Happy New Year, everyone! In my last post, I shared my three criteria for choosing a New Year’s Resolution. And for 2020, for the first time in many years, I actually chose one!
Drumroll please …
For 2020, I resolve to stop puttering.
Yes! I’m going to stop puttering. Time is precious, and it seems silly to spend so much of it puttering around the house with no particular aim. My new resolution checks all the boxes. It’s a real priority (for me, today). It’s achievable. And most importantly—I have a plan. Ready to hear how I’m going to do it?
#1. I’m going to reduce mindless television and Internet time.
We are not a huge TV family, but I’m definitely prone to turning on the TV and watching something mindless after the kids go to bed. Or, I’ll plop myself on the couch and spend twenty minutes scrolling through Instagram or Facebook on my phone. These activities are not particularly satisfying—and I think the only reason I do them is because I’m exhausted after a busy day of work and childcare, and my lizard-brain is looking for instant gratification. In 2020, I’m vowing to be more conscious of these impulses.
On the TV front, I’ll still watch programs that I am truly interested in—so Call the Midwife and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel are still in—but random browsing of Netflix is out. On the Internet front, I downloaded the app ActionDash, which tracks my screen time and gives me a daily report of how often I unlocked my phone and how many minutes I spent using each app during the day. The whole idea is to be more mindful about time use. In place of TV and Internet, I’d love to emphasize more satisfying pursuits, like reading an actual book, chatting with my husband, staying on top of home organization and chores, or simply going to bed early.
#2. I’m going to wake up early.
The “5am wake-up” has long been touted by productivity experts as a way to fit more meaningful activities into the day. It’s easy to poo-poo this strategy–there are still just 24 hours in the day no matter how you slice it, and it can be painful to wake up early! But I think it is effective. I began implementing this into my routine about a month ago. I had been getting up between 5am and 5:30am on most days anyways for my baby’s first morning feed – but instead of going back to bed after nursing her, I would get up and start my day. It made a surprisingly big difference to my general well-being to take advantage of this quiet, reflective “me time” in the mornings.
Since my “big” kids (2 and 4) wake up at 7am, waking up at 5:30am gives me an extra 1.5 hours in the morning to enjoy a cup of coffee and write, or catch up on household paperwork, by myself. Not only does this feel productive, it helps me feel centered and put-together for the rest of the day since I’m waking up to peace, not chaos. The kicker is that I need to get myself to bed early to make this work. I start getting myself ready for bed around 9pm and try to be asleep by 10pm. To me, that’s worth it, since I’m mostly exchanging evening puttering time for productive morning time, but I’ll admit that I now REALLY struggle to stay up if I am out late with friends!
#3. I’m going to take advantage of unexpected free time.
Some days, unexpected time “off the clock” becomes available: maybe the baby takes an extra-long nap, or my husband opts to take the kids on an impromptu outing to the grocery store. Of course this is always a happy discovery, but I have a definite tendency to squander unexpected blocks of time, mostly because I haven’t planned effectively for them. Actually, my “discovered time” ritual is surprisingly predictable:
- First, I silently revel in the fact that there are no tiny people hanging on me, eating my food, or perpetuating a refrain of “Mommy. Mommy, watch this. Mommy!” I make myself a snack or cup of coffee to savor the moment.
- Then, while sipping my coffee, I switch on my computer and check my e-mails. Invariably, this leads me down a rabbit-hole of somewhat productive, but largely unsatisfying, activities: responding to e-mails, paying utility bills, and the like.
- After at least 20-30 minutes spent on e-mails and other computer-based tasks, I finally begin intentional work on a project or hobby—but by then, I might have only 15 minutes left before being interrupted, leading to a feeling that the time had really been too short to get much of anything done in the first place.
In 2020, I plan to break this cycle and take full advantage of uninterrupted time, just as soon as I find myself in possession of it. Primarily, I want to increase my intentionality by maintaining a detailed task list that encompasses everything I need or want to accomplish at any given moment: household chores, shopping, paperwork, hobbies, home organization projects, work tasks, etc.
I recently discovered the Android Tasks app for managing my list and it’s been very helpful. Whenever I think of anything that needs to be done, however large or small, and wherever I happen to be, I use my phone to add it to Tasks. Then, whenever I have time available, I can simply scroll through and see at a glance if there is a task that I can slot into the time I have.
I am excited for my new approach, and hope these interventions will bring me the mindfulness that I’m looking for. What are you planning for 2020?