ast week, I wrote about my monster goal and habit setting session. We’re eight days into January and the habits are going strong. My success rate hasn’t been 100%, but when I look at the difference between my habits in December and my habits now, there has been definite progress.
Before January gets too much farther along, it’s time to really spell out exactly what these habits are and where I’m aiming…which brings me to the two-fold reasoning behind this post:
1) Purely selfish. By putting my goals out in a public forum, I’ve just raised the stakes.
There is a reason why groups like Weight Watchers and Alcoholics Anonymous can really help people…public accountability and group support are two of the powerful components. I’m ready to up the ante for myself by sharing in more detail about the habits I’m trying to develop this year.
Or maybe this post is akin to a CEO knowing that he or she is going to report to a board at the end of the quarter…When you read this blog, it’s like you’re on my board (give yourself a pat on the back, board member!). Knowing that I’m presenting to you keeps me accountable and wanting to produce fresh, good stuff. In this case of habits and goals, I want to be able to report back to you about my victories in the habit arena at the end of the month (quarter). Your equity is…folk art animals. Clearly I have been watching too much Shark Tank. I believe this analogy has run it’s course.
2) There’s also an altruistic side to this post.
I, for one, am always intrigued when other writers, bloggers, or speakers let me into their goals and resolutions. Maybe it’s the window creeper in me.
It doesn’t even matter if I’m trying to adopt the same habits as whomever I’m interacting with – even if they are completely different from what I’m aspiring to, it somehow gives me strength and energy as I go after my own pursuits. It’s like trail mix on this journey of life. (I’m telling you, the analogies are just FLOWING today.)
If the habits I’ve chosen to work on can somehow inspire you – whether you take them as your own, vamp off them in new ways, or just mull over this whole business of “habits” a little deeper than you may have otherwise – I’ll be counting that as a total win.
So, without further ado…here are explanations behind the habits I’m working on this year.
MORNING ROUTINE – DEVELOP ONE AND STICK TO IT
I listen to a lot of podcasts and love reading motivational books from peak performers. Over the past couple months, the topic of morning routines kept on coming up over and over.
I’ve mentioned how part of Tony Robbins’ routine is very similar to the process of freezing basil. Tim Ferris had a fascinating podcast episode where he talks about how to avoid decision fatigue – and a huge piece of that is developing a scripted morning routine. He suggests having the first 60 minutes of your day be like clockwork – this helps start the day off in a relaxed, paced manner and has the added bonus of letting you save your willpower for later in the day. Instead of squandering it on whether you should have scrambled eggs or cereal and yogurt, you can reserve those willpower muscles for later in the day on truly important decisions.
It became very apparent that most people (and hedgehogs) who are thriving have developed a meaningful morning routine that sets them up for success. I was eager to do the same.
I wasn’t quite ready to douse myself in freezing water every morning like Tony Robbins…maybe someday (I did do a month long, 5 minute cold shower challenge last summer – but that’s a different story for a different day). However, I was ready to start scheduling time for some activities that otherwise have a way of being crowded out by other things during the day. The first was prayer.
Last year, my alarm clock would ring and I would grab for my phone and start scrolling through Instagram. This became such an ingrained habit and I was OVER IT. More on this in a bit…
Now, I’m starting my day off by flipping open that little Magnificat book pictured above – my Mom graciously sends it to me every month. My deal with myself is that I don’t have to read for very long – it might be just reading one of the morning prayers or reading the gospel passage and reflection for the day. As long as I’m reading something from it, then I’m good to go. Part of the key of starting a new habit is making sure that you don’t have huge resistance to it, so I wanted to start small.
Getting my heart oriented for the day in this prayerful way has been a 180 degree change from my previous habit.
I then make the bed, brush my teeth, get dressed, and take Graham to go party. (Remember, I just can’t face saying the word “potty” so this was our work-around for that dreaded phrase.) He’s usually giving me this look and is DYING to get outside:
Once we get back upstairs, I boil some water for tea and then head out to the balcony to read. As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m currently working through this inspiring book by Austin Kleon (note: that’s an affiliate link). It’s so good.
