Priorities (32.2021)

It’s been a successful week in terms of the goal I set myself of doing more of the things I say are important – prioritising reading, writing and exercise. I sat down and looked at the things I said I wanted to do more of and worked out what would be an appropriate amount of time to allocate.

  • Writing: is 30 minutes a day reasonable? Considering I have a full time job (that is not writing), 30 minutes should be do-able in the time before or after work. And why have I been excluding blog writing from my writing time? It’s still writing. It’s not “proper novel work” but it’s still writing. And it counts.
  • Reading: 2.5 hours a week. This is easily what I used to do in The Before when I was commuting. I could knock off an average sized novel every week. Five times 30 minutes. It doesn’t have to be every day. It can be a concentrated period on the weekend. As it was this weekend. Husband thinks I’m crazy as I’m reading three books in circulation. A chapter or two of Checkpoint Charlie, then a chapter or two of Invisible Women, then a chapter or two of Moby Dick. It works for me and as two are non-fiction and one is Moby Dick (I’ve finally reached the halfway point!) I like the feeling of getting through all of them.
  • Cardio: the spectre of Ben Nevis continues to hang in front of me and so I want to build up my lung capacity with cardio. Two hours a week is a couple of 30 minute runs and a barre class online. Anything which gets my heart rate up and makes me sweat and want to stop moving.
  • Yoga: I spend a lot of time sitting down, that’s the nature of my work. Yoga is the antidote to that. I can find one hour every week to do yoga and stretch my body, to release the stress of sedentary desk-bound time, to make space in my body to let ideas in.

The total amount of time I plan to allocate to these four priorities is nine hours. That’s a lot when put like that – it’s a whole day’s work in fact. But my plan is not to tackle everything at once. It’s about finding the 15 or 30 minute spaces in every day to fill with one of these tasks. And because I like to cross things off and tick boxes and get positive reinforcement from seeing my goals being achieved, I have drawn up a little table with 15 minute sized boxes I get to colour in as I complete things. I’ve realised this is how I am best motivated. (Maybe I should draw up another table with fruit and vegetable units to track my healthy eating? Hmm.)

I’ve tried it for two weeks and while I haven’t got to nine hours either week, I have done something in each category – so that’s more reading, writing and exercise than I would have done had I not had this table. I know from the past these initiatives are short lived and once I achieve my target (once Ben Nevis has been successfully climbed), maybe I will stop paying attention to the exercise part. Maybe come November I’ll decide that novel I have been working on is a big pile of poo and I’ll want to stop writing. But it’s the scheduling of tasks and being accountable to myself that seems to be working so far.

Helping me with the writing this weeks is the “Mini 1000” – Jami Attenberg hosted another writing accountability session where we were encouraged to write 1000 words a day for six days. Not all the words will be good words, but it was the writing that was the important thing. And the 1000 words community on Twitter it lovely. I don’t often use Twitter but I love seeing other writers complaining about how difficult it was or how easy it was or how angry and tired they were but they wrote anyway. All of us going through the same thing. Writing can feel very solitary so these 1000 words initiatives are great to feel connected to other people. Even if just for six days.

It also reminded me how much I enjoy writing. My writing time of day is when I really get into a flow and time evaporates. It’s a good feeling. I don’t feel this kind of flow about my paid employment, sadly. Why don’t I write more often instead of only when prodded by Jami Attenberg? This week I pushed out 6,500 words over the six days. And I realised the characters in this novel drink a heck of a lot of tea!

I’ve tried a couple of times this week to do run 6.3 from Couch to 5K. It’s a run of 25 minutes. My first attempt was probably 21 minutes. My second attempt was probably 22 minutes. I think it’s a mental block more than a physical one that’s stopping me from getting through the whole time without stopping. I’ve tried changing my playlist to distract myself with music and telling myself it’s only my feet that hurt, I’m not actually out of breath (true, which is good news). But I still stop at some point, even if I then kick myself into running again after a short walking break.

It’s been a week of gloomy climate news. The IPCC says we are already in the grip of climate change and you can see it in heatwaves and fires in Canada, Greece, Turkey, California and Siberia (which is bigger than all the other fires combined). You can see in heavy rainfall and flooding in Western Europe, India, China and Turkey (yes, Turkey is experiencing both floods and fires). Our planet is literally on fire.

If you’ve wondered how we can address climate change, then you could do this quiz from CNN that compares various initiatives to let you know what is most helpful. I got an appalling 25% score so I need to do some more study on what are the best initiatives.

This week’s good news is that there is a new Marie Kondo series coming to Netflix at the end of August! I love Marie Kondo and her kind and practical approach to clearing away clutter. To celebrate news of a new series, Husband and I re-watched a couple of episodes from the first series. And as ever, it prompted us to “Kondo” our clothes drawers (let’s see how long the tidiness of nicely folded clothes lasts) and do a spot declutter of non-joy-inducing books. I say declutter, we’ve piled them up for a friend to have a look through before we take them to the book exchange at the Tube station. I know we have a lot of books but that’s OK, I think Marie would approve, because for me, a full bookshelf sparks joy. And if I can get my reading on track to actually read those books, that would spark even more joy.

I hope you find something to spark joy in your week.

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