I sit to write this at 4:30pm, and the sun is already sinking low in the sky after last night’s time change. Just when I’ve gotten in a rhythm of my days, based on a 7:30am sunrise and 6:15pm sunset, with a walk and meditation and some writing/revising in the morning before logging into work, and enough of a late afternoon for a run before checking social media and personal emails and beach sunset and maybe a bit of revising and reading before dinner.
That routine sounds seamless, but really, there are plenty of times of “Oh maybe I’ll just throw in a load of laundry, or pull some weeds, or wipe this counter, or finish the crossword.” And, let’s be honest, there are plenty of mornings of snooze alarms and not writing and talking myself out of a run and letting the emails bleed into internet black holes. The point is, though, that the arc of the day has been predictable.
I don’t know why the change of the clocks feels so dramatic this year. This has been happening all my life, it’s happened during the pandemic while I was working from home, so what gives this time around? Is it actually the sign of something positive, that I’ve finally gotten to the point of giving myself time, without guilt, to apportion the moments of my life the way I want? I finally embraced my inner night owl and stopped trying to do all the things (walk-meditate-write-run) before work begins for the day. But now, with the sun setting so early, there’s less I can do before the sun goes down; namely, that afternoon run.
The planner in me has the urge to wipe my daily calendar clean and start over. To rearrange my entire day instead of just the one part that now gets tricky because of the light. I don’t have to be dramatic and convince myself I’ll continue getting up in the same relation to the sun and get more done before 9am, 10am, start running in the mornings. I cannot move all my workdays around so that I can be running by 3:30 every day. But, I can do it sometimes, and then come back to my desk for one last hour after it gets dark. I usually have the noon hour meeting-free. Instead of reshuffling everything, finding the single thing that’s causing an obstacle, and seeing what I can do there, first. There may be downstream effects, but then, I get to those if and when they happen.
The overthinker in me is convinced I have to have every possible scenario figured out before feeling like I’m making the “right” decision, making the “right” adjustments. That I need to predict what moving a run might look like and how everything else might change, and getting in a frenzy before I even try something new for a day, a week. Before I give myself the permission to try it and see, and learn, rather than convincing myself it’s not “right” so why even bother trying?
It’s easy to do this in so many aspects of life: convince ourselves that something’s just not working and the reasons are complicated and big and it would require a total overhaul of our lives to make something work. I think building any habit, big or small, sometimes feels like this, like we have to upend our entire lives to just spend 30 minutes a day doing something new, whether that’s finding time for the gym or for a hobby.
I’m not going to look for the reference now, because I want to finish and work on my newsletter and not get sucked into the internet, but there are some great habit-building teachings out there that basically say that it’s not enough to say “I’m going to go to the gym three times a week,” or “I’m going to meditate for ten minutes every day.” You also have to make the environment friendly to meet that goal. Those teachings don’t say, “Rearrange your entire day so that you can go to the gym first thing in the morning.” They say, “Throw a gym bag in your car and join a gym on the way home from work,” or, “As you’re waiting for the coffee, instead of scrolling through Facebook, set a timer or find a meditation app to use during that time.”
For those of us who overthink, it seems almost comforting to rearrange the entire day—look at us, we can engineer the most efficient, most logical, most pretty-on-paper schedule. And then, inevitably, because the plan is so perfect, it must be our fault that we failed at sticking to it.
But a pretty-on-paper schedule is just that: nice to look at. And to whom? Who do we think even cares about our calendar? A schedule that is, in fact, pretty, is the one that works for us, the one that allows us to look for those ten minutes here and there and to find the bare minimum that lets us meet a goal.
Perfectionists are used to the bare maximum, so this is hard. But, when I open my calendar this evening to get a glimpse of the week ahead and to set my intentions, I won’t wipe it clean and start over. I’ll just move the recurring one-hour “exercise” block from 4:30-5:30pm, to 12:00-1:00pm, and go from there.
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