Goals // Week 07: Keep It Simple

This week is already starting off on a rather negative note. I have a throat infection I’m fighting off and had to take the first day of the work week off to rest so I’m ready for the infusion center and my new medication starting on Tuesday. All this while still teaching the new employees at work and trying to keep in mind the pile of little errands and items to complete before the week’s end. I’m overwhelmed, anxious and exhausted already but I’m doing everything I can to turn that around and into excitement, enthusiasm, and energy.

This week I will:

 Get well. So far this winter I have had an upper respiratory infection, an ear infection, and I’m now on my second throat infection that I fear is leading to another ear infection too. I regret not getting a flu shot this year and live in fear every day of contracting it or the equally nasty streptococcal pharyngitis. I have to work harder to get well and stay well. I will take my medications and supplements religiously, disinfect surfaces around me, and wash my hands more often.

Update: This cold was the worst I’ve had in a long time. This one scared me. I was in so much pain I nearly gave in and went to urgent care but I knew it was too soon for them to take me seriously or do very much for me. Rest and fluid, rest and fluids, that’s all they ever tell me so that is what I did and after more than a week I’m in a lot less pain and breathing a lot more easily. I may just live through it.

 Read 100 pages of It by Stephen King. I started It this past weekend and just 40 pages in I already know I will love this book as much as just about every Stephen King book I’ve ever picked up, but I know this will be a difficult read. First of all it’s long, over 1,150 pages long, and it’s heavy so I can’t carry it with me wherever I go. It’s an “at home read” so I will have to dedicate time to it every night. Bonus: Finish Book 7 of Little Black Classics Box Set, Wailing Ghosts by Pu Songling.

Update: I read 300 pages! If I keep up this pace I could finish this tome in just over 3 weeks! I doubt I will keep it up though. I tend to get burned out on long ones just after I pass the halfway point. That’s why I’ve been reading two books at once. This book is so long I foresee multiple instances of burnout and more than one extended break. So, I’m slowing down a bit and adding another book to the mix. I’m shooting for six weeks instead.

Get reacquainted with my to-do list. I’ve been struggling to complete tasks for weeks now and I know it’s because I have failed to even glance at my to-do list in weeks. I had tried to move the list from analog scraps of paper to a list in my Google calendar but the benefit of paper was being able to keep the list in front of me at all times. THis week I would like to get back to that and create a hybrid system of keeping a master list online and a physical daily list in hand.

Update: When I wasn’t working I was dead to the world. I had only enough strength to live in the present and nothing left over for dreaming, planning, or plotting. I had nothing left for anything more than that basics and the bare minimum. I knew it all would have to be put on hold before I could even begin and so, didn’t bother wasting the mental energy on lists or calendars.

Print and fill out an editorial calendar, by hand. Just like my to-do list a digital editorial calendar doesn’t help me much because it’s too easy not to look at. It’s too easy to forget about entirely. I’ve noticed that I sit down to write and if I don’t have an idea or prompt ready to go, I give up right away. This week I’m going to start a new calendar with a list of prompts and projects to work on so I can’t ever say “I don’t know what to write about”.

Update: Like my to-do list I simply didn’t have the time or energy to brainstorm new ideas, start drafts, or jot notes but I made sure to at least print blank calendar pages of the next couple of months and as soon as I am feeling better, more focused, and motivated I will have them on hand to begin filling in.

Make a new blackout poem. Last weekend I started working my way through my hoarder-sized pile of magazines ripping out useful images and blocks of text and tossing the rest. Now that I have a sizable stock of material to work with I would like to reincorporate this meditative practice back into my evening or at least weekend routine. Bonus: Re-work the cutout poem from last week and post.

Update: I couldn’t make this one happen either but I have the pages I want to work from all ready to go on my desk once the headaches and sinus congestion subside enough for me to concentrate without pain. I have the cutout poem from last week reworked and edited but for some reason I cannot bring myself to share it. I may shelve it until the time feels right.

Find a new balance. I’ve been working under the same schedule for years and years but with a new role and new responsibilities comes a new work hours and an increased demand on my attention and energy. I had hoped that these demands would come only every other week or less but it looks like I’ll have to let go of that idea. Things aren’t going to “die down” anymore and if I want to avoid burnout, I need to find a new way forward in my pursuit of an equitable work/life balance.

Update: This week I swung too far to the other end of the spectrum and took too much time for myself and my needs. It’s what I had to do, but it’s not something I can go on doing. I haven’t found the balance yet, but I have decided that no matter what happens through the rest of this month and the next, there is light at the end of the tunnel. The last day of school isn’t as far away as it feels and one way or another fewer work hours and more time for me are on the way.

