Foot to the Pedal

The day has been won. It’s time to kick back, light a cigar, and enjoy that glass of bourbon. Relax. There’s no more fight needed. Everything has been tackled. No more effort is needed.

Maybe enjoy that glass of bourbon. But don’t stop.

Don’t let off the gas.

It’s that simple. When the tasks have been completed, when victory for the day is won, keep going. Victory is only temporary.

Too often I’ve done this very thing. I accomplish a goal and then I call it a day. I move on to letting my id take over to call all the shots. Instagram, Netflix, or whatever become my focus. My definitive chief aim, my telos, my goals in life take a break from my being and I drop off.

By all means, celebrate the victory, just don’t let off the gas.

Seeking Change

Things change. Life is an experience of change. Humans have a fantastic ability to adapt to change to a degree that we often will barely notice it. I don’t mean that we won’t notice things that change, it’s more that we will continue to operate as though nothing is changing while addressing these changes.

I believe that this trait is drawn through ritual. When our rituals can remain without disruption, then no matter the change that happens surrounding us, we carry on as though nothing is changing. Ritual is our true north. If our ritual doesn’t have to change, then we are set.

For me, my life of late has been obsessively focused on trying to create ritual. It seems that each and every day of my life is an exercise in rolling the dice to see what pops up. Not that any of it is necessarily bad, it is just that there is little disciplined routine. This is especially true with my writing.

My wake-up routine is one that I especially am trying to tackle now. Up to today, my routine has consisted of waking up, going to the kitchen to get the coffee running, then laying on the couch until I felt like getting up all the way. When the coffee finished brewing, I might get up to pour a cup, or I might stay on the couch. Eventually I would get up, get the cup of coffee, if I hadn’t gotten it already, and I would then get dressed. By then, I would play Flow on my phone solving the daily puzzles. Eventually I would have had enough coffee that I would get up, prep my travel mugs, then clean the coffee pot and any dishes that accumulated since the evening before. Then I’d leave for work.

No reading, no journaling, no task reviews, no writing— nothing besides brewing coffee and getting dressed is helping set me up for a successful day. There’s a lot to improve here.

The other day I tried a change. It wasn’t perfect, but rather than laying on the couch after starting the coffee, I sat down with my notebook and wrote down some tasks for the day. Then I made a few quick journal notes. From there, I opened my computer to write. I was able to write 100-ish words before getting up to clean the coffee pot and dishes, then leave for work.

Then I repeated it on Wednesday.

And again.

In those tweaks I experienced a pretty significant change. I was better able to tackle more things earlier in the day. I was more alert. I was more relaxed. In other words, I wasn’t spending the time fighting against myself in getting going. That is huge.

It will take continued refining, and I will need to be diligent in completing it every day, not falling back into the trap of my anxieties. With discipline, my new daily morning routine will help set me up for continued success.

Temptation

Temptation sits on the desk next to you. Her legs are crossed, smooth and soft as they gently graze against the edges of your hand. You want her. You feel your pulse raise, heat rising through your collar. Every so often her hand lifts, teasing your arm, your shoulder, your ear. Pressure builds as you want to divert your attention to her. She wants you to. She wants you.

But you have to get your work done.

Being tempted to divert attention away from getting tasks done is a normal pratfall of life. It sits there, waiting for the prime opportunity to derail us from our goals. And every time it happens, we damn ourselves for falling for it.

This thought all came to me as I was walking through my work and stumbled upon donuts left out for the staff to enjoy. Problem is, I am trying to get myself back into a healthier state and I was mid-fast. Would it be a big deal if I had a donut? In the grand scheme of things, it probably isn’t. But eating that donut would not be in line with my goals. But damn I love donuts.

I walked away. Far away. I had the kick temptation out of the room to focus on what I want, which in this case is to be healthier.

Temptation will be back, I’m certain. I am sure that resisting her will often be difficult. I’ll fail to do so on occasion. But dammit, today I won.

Re-centering

I’ve been dealing with a number of setbacks lately. I was able to get back up to my goal of 1000 words of fiction a day. The issue was, that although I was able to achieve it, my habits have continued to be less-than-desirable. Thus, I’ve been at best stumbling over the finish line if I even cross the finish line.

It has to do with how I manage time throughout the day. What I choose to do at each point of the day influences just how successful I will be later. Am I setting myself for success or am I only rolling the dice, hoping that the rest of the day will go smoothly enough that I’ll be lucky?

Most times, I am crossing my fingers that my day will go smoothly. Murphy’s Law will derail that hope on most days.

To combat that, I need to be making better choices.

Do I wake up and get up or lay there? I need to get up right away. Write. Read. Set my goals for the day. By doing so points me in the right direction immediately.

How do I handle a distraction? If it is a distraction of work, family, or life, meaning that I should turn my focus to it? OK. But if it is only that I am suddenly opening Instagram, Facebook, or turning to some other non-productive activity? Pause. Think about why I am distracted. Turn myself back towards the priorities.

Am I using free time effectively? Have five minutes? Plan. Write. Read. Learn. Or use it purposefully for a brief respite. If it’s a respite, set a timer and then move back when it goes off. We all need breaks every so often, that’s understandable. Have a little fun. Take a minute or five. Just don’t get caught up in it.

Days will never cooperate if I am not working to set myself up for the success I am after. And if it’s not the day itself, were I not continuously keeping myself pointed in the correct direction, I would derail my own success.

That can no longer be acceptable.

Look Ahead

I wrote something in my notebook this morning that struck me as I was out for a walk this morning. As I gazed on the first rays of sunlight reflecting the orange glory of the changing leaves, I began to understand an idea. It’s an idea that opposes the concept of procrastination. Of course, procrastination is a characteristic I am very familiar with. And in the last few years, I’ve struggled to overcome this tendency once and for all.

This idea that came to my head isn’t anything that I thought up on my own. In fact, this is similar to what quite a number of smarter people have said. It’s the idea of setting myself up for success by doing something today that will make tomorrow better.

Procrastination is really an act of me giving more work for future me. Instead, I am trying to be better to future me.

It’s a way of being kind to myself. And while it’s not easy to do when I’ve been so primed to procrastinate, I am sure that future me will be glad for the effort.