Are Standards Stuffy?

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Raise your hand if you thought Ma was uptight for keeping to a cleaning schedule in The Long Winter.

I was thinking about that this morning as I forced myself out of bed, even though I have no appointments. I got up, did my usual Saturday stuff, made coffee and breakfast for Peter and I, then sat down with my Bullet Journal and thought about how to lay out a schedule for next week.

As I was doing it, I thought about another novel of Hard Times set in the Victorian era. A favorite book of mine as a teenager was Zemindar. It’s about the Indian Rebellion of 1857 where the main character (who narrates the story) is snarking one of her Sisters in Suffering because the good lady is trying to keep to the same timetable she did while at her station rather than sheltered at a compound in Lucknow.

At the time I first read that, I was fifteen and I cheered for the main character for not being so hidebound and stuck in propriety.

It ain’t about propriety. It’s about living while surviving. That’s quite a trick, really. Survival mode can and does take all of one’s energy sometimes, and that’s real. But deciding who and what you are in the face of bad times?

That’s living.

The little ceremony of tea in a shelter, the dressing for dinner at war — they seem such weird things when you take them out of context. They seem as if you’re clinging to a fantasy and ignoring reality. It’s not that they’re “necessary” to survival. Of course, they’re not.

But thinking about who you are and who you want to be? That’s more crucial than ever. You can’t control what goes on around you all that much, but you have some control over what you do with it.

In many ways, I am very, very Victorian.

I tracked every second of my time for a week. Here’s what happened.

A chart breaking down an average day.
An Average Day in Chart Form

Just for giggles and to give my border collie brain something to do, I decided I was going to track every minute of my day according to what I was doing at the time.  Yeah, I know.  What’s the point of that nonsense?

In searching for a justification better than “I like playing with and analyzing data,” think about this:  Time is all you have, and it is finite.  Are you spending it in a way that is useful and happy-making to you?

What did I learn from tracking every minute of the day?

Some things that need change

I got some serious feedback on things I need to think about and take action on

The act of time tracking messes up the data.

Rather like someone who has decided to keep a food log, the very act of tracking my time has meant that the feedback has become more immediate.  Having to press a button on my phone to log what I was intending to do made me a bit more deliberate about what I was choosing to do.  I tried very hard to reflect what my time genuinely looks like, screwing around on the Internet or hopping like a bunny from task to task.  That didn’t stop me from wincing when I needed to deliberately say, “Okay, I am going to screw around on the Internet now!”

Time tracking is a time-consuming pain.

I could only stand doing it for about six days before I felt like it was distracting me from things I genuinely wanted to get done.  I could have sucked it up for the purposes of this article, but the sample of how I spend my time was reasonably representative, spanning workdays and a weekend, so I ran with the data I have.

I will probably start treating tracking my time rather like I treat tracking my food – only if it looks like there is a problem and I want a reality check.

I realized my priorities were screwed up

I suspected this.  While I was spending a decent amount of time on my family[1], I was not so good at spending an appropriate amount of time on my friends.  In fact, it helped cement a decision to get my butt off Facebook – which I will discuss in another article.

I also was spending far too much time on chores and housework.  I know that sounds nuts, but while having a tidy house is one thing, and yes, I do want that, puttering around all day looking for things to put away or clean and listening to audiobooks isn’t really where I want to put All the Energy.  I deserve a nice environment, yes.  But I can and should corral that time into discrete units so that it is taken care of efficiently and doesn’t get out of hand.

I found that my time was badly scattered

I already knew multitasking is a myth.  You’re not multitasking, you’re context switching.  Thing is, if you do that, you’re bearing a cognitive load. 

Numerous studies point to the fact that as you context switch between tasks, your efficiency on those tasks, as well as your accuracy, suffers.  For work that has a heavier cognitive load, a flow state is important.

If you take a look at the screenshot, you’ll notice that unless I was teaching a class, sleeping, exercising, or knitting, a lot of my time was spent in context switching.

Now, the reality?  Most housework chores simply don’t take all that much time or cognitive load. I’ve talked about that before.  However, when you’re switching your attention a lot, you’re not getting as much done.

I am taking away from this particular data that how much time I dedicate to something does need to depend a bit on the cognitive load the task takes.   Laundry, not so much.  Writing? Learning a new computer language?  I need to stop switching around and focus.

I was putting too much mental energy into exercise

Look, I need to work out.  I do work out.

