivolous article, playing some video games with my brother–fun things like that.
Every week, I sit down with my calendars and planners and goal sheets and ask myself how I’m doing, what I could do better, and what I can add/subtract from my life to help make my dreams happen. It’s often a frustrating process–especially if I had a shitty week–but after two years of making myself do this, I know that it’s necessary to my mental well being. If I’m going to let my mind wander through theory and world-building and mysticism and forests and tea, I must have clearly organized goal markers and daily systems that keep me from turning into the absent-minded professor.
Example Retail Work Day:
- 7:30 am – Wake up.
- 7:45 am – Grab the day’s schedule and meditate on achieving it.
- 8:00 am – Blow out the candle, grab a snack, and read. (One of my goals for 2017 was to read a text every day–this includes articles, free-reading, non-fiction, theory, etc.)
- 10:00 am – Work out and/or Run
- 10:45 am – Eat breakfast, ease into daily chore (laundry, bathroom, budget, etc.)
- 12:00 pm – Finish chore, get ready for work
- 12:30 pm – Commute
- 1:00-8:30 – Work
- 9:00 pm – Arrive home, stretch/yoga, have a snack
- 9:30-11 pm – Evening @home work (blogging, research, …sometimes damage control if I’ve fallen behind on a task)
- 11:00 pm – Journal, minor review, plan the next day
- 12:00 pm – Bed