This week I will not complicate things. My goals are simple and 100% doable if I make the time to do them. I fail when I get distracted, when I allow new ideas or the needs of the moment to monopolize the now. The goal is to stop trying to do everything all at once. Instead, I should do each thing one at a time. I should not overwhelm myself or place more demands on myself than I know I can meet.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 06

Photo by Bailey Zindel on Unsplash

Goals // Week 06

This week I had hoped to take it easy, to make time for myself and my personal pursuits and interests but it looks like the hectic schedule of the last two weeks will continue for at least two more. That means I’ll need to be mindful of what little time and energy I have left over and do my best to stay positive, enthusiastic, and focused in the face of fatigue and frustration.

This week I will:

 Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. I bring a water bottle to work every day with the intention of getting through at least two refills and I barely end put drinking half of one. This week I need to drink water, not Gatorade, not carbonated water, not juice, water, water, water. Bonus: Avoid sugary sweets throughout the day and alcohol throughout the work-week.

Update: While I was dealing with the worst of this last ulcerative colitis flare, I started drinking Gatorade and now that I am feeling better I am having the hardest time switching back to plain water. It’s almost as if I would rather drink nothing than to have plain water. This week I fought through the cravings and the taste and gulped down at least a bottle full a day. It’s getting easier.

 Make those phone calls, send those emails. I have put a sticky note below the keyboard of my laptop with a list of people I’ve been needing to contact for weeks now. Most of them are over important and timely matters and I cannot allow myself to go one feeling anxious or being avoidant. There’s just no reason for it.

Update: I did make some calls but not all and I know deep down I could have but allowed myself to fall into the trap of procrastination and convenient forgetting. Phone calls aren’t easy for me. No form of communication is. Not email, text, fax, none of it but I have to get over that. I have to just grit my teeth and get it done.

Finish reading Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I’m less than 100 pages from the end of this book and though I’m having issues with it and though it’s getting more tedious and difficult to pick up every day I have to remember that the fastest way out is through. Bonus: finish another book from the Little Black Classics Box Set.

Update: Yes, yes, yes I finally finished Love in the Time of Cholera, and I got through Traffic by John Ruskin, the 6th book in the Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set, too. I’ve mentioned many times how much I both loved and hated Love in the Time of Cholera so I won’t get into it now but I do want to say that I was surprised by how much I loved Traffic especially after the ratings on Goodreads were so low.

Return to writing my Journal posts. I’ve been slacking on both my physical and digital journals and I have felt both their absence through burn-out, irritation, stress, and anger. I’ve had nowhere to vent my feelings except onto other people. I’ve had nowhere to put my thoughts so they circle around in my mind to no avail. For my own mental health, I need these spaces.

Update: I’ve been catching up but making time to journal properly has been hard lately. In my defense work has been overwhelming, and I came down with a nasty throat infection that is sapping what little energy I have left after those long grueling hours. I haven’t given up though, and that’s what really matters.

Start my taxes. This is the first year my wife and I are filing jointly after getting married and after job changes, interest earned, and account reimbursements I know we are facing a hefty bill. Better to get an idea of the damage so we can start planning and paying sooner rather than later. No procrastinating this year!

Update: I just forgot. I meant to begin this weekend, but I had so much to do and so much on my mind that I just forgot. Luckily there is still plenty of time to begin and a long weekend with a lot less to do or worry overcoming up at the end of this workweek. I’ll get it done.

Control my anger. I’ve been feeling very frustrated with processes, procedures, and people everywhere around me. I’ve been snapping at people who don’t deserve it or being harder and harsher with people than I mean to. This isn’t me at all. I have to find a way to resolve what is upsetting more or to cope with what I have no control over before I burn too many bridges or earn a reputation I cannot correct.

Update: I’m learning to step away, emotionally if not physically, when I feel myself getting irritated or frustrated. I’m learning to examine why it is I feel the way I do and to ask myself why it matters or what the impact really is on my life. I’m learning to be grateful, proud, and focused on my accomplishments, my privileges, and my goals and not to let the actions or opinions of others to take up so much space in my mind and in my life.

This week I will not try to be perfect. I will not try to do it all and I won’t worry so much over the mistakes of others. We all have a right to learn by trying, by making mistakes, and by correcting our mistakes. I have to allow, or, better yet, embrace this process in myself and in others.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 05

Photo by Grant Lechner on Unsplash

Goals // Week 05

This week is the last of the month and the last of this crazy work schedule I’ve been struggling through since mid-January. I expect things to die down by mid-week but it won’t last long, I hear. There is another new class of employee lined up and ready to to start training come the start of the new week so I’m determined to make the most of this lull in work while I can. It’ll be another two weeks or more before I can claim any real time for myself again.

This week I will:

 Eat regular meals, on time, and take all of my medication. In order to avoid nausea, I have to spread my medication and supplements out throughout the day. That means more frequent meals, which are hard to remember let alone make time for during the chaotic workday, but I can’t make such excuses anymore. My health comes first! Bonus: No candy or sugary snacks!