I do not need to spend an hour looking for motivational articles on the Internet about why I need to work out or to get me excited about my goals.  My body does not care about what it takes to get me on the treadmill or weight bench.  It only cares that I did it.

That hour I spend hyping myself up to work out is in no way adding to my life.  It would be better-spent knitting.  At least I’d get a sweater out of it.

Things I won’t change

Because living on purpose choosing deliberately is a big deal to me, I’m happy that I got feedback about things I don’t want to change because I’m happy with what I’m doing.

I spend a lot of time planning or preparing

Straight up, I’m okay with this.  It wasn’t a surprise and I was always happy with spending my time this way.  I used to have a martial arts teacher who consistently said, “Preparation precedes action.”  True. Very true.

Making bento the night before takes about 15 minutes a night.  If I eschew those fifteen minutes, I am running a non-trivial risk of not making a well-balanced lunch when I get hungry around noontime.  I’m fine with giving Future Me that little present.

Laying out clothes and tidying while the bath is running (I have low water pressure) definitely jump-starts my morning, especially when exercise clothes are staring me in the face on what I know is going to be a busy day.

Five minutes with my Bullet Journal translates into more knitting and reading time because I think about what I want to accomplish in a day and when that’s done, I’m blasted well off the hook for being so-called productive.  I had kinda figured this was so, but now I have a numeric comparison.

I spend a lot more time reading actual books than I thought

I thought I consumed most stories in audiobook format while I’m doing household chores these days.  So I figured that the “Reading” part of how I spend my time under “Hobbies” was going to be a bit anemic.

Naw… Not really.  Part of this is that I read in the bathtub, and I had no idea how long I generally spent in the bath soaking and reading a book.  I found out that I average about as much time doing that as I do exercising.  Nice balance and a pleasant surprise.

I get enough sleep.

OK, I already knew that.  I’m protective of my sleep and have been for many years.  I’m stupid when sleep-deprived, so I avoid that.  I find the bragging about running on too little sleep idiotic and I’m sure it contributes to our unstable politics.  That, and not making your bed.  That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

So, a question for my readers.  Are you satisfied with how you spend your days?  If not, what do you want to do and how can you do that?


[1] If you’ve known me for five minutes, you know about the family thing.

The Lie of Busy-ness

Being frantically busy isn’t the same thing as being productive.

This hit me hard last night when I migrated to a new Bullet Journal notebook last night. My old volume was full.

The migration process takes about an hour. It’s an hour that makes you think.

It was nice to review the notebook.  I can get caught up in the day to day and forget what I’ve accomplished.  The old Bullet Journals, especially when I am migrating to a new one, are an amazing way to review the past few months, take credit for what I did do as well as figure out where I’m falling down on doing what I want done.

As I was migrating, I noticed I’ve not been giving a project the attention it deserves as I was migrating different collections and projects from one notebook to the other.  It got me to thinking about how important that project really was. Maybe I need to let it go.

Except…

I migrated the collection about that project.  If I took the trouble to hand-write all that stuff, it’s still important.  If I let things slide until the next time I migrate, I’d say that’s a clear signal that it’s not something all that important to me any more.

I love that clarity. 

I joke, sometimes, that the Bullet Journal changed my life.  It’s hilarious, but it did.  It brought a lot of clarity to not only what I want, but how I actually spend my days. 

I think it’s funny that this little system and notebook, so low-tech, has been so useful to me.  I mean, I love gadgets. I love beepy reminders.  I love all the new tech.  I’m an early adopter as often as my purse allows. You wanna talk “sparking joy?”  Tech is it for me.

But that notebook surpasses it all.  The reality is that it works because I am not consistent.  Some days I’m on the ball and focused.  Other days, I am not on the ball at all.  Most digital systems don’t seem to allow for the ebb and flow of my energy the way my Bullet Journal does.  Most digital systems don’t allow for review, don’t allow for a reality check.  You get a snapshot of the present and that’s it.

For all that, yes, living in the moment is a good thing, when your moment is full of self-reproach about how you’re letting your life drift away, or that you never see your family like you want to, being able to review and say, “Well, you took a trip to visit them SEVEN TIMES last year!” or “You completed that course, wrote those articles, sewed that dress, and helped your son out where he needed it” it helps as a reality check, not only for the negative, but for the positive.

Tasks in Outlook don’t help with that.  They don’t show the shape of your days as well.  Remember the Milk might be amazing for scheduling recurring tasks.  It’s not so great when Life Happens.

