Same Me, Same Goals, New Methods

Last Year I wrote about how each day is a great time to pursue self improvement. I still feel that way, and given the less than joyous political and social climate we had in the US this year, maybe even more so.

Every New Years Day for me is a day to assess what I’ve done, and come up with a plan for making it better. Most people can do this pretty effectively. The tricky part is continuing that self-help momentum into February and beyond. I struggle with it as much as the next person but I’ve learned some tips that might help someone else too.

The first week of the new year is when I write the page numbers, goal pages (daily & yearly/lifetime), and date sections for each day of the year, in a fresh notebook. This planner has become my lifeline to keeping on track (read about it here) and is part of three notebooks I use daily.

The second notebook I use is a journal for tracking what happened the day before. Most people who have gotten to know me over the years know I have a slightly bad long term memory and this helps me keep track of important dates such as when I graduated, had major medical procedures done, changed jobs/schools etc. It’s also a good mental health care routine to have to process stress and monitor health trends. For example, if a doctor wants to know how long my symptoms have lasted, or when I first noticed something, I can usually look back and find it there. I’d recommend this to anyone preparing for an appointment, especially since in the US right now the waiting times are much longer, and you’re more likely to go through health changes (or attempt to home treat) before your appointment actually comes around.

The third notebook is another kind of health tracker. Before last year I rarely drank soda, and I was so busy all day that the extra sugars didn’t affect me much. Since changing from a job where I was on my feet constantly to a completely sedentary one I’ve also drank more soda than ever. I gained some weight and started seeing some negative effects on my heart and overall health; this plus the fact that T2 Diabetes runs in both sides of my family encouraged me to lower my intake. Since I’m a believer in enjoying the little things in moderation, this journal lets me essentially do a sticker chart (yep, more stickers!). I made a spiral chart, and every 5 stickers I can have a soda, and after about 70 stickers I get a Redbull (I found out having one and drinking it slowly with water actually doesn’t bother my heart too badly; that’s serious progress!).

The goal, is to get a sticker after every good health day. I have to drink enough water to meet my intake goals, which is around 1500 mL, exercise in some way even if it’s just a brief walk, and get at least 6-8 hours of sleep. If I meet all three of these goals, I get a sticker. This method basically reinforces itself, and helped me move away from my slight soda addiction. Before this, I was literally putting myself into exhaustion from excess caffeine/sugar and not fueling my body enough to handle it; it caused quite a few heart problems.

Outside of these journals, making my goals for the year has been vital. When making my goals I try to keep in mind that I’ll probably lose momentum around mid-late January, and they should be realistic enough to take into account poor health days, stressful events, and disappointment when I fail to meet daily goals. Those goals are:

  1. Do my best to listen to my body’s needs
  2. Make healthy choices as much as possible
  3. Treat each new moment as just that, new.
  4. Try to work on at least one personal endeavor each day, even if that’s just for 10 minutes

These seem kind of simple, but they leave room for error, while giving me a chance to assess what I want out of my life each day. I personally enjoy learning new things, working on different projects, and getting healthier, but setting strict goals makes it harder to adapt when things don’t go as planned. As most Spoonies already know, having to adapt is crucial when your body doesn’t always do what you need it to when you need it to.

So, what do I do around this time of the new year when things start losing their brand new motivational sparkle? I set alarms.

Well, technically I use my phone and apps to track personal goals in simple ways. But since not everyone has the ability or means to do this, I’m going to break it down to it’s simplest form. I have an alarm for each type of activity I need to do during the day. One for taking my medications, one for small fitness breaks, one for drinking water, and one for time to rest and reflect on my day. Alarms can be different things for different people, but they give you a chance to stop stressing, and let the app/phone/clock worry about time. If I choose to skip one, I know it’ll come around again and I get another shot at it later.