Update: I did pretty good. I took almost all my medication and supplements on time and I didn’t miss any meals. I only wish I had been more mindful of what I was eating. Too many of the meals I ate weren’t as healthy as I wanted them to be. I gave in too often to cravings and ate what was easy when I was tired. Worse still I indulged almost daily in sweet treats from my boss’s office and ended the day with sluggishness and stomach aches.

 Work out every other evening after work. As someone who suffers from anxiety, who struggles to get a good night’s sleep, and who it trying to lose a few pounds put on by this last round of steroids, exercise is very important. I may not feel much like it after a long day but that is the magic of moving your body it creates more motivation than it takes. All I have to do is start.

Update: I failed miserably for another week in a row. Obviously something isn’t working and I need to begin again more simply. I’m thinking of committing to shorter workouts or to simply moving my body more during commercials or once an hour while working. Everything counts.

Finish writing the last few book reviews I started. Of course the reviews are only for me but writing anything is good for honing your craft and good for developing a habit. It’s been a long time since I’ve written a real blog post and sharing what I learned, what I liked, and what I loathed might help boost my confidence and enthusiasm.

Update: I had every intention of finishing these but my schedule was altered abrubty and the time I thought I could devote to writing I had to reallocate to boring old work. Where I failed was not using the entire free day, I had to writing an instead putting it off thinking I could do it later. Writing is a daily practice and I need to treat it as such no matter how hard it is or how tired I am.

Make and share a new “found poem” on Instagram. I miss the peace and the satisfaction that come from creating things that exist outside of screens and the internet. I miss working with other people’s words and reworking them into new meaning, and, anyway, if I don’t something soon it’s going to get harder to justify the stacks of old magazines piling up to my wife.

Update: I made one, but I didn’t share it, but not because of fear or because I thought what I’d created wasn’t good enough but because I agonized over the placement of one line—whether it should be near the beginning or whether it should be near the end and which conveyed the meaning I meant better—and I could not come to a decision until 3:00 AM this morning. I’ll post this evening.

Read 100 pages of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I’ll have a whole lot more time to read this week than I have over the last two and if I don’t want to fall behind in my reading goal for the year than I need to take full advantage of it. Bonus: finish another book from the Penguin Little Black Classics box set.

Update: Yes! I finally hit my weekly reading goal, and some! I’m now just 65 pages from finishing. I also finished Aphorisms on Love and Hate by Friedrich Nietzsche, the 5th book in my Penguin Little Black Classics set. I’m now proudly sitting one book ahead of schedule for my my 2020 reading challenge.

Take a break. I take pride in being a good employee. I take pride in a job well done. I like knowing others can count on me. I like getting things done before anyone has to ask. I like being a team player, going above and beyond, and coming up with solutions, but all that pride can’t come at the expense of my peace of mind. I have to practice balance and I have to learn to step away, for just a moment, to breathe and be reminded of who I am outside of work.

Update: Oh, I took a break. I took a whole day in the middle of the work week all to myself. I didn’t use it as wisely as I wanted but I rested and needed that more than I needed to write or to read or create anything. I’m proud of myself for being strong enough to see past my unnecessary guilt to put myself first.

This week I will not let anyone make me feel bad for taking the time I need for me. At the same time, if I am going to set those boundaries I have to respect myself enough to keep the promises I make. I will not accept what I know is less than my best. This week is the start of showing my intentions with actions and not just words. I deserve better from, and for, me.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 04.

Photo by Brad Fickeisen on Unsplash

Goals // Week 04

This work week will be a lot like last week, busy, chaotic, and stressful, but it will be shorter week and though I don’t expect to complete every goal or to maintain my focus or enthusiasm through to Friday afternoon but I do expect to do better than last week. As the demands on my time slowly return to normal, I can begin slowly to move my attention and priorities back to personal pursuits and away from work projects. This week will be tough but it will also be better, and that is certainly something to look forward to.

This week I will:

 Write a book review for Ethics by Baruch Spinoza. One goal I had for this year was to write a book review for every book I read. I’ve already finished two books and if I don’t want to fall so far behind that I give up I need to get started this week. Of course they don’t have to be long, or even good, but they do have to get written and posted.

Update: There was simply no time for writing. I’m starting to sound like a broken record and even I am having a hard time believing my excuses. It really was a hard week, and I gave so much of myself up during my day job that there was nothing left in the evening to give to writing. I am going to do better.

 Read 100 pages of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez. I had hoped to finish half of the book last week but until my work-life schedule becomes a little more balanced, I can’t hope for so much time to myself. I was able to ready 75 pages last week. I think 100 isn’t too much to ask. Bonus: Finish As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins.