None of them really encourage things like taking notes on one’s vacation to remember the good times.   I mean, sure, sure, I’m an enthusiastic diarist, but in terms of referencing what I’ve done from anything but an in-the-moment rant, the Bullet Journal has it over the things I write in my daily pages.

The biggest power of the Bullet Journal system for me is that things don’t fall through the cracks.  It is amazing the amount of time one wastes being reactive and scrambling to catch up.

The problem is I’m so used to things falling through the cracks that I’m still not used to being on the ball to the degree I am now.  You wouldn’t think that you’d have to overcome that sinking sensation of “I know I’m falling down and forgetting something” but if you’ve experienced it for forty-odd years, it’s like this weird hole when you realize that no, for the most part, you’re on top of things.

I’m still not used to it, which is, I suppose, why I write about organization with such a sense of wonder.  It’s new to me not to be frantically playing catch up on all the things I needed to do.  Busy?  Hell yeah, I’m often busy.  But oh! there is such a difference between being calmly busy and frantically trying to stay on top of things.

I will say that being used to being frantic might give you the illusion of being actively productive.

My Bullet Journal has proved that to be a stinkin’ lie.

I Put Things Away Because I am Lazy

In my Endless Quest for Tidiness, which is mostly analysis and musing these days, as my home is absolutely tidy enough, I noticed a habit of my mother’s in much sharper relief than usual.

She puts things away.

I know, duh!  Putting things away makes things tidy, right?  However, it’s more subtle than I thought. 

I noticed it on vacation, of all places.  Mom and Dad like to take a morning walk, and I’d volunteered to get breakfast for the family while they were doing so that week.  My husband loves to get out in the evenings when we’re at the beach, so I figured our Daily Walk (yes, we care about that, too) would be a good thing to do in the evenings after dinner.

Before Mom goes to bed, she likes everything to be put away.  For instance, in the kitchen dishwasher emptied of clean dishes, dish drainer empty of dishes that have dried after dinner.  She did this while my husband and I were on our walk.

Now, I wake at first light most days, call it twenty minutes or so before sunrise.  In real life, I might roll over to sleep some more, but I don’t at the beach.  I like to watch the sun rising over the ocean.  It’s one of my favorite sights in the whole world!

Walking into the kitchen to make a cup of coffee in preparation for my Morning Ritual was really nice.  Everything was neat and clear and calm, and it just made me feel good.

After coming home from our vacation, I decided I wanted to try that out in my own life.  I told myself if it was a burden or I couldn’t make it stick, I’d go back to my “never more than fifteen minutes of messy” style.  It’s certainly tidy enough and no big deal, so it wasn’t like I’d have this pressure and feel like I failed if I decided I didn’t want to keep it up.

I found out something.

I most emphatically do want to keep it up.

Putting things away every night reduces chances for accidents and property damage

I have a young cat.  Mr. Tumnus gets into things all the time, as he’s still a very curious and active little fellow.  When I put things away, the cat doesn’t get into my knitting and scatter my yarn and project all over the living room.

Making sure I put away my evening cup of tea ensures that when I get my morning coffee, I’m not risking a spill by my writin’ chair removing the empty cup from the coaster and replacing it with the mug of hot coffee.  I’ve spilled coffee on more than one knitting project from this little dance of switcheroo.

When I put things away every night, my kitchen stays tidy. 

Washing a pot or pan after a meal and always having a dishwasher ready for the things that can be machine washed is easy.  Unless you’re stressed to the point of needing medical care (and no shame about that, it happens to all of us) rinsing out a cereal bowl just isn’t overwhelming. 

Since we tend to pile mail on the kitchen counter, I also note that in tidying the kitchen every night, I’m loathe to leave mail piled on the counter.  It goes in the recycling, shredder, or is dealt with immediately.

Waking up to tidy spaces helps with mental clarity and creativity

Now, I’ve been keeping my room relatively neat for a long time. But, there would be times when it would get very cluttered.  Maybe I’d been slow to put laundry away.  Maybe I had a bunch of books I’d been reading all over the place (less common now that I read electronically).  Maybe I’d dropped yesterday’s clothing on the floor rather than putting it in the dirty clothes hamper properly.  Maybe I was in the middle of a sewing project and was leaving everything out until I had completed the garment.  It was never a big deal. Again, never more than fifteen minutes of messy, so if I took fifteen minutes on my housework day to tidy the room, it was easily brought back to rights.

