Are you curious about the habits I find difficult? Inspired by the start of the new year, I set up goals for a number of habits. These are the same old important habits, but right now I’m actually tracking my compliance with them. Some of these started falling away towards the end of 2020 (such as getting enough sleep), so I am now making an effort to do the important things. Here are my habits and goals.
I may be overwhelmed, tired, stressed, or upset. The best thing I can do in that moment is to go for a walk. It works every single time.
Going for a walk is often the best thing I can do for my mood, especially during this time of year when there isn’t much sunlight and I’m spending a lot of time indoors. Yet it’s easy to convince myself that there are more important things to do than go for a walk: work, do household chores, take care of William, etc. It often feels like a luxury I can’t fit into my day.
Therefore, I’ve set the goal to go walking 5 times a week! I have to say that so far I’ve been sticking to it, and it feels fantastic. Interestingly, I haven’t gotten bored of walking yet. I really look forward to my daily walk.
What have I done to stick to this habit? First of all, I’ve scheduled my walks: I go on most days around 15:30. I make sure to go on Saturdays and Sundays, and I also usually go on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I often schedule a walk + talk with a friend, either in person or by phone, to make my commitment even stronger. It also helps me to think that William (my son) needs to go outside, so when I put him in the stroller and go for a walk with him, I feel like I’m doing something good for him too.
This one’s been in flux a bit. I’ve been exercising consistently for years, but I wanted to try out something new. I used to train for 1-1.5 hours 3x a week, but I started dreading the exhausting workouts, and I really missed the movement on the other days. So I decided to incorporate some movement into my day 5x per week for about 30 minutes. I find it feels amazing when I move my body every day for a short amount of time.
What I’m trying to do now is to strength train at home 3x a week and do relaxing yoga or dance 2x a week. Strength training helps me stay healthy and avoid getting back pain, while the yoga and dancing are just super fun!
I’ve been sticking to the strength sessions, but I’ve been having trouble with the fun movement sessions. I find it difficult to make the time instead of working/cooking/doing household chores. But it’s been helpful to have it as an explicit goal, and by doing fun movement more often I also remember how nice it is and want to do it again.
3. Meditate differently
Ah, that’s not working out well. I used to meditate regularly in the past, but since having a little one, I haven’t been managing as much. In the beginning, there was so much time just sitting while he was breastfeeding or sleeping in my arms that I couldn’t handle any extra time sitting still on purpose. And now during lockdown I find it difficult to justify to myself sitting down and staying still instead of doing stuff.
The point is that I’m not making ‘strict’ meditation a priority now. Instead, I’m doing something new.
I’m adding 5 minutes after my movement sessions where I lie down or sit and listen to a relaxation or meditation exercise. It feels extremely luxurious and suuuuuper pleasant! It doesn’t always work because when William sees me sitting, he climbs onto my lap. Even better, if I’m lying on the floor, he comes over and climbs on my head (he literally lies on my head and bites my cheeks!), which doesn’t make it too easy to relax.
Still, I try to do a mindfulness exercise for 5 minutes a day 5x a week, usually after my movement session. It doesn’t always happen, but I’m doing my best with it.
4. Drink 2 full water bottles (water + electrolytes)
The permanent struggle to drink enough water + electrolytes! I like drinking water, but I enjoy tea more, so if I don’t pay attention to it, I end up drinking lots of tea and not enough water.
Since I’ve made it a goal I track, it’s been going better, and I think I am really making it most days. On days when I’m working, I have my bottle in front of me, and I drink one in the morning and one in the afternoon, so that’s easy. But the trick is to still drink enough water on days when I’m not working. If I’m running around the house and going out, I just forget to drink my water, and then I feel it (I get low blood pressure, and I feel low-energy).
Note: I have low blood pressure in general, so I put electrolytes in my water. That’s much more helpful to me than only water.
5. Do 4 Pomodoros a day
Pomodoros are 25-minute work periods free from distraction. They’re usually separated by a 5-minute (or longer) break. Read more about the Pomodoro method here (at the bottom, item 7).
I’ve set this goal in order to help myself do more distraction-free work. It’s super easy to constantly check email, Mattermost, messages, which prevents deep work. I’d like to do more deep work, so I try to eliminate distractions for 4 x 25 minutes a day (for a day on which I work).
To be honest, I’m pretty bad at this. As I’m writing this, Jacob (my husband) is texting me, and I’m responding. If there’s any type of activity that demands attention and concentration, it’s writing. Clearly, I need to work on this habit a bit more.
6. Dutch practice
I’ve committed to this one! I have an app (Babbel) that helps me practice and learn more Dutch. My goal is to use it 4x a week, and I almost always manage that.
I got inspired by my dad who’s been using DuoLingo to learn Spanish for more than a year, and he can actually speak and understand a bit now! In August last year, it hit me that I really wanted to step up my Dutch game. After all, William will grow up with Dutch as his main language, and I’d like to be able to understand it when he speaks, and I’d also like to have comfortable conversations with his teachers, friends, and friends’ parents.
So I’ve decided to overcome the embarrassment of making mistakes and having a funny accent and just speak. Using the app really helps to teach me more grammar and vocabulary and to give me the feeling that I’m on a journey of improving my Dutch. And, honestly, it’s fun! So I’m happy to report that this habit is going well.
7. Play with William for 10 minutes twice a day
This sounds a bit pathetic… but it can be really easy to rush around the whole day, switching between household chores, work tasks, and taking care of William. At the end of the day, I may realize that while I’ve done a bunch for William (fed him, changed his diaper, put him to sleep, etc.), I have actually done anything fun with him.
So I made it a goal to really play with him twice a day at least. We build towers, chase each other around the house, or read a book. It’s really fun, and it’s really pleasant for me too because I truly see him in those moments.
8. Call family and friends
Since we’re limited as to how many people we can see in person and how much we can travel, I try to reach out to family and friends more often than usual. This is more of a mental note though instead of a strict goal because if I’m too strict with it, I really don’t want to do it and end up not calling people. Instead, I let it be more flexible, and that seems to work alright.
9. Go to bed 22:00
Ah, this is my biggest struggle… It makes a huge difference for me if I get enough sleep, but the evenings are me-time, which can make it really difficult to go to bed because it feels like I’m missing out on fun time.
I’ve set an alarm on my phone to tell me that it’s bedtime at 21:30. The idea is that I get up from reading my book or whatever I’m doing, get things ready for the next day, brush my teeth, and get into bed.
Well, I can tell you that it doesn’t usually go that way. The alarm goes off at 21:30, and I turn it off, thinking “F*ck you, you’re not the boss of me, you won’t tell me when to go to bed!” At the same time, I know I used my best judgment to set up that alarm, so I can get enough sleep and be rested the next day. In the end, I’m in bed by 22:30 or 22:15 if I’m lucky, which is also not too shabby. But it irritates me that I can get myself to do all kinds of things, and yet for some reason I can’t get myself to go to bed by a certain time.
Anyway, I’m trying my best without being too rigid and allowing myself some unwind time in the evenings. I’ll keep working on it.
What habits are you working on? I’m very curious to hear from you!