Los Angeles, 5:54 a.m.
In about an hour, the sun will rise and I will go for my 31st walk of the month. Thirty one walks in thirty one days! I think that is a new record.
These haven’t been massively exciting or athletic walks. It’s ok, that wasn’t the point of all this. My goal was to establish daily habits. I hoped to focus more on the now-and-present moment, and stop putting things off until the elusive and magical “tomorrow.” I also suspected that undertaking a daily practice of self-care would start tiny rippling changes in my life (yup, it did.)
My January Task Scorecard
• Daily Walks (ten minutes minimum): Check!
My only requirement for this goal was to walk at least ten minutes per day. I have accomplished that goal daily, and many days I have averaged between 15-20 minutes of walking. It wasn’t easy to keep it up some days, especially in the beginning of January. There were two or three nights when I came home from work late and walked up and down the driveway for ten minutes.
One memorable evening I got out of my car, grabbed my phone to use as a flashlight, and walked up and down my street in a swing dress and boots because I knew that if I went into my house to change into sweatpants I would feel the siren call of pajamas. There were several days when I felt myself trying to wheedle out of my goal (“I can do an extra long walk tomorrow…”) but I held to my daily practice and that in itself is the accomplishment.
And it IS an accomplishment! Even if you only count each walk as ten minutes, that means I will have walked for 3100 minutes this month (edited to add: HAHA I meant 310 minutes but I guess at 5 am it felt like 3100 minutes!) Not too shabby!!
• Daily Language Study (minimum is at least one Duolingo lesson): My daily Duolingo language lessons are fun, and I feel like my Spanish is improving. It says I am 41% fluent (hahahaha). This was probably the easiest task. I can definitely tell you in Spanish that my elephant drinks all the milk.
• Daily Planking happened but arrrrrgh. The daily plank thing was my most dreaded daily task, and a few days ago I figured out why I dreaded it so much. The idea of holding the pose for one second longer each day made the task feel harder and harder and suddenly failure became imminent. As it turns out, Imminent Failure is not the vibe I was going for. Having said all that, I did figure out the best/most comfortable planking posture and probably I used a muscle or five that had long been forgotten. I’m going to switch this one up in February.
Here’s What Clicked This Month
- If something is important to me, I need to do it early in the day. If I wait to walk after work (or do anything after work) I am a zombie and I will deeply resent my to-do list.
- Another reason to check tasks off early in the day: Having things hanging over me all day creates negative energy. On the days I put my goals off until after work, I felt like I was being followed by an anxiety cloud.
- Asana is working great as a tracker.
- Committing to daily goals made it pretty clear right away that I have gotten into a bad habit of putting my wants/needs last. For the first two weeks of January I kept putting off my three daily goals until after work. WHY!?! Because I had trained myself to put work first. If I’m going to have balance, I cannot prioritize my job before my health/sleep/life goals. I know this intellectually and yet I had been doing the exact opposite. I’m getting better at this. Slowly.
- Doing my daily personal tasks no matter what felt like success because I kept a promise. Keeping a promise to yourself is probably the best way to build self-esteem. This felt great.
- The planking challenge showed me I’m not programmed to enjoy tasks that get harder and harder each day until I fail. I need to have plateau moments, where I can simply enjoy the place I’m at. HMMMM METAPHORS FOR LIFE ABOUND!
- To achieve my goals, I need to de-complexify my life. It’s something I am actively working on. It may take a while.
A lot of other stuff started bubbling up, too, thoughts about my longer-term goals and overall health and ideas on how to make improvements. I’ve been really out of whack for over a year and obviously I prefer to be deeply in whack. It’s not going to happen overnight, but I’m happy that I am making progress.
It’s really, really small progress …but it’s 310 minutes better than last month. And that is the final nugget of January learnings: small tasks, repeated daily, can add up to something significant. I used to constantly dream of taking two weeks off to get it all together, or a long weekend, or wish for some elusive break between projects. But that’s just fantasy. The real life I have is being lived daily. All the good stuff is happening in the right now.
If all I have is ten minutes then I need to start exactly where I am and make the most of them. Speaking of which… gotta go. Sun’s up. It’s time to walk.