I’m in the middle of sewing a dress right now.  Just for giggles, and to continue the experiment that I thought I might drop, I put all my equipment away after completing what I’d intended to do on it. 

For me, I realized that it is easier for me to think calmly about the project, to take it appropriately slowly when I am not eager to be done so my daggone room isn’t really cluttered from all the paraphernalia from the project.  Being less likely to rush means a better quality project that I’m happier with.

Tidying every night reduces work

Back when I lived in a really cluttered home, that sounded crazy.  Yes, yes, yes, I grew up in a tidy home, but tidying my room was always this big daggone production.  Surely the tidy spend all their time cleaning and tidying, right?

Not even close. 

I spent four and a half hours sewing on my new dress yesterday.  Putting away all my sewing stuff took 00:02.38.  Yes, less than three minutes!  Yes, I timed it.  Yes, I have space to put my stuff away easily because I’d Konmaried my home about four years ago.  So, I guess Ms. Kondo was right about the whole tidy forever thing.  *wrygrin* It’s just that “tidy” is still a dynamic process.  Which makes sense.  One’s home is a dynamic process, or it should be.  You do work, you get things messy, you put things away.  We all do it.  It’s just that making the cycle more rapid makes things easier.

Friends, if you take a look at home much time I spend writing, knitting, working, playing video games, working out, or sewing, any one of those items will take more time in a week than I spend on cleaning by at a minimum of a factor of two.

So, yes, I am going to keep the practice (which I hope to develop into a habit) of putting everything away and “rebooting” my house every night.

Why?

I have better things to do than tidy all the time.

Self-Improvement as a Hobby

It’s not a secret that I love trying out life systems and self-improvement ideas. And Goodness knows it’s a weird hobby. Flylady, Konmari, Everyday Systems, Bullet Journals, you name it. I find these things interesting and enjoyable to play with.

That’s the thing. I’ve begun to look at it as a hobby. Not every system I’ve tried has necessarily produced the results I wanted, but you know what?

Some have. My homemaking skills are a lot more Flylady than Konmari, but wow was keeping my home tidy easier after I did the big ole tidying “festival” Marie Kondo suggested.

I like listening to self-improvement books when I walk alone.

None of this has exactly made me a paragon of virtue or excellence, mind. I’m not rich. I’m not skinny. I’m not famous. *wrygrin* My view of the improvement of the Self even questions how in the world these three big goals seem in any way to be listed as self-improvement.

Fine, your house is tidy now. But do you treat people kindly?

Okay, you’re rich. How did you get that way? Were you honest? Were you able to keep your integrity?

Great, you’re skinny. Is this a virtue?

Things I think would be better addressed in self-improvement literature:

  • What is your word worth?
  • How’s your compassion?
  • Do you have good boundaries and how do you enforce them with kindness?
  • What do you see as your duty, and do you fulfill it? If not, what’s stopping you?

Not ONE self-improvement book I’ve seen discusses these topics much. Though, Marla Cielly of Flylady fame and Reinhard Engels of Everyday Systems seem to strike me as people to whom integrity and kindness seem to mean something.

But most of the so-called self-improvement literature I see is a lot less about becoming virtuous and a lot more about becoming inappropriately selfish. I say “inappropriately” because boundary setting can look selfish to someone wanting to take inappropriate advantage of you.

Few of these books discuss one’s duty to oneself and one’s fellow humans.

I think these questions are considerably more important than whether or not you have enough self-discipline to stick to a diet. For my own part, I find sticking to a diet a lot easier than being patient with strangers who frustrate me, speaking up about an injustice, or setting appropriate boundaries with people whose real motive is to use me as a thing or resource.

I think being a size two, being well-known or having a big bank account is trivial compared to that.

And I find it interesting that the self-improvement industry is largely silent on it.

Bullet Journals or, Excellence v. Perfection

Just sat down with my Bullet Journal, as I do every Sunday, to plan out the next week.

I do this for a lot of reasons. I want to make sure I’m following up on everything I need to. It is very easy to allow things to fall through the cracks. This helps prevent it. I cannot say I always follow through on everything in exactly a timely manner. I don’t. Without something to keep me on track, I’ll follow my whims. That gives me about a 15% accuracy on my Get the Important Stuff Done score. When I use a tracking system of some sort, that brings the Get Important Stuff Done score up to between 75% and 90%.

Beepy reminders are usually at about a 75%. That’s still not bad at all, mind. But it’s stressful.

