As promised, here’s what I’ve been doing to try to get myself going down the road to Happy Julie Life Land. As part of living life more methodically, I came up with four things I wanted to do every day: exercise, write, clean the house (or some part of it) and a general category I’m calling “housekeeping” which basically means anything related to running the business of our lives, from budgets to house renovations to researching various entrepreneurial ideas Dave and I come up with.
This is my list. It might not work for you. It certainly won’t if you work outside your house every day. But I’m going to tell you all about it, because maybe something about my thought process will help you to figure out what you want to do every day (alternatively, it will make you think I am a loony nutbar who’s full of herself and needs to get her priorities in order).
There was a great article in this month’s issue of Body + Soul magazine about breaking habits, and that’s essentially what I’m doing here (though maybe not so much breaking bad habits as starting good ones). Listen, I’ve known for a long time that I’ve wanted to do these things, but it’s time for me to buck up and just do them. Part of breaking habits is setting the goal, and part of it is just doing the right thing, every day, until that becomes your habit. The whole article seemed really relevant to what I’m trying to do here, but this part in particular screamed at me:
Take it step-by-step. One metaphor that adequately portrays how habit works is this: Picture yourself taking a sled down an untouched, snowy hillside. When you climb back to the top, you have a choice: Go down the same path or start a new one. If you go down the same track, the ride is faster and easier, and after a while it’s tough to get out of. That, says [Lenora] Yuen, is a lot like habit.
To change the direction and shape of that path, you have to be patient enough to forge a new one, and use it enough times that doing so becomes faster, requiring less thought and effort.
Ok! So I’ve been doing this for about three weeks, and it is slowly making a difference. My first thought every day is, “What am I going to do for exercise today?” (ok, that’s my first thought after, “Ugh, when will we ever get enough sleep?”).
Here’s a little more about my list (you asked, right? you didn’t? well, here’s a little more anyway):
Three times I’ve been pregnant, and three times I’ve gotten back down to my fighting weight, but each time my body is different: softer, wider, pillowy. And it takes longer each time. But Zuzu is fifteen months old, and not only do I want to look better in clothes, I also want to just have that daily habit of exercising. Because I never have, and I know my life would be better if I did (plus it’s a good model for the kiddos). A few weeks ago I saw this Helena Rubenstein quote: “There are no ugly women, only lazy ones” and while she was talking mostly about cosmetics, I feel like this is true of exercising also. Someone all cheeky with the glow of exercise looks lovely. Someone pasty with the pallor of chips on the couch, not so much. The quote is fairly unfeminist when applied to makeup, but I really like it as a life lesson. Meaning: get out there and DO something, Julie! Don’t be a lump!
Now, when I say “clean,” I don’t mean doing dishes, or picking up daily clutter, making beds, or unloading the dishwasher. Those things have to happen every day. What I’m talking about is doing one extra deep cleaning thing. Because I was doing the dishes and picking up the clutter, and corners of my house are still appalling. It’s too overwhelming to do it all at once (plus: impossible), but if I do one thing a day, it works. Things on this list include: wiping down the baseboards in one room, mopping the floor in one room, cleaning the shower curtain, dusting, walking around with glass cleaner and a cloth and wiping away any obvious hand and nose prints. Also clearing clutter out of some area that has gone to seed, like my dresser or the mantel.
Like I said, this is a broad category that just means doing something to keep the business of our lives moving forward. Financial things fall into this category, as do house renovation things, and have-been-on-my-list-awhile things (like figuring out a way to attach the bike trailer to my bicycle even though we can’t find the connector bracket thingie). Anything in this category supports our family and moves us forward.
I really love this advice from DIY Planner: “The secret to writing every day is to write every day.” Exactly. If you really want to do it, find a way. Stay up a little later, get up early, hide in the bathroom, do what it takes. When I write every day, it’s like I’m exercising some little writer person in my brain, and then that little Bartleby is on high alert and keeps throwing out more little writerly sentences, more and more every day, and then I have notebooks scattered throughout the house so I make sure to write the things down when I think of them. And the writing every day just happens, then. But you really need to write every day in order to write every day. (Coming next week: more obvious advice! If you want to eat healthier, eat healthier! If you wish you read more books, then read more books!)
So there you go. What’s on your list?