Don’t wish away your time. Take everything one day at a time.
The stubborn part of me always snickers at these cliche bits of advice, but since I’ve started working entirely at home and on my own terms (and having time for more hobbies), I’ve been taking these more seriously.
Why? Because lately (as you can probably tell by my silence on the blog these past weeks), my to-do list looks like this:
- Be a millionaire
- Be a marathoner
- Keep the apartment pristine – always, and no matter what
- Be an ultra-minimalist
- Be a famous writer (in what? I don’t even know)
- Crochet something the size of the continental US
- Discover the cure for sleep (who needs it?)
And, if you’re anything like me you probably understand this desire to do all the things, and the feeling of failure when all of the things don’t get done. (Also, clearly this is not my actual to-do list, but it is a good representation of how I like to overschedule myself).
Our standards, while sometimes helpful, can often be our downfall. It’s time to grab that cliche advice in our hands and read it, recite it, hug it dearly until we understand it. One day at a time.
No such thing as overnight success
Isn’t that the truth? However, we’re constantly presented with people and stories that seem to be just that – it’s like they woke up and were suddenly more awesome than they ever dreamed they could be. I have to be honest with myself: I can’t go out and run a marathon tomorrow.
I think this is a source of frustration for a lot of us – expecting greater results (and faster!) than we actually get. So what is it – is it us just not meeting some standards that practically everyone else in the world is meeting? No, and I’m going to say something that might drive some people crazy, but it’s true:
It’s all in our head.
It’s a mental thing! Nothing more. Starting from there, you can start to readjust your expectations and mold them to fit a more agreeable and achievable reality. I’m not saying to settle for less – I’m saying to avoid frustration and burnout, you need to set reasonable expectations for your progress. It’s not easy.
How I’m revamping my to-do list
So, instead of the above to-do list, I’ve been focusing on making things a little more tame. For example, I’m nearing my two-week mark of running (or other similar activity) every day. My old high school successes in cross country (that came to a painful end with hip fracture and surgery) have been coming back to haunt me lately, so I decided to get back in the game.
Am I running 7-minute miles and knocking out 5k’s like they’re nothing? Hell. No. I want this to be a lasting habit, so my goal each day is a leisurely 1 mile run around my apartment complex and a bit of walking. Some days I feel like I could run for hours, and some days even half a mile is painful, but I always make sure to get just 1 mile and train my mind to think of running shoes as an everyday accessory.
Here’s what the rest of my to-do list might look like, keeping in mind the one day at a time rule:
- Pursue a daily average income goal; when I reach it, I can start reaching higher if I have more time
- Put away my dishes when I’m done with them and clean one area of the apartment every other day
- Spend an hour each week considering what I need to get rid of before the big move
- Write a blog post once or twice a week
- Crochet if I find myself in front of the television
- There’s no way around this one: actually sleep and don’t feel bad about it
It’s time we all slow down a bit and allow for a bit of sanity. I’ve already started with the running habit, but can I make the rest of these habits as well? Yes. Yes I can. It’s never too late to pursue one of those high-level goals (like becoming a marathoner), but they require small steps at first. What’s more, they require any steps at all – getting started can be one of the biggest challenges (and there, my friends, is another true cliche for you).
As for the rest of my evening, I have one more work goal to meet and then I’ll happily fall asleep and rest up – tomorrow’s a brand new day.
Any tips you have for slowing things down and getting more done?
“The best time to start was last year. Failing that, today will do.”
– Chris Guillebeau