Sometimes I get tired, or depressed or whatever, and to be quite frank, I do not necessarily jump on everything I think needs to be done. A beepy reminder gives you a window of RIGHT NOW to do it before it falls off your mental radar. That’s fine when I’m all happy and motivated and shit.

I am not always all happy and motivated and shit.

The Bullet Journal brings me more up to that 90%, which is as good as it is ever going to get. One of the nice things about my Bullet Journal is its flexibility. The Bullet Journal means that I get more Important Stuff done while actually being less immediately on the ball. It’s forgiving. It’s imperfect. Things get crossed off when I decide it’s not Important Stuff after all.

If I lose interest in a self-assigned project, I have the material to circle back to it if I need to. It makes me less obsessed.

If I’m procrastinating on something I REALLY have to do, consistently migrating that task day by day does poke me to get it off my plate better but feels less emotionally fraught to me somehow. It’s there. I need to do it, but I can migrate it to tomorrow. You know what? It still gets DONE. That’s cool.

If I am Just Not Feeling It, the Bullet Journal waits quietly and without judgment until I go back to it — all necessary information and plans there. With most task management software, an overdue task turns red, or keeps beeping at you and making you feel bad in a way that the Bullet Journal doesn’t (at least for me).

I love the imperfection and messiness of my Bullet Journal. It helps me Not Waste My Life, but still allows for the dips and swells in my emotional energy. It’s such a beautiful reality check for me. When I start feeling badly about myself, I can look and see how I’ve been spending my days. I can sometimes feel like “I’ve gotten nothing done” and when I look back, I realize that no, I PLANNED to play that video game. It was on purpose, so that time was not wasteful.

Yes, I put more than chores in my Bullet Journal. For me, that’s part of what makes it such a wonderful reality check. Am I getting Enough Done? is certainly an important question. So is Am I doing things to recreate and enjoy myself? Did I do the laundry, pay the bills, and get to the dentist? Great! Did I take a walk, play a video game, or knit or see a movie? That’s important, too.

I think it helps me keep things in balance. The reality is that I have no middle gears, and am appallingly bad at moderation. I tend to want things to be perfect and have been known just to give up when I can’t do that. There’s a time and a place for shooting for perfection, certainly, though I’ve had it pointed out that shooting for excellence rather than perfection makes more sense.

Excellence is different from perfection. Excellence means you’re consistently striving for better. Excellence isn’t binary — either meeting the mark or not. It’s not a pass/fail proposition, but a fairly consistent effort. It cannot ever be “perfect” and even accepts that there is always something else you can do.

This is hard for me because I tend to be binary in my thinking. Of course, I do. It’s EASY to think in binary terms. Okay, that’s fine and even appropriate for some endeavors, but it really doesn’t reflect the realities of an entire life. There’s no such thing as a binary human life.

Which is exactly the point of the imperfection of my Bullet Journal.

One Year Later: My Life Revolves Around My Health

Last year I had a health scare with a lifestyle component. Never mind that there’s a genetic component. Health problems are All Your Fault, and you’re a lazy bad person for having them, right? Healthy is for the virtuous, and we all know that people with illnesses get them because they’re all bad and stuff, right?

*sighs*

Did I Change My Lifestyle to Manage my Blood Glucose Levels?

I did make a couple of changes and did get my blood sugar under control. I dropped an a1c reading from 6.0 to 5.5 using two things: a ketogenic diet and an average of 45 minutes of moderate exercise every day. I took this figure from my fitness watch and just took a straight weekly average of how many minutes a day, I got my heart rate into the aerobic range. So… pretty accurate for how much I move.

All this work didn’t make me skinny. Not even close. While the weight loss was significant, I’m still well into the plus size range. But the goal was never to get skinny. The goal was to manage my blood sugar, and I did.

You can manage some health issues with diet and exercise, yes. If you’re willing to let your life revolve around it. Know what? I have the luxury of the time and money to do that.

My Life Revolves Around My Health

Is a ketogenic diet a time-consuming, expensive pain in the ass?

Yes. Yes, it is.

And, no. No, it isn’t.

I mean, the food is tasty. I like bacon and eggs. I enjoy salads. I love a good steak. Strawberries and real whipped cream? Bring it. I like nuts. So, as far as enjoying my meals, heck yeah, I do! I might want to snack sometimes, but I’m not dealing with actual hunger.

