Thursday, May 31, 2012

Home and Habit

Summer should be a time for re-energizing, but so far this season I have felt weighed down and tired.  Not having a regular routine is certainly not helping.  How can I be so busy all day but still feel like I've gotten nothing done by the end of it?  Why is my sleep so poor?  Why can't I get up early, no matter how hard I try?  A routine is definitely in order, even if it serves no purpose other than to make me feel like a somewhat normal person again.

Figuring out a routine that will make us feel good is often difficult, especially for those of us who work from home.  Other people tend to think they can interrupt whenever they want or they don't realize that they're distracting you from work because home is usually where we relax.  It's hard to remember to get up and stretch every so often and you pay for that at night with muscle stiffness, if not worse.  You have a tendency to either snack too much or not eat at all, because there's no schedule for your meals (except for, maybe, dinner).  It's easy to lose track of time when you're working on a project and other things end up getting lost in the shuffle.  And, if you make the mistake of turning on your computer before working out, you either end up exercising late at night (making it harder to then get to sleep) or convincing yourself that you should put it off till tomorrow (which can turn into not exercising for weeks, if you're not careful).

When I worked a full-time office job, I had certain days that I would set aside for errands or chores or the like. These days, I can technically do errands and chores in the same day or any time I like, but these things are still not always getting done.  It is just too easy to sit down at my computer, start working and forget to do everything else.  Time passes in odd ways when you're all by yourself all day, more so if you're in the same room, concentrating on a small screen for hours on end.

If you have a home office, you can just close the door and most people will know not to disturb you.  In my case, I have a nice open area to work in, but there's no door and it's right next to the kitchen, so on weekdays I have until my housemate gets home to work in peace and on weekends I either hope he'll go out with friends or I use headphones (my lord, I'm becoming more anti-social than I already was).  At this point in time, there is just no way for me to have an area all my own to work in, so I have to be creative about my solutions.  One of the things I'd like to do, since I'm creating this new routine from scratch, is to make sure I'm done with most of the day's work before 5pm.  This means, of course, that I need to get up earlier.

So, first thing on the schedule is, of course, to go to bed earlier.  My plan is to try to be in bed by 10pm.  I'm going to use Melatonin to adjust to my new schedule (I have a hard time sleeping when other people are up late, I can hear everything in this house) and try to be up between 6 and 7 in the morning.  The other perk to being up early is that I can get some gardening (read: weeding) done before the heat and humidity set in.  

Morning Schedule:

  • Up between 6 and 7am
  • Light breakfast with lemon water while writing morning pages
  • Small amount of weeding the yard
  • Stretching and Pilates (at last 20 minutes, to start)
  • Shower and dress for going out into the world, even if I don't end up doing so.

Preliminaries over and done with, it will then be time to get to work.  This means sitting at a computer for many hours, which is problematic in many ways.  We all forget to get up and stretch every so often and everyone seems to have different rules on how often it should be done.  NPR's Fresh Air has been tweeting about this a lot lately (they have a bunch of Twitter followers who are in on it, too), after Terry Gross interviewed New York Times columnist Gretchen Reynolds, who just wrote a book about combating the effects of the lifestyle too many of us are leading - an all too sedentary one.

Getting up to stretch every twenty minutes (which is what Fresh Air is doing) sounds about right.  Even if it's just standing up and walking around the room, you'll be loosening the muscles you keep tense while you're working and get a little more blood flowing to the brain (always good).  I could just set a kitchen timer or the one on my phone, but putting an app on my computer is my preferred method (all the little clocks you see below will take you to  various timer apps on

As a blogger, there are a few things I need to check to start my day.  In an ideal world, I would do this first thing every day and be very careful not to get too distracted by any of them, but everything still needs to be looked over - it's a way of taking stock of the day.  And, given how much there is to look through, I'll probably need to bring a cup of coffee and a small snack (piece of fruit, handful nuts or the like) to keep me company.  I also need to remember to set my interval timer so that I get up and stretch or walk around every 20 minutes!