Update: I made progress, but I didn’t hit my goal. I did finish As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins and The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue by Anonymous and if you up all the pages (minus the bonus book) I was only 20 short of reading 100 pages of something.

Eat one vegan meal. Before the holidays I was up to two or three meat-free meals a week but since then it has been hard for me to return to my old habits. Eventually I would like to go meatless Monday through Friday but I have to start slow and begin again.

Update: I made some delicious and easy roasted sweet potato and cauliflower tacos (with “chipotle cashew crema!). One vegan meal a week is good, and I’ll do my best to stick to it going forward but eventually I’d like to eat more meatless meals. I’d love recipe recommendations if you have any.

Work out three days this week. I was doing so well a few weeks ago but between my chronic illness and fatigue and the demanding work week I’ve hardly been able to remember to work out let alone get to a point where I can consciously avoid it. This week it is in the calendar with notifications turned on.

Update: Yeah, no, not even a little bit. I worked out zero days and I am beyond disappointed in myself. There really was no excuse. I just didn’t try hard enough.

Spend more time with my headphones in. Regulating my mood is hard when I’m tired or stressed so instead of trying to do it on my own and risking lashing out at coworkers and loved ones I’ll use the power of music instead, the best mood manager. Bonus: Catch up on my favorite podcasts too.

Update: I kept my headphones on hand the whole week and though I didn’t listen to a lot of music it was from lack of want rather than lack of time. There were just too many good podcast episodes I wanted to catch up on to make time for music. The point was to tune out and I definitely do that.

Stay hydrated. Drinking water is important for everyone but since I am taking so many medications and supplements every day I feel it is especially important that I fill and empty my water bottle a few times throughout the day. It will help with the headaches too I’m sure.

Update: I’ve been drinking a lot of Gatorade to stay hydrated and replenish electrolytes but there is so much added sugar and artificial flavors I know I have to get off of it but it’s going to take time to get used to water again. I stayed hydrated, I just didn’t drink water.

Get outside and into nature. The extended weather forecast is looking very nice, and I have been missing our old trails terribly. I think it’s time to get my hiking boots out, pack up the dog, and head toward the mountains. I just hope this winter hibernation hasn’t withered my endurance too much.

Update: I had hoped to take advantage of the early Spring-like weather we’d been having but the weekend got away from me and I never ended up making the proper preparations by the time Sunday rolled around. Luckily the forecast for the coming weekend is looking even better and I’ll have another chance at the trails.

Clean up the backyard. Spring is on the way and I have quite a list of home projects to complete before next winter rolls around. The dry and mild weather is a chance to get a jump on some of the projects I know I’m going to want to avoid later. Perhaps a “little at a time starting” strategy is better than “all at once whenever I have the energy and the will power”.

Update: It was nothing but pure and simple forgetfulness on my part. I obviously asked too much of myself last week and didn’t take into consideration at all how much I’ve been struggling just to get through the bare minimum I ask of myself every day.

This week I will not give up. It’s going to be hard but the light at the end of this work week is closer than most Mondays. I only have to get through four days of it and no amount of frustration, fatigue, or failure is going to stop me from putting one foot in front of the other and giving my best to every task I undertake and every person I meet.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 03.

Photo by Byron Johnson on Unsplash

Goals // Week 03

This week is going to be another busy one. There is a new class of employees starting and I will need work long hours to get them trained and ready for the kids. That means very little time for personal goals and pursuits. That means the calendar is out the door and I will need to be flexible and focused whenever I have a more than a moment for myself alone.

This week I will:

Read half of Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, or 25 pages per day, on average. I will read as much as possible during my lunch breaks at work but with my rigorous work schedule I may be eating on my feet this week. That’s ok though. There will be time over the weekend to catch up. I’d really like to finish this book within the next two weeks so I can start on my new Penguin Little Black Classics Box Set as soon as possible.

Update: Yeah, no, not even close. I read a mere 75 pages all week which may not sound like much but it was something. This year I’m trying not to let a week go buy without having made at least some progress, any progress, through one of my books. Considering that goal, I succeeded.

Journal every day. Time for blogging and writing will most likely be non existent but I cannot go the next 5 days without writing something. Writing is first and foremost for me, always. It keeps me centered and sane, so even when I cannot write for others I must make time to write for me. I need a place to vent and a place to remind myself of what is good and I need that space every day.

Update: This was my most disappointing failure of the week. In my defense I am still getting used to journaling by hand again and I often forget to do it. Going forward I would like to start carrying my notebooks outside of a bag so that they are always within eyesight and always on my mind.

Exercise every other day starting today. Since I’ve started to wean off of my medication, my energy levels have plummeted and working out is not as easy as it was even as early as a week ago. Still. I have been doing well and I do not want to lose the momentum or motivation I have built up. Even if I have to cut back on reps and rounds that’s okay. I will do as much as I can and remind myself that everything counts.