Honestly, for me, the key to staying motivated is what I’ve stated from the start: every new day, every new moment, is a new chance. Beating myself up over what I didn’t do because I was busy with my health, another priority, or just plain tired, just stops me from trying again later. Being gentle with myself, while also trying not to overindulge have been the best ways to keep me going at a good pace. There’s no magic routine that will work for everyone. I didn’t learn these methods from someone else, and while they might help someone else, that person will also have to make changes that fit their own needs. Implementing something small, getting used to it, then adding resources as needed is a pretty good standard practice. Dumping too much on yourself can be overwhelming and most people lose momentum from the sheer weight of it all.

Self improvement isn’t a sprint, it’s an endurance run. Go too hard and too fast, and you’ll burn yourself out before you’ve even begun.

Burnout, Executive Dysfunction, and Indulgence

I typically post my blogs at a different day and time than when I wrote them so I’m going to start marking the actual day and time. It’s 16:42 on September 19th, and I can’t decide what to do with my Saturday afternoon.

My planner works really well during the week because my schedule is consistent due to work. Sometimes on the weekends it’s not as great if I’m feeling rundown. Today it’s definitely been more like the latter.

I’ve been laying here thinking “I know I’m tired and it’s good to sleep, but I also need to [insert my entire todo list].” It’s difficult to get up and just do something.

I think I’m giving myself a pass this weekend because I’m feeling a bit burned out from 2020 but that doesn’t mean I get to skip my responsibilities and my actual self care. Indulgence is sleeping longer than you need because getting up sounds hard. I don’t want to be indulgent, so I think I’m going to start with something small and get my momentum going.

My hope is that this will get me moving to do other activities. Sometimes the resources we use for mental and physical health and products stop working, or need a jump start. When that happens I try to do an activity I enjoy that gets me moving, or turn on music I like while I work. Occasionally the making a list and just tackling one thing on it and deciding whether to rest afterwards or not is helpful.

Today, I think I’ll make tomorrow’s schedule so I start the day off right, and I’ll pick one cleaning chore, and one mindful activity (so not videogames) to do to relax.

This year is tough on everyone. What do you do to get yourself motivated, or started on a more healthy track or to do list?

New Year, Same Me

I don’t like New Years.

This isn’t because I hate parties, though, if asked to choose between a solitary activity and a party I’d probably choose the former about 85% of the time. No, it’s because I’m not a fan of the idea that you have to wait a year, for a magical day, to change anything about yourself. If that’s your thing, then you do you, but it’s not for me.

1. This opens up the next year for a lot of feelings of failure. You didn’t lose weight? Failed. You didn’t stop drinking? Failed. It’s this barrage of mental “you suck”s and then you have this expectation that the reset button is January 1st. Which for some, is 11 months away.

2. This leaves the idea that growth, learning, and success don’t also require mistakes.

3. It causes people to give up during a process that takes time, second (and third, fourth, 5th and so on…) chances, and a lot of getting back up and trying again with the same faith in yourself that you started with.

So, yep, I absolutely hate New Years. To me, these things should be tossed on their head and it should be done differently. For me, NYE is just another night. NYD is just another day. In fact, we spent today hanging out just like any other. I didn’t clean, I didn’t write resolutions, I didn’t pledge my year to health, or a skill.

I did buy some new instruments because going forward I would like to do more music related things. This thought isn’t stuck in the new year, it was with the new day. A new year’s resolution is like mud on your shoe. It starts fresh and thick and as you walk it rubs off in the grass, then eventually you forget it. But a new day’s thought, one that is less tied to time and more tied to you, is like a pet that walks with you and keeps you company wherever you go.

I want my goals to stay, not fade away as the year goes on. So I take every new day as a new chance. A new chance to drink more water than I did yesterday. A new chance to exercise. A new chance to clean, work on a skill, or change a part of me that needs work. But if I fail, I don’t think “time to quit until next year”, I just think: the next second, minute, hour, or day, are perfectly new and fresh opportunities.

