I am all about “starting small” and “slow and steady” and “if it’s not broken don’t fix it”… but it is November folks, and time to totally get my act together. I had goals for this year, lots of them. Unwritten of course, I can hear the planners in you actually shuddering, but in my defence as soon as I ever make a “to do” list, it instantly becomes a “to don’t” list. So I am not the best list maker, but I am very intentional and I decided to see if I could create a few habits… you know rumour has it that it takes twenty one days to create a habit, and all that. I have discovered that some changes are easier to implement than others and some are a whole lot easier to stick to than others… and some habits are just a plain old slog and require discipline all the way.
I am all about living intentionally, and I realise that this year, the year I planned to get everything round here ship-shape, I had drifted a fair ways off target. That being said I figured out what I wanted to achieve and then gave myself one thing to work on each month. Nothing dramatic, mind you… but a whole lot of mini-experiments. I know December is a crazy busy month, and with all the holidays it is not a good time to try out new things… so this month I am putting it all together… nothing dramatic, nothing that will disrupt the rhythm of our family’s daily life… just little changes that I discovered throughout this year make life a little bit easier.
Se7en Challenges I Tried and Tested This Year
- Reading: Everyone wants to read more, everyone. But seriously when… being sleep deprived for years meant that reading before bed was out of the question, for obvious reason. But as we review more and more books and I have to do the lion’s share of the reading, I wasn’t making time for reading at all. How crazy is that, I love reading. With very small children there was a significant reading lull… having toddlers means that if you are awake, then small children are awake as well… and quite frankly they are the most efficient machines at reducing one’s attention span. My first challenge of the year was to read everyday, at least a chapter. I started the year by doing that first… I get up and head for the couch and read a chapter before I start the day, that has slowly become a half hour read… and then if I am lucky I can catch a read later on in the day. Totally means that I get to read a book or two a week. This is one habit that I fixed and maintained through out the year… it definitely works of me, I have read more books this year than I have in years.
- Create: I strongly believe that to be creative you have to create. Creating every day, and letting your mind wander while you create is a great way to improve your creativity. I know that you have to do something in order to generate more. So in an effort kickstart my rusty creative habits back into gear I just dived in and started a drawing a day. I started really really simply with Chris Riddell’s Doodle book… After a while I realised that I was enjoying it so much that I wanted to do more… it wasn’t time that was holding me back, I just sit and doodle a little bit before I settle down and blog in the evening… my problem was accessibility… so silly really. As soon as I took my water colour pencils out of their fancy tin and popped them in a mug on my desk… creating became something I had access to all the time and it was literally all I needed to get creating again.
- Rest: Anyone who reads our blog will know that I am alarmingly bad at getting to bed timeously. Seriously… bad, bad, bad!!! I can not say that I have small children as an excuse either… my small children do sleep through the night, all of them. In my defence I can say that my children have trained me to wake up continuously for a number of years and I can say that I now have teenagers, yes folks with toddlers you do have this to look forward to. Teenagers like to chat at one in the morning, I would not joke about this because it is not that funny. In fact this could well be the tragedy of all times, I am just so glad I never got used to sleeping through the night again before we hit the teenage years. On a more optimistic note, earlier in the year a friend of mine said, “I love my bed and I can’t wait to read on it.” Well that was an epiphany moment for me, I did not love my bed at all… literally a place to go to when I just could not keep going any longer. So earlier this year we were lucky enough to inherit a really comfy bed… and my what a difference it has made. And now, one of my favourite rewards for a day well done is to leave the day behind and head for bed and read. And slowly but surely I am bringing the time I go to bed back towards something a little more human… not perfect… my ultimate goal would be bed by eleven… but right now at mid-night I am heading for bed – this is a dramatic improvement folks… don’t knock it.
- Early to Rise: Well along with my inability to get to bed, comes a natural inability to rise and shine… so for one month this year my goal was to be up and at it by 6:30 every single day. It wasn’t easy but I did it, and I loved it. The peace and quiet… just bliss. I know 6:30 isn’t early for some folk, but humour me folks. I discovered that I really like the calm before the storm… and I know highly productive people like to get up and work their way through a complicated morning routine. I am more the person that loves to get up and just sit outside and breathe a little bit before I have to start the day. Savour the peace folks, this house can be crazy busy at times. I have discovered that if I am up by about se7en, and give myself half an hour to just to face the day and half an hour to read – if it is still all quiet at eight am, then I settle in and get a good hour of emails and replying to comments on social media done, before I get the gang up for the day. As I get to bed earlier, so this time gets so much more productive – no surprises there… really!!! I know, it just takes that initial effort.
