Maybe it’s the springtime feeling in the air. Maybe it’s the knowledge that I need to be bathing suit ready for our beach vacation in less than two months. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m two-thirds of the way done with the work in progress. Maybe it’s the fact that in five weeks (FIVE!!!!!!) the kids will officially be on summer vacation thereby making my time for writing and exercise a bit more complicated than it already is.
Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to full on challenge myself both mentally and physically for the next month.
Call me crazy, because, well, I probably am.
In the last two years, I’ve let my exercise habits dwindle down to barely there behind work and family commitments. Where working out was built in to my weekly routines a few years ago, I fell out of a regular habit. Sure, I try to stay active during my day (I have two boys, it’s hard not to be), we enjoy an occasional family hike, I go to a weekly yoga class, but I know I could be doing a whole lot better, feeling better, feeling stronger. I want to instill healthy habits in my children by setting strong examples. And, let’s be honest, there is a level of vanity in missing a more toned arm in a tank top.
In the last year, I’ve also committed to writing a book. Last summer, I was still adjusting to not having a job and I had no clue what I was doing. I started in earnest in September, hit my stride around Christmas time (finally!) and the last three months have boasted some hopeful results. I see the light at the end of the rough draft tunnel and already have a growing list of things I know I want to tackle in the revision process. But with summer and no camps quickly approaching, I know I need to spend some quality time with my work in progress in order to stay on track with my revision goals and timeline.
My health and my dream are two major things I shouldn’t compromise on, and yet I do. All the time. The amazing thing is that focusing on my health and my dream spills over positively to the rest of my life: being healthy and creatively fulfilled makes me a much better mom, wife and citizen. And yet I daily downgrade time for activity and writing in order to accommodate other people and responsibilities. I talk a lot about putting myself first. I complain a lot about not being able to. But the fact remains that I’m the only one that can do that. And so I am. I’m putting myself all in. I’m setting some goals and recruiting the family to help in concrete ways, not the usual hands thrown in the air, exasperated exclamation “I could use some help around here” while storming off way.
For the past week, I’ve been reflecting on my goals and doing a lot of thinking on how best to achieve them. I need structure and accountability. Without them, “increased exercise” or “weekend writing time” becomes just another vague item on the to-do list that moves from day to day then week to week then month to month then, well, you get the picture.
First, I’ve decided to create a schedule of daily physical activity. It’s flexible enough to accommodate scheduling snags, tired days and weather. I’ve done the legwork and researched classes at my gym that can help me when I’m feeling lazy. I’m posting my tactics publicly in the house so that the family can keep me accountable each week. We are also instituting a formal family activity day. We do a lot of informal family activities, but putting a family hike or basketball game or tennis match on the schedule each weekend allows for us all to help plan and facilitate fun new adventures for the family. The kids are psyched by the challenge and I’m eager to get out and explore more with them. Bottom line, for the next 30 days, I will do at least a half hour of dedicated physical activity for myself. EVERY. DAY.
Structuring the writing has been a tougher challenge for me. Currently, I do my writing exclusively when the boys are both at school – a small three hour period between 9:15 and 12:15 until August when the little guy joins the big kid at elementary school. I’ve tried writing at night and don’t always meet with great results. I’m tired in the evenings and enjoy just plopping down on the sofa with my DVR and Netflix and turning my brain off for awhile. I also tend to ignore the work in progress on the weekends, focusing on our family time and errands and chores I can accomplish while the hubby hangs with the kiddos. BUT. Neither of those things are getting me any closer to my goal of finishing a novel, revising a novel, shopping the novel, starting the next novel.
I’m taking a hard look at my schedule and habits and adding in some additional forced writing time. Yes. Inspiration is good, however, the fact of the matter is writing is all about getting your butt in the chair and fingers to the keys or pen to the paper, not about waiting for some divine flash of brilliance. I think we can all agree that a flash of brilliance is certainly not going to be coming in the middle of a Real Housewives marathon. I’m committing to at least two evenings of writing a week and two hours of dedicated weekend time. This will need to be scheduled. This will need to be prioritized. This will require the buy-in of the hubby and the boys. This may force me out of my comfortable office chair and into a local coffee shop or book store in order to avoid the pull of the pajamas and Apple TV. But I think it’s doable. I think it’s necessary. I think it might even create a change of pace that will provide its own kind of inspiration.
The great thing about both of these challenges is that I benefit from any new habits I create. I also benefit from any failures. If something isn’t working, I can use that to learn about what will. Learning how I work, both physically and mentally, only helps me move forward towards finding the things that do.
Sometimes we need to force ourselves out of our comfort zones. We need to cross the street to see something new. We need to watch a sunset or get up for a sunrise. We need to meet new people. We need to see new perspectives. We need to shake up routines and ditch old habits and find new ones.
I’ve created an action plan. It’s time for action.
What do you need to create an action plan to accomplish?