Getting back on track

getting back on track with good habits by setting priorities

Old habits die hard. New habits fade quickly.

Have you ever noticed that? You put a lot of energy toward building up a new good habit, and as soon as you turn your head, that new habit is gone – poof!

Well, I’ve been noticing that all the new habits I’m trying to build all at once are stretching my will power beyond its limits (did you know that we have a limited supply of will power? It’s true!). I’ve been trying to exercise more, eat better, take better care of my home, be more productive at work, tend this blog, be nicer to myself… And, in the past, I would have trundled along, just feeling like a failure; saying to myself, “why can’t I just DO these things? What’s the matter with me!?”

However, after going through the savoring experiment and learning how to look inward, I have been able to actually see what I’m doing to myself. I’m simply expecting too much. It’s no wonder I’ve been feeling like a tornado in the middle of a hurricane – I’ve been spreading myself far too thin.

Here’s how I’m getting back on track

I need to prioritize the areas that I want to focus on, so that I can apply the appropriate amount of effort and determination (i.e. will power) toward each one. So here is the order in which I have decided to give a shit about things.

  1. Prepare for the Spartan This damn race is happening on June 1 whether I’m ready for it or not, and I’ve already booked my flights, my hotel room and my place in the race, so I’m IN THE RACE. And pardon me when I say I’m fucking terrified, since I’m so far behind schedule on training. I am going to need all my will power to keep myself on track with a six-day-a-week training schedule.
  2. Eat healthier This goes hand-in-hand with my #1 priority, but it doesn’t come naturally to me, so it takes will power to choose broccoli over french fries as a side, or fruit over Goldfish crackers for a snack. I will never choose anything over bacon, so don’t even go there. In any case, I’m not going to beat myself up over my food choices.
  3. Do my daily chores I started my new routine last week, and my reminders have been working pretty well. But, when I haven’t been able to empty the dishwasher because I didn’t start it the night before, I’ve been chastising myself. That stops today. I’m doing the best I can with the energy I have to put towards this. I’m not going to stop the reminders, but I AM going to cut myself some slack when I choose not to do something because it’s a lower priority than #1 and #2.
  4. Be more productive at work Screw this and the horse it rode in on. Kidding. Sort of. I’m actually doing much better at this lately, after spending some time reviewing my priorities and partnering with my boss to determine what she believes is really important. As for doing better, well, we’ll worry about that if I live through the Spartan. For now, I’m just going to make sure that I’m getting my job done well.

So there you have it folks. The top four things I’m going to put all my energy into. If it ain’t on this list, I ain’t got time for it.

making time for top priorities

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Today is the day

Don't procrastinate - today is the day to do all the things you've always wanted to doWhy wait another day? What do you gain by waiting? A better question: what do you lose by waiting?

Today is the day that I’m going to the gym to replace my lost membership card. I’ve waited months to do this, hoping that I would find it. In the meantime, I’ve lost out on many opportunities to improve my health, my fitness, my strength… I’ve lost so many chances to prepare myself for the Spartan.

Today, I’m done waiting. Today, I choose to do something about it. Today, I will do just one thing to move toward being the strong, slender, healthy, fit woman who looks better at 40 than she did at 30.

What one thing can you do today that will move you towards something you’ve always wanted to do?

Image source: Mattie

Simplified workday scheduling

One can find inspiration in the unlikeliest of places… Today’s nugget comes to us from a blog post on Alice.com (yes, the online home essentials store – neat, right?). They have a very brief post from last May that describes how to plan your day in just four steps.

The original post appears to focus on planning a day for someone who works from home, but I think that it could easily be applied to office work, too. What appeals to me about this method is that you’re really only focusing on getting up to four things done on any given day. The hardest part may actually be choosing only four things to focus on!

Here’s my interpretation of their four steps.

  1. Pick three “must do” things for the day. These are the three things you can’t leave the office without accomplishing.
  2. Add another priority task. This is something that is important but not urgent, and likely is something you’ve been wanting to get to for some time. It should be something in addition to your three “must do” items.
  3. Routine tasks. This includes checking email, voice mail, filing paperwork and things like that. These tasks will fill in the blanks in your day.
  4. Leave yourself open time. Give yourself plenty of buffer time to accommodate those urgent things that always seem to pop up.

Pulling it all together is the trick, though, isn’t it? How do you decide when to schedule all of these things? My suggestion is to schedule your top three for as early in the day as possible, with breaks in between, and leave the priority task for later in the day, with your routine tasks falling around the time of day when you always seem to fall into a slump. The routine tasks generally don’t require a lot of brain power, which is ideal for that lower energy time of day.

If you’re like me, and you don’t really know when your low energy time of day is, you might try tackling your routine tasks during breaks between your top three and your priority task for the day.

Do you think this would help you? Have you done something similar? Did it work?

Got motivation?

Unclutterer is a great website. Erin Doland and her team of writers, including Deb Lee, are talented and informative, while maintaining a great sense of humor throughout. I have read Unclutterer for years now, mostly for their titular advice on eliminating clutter from your life.

This week, however, Deb offered up some great tips on how to find your motivation. One of the coolest things she points out is that losing our motivation is to be expected. I am not somehow “broken” because my motivation has waned on some of my projects. This is surprisingly encouraging information! How many times have you said “what’s wrong with me?!” when you suddenly lack the drive you once had? I know I’ve berated myself for waning motivation on more than one occasion. Possibly even today. Possibly.

So, knowing that our motivation will desert us at some point, Deb suggests that we forge ahead, making plans, and factoring in a need for a kick in the ass around the mid-way point. If our project or goal is especially massive, we should plan for a few ass-kickings (pronounced: rewards) at key points in the process.

We could also create or tap into a support network. WeightWatchers, Jenny Craig, MyFitnessPal, and other weight loss sites all embrace this concept. WeightWatchers’ ads talk a lot about research on how people who have support lose a pretty sizable percentage more weight than people who don’t have a support system. It’s really no different in any area of our lives. If you are working on a big project at the office, but are left to your own devices, you are less likely to be successful than if you are accountable to someone else throughout the project.

I like Deb’s advice that we re-read an especially inspirational book, blog post, or article. Or watch a program that made us feel like we could conquer the world. Or talk to a person that always makes us feel powerful and motivated. Revisiting motivating moments in our life can inspire us all over again. I use pocket to keep track of blog posts and online articles that have inspired me in the past.

Probably the hardest advice to follow is to eliminate the overwhelm. Stop saying “yes” so much. Eliminating some of the overwhelming feelings about our workload can be incredibly motivating, but we are rarely in a position (whether at work or at home) to say “no” to a new project or responsibility. I swear, overwhelmed is the new black.

I’m still reeling over the knowledge that I’m normal, even when my motivation fails me. There is nothing “wrong” with me, and I am not somehow defective because I lost my drive. This is so freeing, I immediately felt a little bit more motivated upon reading it.

Go check out Deb’s original post, but come right back and tell me what you’ve tried to get your mojo back.