Do you create schedules that, once followed, make you feel exhausted, unfulfilled or lazy?
This was my pattern for quite a while:
I have so many interests that I often become overwhelmed. I want to make sure that I have time to do everything I love, so I create a tight schedule that includes it all and ensures that I’m working towards all of my long-term goals. I give myself tasks for the morning, an hour for lunch, time for “fun” activities, rest, enough sleep, and even periods for thought and doing nothing. It’s the high school model, and I did well then, so it should work now, right?
Wrong. I did well in school, but in school I was a sheep. I’ve grown so much since then, so do I really want to go back to that rule-abiding mindset? Whether they’re my own or the school board’s, these rules are imposed with too much thought given to “should,” and not enough to “want” or “need.” I feel like hiking when I should be writing, sleeping when I should be playing. Life becomes very stiff and does not encourage free will and thought, which is what helps you adapt to inevitable change, whether external or internal. And inevitably, I become unhappy.
I rebel against my inner dictator, and I identify with my inner hippie. I do whatever I want, whenever I want with a view to reconnecting with my true desires. I watch movies and eat all day and live off of my savings. I sleep in–after all, if I sleep until 3pm, it’s because my body needs and wants it, right? I have a lot of time to think about my dreams but I become sad when I don’t spend enough time making any real plans or taking any real steps–my dreams seem unattainable and I start to believe it.
I go back to my original activity-stuffing tactic, because I no longer trust myself.
Is it possible to listen to your body, like in schedule #2, but get shit done, like in schedule #1, and actually be happy, like in dream land?
I think so. I believe that what these schedules lack is self-knowledge; my interests and goals are the building blocks of my day, but knowledge of my own psychological and physiological patterns is critical for establishing a productive schedule.
For example, through trial and error, I’ve discovered that I feel most productive, whether I follow through on any plans or not, when I get up early; with so much waking time, I end up doing something. Then, perhaps early rising is a worthwhile habit to develop. I know that to feel good when I get up early, I have to get enough sleep. I know that when I eat a hearty breakfast, my appetite is regulated for the rest of the day.
I know that I feel good when I have a regular workout schedule. I haven’t figured this out completely yet, but I won’t beat myself up about it–what’s important is that I realize that exercise is crucial to my self-esteem, and I’m working to find a comfortable place for it in my life.
I know that sometimes, when I start writing as soon as I wake up, a sense of accomplishment pervades my day; perhaps I could try incorporating early writing into my daily or weekly schedule.
I know that at night, before bed, I like to think about my plans for tomorrow. When I wake up, I like knowing exactly what my plans are for the day; this way, I don’t waste my precious energy figuring out what to do and whether it is worthwhile–I just go. So, perhaps before bedtime I should create a “thinking time” block, during which I can allow my thoughts to wander into wider, even spiritual, territory, I can reevaluate my goals and purpose and set exciting tasks for the next day.
It’s important not to become disheartened when your scheduling doesn’t work, because each failure is a learning experience, and each new piece of knowledge brings you closer to success. The faster you get up and try again, the faster you get that next failure out of the way. 🙂
Finally, if you find that a regular, long-term schedule works well for you, hooray. However, if you undergo and enjoy constant change as I do, you must realize that once you’ve established the perfect schedule, you might need a completely new one. Therefore, what is most important is developing the ability to know when you’ve changed, and to adapt not only to external circumstances but also to internal ones.
Your plans should motivate you–they should be less of a to-do list, and more of a reminder of what makes you feel and radiate love. Your life should be a challenging but scenic canoe trip, not a steep, frightening mountain climb (unless you like that sort of thing) or endless channel surfing (please, just shut it off).