Not resolutions, but setting the week up for success from the inside out.
Ok, so here’s a thing that I’ve been doing this year (I know, it’s been two weeks, it’s fine) that has somewhat dampened the constant “I’ll never get it all done it’s piling up on me what am I doing I’m busy but never on top of anything” overwhelmed feeling that I’ve been struggling with.
It is very easy and makes me feel very good.
The short version is, I pick one thing that I’m pretty sure I can accomplish, and I make sure to do it the very first minute on Monday that I can. Then at the end of the day, no matter how else things have gone, I can say that I completed my entire must-do list.
The must-do is different than a to-do in that it’s something I’ve prioritized as important, and I always choose something that is actually possible – that’s the setting myself up for success part. For example, yesterday I decided that I was going to go run at the gym. This entails getting myself and both kids ready and finding a magical time where neither of them are hungry or screaming or napping, then actually getting them in the car, driving, out of the car, checked in at the nursery, on the treadmill, RUNNING, and then repeating the entire process to get us back home, at which point one of them will absolutely be screaming and or hungry and or napping.
But that’s fine. Because the must-do was running at the gym, and I did that.
It’s not always something self-care-ish either, although I’ve started to use this method almost every day and at least some times per week self care is the must of the day. What was happening before was maybe I’d have a list for the entire week, so if nothing got done on Monday that was fine, and that bled into Tuesday, and Wednesday maybe a friend would ask us to hang out, and I’m in the office Thursday and Friday, and the weekend rolls around and I’m like WHAT DID I DO THIS WEEK.
It’s basically setting realistic goals, but it has been really useful to me in terms of switching my mentality a little bit. I’ve used it with clients who are stuck in the “it’s never good enough” rut, which is fake thinking but so very real when you’re in it. Instead of the neverending list of what they didn’t do today/week/month, instead, at the end of each day/week/month they have a task to write down what they DID do. You can guess the ending here, the list is usually longer than they realize. Because, on days where “I get nothing done,” I keep myself and both kids alive, feed all of us, get them to vaguely nap which is important for their brain development, and usually let the dogs out on a schedule that prevents them from peeing inside.
So then we don’t look back and think “right, but I wanted to finish more laundry and I have two articles due and so many pictures to send to people if I could just edit them,” because that is useless. That kind of crap won’t make my kids whine less tomorrow, it won’t give me more hours in the day or motivation to bop around until 11pm like the Energizer Bunny. That kind of thinking only serves to remind me of what I didn’t do, and (again) that is useless.
I also have a bonus points system, but that’s because I’m competitive with myself and the time that my kids nap. So, in the Monday example, I had the GYM as must-do, then unpacking from our mountain trip this weekend as a second “if I get time and no kids are negatively impacted” second-tier item. If I let myself get too deep into that kind of thinking I get my brain all bogged down in what I really want to do, but I decided that my goal for as many days as possible is to be proud of what I’m doing, not upset about what I’m not accomplishing.
This works for me because I know at the core of my being that no matter how hard I work or push or try I will never ever feel like I did It All in a single day. Never, so why try? Instead, I set goals I know I can accomplish, have a few extra “if I have time” items, and at the end of the day I know that I did what I set out to do. It’s not defeatist, but it’s so harshly realistic that there is very little room for failure.
Maybe this seems like defying the point of New Year’s Resolutions, and that’s fine. But when I set goals that are just out of reach they usually serve to discourage me from doing anything, or are so far off (the I’ll lose 50 pounds in three years kinds of things) that I put off starting until it’s too late and then mark myself as a failure.
If my only goal is to run on a Monday and I happen to get the kitchen cleaned up too? Then, by my math, I’m an overachiever. I start my thoughts with “All I have to do today is…insertitemhere,” and life isn’t just manageable, it’s something I can conquer.
And, the running thing? I have been on a treadmill exactly twice since Will was born. We’re doing a 5k in April and I’m curious to see if I can do it in under 30 minutes, but not setting it as any kind of a goal because honestly who give a shit?