However, I’ve had to resurrect my bento hobby and adapt it to my diet. See, whenever I’m out and about, I cannot count on a satisfying meal, or need to pay for a really expensive one. Not much in my diet besides nuts is shelf stable! (Most of those “meal bars” marketed as low carb aren’t. At least according to my fasting blood sugar readings!) That drives the price of “convenience” food up. Sure, sure, I can buy boiled eggs and cheese or something, but wow, at over a dollar an egg, I’m better off planning and making a bento. Honestly, this hobby is a lot of why I can tolerate eating a ketogenic diet.

It also changes how I interact with travel. Bento are great for travel – sort of. Taking a trip on an airplane or a train, it’s nice to slip a bento in your bag and go. But meals out become incredibly expensive, and you’re always wondering how much sugar is being used even in meat sauces and marinades. Cruises? You can handle it, but you can’t just, you know, eat a meal. You need to talk to the waiter to make sure what you’re getting is okay for you to eat, and you need to be careful about hidden carbs at the buffet. Theme parks? You can get hot dogs and hamburgers without the bun, sure. It’s also really expensive. Simple carbohydrates are cheap calories, after all. I don’t say this to snark it. I have a whole nother rant on why the abundance of calories isn’t the daggone evil people like to put it out to be, but that’s for another blog post.

Anyway, even though a ketogenic diet is more expensive, I suppose it’s cheaper than insulin. But the reality is that insulin may need to be a thing in the future. I’m doing what I can, but at a certain point, one’s genetics does factor in.

It’ll be blamed on me not being skinny, of course.

Is Daily Exercise a Time-Consuming, Expensive Pain in the Ass?

Yes. Yes, it is.

And, no. No, it isn’t.

Forty-five minutes a day is a lot of damn time. I’m doing it and to be frank, I’m glad of my fitness watch, as it means that I can wave the data under my doctor’s nose as proof that yes, I’m exercising at recommended rates and intensity, and I’m still not getting skinny.

It’s still a big chunk of my day.

A short workout is half an hour. On busy days, I’m up at five in the damn morning to get that walk in. Unlike a lot of people, my treadmill was a wonderful and frequently used purchase, even two years later. Expensive? Yeah. I could go outside. Except I live in Northern New England. I don’t like to walk in bad weather and generally won’t. It’s very hard to talk yourself out of a half hour walk on a treadmill in front of your bedroom door.

A longer workout is a swim. That’s a minimum of an hour in the pool, but you have to add a minimum of a half an hour on either side to get to the gym and clean up after the swim. Expensive? Yes, gyms with pools are expensive. I genuinely enjoy swimming, but the way I go at it is most certainly because of the need to get in large wodges of exercise.

Do I ever take long walks? Sure. I live near some amazing trails, and my husband and I often take an hour for a nice long walk. I find this a somewhat less… irritating use of my time. Hanging out with my husband is important, and a walk is a way I enjoy doing it.

It’s still all about managing my blood sugar. If I skip a day, my fasting blood sugar spikes a couple of days later. Almost a direct correlation. It’s why I continue to exercise.

Oh yeah, I check my blood sugar every morning.

Concentrating on Health is Distracting

I can’t just… have a meal without thinking about it most of the time. I’ve always been in the habit of meal-planning and cooking, and thank goodness for it. I don’t know how someone who didn’t plan and cook a lot would handle this.

How am I going to get in my workout today? That’s a consistent question. I know, the idea is that you’re supposed to do it just like brushing your teeth. I don’t. *shrugs* The reality is that I don’t have a consistent schedule.

Here’s the thing: The mental energy that it takes to get me eating and exercising according to my health needs is mental energy I do not spend on family, work, creative projects or other things. That’s real. Perhaps there are people who have unlimited mental energy for all this. The very real reality is that I don’t. If I were in a survival situation of some sort – rotten family dynamic, job insecurity or anything like that, I don’t know that I could do this.

I can see easily how diabetes can be poorly managed from a lifestyle point of view.

So, the smug health-is-a-virtue jerks can suck it.

Unnecessary Parameters: When Good Enough is Actually Great!

Do you have goals you want to accomplish?

Do you get excited about getting something done, or reaching a milestone?

I do. I also do something else, and I’m curious if anyone else does this, too.

You’ll set a goal. Maybe you’ve joined some kind of challenge – to pick something completely at random, maybe your gym had a challenge for you to swim 50 miles by the last day of September. (Completely random, I swear). Say the challenge starts May 1.

