My essential eight

Illustration by  Linzie Hunter

Illustration by Linzie Hunter

After about 44 years of living, I've realized that sometimes my good intentions aren't paving the way anywhere. They just sit there on the kitchen counter, sighing and rolling their eyes at my outright neglect next to the pile of envelopes I've been meaning to mail. I mean, for instance, I know I'm a happier person when I get out and move in the fresh air every day so you'd think I'd get around to doing it more often, right? Nope. Instead too often I let the triage of my daily to-do list dictate what's urgent, bullying what's nourishing or essential to the bottom of the list.  In fact, somehow over the last decade or so, my to-do list has evolved to be a kind of stoic, humorless Calvinist taskmaster, judging and intimating that if it doesn't feel self-sacrificing and stressful, I'm not being productive. ("Do this. Now go here. Call this person. Clean this. No! you can't go on a hike. That'll put you way behind schedule.You have to do the next 19 things first.")

A couple of weeks ago, I was feeling frustrated at the end of a terrible, no good, very bad day. What would have made this a better day, I wondered? I thought about Sarah's three things philosophy and I jotted down a few things that I know consistently shine up my day. They were remarkably simple and yet too often neglected:

  1. hiking 
  2. sunshining (i.e., bringing some kindness into someone else's day--in the family, neighborhood, writing a letter or email to a friend, etc.)
  3. drinking enough water
  4. sleeping (both quantity and quality)
  5. meditating (scriptures/prayer)
  6. creating 
  7. reading
  8. working (i.e., putting aside some guilt-free time to get some studying/writing done)

Now, I'm not claiming I'm able to do all of these every day--I'd say hitting four or five would be doing pretty great. And I'm definitely not suggesting these are or should be your eight things. But:

insight #1: I've noticed that when I give myself permission to focus on these eight things I'm in a better zone than when I'm not.  You know the old object lesson with the rocks and the pebbles and the sand? These, I've learned, are my rocks. They go in first. So obvious in theory but, in practice, such an epiphany!

insight #2: Hmmm, mindlessly surfing the internet/Facebook/instagram isn't really on the list. Interesting. 

I'm curious: Does your daily list include things that nourish you or is your list as grumpily withholding and allergic to pleasure as mine had gotten? What would be on your daily nourishing essentials list?

Three things

via  ReinSign

I don't know about you guys, but towards the end of the school year I start to fall apart. Getting up at 5 AM becomes a real drag (because it's super fun at the beginning of the year). The after school routine is more tiresome. And on top of a general sense of fatigue -- activities and performances and end-of-year STUFF launch the calendar into warp speed. Somebody hold me.

Needless to say, I often find myself dragging, procrastinating, you know . . . just biding my time until summer. Sure, I know all of the tried and true solutions for better time management. Like, for instance, watching Law & Order in the middle of the day doesn't make for extreme productivity. Also, lying on my bed and staring at the ceiling isn't working well for me either. The other day someone (I can't find the original link) suggested THESE ten steps for making better use of one's time. All great suggestions -- except I'm too tired. Ten steps are too many for me at the moment.

I've pretty much whittled my daily existence down to three big things, and surprisingly, concentrating on the same three things everyday is really helpful. It gives me some focus! Who knew? Now, let's be clear, I'm not JUST doing these three things -- but I concentrate on making something substantial happen in these three areas. Everything else is just a bonus.

1. Crossfit (or some form of exercise): Sterling and I have been Crossfit-ing for five months now. It's been painful and hard and really, really painful. But it's getting better and is becoming an integral part of my day. Mostly, I'm just prioritizing exercise. In the morning, I Crossfit.

2. Read / Write: While the kids are at school I'm reading and writing on my dissertation chapter. I'm not crafting, or socializing (okay, the occasional lunch out), or reading for fun, or browsing Target. Just reading and writing.

3. Make dinner: Partly because of the Crossfit, but mostly because my family really loves a good, hot dinner, I cook just about every night. It takes up a decent block of time, but it's keeping us healthy, giving me time with the kids, and ends the day on a peaceful note.

Then it's just rinse and repeat. Every day. Crossfit. Read. Dinner.

Crossfit. Read. Dinner.

Crossfit. Read. Dinner.

Are you getting the idea? Of course, when I come back from exercising, I'll throw a load in the washer. After the kids get home from school, I'll put down my reading and take Parker to the orthodontist. Once the kids are in bed, I'll write a few blog posts for the upcoming week. I'm just sprinkling in the necessities, and cutting down on much of the extraneous activities that can take over my life.

I like it. I really like it. I'm finding that I can manage three things pretty darn well. What about you? If you had to pick three big things to work on everyday, what would they be?