August 05, 2015

Finding the Gap

Routine, I realized over the past few weeks, has a sweet spot. One that is hard to find. With The One Day Project and the Happy Spring Clean in my life, there have been many things I tried to squeeze into my days. Despite my best intends, however, simply putting things on my to-do-list is not yet the key to getting them done. Making it my routine is the only way I can guarantee something will be accomplished. Therefore as a notorious procrastinator, forming good habits is my greatest weapon against the undone. But it is a slow process; balancing on an intricate play between timing and priorities.

Let me give you an example. I love reading books. I could read books all day. Only, I can’t or I wouldn’t, because let’s face it I also like to eat, sleep, go for a run, knit or watch telly and during the day those things might take priority over reading books. However, when I am on the bus to and from work things fall rapidly of my priority list and all of a sudden there is this sweet window of opportunity where I can just read. Happily, un-distractedly, as if reading is the only thing I ever want to do. But behold I ever decide to take the car to work. I might leave 30min later or return 45min earlier, but I don’t touch a page. It is as if being at home surrounded by all the opportunities to fold the laundry, water the plants, check blogs on the iPad diminishes that one where I would just grab a book and read. It is all about timing and priorities.

Once I discovered what power lies within habits I tried to apply them to almost anything I wanted to achieve, but finding the sweet spot where timing and priority are right proved far more difficult.

I might have time to do one cleaning activity a day, but I can’t say it’s my priority when I just came back from work and all I want is a good cup of tea and ten minutes quiet time. I also lost count on how many times I chose sleep over yoga in the morning. It might sound like a good idea, but it doesn’t always feel like it.

I am not sure if I will ever be finished in figuring out how to fit it all in. I came to understand that the struggle for balance is constant. But over the past few months I found some truths that have helped me to make smarter decisions about when and how to fit things in. They might seem obvious to some, but for me it was good to realise them and so I thought I might be good for some to hear them.

Don’t hate yourself for not making it work, look for another gap
For the longest time I tried to embed the habit of sweeping the kitchen in the morning. Just a quick sweep with the brush to get the bread crumbs out of the way. However, I consistently failed to do it. It just stressed me out. For one, because I literally always ran out of time to do it and secondly, because I couldn’t believe that I didn’t even manage to get something done that took five minutes. I tried to set my alarm earlier, left the broom in sight and even wrote a reminder on the kitchen wall. Nothing changed. Finally I decided to skip the sweeping in the morning and do it in the evening instead. All of a sudden and no matter how tired I don’t mind to grab the broom and get my kitchen clean for the morning. Don’t try to explain it, just look for another gap.

Moving on doesn’t mean giving up, it means being smart about your time
Ever since I spotted this cleaning schedule on pinterest, I was obsessed with the idea of making my own. I created a careful list of what would need doing during a normal week and then scheduled it out over the course of a whole week and then re-scheduled and re-scheduled again. The list wasn’t even long and each activity was only to last 15min, but I just couldn’t stick to it. I felt defeated. I felt like I had whole afternoons for something that took only fifteen minutes a day and still couldn’t get it done. It took a hard honest look at how I spent my afternoons to realise that I had been highly unrealistic. Of course, I could have made the schedule work, if I had dropped the cooking, stopped working at the library, abandoned my garden, ignored the Englishman, didn’t write this blog or never phoned my friends. But I love all these things and they are certainly a higher priority than cleaning. Eventually I moved on. Cleaning currently gets done as and when needed and that’s good enough.

Your schedule is not a brick wall with holes, it’s a sliding puzzle
In the evening, with sleepy eyes and a sleepy mind the yoga break in the morning always sounded so tranquil and amazing. However, I lost count on how many times I woke up to late and hated myself for not doing it. It only clicked into place once I decided not to get up earlier, but instead to drop another activity in the morning. Lunch is now being made the evening before (just before the sweep) and all of a sudden, getting up and onto my yoga mat is my favourite habit in the morning.

This might not be the whole truth on how to implement good habits, but it is what I found to be true for me. For more on habits I am currently reading "Better Than Before"by Gretchen Rubin (on the bus of course!) and can highly recommend.

What good habits are you currently trying to implement?

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