No one is transformed when the clock strikes midnight. No one becomes someone new. The phrase “new year, new me” ignores the person you are. It ignores the good things about you. It ignores the process of improving, and the cycle of failure that naturally comes with it. Every day is a new chance to grow. Take the mistakes and embrace them, but don’t let them stop you from trying. Don’t forget the person you are, and embrace it. You don’t throw you away, you just add on better things. Don’t wait to make positive change, just make a new choice in the next second, not the next year.

There’s a lot of superstition surrounding new years: don’t go into the new year with anything you don’t want or you’ll have it the whole year. Well, breathe easy, because it doesn’t matter. Chronic illness teaches a lot of people that. The day changes constantly for spoonies. One minute can be wonderful and the next can be agonizing. If I quit every second I couldn’t breathe, or I was in pain, or felt nauseous, I’d never do anything.

My successes grew from a lot of moments spent on the floor. A lot of mental and physical illness moments. A lot of failures. I’ve had days that were going great, workouts happened, meals were cooked, the house was cleaned, and then the very next day it was destroyed. Those 2nd days sometimes involve me gasping for air, or wanting to jump out of my body because of some constant nagging pain, or struggling to do anything at all.

Sometimes, those 2nd days came after a doctor’s visit that destroyed my hopes. A visit that felt like my symptoms were so horrible, that I was struggling so hard, but that the doctors weren’t listening. Some visits involved waiting for tests to come back, and finding out still there were no answers.

One year, there were answers. After so many months of struggling, of tears, of shattered hopes, I finally found a doctor who listened, who believed me. I always think back to that any time I try something. I remember all the timed I failed or the situation failed me, and I think about how many times I tried again before finally getting some success. Every time we fall, we shouldn’t wait for a special day to make our lives better. We should get up, and push forward. At least that’s what I think, and I try to lead by example.

From Start to Finish

What’s the best way to manage time? How do you organize your own ambitions and interests? Do/did you just pick one to focus on and leave the rest behind? Do you do a little bit of each every day or week? Do you master one and move onto the next?

I think it’s safe to say I’m an organization fanatic. I love trying new ways of organizing my things and my time. I love filing at work. I love sorting out my things and folding clothes and arranging items. I love trying new time management apps and making lists; you get the picture. Anyway, my whole life, I’ve always made it my goal to improve in every aspect of my life. Lately, due to my graduation coming sooner than expected, and the added fact that I no longer attend classes, I’ve needed to rethink my time management. I’ve got to consider what I want to do for my future career-wise and with my hobbies.

I’ve been feeling like my old method of doing a different hobby/endeavor each day is failing me in terms of my potential. So, here’s my new plan:

Start something. Finish it. Move on.

Whether that thing is beating a videogame, learning a language, getting my body into shape enough to do something specific, writing, knitting, sewing, etc…

The only added rule is I also have to maintain the cleanliness of our apartment, as well as keep up with daily responsibilities and maintain things I’ve learned or achieved already. What’s the point of learning a language if I forget it a month or two later?

This is the way I’m going to try things for a while. Recently I’ve been trying to beat Witcher 3: Wild Hunt for PS4. You can check out my YouTube channel for those broadcasts. Then I’ll do something else, finish it, and move on. I hope this new way proves to be more beneficial. The way I’ve been doing it seems to have downsides.

In K-12 school, the worst part of the way we do it in America, is there’s always a review time which ends up becoming a “we’re learning it all over again” time. We’re thrown so much information, and the focus pinned on testing so much so that students often do rote memorization just enough to remember information for exams and then it’s forgotten in a night. I can’t tell you how many times myself and students I know spent cram sessions trying to “learn” the material to ace the exam. It doesn’t work and our teachers know it, but the system is broken and that’s how we learn here.

My way of jumping between tasks feels a bit like that: I don’t finish learning as often and I have a lot of half started projects which I’ll just have to restart later because I’ve forgotten what I was doing. It’s my little experiment; I hope it works.