Two months ago I set some goals for myself, some boundaries or rules if you will, to help maximise my time and take care of myself during the university semester. Inspired by “FreeStyle Mind” and the blog post “30 Habits that will Change your Life”, here are my list of habits I wanted to implement: –
- Maintain 7am – 3pm work days (The last few weeks I’ve managed 7.30am – 3.30pm. This is ok as I get home by 4pm)
- Go to bed at 9.30pm during the week
- Exercise for 30 minutes at least every second day
- Check my email inbox only twice per day
- One day off per week
Now for the report card…..
Apart from a few slow Mondays and mornings when I’ve (broken rule 2) stayed up the night before working, I’ve managed fairly consistent 7.30am to 3.30pm work days. By this I mean I’ve completed the paid aspect of my work day between the hours of 7.30am and 3.30pm. And I’m home by 4pm ready to get stuck into my “other life” (as I say to my colleagues).
Ok, I’ve broken the second rule a few times, but not by much. Admittedly I’ve bent the rule so that I finish working at 9.30pm, rather than actually head to bed at that time. When I have (totally) broken the rule, apart from writing my NLS5 paper last Thursday ‘til 11.30pm, I’ve stopped myself at 10.15pm at the latest. That, to me, is an achievement. So I’m still working on this habit. It wasn’t going to happen overnight, or in a couple of months, but what is important is I’m well aware of the habit I’m trying to implement, when I do abide by it and when I don’t.
Exercise. Hmmm. Well, this is an area I’m not quite so disciplined, which is both surprising and expected at the same time. People who know me will be aware of my past lifetime as a competitive artistic gymnast. So you would think this habit would be easy for me. Trust me, it ain’t. Back then I had coaches on my back (not literally) pushing me further and made sure I did those stair runs, rope climbs, chin ups, handstands, etc. These days, I don’t have that. Motivation for exercising can be hard to come by simply because I’m not tough enough on myself to stop what I’m working on. A session on the rowing machine every five days is unacceptable. I must rectify this immediately. On the upside, I have started Pilates classes and have booked myself in for the next month (one class every 1 1/2 weeks). Classes are in my calendar, time is blocked out for them, I have to do it. By the way, I’m absolutely loving the time out Pilates is giving me. For one whole hour I don’t think about study, work, worries, nothing.
From my experience and probably many, many others, smart phones can both improve and hinder productivity. Checking my email inbox only twice per day? Impossible with my iPhone. Actioning my email inbox only twice per day? Manageable. And that’s what I’ve stuck with. I action my email inboxes in the morning and when I arrive home from work. That’s it. Don’t expect a reply straight away from me, unless you’re either my mother or if the matter requires an immediate response. I simply cannot afford the time away from my “library clients”, day-to-day processing of library materials and project tasks. I will check my inboxes from time to time, but only so I have an idea of the time I need in the afternoon to action items.
Probably the most challenging habit I’ve attempted to maintain is my one day off per week. I cannot manage all my commitments and still have time for a whole day off. I think I’ve been unreasonable to even put this rule in place and expect I stick to it. Instead I’ve tuned in to my work/study habits and paid increased attention to when I absolutely won’t complete any work/study-related tasks. Friday afternoons/nights are my “day off”. I don’t bother scheduling any tasks on Fridays anymore. Fridays are casual dress, lunch out with work team, maybe knock off a little early and watch some Friday night footy.
New habits are not easy to implement and maintain. They don’t become ‘natural’ overnight. One key I’ve discovered is the importance of developing an awareness of the new habit – why it’s working, why it’s not and what’s stopping it. Success depends on discipline, accountability of self, priorities, the core reason why you want to make the change/s and how badly you want it.
“If you don’t like something change it; if you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.”