So, three big things – prayer, taking care of Graham, and reading. Maybe I’ll add in some breathing exercises as the year goes on, but right now I’m giving myself a high five for finally starting my days off in a purposeful, routine way.
WORKOUT 5 DAYS PER WEEK
In general, I had been exercising frequently last year – but it was way too easy to get in a rut where I wouldn’t go to the gym for a week or so, sometimes longer.
I was ready to start tracking my progress to gain some momentum and get to a point where my body and mind ache without a workout. Plus, Bobby and I live in a building with not just one but TWO pools and a climate where I can easily take advantage of said pools – I realized that I was a fool not to seize this amazing opportunity on a frequent basis.
Every other day, I’m lifting light weights and doing strength training for about 35 minutes. Then I hop on the cardio machines for 20 minutes. On the in-between days, I’m using the cardio machines for about 25 minutes and then swimming laps for a glorious 20 minutes.
IT’S. BEEN. AWESOME.
SOCIAL MEDIA BOUNDARIES
Facebook and Instagram are sneaky little beasts.
Here’s the thing: they have their places and I find benefits to both sites. Facebook helps me keep in touch with friends, and Instagram is actually hugely inspiring to me. But, I found myself reaching for my phone with more and more frequency. When I closely monitored how I felt afterwards, these adjectives usually came to mind:
Not exactly life-giving words.
I wasn’t actively choosing when to engage with these platforms. They had become space fillers and deeply entrenched habits. Adding up all of the minutes in the day when my attention was going to Facebook and Instagram made my head spin and my heart feel dull.
Last year, Glennon Doyle Melton wrote an amazing essay about social media and how she was displaying all the signs of addiction – just that the substance was the internet. Her words hit me right in the gut. That was me. Now, did I do anything about this? Not for months and months. As of two weeks ago, I was still lulling myself to sleep by scrolling through my Instagram and waking myself up by rolling towards my phone and mindlessly looking through my various feeds.
But Glennon’s words didn’t go away, and neither did the Thoreau quote that she included:
“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.”
I was sick of exchanging so much of my life for something as fleeting and inconsequential as social media. I finally decided to do something about it with this new year. NO more of this:
It was time for some boundaries (I’m a rule follower, so I do REALLY well with set boundaries.)
Here was my number one rule: Facebook on my phone = dead to me.
I was going to completely delete the Facebook app from my phone but ultimately kept it because I post pictures directly from my phone; however, that’s the only time I allow myself to click on that little blue icon. Otherwise, I treat it like rat poison.
I allow myself to check Facebook once or twice a day from my computer, but I’ve found that I’m much less likely to spend time aimlessly scrolling as I tend to do on my phone. There are just too many other productive things I could be doing on my computer (like writing this blog post) and so there is greater friction in my brain if I’m spending copious amounts of time online scrolling through my feed.
For Instagram boundaries, I’ve set up a few rules. I’m able to post a picture at any time throughout the day but I’m only allowed to check it, look through my notifications, and scroll through pictures when I’m waiting for something…this could mean waiting in line at the grocery store, waiting for the elevator, waiting for the microwave to heat up my lunch, or waiting for Graham to go party. As soon as the wait is over, though, my time is up and I move on with my day.
Here’s another big boundary: no social media while in bed. No more Instagram in the morning, no more Facebook late at night when Bobby’s fallen asleep and I’m waiting to feel drowsy. There have been plenty of studies about the detriments of screen time on your sleep and, even more compelling than that for me, was how it made me feel (please see adjectives above). Now when I go to bed, my phone goes to sleep, too.
Awhile ago, my friend, Allison, posted something about bedtime routines – that the same things that are good for kids are good for adults: Bath, Book, Bed. (She posted that gem on Facebook, ironically enough – see, it’s not all evil.)
Here is my new and improved bedtime routine: Journals, Book, Meditation, Bed. What it lacks in alliteration, it makes up for in purpose.