Update: Once again I had just one day this week with enough energy and willpower to get through my goals. This one is easy to forget when it isn’t scheduled and since I knew I would be so occupied by work I never made the schedule. Oh well, lesson learned.

Make something with my hands. Between work and rest I doubt I will get this far but just in case I am on top of my game and crushing it I wanted to add a goal to create a little art if I get a chance. It’s been weeks since I had a chance to spread out some magazine clippings, to zone out with my X-Acto knives, to make a mess, and to surprise myself. I probably need it more than I know.

Update: Another failure for the week but I’d like to focus on the progress I made instead and note that I did make time to clean up the creativity room and to make space for my art. I’m also giving myself permission to consider art a weekend pursuit rather than something I have to commit to practicing every single day.

Breathe. My health depends on me managing my stress levels and that means being mindful of how long and how much work I have been doing and taking breaks before they are needed. But breaks don’t just mean stepping away from the work physically. The kind of breaks I will need are more akin to meditation. A chance for my mind to quiet and for me to focus on the body and breath.

Update: Sometimes breathing is all you can do. Sometimes breathing is all you can ask or expect from youreself. Sometimes simply breathing has to be enough.

This week I will not push myself too far. It’s often hard for me to see where my limits are and I often don’t learn their importance until after I have stepped across them but I will tread lightly and do my best to see the signs of burn out and declining health before they force me out and down.


For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 02.

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

Goals // Week 02

This week marks the end of winter break and a return to reality and my regular schedule. Since I’m sure it will be a daily struggle just to wake and work on time and to keep a positive and productive outlook I’ve decided to keep my goals small and simple. This week is about reestablishing the basics, practicing day-to-day habits, and slowly returning to real life.

This week I will:

 Set up a schedule of my days broken down hour by hour and include a list of tasks to be completed with each event. I’ve been slacking on filling in my calendar and when my calendar isn’t filled my time is at the mercy of my moods, my cravings, my impulses, my fatigued and directionless mind.

Update: Well, I set it up, though I can’t say I followed it very closely, or maybe I did but I did the most unproductive things I could within the definition of the task and the time frame given. So, progress was made but I’m about as far from perfection as I can be. Still, everything counts and for it only being week 2 of the new year, I think I’m doing pretty good.

Finish reading Ethics by Baruch Spinoza. This is the most difficult little book I have ever read. It is the most interesting book I have ever hated too. Up until now I have only been able to tolerate 10 or 20 pages a day. I have 100 left to go, and I am tired. This week I will be done with it.

Update: I did it! Don’t be fooled by the low page count. This book was very difficult to get though. Between the language and all the underlining I did and notes I took I couldn’t get through more than 5 or 10 pages most days. Still, in the end I count it among the most rewarding books I have ever read. Stay tuned for a proper review.

Complete my bodyweight work 3 days this week hit 6000 steps every day. Last week I only missed one day of working out but I wasn’t great about walking. This week I’d like to see some more effort and focus. It’ll be hard with my return to a regular work schedule but if I could manage just 3 days of the week, I will call it a win.

Update: I mostly completed this one. I did two days of work out and hit my step goal every single day. It’s already hard enough to muster the motivation to exercise after work but adjustments to my medication are also sapping my energy levels. I may try switching to a morning routine but I have doubts about my ability to wake up at 4:30 AM to work out.

Update my voter registration information. I completed the first big steps of changing my name since getting married last summer last week but this is a big election year and if I want to take part in the Democratic primary coming up this spring; I need to update my information with the county ASAP. All I have to do is fill out the form and mail it off. Easy-peasy.

Update: Ugh, I just plain forgot. I have the form. It’s all filled out. I just have to stuff it in an envelope and drop it in the mail. Next week for sure!

Write in my journal every evening. I have been good so far about posting little snippets of my life here but there are private stresses and anxieties I need to get off my chest and small instances of gratitude I think it good for me to acknowledge and document. Some things though they must be expressed are not for public eyes or the everlasting internet.

Update: I was able to make time for journalling about every other evening which is much better than not making any time at all. It isn’t easy to get used to writing by hand every day. I was making a lot of mistakes and my handwriting was atrocious. I had trouble recalling my day and would simply run out of things to say before the end of the page. It’s getting easier though and I anticipate a return to daily and long winded writing before the end of the month.

Create one cut out or blackout poem. I missed spending time with my X-Acto knives and my magazine scraps last week. My desk has been taken over with little writing notes and I will need to clear my analog space to get messy in again.

Update: There just wasn’t time and since the holidays the “creativity room” has become a storage space and dumping ground for everything that has come into our lives over the holidays. Once I clear a space for myself again and find my tools and get my materials and medium at hand, it’ll be easier to make the most of what little time I can give to my art.