Late Morning/Blog Schedule:

Gmail - Always have to check my email first, as well as looking to see if my mom's online (hey, Italy is far away!).

Blogger - Check analytics, check for drafts from the day before (incomplete posts) and get set up for the day.

Tweet Deck - My tool of choice for reading my Twitter feed, Tweet Deck organizes everything by the lists I created on Twitter, in addition to tweets that mention me and direct messages.  I check for any tweets I need to respond to, then see if there is anything going on that I'd like to write about or just retweet because I want to share it with others.

Facebook - I check this every morning to make sure the LostGirls page is updating correctly and to see what all my far away friends are doing.  When I lived near them, I was never on Facebook, but being so far away, FB actually does help me keep track.

Google Reader - I'm pretty horrible about checking this, so adding it to my routine is a must.  I follow the blogs I do on Reader because I truly enjoy them and I make an effort to comment on posts because I want them to know how much I like them (comments = love).  It is also very important in this field to keep up on what other people are writing about.

Pinterest - Another thing I'm horrible about checking lately, only because I spent so much time putting the LostGirls pinboards together (Meg and Mary, thank you for partaking in that adventure!) that I actually needed a break from Pinterest (gasp! no!).  Of course, I couldn't stay away too long, but how much time I get to spend on Pinterest entirely depends on how I manage my time with everything else.

Midday Schedule:
By the time I'm done looking through all my blog-related stuff, it'll be close to lunchtime, but I have got to get some more exercise in here.  I've been eating my lunches and dinners in front of the computer for weeks now and that habit has got to change.  What I've been thinking of doing for this time period is eating a small snack, then either going for a walk or doing my weights/elliptical workout.  If I start with a 15-minute commitment, I can finish with a decent size lunch (involving protein, carbs and veggies).  

It almost sounds like I'm healthy, but I only think healthy most of the time.  Truly having a healthy diet does take planning and a lot of thought.  It's important not to allow yourself to get too hungry - that's when I always reach for the more fattening snacks.

Afternoon Schedule:
Here is where things become touch and go.  If I manage all the other stuff I have to get done, just to stay on top of everything well enough to get to my afternoon without wanting to lie down on the floor and cry, then my afternoon should be completely devoted to researching and writing the day's post.  I would love to get organized to the point where I can write more than one post per day.  As it stands, I write 6-7 posts per week for the five LostGirls blogs.  I would love to be able to sit down and hash out a well-written, well-researched post for each blog every day, but that isn't realistic.  If I can get to the point where I'm writing more than 10 posts a week, then I'll be quite happy.  But I don't want to sacrifice what social life I have and I don't want to feel like I'm being spread too thin.  Organization is just so key.

Part of making that happen is making sure I get enough sleep, enough exercise, eat regular meals and take my stretch breaks.  The question is: Can I do all that and still have ME-time?  

Evening Schedule:

Lately, the only time I get to read for entertainment is at night, when I'm in bed.  Since I started taking Melatonin (I started 1.5 mg, a small dose, a few days ago), I barely get through a few pages before I'm ready to pass out.  It's great, but I'm not willing to completely give up reading as a hobby.  This is where the evening comes in.  If I can manage my afternoon well and get my daily post completed (to my satisfaction, which is really the hard part these days, since I am basically starting over as a writer), I should be able to cook myself a nice meal and sit down at the dining table with a good book (or my Kindle).  Ideally, my evening/night schedule would consist of eating dinner, reading or watching some TV, then getting ready for bed and going to sleep early.  

If nothing else, getting organized will help me get ready to have (cross your fingers) a full-time job, on top of the blogs, and maybe even a social life.  A girl can dream.

How do you maintain a day to day routine to keep your sanity?  Or, if you don't have a routine right now, what are the things that keep getting put aside?  Comments = Love and we need some lovin!

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