First, I fill in my journals – I’ve already written about one of those journaling systems and I’ll fill you in on the other sometime soon. Altogether, that takes me about 5 minutes.
Then I fit in more reading time. Currently, it’s been this jewel by Anne Lamott.
Finally, it’s one minute of meditation with this cute little guy:
Meditation has been another habit that I’ve been SO resistant to but that I know is a great habit. I thought I’d start tiny with only one minute. My antsy brain can handle 60 seconds and that free app – while painstakingly simple – has definitely helped.
Alright, board members, there you have it! All of my habits for 2015. Thanks for reading about those tiny resolutions that took a huge amount of words to explain. I’ll be back at the end of January to report back on progress!
I read once that you have to do a new activity for 30 days for it to become a habit. Seems to be working for me.
Hi Pam! Thanks so much for being an active reader, I love seeing your comments! Yes, I’ve heard the 30 day stat before as well – the other day I think I heard about 120 and I’ve also heard 21 days before, too…ha, they must all be coming from different studies! I totally agree with you, once you get a streak of days (whether that’s 30 or any other number) it definitely starts to engrain the activity. Glad it’s working for you!
I had to laugh a little when I found out you were reading a book titled Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. It must be kind of fun to find all the ways your name appears in the world!
So, am I right in thinking you have different sets of books you read in the morning vs at night?
All of these sound like great goals! I definitely feel you on the social media aspect. I’ve never downloaded the Facebook app to my phone for that reason.
Sorry to hear about the DMV, but looks like you were productive! (And now you have a Florida license? How cool is that!?)
Celeste, you are so right about how fun it is to find my name pop up in everyday situations. :) I actually took an incredible class in college once where I had to write my Spiritual Autobiography for my final – and the first several pages were all about my name! I’ve definitely grown to appreciate it more and more as I get older.
Yep, I do currently have different sets of books for morning vs. night – at least for now, anyways! Right now, I’m reserving more “go get ’em” type books for the morning that will spur me on to creativity and productivity throughout the day. Then at night, I’m allowing the genre to be more story-like (whether that ends up being fiction or nonfiction). Perhaps that will change as the year goes on, but I’ve been liking the delineation so far!
(PS. The graphic design element to the Florida license leaves MUCH to be desired. You and Stephen should totally offer your freelancing services to them!)
You go, girl! I admire you for setting limits for yourself on social media. The other stuff is good, too. Yes, you’ve inspired me. Now maybe I should get to bed? ha ha.
Thanks, Mom! Ha, bedtime is always a tricky one for me, too – I think (actually I KNOW) that I get my night owl tendencies from you! Maybe that will be something I’ll have to work on next…
I loved the part about morning routines—trying to reduce choice so that we can save our brainpower for bigger things! Any ideas of how to do that with our closet/wardrobe?
Alisa, funny you should ask that! I was actually contemplating something along those lines…having a capsule wardrobe has definitely helped a lot with that for me (I wrote about capsule wardrobes on my post “Lessons Learned in Moving” on November 19th) – but I’m realizing that, even with a more limited closet, I’m still choosing what to wear every morning, in the moment. I’m tossing around the idea of planning out my wardrobe for the week (ha, kind of like meal planning for clothes!). Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject if you’ve been mulling it over!
Yay I got a shout out! :) glad my discovery inspired you
Yeah, totally! It was such a good insight! (Are you still sticking to it?)
It has been a long time and you may not even remember me, but I just wanted to share with you that the internet and social media and blogs often leave me feeling zapped/wilted/drained, but your blog has quite the opposite effect! Thank you for sharing your pearls of wisdom and on-going projects and for your authenticity and accessibility.
Hi Hilary! I certainly remember you and it’s SO nice to hear from you! I can’t thank you enough for taking the time to comment. I’ve been hoping that this space can be a place for people a bit burnt out on blogs – so it was such an affirmation to read your words. It’s a pleasure to be back in touch and I hope all is going beautifully in your life! xoxo