Design my first new newsletter. I used to send my weekly round up posts out as an email newsletter too along with a bit of writing from me about some universal human experience of fact of existence that was on my mind but since splitting off from Zen and Pi I haven’t sent one because I wasn’t sure where “personal blogging” I ended and that kind of writing began, but I can’t work out the kinks if I never start again, right?

Update: Time was the issue here again, but also, I simply didn’t know where to begin. I need more time to think about this one so it won’t be a goal again for a while. I have to cutivate a better writing practice here before I can think about branching out.

This week I will not push myself too hard or too far. I will not make any big decisions or let big emotions or events rule me. I will not put myself at the center of the action or draw unnecessary attention. This week is for quietly observing, quietly planning, for quietly becoming and existing for me and no one else.


For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 01.

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

Goals 2020 // Part I: Spending My Life the Way I Spend My Days

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time. A schedule is a mock-up of reason and order—willed, faked, and so brought into being; it is a peace and a haven set into the wreck of time; it is a lifeboat on which you find yourself, decades later, still living.”

— Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

Though 2019 was a phenomenal year, looking back, I can’t help but feel a little disappointed in myself. Looking back, I see so much good but also see a lot of wasted time. I lost hours playing games on my phone, binge watching TV, an scrolling Facebook or Twitter when I got bored. These where hours I could have been learning something new, reading more books, writing something, making something, doing absolutely anything else that would have been more fulfilling. I spent my year the way I spent my days and there were more days spent living a life I didn’t want than I am comfortable with.

I’m a naturally anxious and avoidant person. It’s not the failure I’m afraid of, or even the success. I don’t like to try because trying means finding out so much about yourself and there are things I worry I will find out that go beyond success and failure. So, I spin my wheels. I do what feels like work but isn’t I talk a lot about what I want and dream about who I will be after. I avoid living the life I say I want by mimicking, by wasting time, by making excuses. I don’t want to do that anymore.

So, I’m taking a moment to acknowledge that going forward the same as I always have in past years will only get me the same results I have ended past years with. I would like to step into a new decade with better prospects. I would like to try something new and perhaps make a little more progress this time around the sun. I’d like to live a little more like I the person I want to be one day.

This year I have a plan, and that plan is just to make a plan. If you think it sounds too simple or small for a new year’s resolution, I would agree. I refuse to refer to it as such. It’s not a big goal, or grand lifestyle change, it’s only a one, tiny habit change. All I have to do is make a daily schedule. I don’t have to plan the year. I don’t have to plan my months or weeks. No, in 2020 I will focus solely on the day to day, the hour to hour, the minute, by minute, by minute. I’ll spend my life the way I want to by making sure each day contains all the life I want to live inside of it.

I’m starting with Google calendar and carving out blocks of time for everything from when I sleep, when I wake up, when I work out, when I get ready for work, when I can eat, read, write, and watch TV. I have time for my wife, my family, my pets and myself scheduled to the minute. I have time for podcasts, for social media, for journalling, for making art, and for simply sitting and thinking for a while. Each event has a reminder set for one hour before so I know what comes next and when it’s time to begin there are notes and to do list items so I know where to focus.

In the evenings I’ll look over my calendar to adjust the days ahead. I can add events, to-do items, and notes. I can add more time, move events around, or delete them entirely. Of course not everything can be included into every day. Some days there may be no reading or writing at all because I’ll be working, traveling, spending time with family, or with friends, or shopping, running errands, or I simply decided to do something else or nothing at all. The point is not to do anything in particular but to make a choice. This time next year when I look back on this one I will know that wherever I ended up, whatever I did or didn’t do and whether I chose to focus or to slip into mindlessness more often than not, I will at least know it was up to me.

I know the exercise won’t be easy. There is so little in life we have a choice about. Even by making a schedule there is really only a small fraction of the day I can call my own. My day job demands a lot from me. My friends and family need me. I have responsibilities and obligations. I have to eat and sleep and will power runs low when the body or the mind grow weary, stressed, or depressed. To make matters more difficult you have to fight every day to wrench what little focus you have left from companies trying to see you something or sell your time to someone else.

The TV is always on, the phone is always buzzing; the ads are always running; the world is always telling you to consume, to post, to scroll. Choosing how to spend your time is not an easy choice to make in that vast current. It is a daily battle between you and yourself, you and the expectations of others, you and the giant machine of capitalism and consumerism.

I know sometimes I will fail miserably but I all ask of myself is not to give up. Day by day means beginning again, and again, and again every morning. With practice I hope to perfect my priorities and hone my focus. I hope to figure out what works and what doesn’t, what I can do and what is expecting too much. I hope to learn too what I thought I wanted to do and what it turns out I really didn’t, what feels right and feels wrong, and, what I really want my life to look like.