- Exercise: I climbed the stairs behind our house every day for a month… for years I have done a walk, most days of the week… and that is all very good and well, but lets be honest walking with small kids is often not even exercise. The last two years I have been hiking a lot more, a hike a week at least and so the walks had to become a little more than strolls, just to keep me fit enough to do the hikes that we wanted to do. But hills remain well tragically slow for me, I figured if I was fitter it would help… so for a month I challenged myself to climb the first 350 stairs up the mountain behind our house… every single day. It was insane… and I can tell you by the third day I wanted to quit, there may have been tears… and I was going with one particularly tenacious kid and he would not let me quit. Now exercise is a funny thing, it never gets easier… because as you improve so you can push yourself harder… by the end of the month I was so looking forward to my walks that became so much further than the “required” stairs. However… this has also been the year of injury and annoyingly I haven’t kept up with the stairs. But I do know I feel so much better when I do climb the mountain everyday… I sleep better, it is just all round good for me… and so very difficult to maintain. Shockingly enough, even though I feel better for it, even though I know I am better for it any excuse, it turns out is a good excuse not to get out there… and it is going to take a whole lot more than twenty one days to create the exercise habit in me. Turns out instagram is my friend, always looking for a fab shot… means that I just get up and go out there.
- Food: To be my best self I just need to eat better, for years I rescued my kids from eating junk by eating it for them. You know, give them all a biscuit and then nibble on the rest so that they don’t have to. That was actually easy enough to stop, just a month of absolutely no junk was fairly easy to achieve. The first thing to get back on track was the whole drinking water thing, that I find easy to create a habit with, I have triggers for drinking a glass of water and I do that a couple of times a day. Next thing was to eliminate caffeine… I love my coffee, really love!!! So I have rules, if the father person offers me coffee, or I go out for a coffee with a friend, then that’s fine… but the mid morning grab for coffee in order to survive until lunchtime… I call those survival coffees and they have gone. Sugar a whole lot less, veggies a whole lot more… slowly and surely adapting our family meals to more and more healthy choices.
- Social Media: What can I say… the phone is the biggest distraction on earth and after I have answered my morning collection of emails and done a little “Social Media-ing” I tend to just leave it charging at my computer until we are done with whatever we are doing in the morning and then I spend a little more time on it after lunch and in the evening… less spontaneous posting, for sure… a whole lot more stuff getting done – you bet. Not to mention a massive amount of time saved. My best time to blog is in the early afternoon, but that often doesn’t happen… which means after dinner is the next best time to blog… trust me, the earlier you get up the harder it is to blog at the end of the day and blogging became a one, two, skip a few affair as I tried to find the time balance.
- Getting Things Done: Getting stuff done is an actual habit… who knew!!! I had big plans for this year, creative ideas that have been lying around for literally years… closets to sort and buttons to sew on. From tiny projects to huge projects, I had big plan for this year… and then I broke my arm and twelve weeks later I could only just clean my own teeth… it was indeed a mission to get anything done and I had well and truly broken the habit of getting stuff done. And then, the other day I realised that I was creating a November calendar, and decided that this was the month I was going to do a project a day… yes I should have a list, and I don’t… its a very simple plan… when there is even the slightest lull… then start something. Because experience tells me the the best way to get something done is to just begin it. Somedays I have managed to sort a book case, and other days I have cleaned and laundered my way through an entire closet… I reckon getting stuff done at this stage requires a lot more action and a lot less planning.
So here’s the thing, in the month of November, I plan to take better care of myself. I am doing all the good stuff… a project a day, no survival coffees and plenty of crunchy salads, reading a bunch and sleeping more, there might be less blogging but that’s ‘cos I am using my time to sleep, read and get my creative game back into gear for next year. Not to mention by the time December rolls round a whole heap of projects that have been put of forever will be done and dusted and I will be able to blog… a projects actually done post!!!