I have been tracking my progress through my thirtieth year in my journal. I mark exactly where I am in relation to my birthday passing (i.e. first month of being thirty) and give that month a title—a title of intention. In June, I kept a detailed record of how I spent my time, what my initial inclinations were and what I chose to do, whether that was in accordance with my initial impulse or against it. In doing so I hoped to discover the spaces I could be maximizing my energies. When am I more inclined to cook? When am I most inclined to be productive? To be least productive?
Up to that point I was feeling very stressed about time. I was so stressed it was coloring my days, my thoughts, and starting to really get me down. I felt like I didn’t have time for anything. Each evening after I got home from work I was too mentally exhausted to do anything for myself. Therefore, I would build up a list of tasks to save for the weekend when time would seem endless. However, the weekend would pass much too quickly and there were too many things left undone.
In an effort to rein in what I considered poor time management skills, I made some startling discoveries. These discoveries led to some major structural changes to my days, which in turn made me feel more present, more productive, reducing my stress entirely.
For instance, I have never considered myself a morning person. I find it difficult to wake up early, let alone be productive at such an hour. Growing up, I always slept until the last possible minute, leaving myself only twenty minutes to get ready in the morning. Now as an adult, I give myself at least forty-five minutes. However, by a happy accident, I went to bed extremely early one Friday evening in early June. I was completely wiped and decided to actually listen to my body. I slept soundly and woke up wide awake at four am. In Phoenix, the sky starts to lighten around this time in the summer. And in truth, it felt glorious to be up so early and bask in the morning quiet. And I was hella productive. I tidied up, did some laundry, and baked all before seven o’clock. Once seven arrived, I made a cup of tea, meditated, did morning pages, and wrote a few posts to schedule that week.
I had a small epiphany that morning. I thought of time like saving money. Instead of paying myself last, I decided I was going to start paying myself first. I already know that regardless if I get a full night’s sleep or no sleep at all, I have very little energy for myself at the end of the day. This was one of the reasons I was feeling so stressed. So I did an experiment during the month of June. I started to get up at four in the morning during the week instead of six. Instead of an hour, I had three glorious hours to myself.
When I get home in the evening, I don’t want to do anything that isn’t fun. I don’t want to do anything that resembles a chore. I don’t want to run errands. I don’t even want to cook. However, at such an early hour, I don’t mind washing a few dishes, tidying up the couch, or even baking. I have time to meditate; to enjoy a cup of tea and read the New York Times; to engage in a short yoga session; to catch up on blog reading; to write posts; to take more care with my appearance.
My summer mornings were glorious in their productivity. A surprising result was how much happier I was when I arrived at work. I walked around feeling like I had a secret. I had time on my side. I had mornings. As a result, I needed to do nothing in the evenings save for get my ass to yoga. That was my sole goal every evening; the perfect cap to such lovely days.
Other minor discoveries include:
-I am much more inclined to cook for the week on Sunday mornings than I am on Sunday afternoons. I enjoy it much more and still feel like I have plenty of day left when I have finished.
-I actually enjoy waking up early on Saturday mornings and am much more productive in doing so.
-Making short lists for specific blocks of time is much more effective for me than writing a long list for the week.
-Setting one goal for the day and actually completing it makes me feel infinitely more productive.
-Making time for meditation on a daily basis makes for a happier and more centered me.
With the onset of winter, I am observing that I am more tired than usual and require more sleep. It is more difficult for me to get up as early as I did in the summer. It is more difficult for me to go to class in the evenings. All I want to do is go to bed early and sleep an extra hour in the mornings. Waking up in darkness and coming home to darkness really affects my energy levels and productivity. So, I will begin the summer exercise anew and take more care to observe my initial impulses and see what they reveal about my winter rhythms.