This system may sound strict and devoid of surprise or serendipity but the alternative has been to leave myself at the whims, cravings, moods, and flawed memory. The alternative has been lost time and opportunity. The alternative has been a lot of fear and regret.

But with this system there is nothing anymore to fear. I don’t have to count up my successes and failures. I don’t have to do one thing or another. I don’t have to be ashamed, afraid, or avoidant. If I don’t want to do something, then I don’t have to. All I need to do is leave it off the schedule and let it go, but if I want to do it, no matter what it is, accomplishing it can be the easiest thing in the world. All I have to do is block out the time, sit down, and do the thing I told myself I would do. That is all the success I want for 2020.


Featured image by Elliott Engelmann on Unsplash

Goals // Week 01

This week is the second week of winter break and I’m only planning to go into work the last two days just to schedule the next week and complete some small tasks. With all those extra hours at home—outside of a few small errands, time I plan to spend with my wife, and the New Year’s celebration and subsequent day of recovery—I’ve decided to set some bigger goals than I’ve been used to these last few weeks.

This week I will:

 Schedule every hour of my days. It’s simple. I’m using my Google calendar to create events and reminders for blocks of time and how I would like to spend them from the moment I wake up until I go to bed. The goal is not to perfect adherence but to only cultivate a habit of thinking about what I would like to be doing with my time. Every night I will look over the next day and edit, move, or adjust where needed.

Update: I completed scheduled about half of my time last week. This is far more of my time than I have ever set out in black and white before so even though I marked it incomplete I count the effort alone as a success. GOing forward I will need to start scheduling a time to make the schedule and forming that as a daily habit.

Finish my cover letter. I’ve gotten my resume finished but I think it would be a nice touch to add a cover letter. I’ve done none of this before so I figure the more practice I can get the better and the additional effort couldn’t hurt my chances. Bonus: Ask 3 people for letters of recommendation.

Update: I was premature in setting this down as a goal. I will have to wait until the new position I am hoping for is available and then based on the description and the requirements I will craft a letter based specifically on my interest and qualification for the job.

Change my last name. I got married nearly 5 months ago but the bureaucratic hurdles I have to jump through, the number of institutions I have notify, and my fear of speaking with officials has kept me from adding my wife’s maiden name to my own, but as a Christmas gift to us both and a chance to start the new year as a new us, I’m getting it done.

Update: I have officially added my wife’s maiden name to my own last name, and she has added mine to her’s. It was quite an ordeal and we are from done but the most important first steps are complete. All I have left is to notify all my financial institutions and to perfect my signature.

Find my first rejection opportunity to kick off of #Rejection100 on Submittable. I’ve decided to get back into submitting work to publications again. I miss the motivation and direction that comes from a call for submission. I miss working with editors. I miss being part of a community writing toward the same goals. I also need the challenge in order to grow. So, here’s hoping for 100 rejections in 2020!

Update: To be honest I am rethinking this yearly goal entirely. The more I search for writing opportunities to pitch and then write for the more I realize that writing first and pitching later is the way that I write best. Of course the point is to push myself and to step outside of my comfort zone so I am still looking but the priority going forward will be the kind of writing I do because I have something to say, for me.

Finish a personal writing project for each of my own blogs. I have been slacking and spinning my wheels for months and it’s time I gather up some notes, ideas, and inspiration and try for 500 or 1000 words of real writing here and on Zen and Pi. I don’t want to lose sight of my own passions. I don’t want to grow stagnant writing what is easy.

Update: I made progress but I will be honest here and say that I did not do my best. I’m getting more comfortable carving out and devoting large blocks of time to this craft and I ideas are flowing easier every day but finishing is still the greatest obstacle. I’m getting there I promise.

Read 100 pages of Ethics by Benedict de Spinoza. This book isn’t an easy read but I really want to mark it off of my list. The time will be scheduled but at the very least if I could just do 30 minutes of reading before bed every night I think that would be enough. Bonus: Set a new reading goal on Goodreads.

Update: Despite its small size this book is deceptively hard to finish. It is dense and hard to understand though I do find it full of interesting and thought-provoking ideas. It’s not a book I can read before bed (it puts me to sleep) and it isn’t a book I can easily read at work. I must have the energy and be clear of any chance for distraction. Perhaps this is the kind of book that must be read in tandem with something easier and more exciting?

Keep eating right, taking my medication, and resting when I need to. I’m getting better but it has been slow and I have a strong tendency to push my body too hard and to grow lax about my meals and medication the moment I start to feel even remotely like myself. This week I have to remember that I am still quite sick and that I will get sicker again if I don’t take care of myself now.

Update: My meal and medication schedule are become second nature now and I even though I felt better I still stuck to the regime and allowed myself no excuses. I did miss one dose, and I did have a couple of instances where I overate or ate what something I knew would cause discomfort but taking the difficulty and the willpower involved I’m choosing to view my efforts in the most positive light possible.