Okay, you have five months to complete your goal. You need to swim roughly 10 miles a month, or two and a half miles a week.

Are you the type of person who would then decide, “Oh, no! That’s too easy. I’ll swim four miles a week and get done at least six weeks early!”

If you are this type of person, I have another question:

Have you ever made it too hard on yourself and quit on something because of this foolishness?

I caught myself doing it twice today. I’m in the middle of a really busy time. My client has a go-live and a lot more training to be done than usual (meaning there’s a major, major software change that I’m on the floor helping people use), I’m doing that Completely Random 50 mile swim challenge, and I’m taking a programming class.

I caught myself doing a couple of things and realizing how I was actually making a few things that are genuine challenges far more difficult obstacles than they needed to be.

I was saying I was going to swim four miles a week. Sure, I can… Some weeks, I probably will. The reality? If I get in my ten miles a month now through September, I’ll hit my goal. No biggie. I don’t need to push to do that Every. Single. Week. I will reach my goal without driving myself crazy. So, why drive myself crazy? I’ve done that before and quit.

I was also doing some extra credit work on a project for my class.

Am I done with the required work on the class?

I am not.

Do I have plenty of time to complete the required work?

Well, yeah, I do. But if I get tied up in the extra, I’m not going to finish the required stuff properly.

While excelling is important, something I’m slowly learning as I am getting older is the value of calmly plodding along. The body of work you leave behind and what you accomplish when you don’t add unnecessary parameters to what you want to get done is more impressive than the frantic nonsense you can push yourself to do.

So, are you adding unnecessary parameters to goals and making it so difficult you quit? I’m curious to see what people are encountering.

 

You Win. I’m Too Tired to Fight It

I’m back to lifting weights and while I’m not as weak as I feared, I’m not as strong as I hoped. I am very sore this morning, but not as sore as I’ve been when getting cocky about how strong I was after a hiatus in lifting.

My dumbbell set is enough to carry me for about six months, I think. Then I need to decide whether or not to join a gym or buy a bench with a bar. I’m really leaning to buying the bar. The things that keep me out of the pool are a million times worse in the weight room and I’m tired of fighting it. While I need to burn some energy on my body and health, the microaggressions on being The Fat Lady Who Works Out and Never Gets Skinny are too much.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of newbies trying to make a Project out of me.

Way to go assuming my intelligence and intrinsic motivation there, cupcake.

I’m tired of the weight loss talk in the locker room.

If you’re working out an extra hour because you put whipped cream on a single slice of pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, you don’t have the problem you think you have.

I’m tired of health being seen as a virtue.

Yes, healthy habits can be helpful. Overall health is often a crap shoot and luck plays a significantly bigger factor than you think. Ask anyone who had healthy habits and is slammed with a chronic condition.

Thing is?

I miss swimming. I’m eyeing a local college gym (I can join because my husband and I work for an affiliate organization) that is amazingly cheap, but does have crap swimming hours. Thing is, my own schedule would allow for me to swim there. I may still go back and just allow myself the indulgence of snarling at anyone who dares speak to me. I don’t really want to behave that way, but while I’m fine with flinching before diving into cool water, I’m less sanguine about flinching at the talk constantly surrounding me in the locker room.

But, ya know, I miss this:

Yes, I Make My Bed

I’m reading Make Your Bed: The Little Things That Can Change Your Life…. and Maybe the World.

Things a SEAL might have to say might be things I can go along with, or things that might make me chew my lip a bit. And so this does. However, I do not necessarily have to unilaterally agree with everything an author puts down to find it valuable. (Being a Heinlein fan, the world oughta be grateful for that, just sayin’)

ADM McRaven says something quite early on in the book that rather struck me between the eyeballs.

Now, I am a bed-maker and have been since toddlerhood. Mom taught me to do so and it’s What One Does. You know things you kinda do without question? I do that. So, it was easy for me to agree with the idea that you start the day with making your bed. His commentary – that you start the day with a completed task and see the evidence of that completed task when you complete your day, really hit home to me.

I will sometimes complain of Not Having Accomplished Enough at the end of a day to have my husband send me to my Bullet Journal in irritation, telling me to review and see if my day was really as lazy as all that. (In general, it was not).

The idea that an extremely successful man in a very tough career looked to something to remind himself that he did at least one thing well that day was an interesting one and made me realize all these years I was doing only part of the task of making my bed.

Acknowledging I do it is actually important, too.