This week I will not be too hard on myself if the temptation to skirt the schedule and these goals and instead get out and enjoy my time away from work becomes too strong. It’s still a vacation even if I’m not leaving town. I won’t close myself off entirely to spontaneity or serendipity. Time spend in joy or sunshine is never time wasted or time that should be regretted.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 52.

Photo by Jon Flobrant on Unsplash

Goals // Week 52

This week is the last full week of 2019, the week of Christmas and the first of my winter break. I have to work some, but the work will be light and relatively free from stress or frustration. I’ll also have a lot of time I get to claim for myself and I do not want to waste any of it. This week is practice for the new year and a chance to wrap up the last through reflection and resolution.

This week I will:

Finish my resume! If nothing else gets done at all over the next two weeks but this, I will count my time well spent and my winter break a success. I have enough on my plate worrying and preparing over interviews; I don’t want to worry about (or fail miserably over) something as simple as updating dates and duties in a document. The fact is, I am just terrified of change and this small task signals big changes to come, but the change is good and I have more than earned it.

Update: I did it and it looks great. I was afraid that when I was done there would be embarrassingly little to show for all my years with the same company and with very liitle change to my position but it turns out I have done, and still do, so much. I’m proud of all of it and happy to see it laid out in black and white finally.

 Schedule every hour for the next week and then stick to the schedule. This is early practice for my one New Year’s resolution: To be mindful of how I spend my days, and thus, how I spend my life. I’m simply using Google calendar to start and mapping out everything I need to do from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to bed. I’m tired of losing time. I’m tired of looking back on the day and having nothing to show. I want a record, a reminder, a place to be accountable.

Update: I made it as far as Wednesday and then the whole thing fell apart. I should have just sat down and adjust and edited what I had after that but I felt like a failure and so ended up avoiding the whole thing. This can’t happen again though. Mistakes are okay, but given up in unacceptable.

Start an early morning workout, nothing too strenuous. I won’t begin until after the holiday, or until I am feeling a little better, so this goal only counts for Thursday and Friday at the least. I have been pledging all year to start a workout regimen and have failed miserably week after week but now that I am scheduling my time and getting used to getting up early even on my days off; I think an easy 20 minute work out before breakfast and a shower is a good place to start.

Update: I have it all written out, but I only completed one day. I think I need more time in the mornings than I have been giving myself and a space that makes me feel more comfortable. I’ve moved the weights back into the “creativity room”, put up the pull-up bar, and brought up a yoga mat too. Next week I there will be no excuse.

Make time for my plants and pets. The dog has been cooped up, he snakes are being neglected, and my plants are all looking a little limp and brown around the edges. Only the cat is thriving in this newfound independence my chronic illness has given them but even she wishes her litter box was cleaned a little more often. I haven’t been feeling well but they need me too and I have to stop being so selfish with all of my good hours.

Update: I wish the weather had been warmer to walk the dog in but she did get lots of cuddle time, a trip to the pet store, new toys, and treats. The cat is sleeping with me again and the snakes all got fresh clean substrate, nice big meals, and new hides to burrow in. All the plants were watered, pruned, and moved to more favorable lighting conditions as needed.

Post my end-of-year reflections and my beginning of year intentions and goals. I have them drafted but deciding what you want a whole year to look like before it’s even begun is a daunting task. I have no idea what kind of year 2020 will be or what kind of person I will be in it. I also know that whatever I say now will change within 3 months and be completely forgotten by August, anyway. Still, if I want to be more deliberate in my life, I have to try.

Update: I was simple a week too early. This goal was meant for Week 01, not week 52. Still, I did write the posts, mostly, and plan to share them on the days they are meant to go out. If I do it, I will come back and update this post to reflect that.

Enjoy my holiday! I’ve never been a big fan of Christmas or New Year’s. I’ve never liked winter and I’ve never taken much time off during the break. This year isn’t really an exception but I would like to make a little more of an effort. I’d like to look for the good, to see the bright lights, to eat good food, to feel warm and cheerful. It was a good year. I am surrounded by love and support, and looking forward to so many good things. I’d like to celebrate that too.

Update: Christmas was delightful! All my gifts made it to their intended destinations and recipients. I received some pretty neat things in exchange. There was plenty of good food, plenty to drink, plenty of laughter, and I was surrounded by so much warmth and love. I enjoyed every second, and I am relieved beyond words that it’s finally over.

This week I won’t let myself get too down. My health is weighing on my mind and weighing down my body but if I put rest first, eat what I know is good for me, keep a positive outlook, and allow myself to feel pride in accomplishing what I can rather than dwelling on what I can’t I know I can keep on putting one foot in front of the other though to the week’s end.


P.S. For a look at how I fared last week check out my updated post for Week 51.

Photo by Katie Doherty on Unsplash