Recalibration: Round 3
You know what sucks worse than being sick? Being sick when you’re traveling.
For the past 10 days, my siblings (I have 4) have been playing a game of pass the Rubi (that’s me). I’ve slept on all manner of bed and couch. Fun fact: if you lean an inflatable mattress against the wall during the day, you can call it a Murphy bed. It’s been fun. But they’re all recovering from Covid—including the littles. Their particular strain of Covid came with a weeks-long tail of bronchitis, sinusitis, mastoiditis, coughing, sore throats, and general ugh. Our parents taught us to share, so they were kind enough to give me a fine selection of their ills. I keep testing negative for Covid-19, but I am positive for being the steward of a body ecosystem that is hella outta whack, including the inability to breathe through my nose, a violent cough, a mouth full of canker sores, and a throat so sore I must brace myself to swallow. I mean, I’m not going to die or anything. But…
I am not the best travel companion version of myself.
I am not the best any-version of myself right now.
Here’s where we are: we’ve thought hard about how we structure our day, we guessed where our time goes, we idealized where our time goes, then we actually tracked it. We studied it, we crunched numbers, we cringed, but also, patted ourselves on the back.
The next and final step:
This one is the easy one.
What do you want to do going forward?
What do you want your days to look like?
Not a day of you being a productivity machine, but a day of you taking ample time for rest and pleasure along with your work and duties, a day where you have time to take care of you and whatever TCB comes your way.
Start with Monday. Or start with Sunday, I don’t care. This is all about you. What time will you wake up? (Notice I didn't ask what time you want to wake up but will. As in, you will do what you set out to do.)
Make a list, chart, or find a calendar template that works for you and create your new schedule.
Then, spend a week sticking to it. How does it work? What works? What doesn’t? Great. Go back and make changes to the schedule and start all over again.
The key is to maintain a constant awareness of what’s working and what isn’t, then change accordingly.
Yoga teachers often use the term “find your edge.” This is the point where you are challenged mentally and physically, but also feel a sense of stability and ease. In terms of scheduling your time, this is the point where you feel productive and accomplished while also relaxed and calm.
Sounds impossible, no?
I’ve found my weak spots are unaccounted for transitions. This is where I’m likely to slip into a scrolling/surfing bender, or get distracted with any number of seemingly fascinating diversions. I feel rushed and breathless when my schedule is micromanaged down to 10- or 15-minute increments, but that might work better for you. I like to cordon -off chunks of time and make them sacred to the task: writing, TCB, arting, exercise, etc.
Don’t forget to include time for grace. If yoga is from 9-10, scheduling my next block of time to start at 10 is setting myself up for failure. I’ll need time to make my way back into my brain and switch gears. Or chat with an acquaintance after class.
If I’m being honest, and I am, scheduling my time has always been one of my biggest challenges. My work-life has never been a 9-5, sit-at-a-desk situation. (Ok, there was a spell of temp work in the 1990s, and I pretty much built my day around a late lunch followed by my afternoon snack of peanut M&M’s and Diet Coke.) I wear a lot of professional hats, including chef, artist, and writer, as well as art workshop and meditation facilitator. So much of my success is based on how-much-of and how I balance the workload. One of my anti-superpowers is estimating how long a certain task will take. I always err on the optimistic side, and as a result, always feel like I’m behind. I suspect I’m not alone in this.
How many minutes or hours does it take to write a column, bake a cake (and clean up the mess) or create a drawing? How long does it take to unpack a suitcase? How long to drive to the store, pick out produce, check out, drive home and put-up groceries? How much less time do any of these chores take if I don’t attempt to multitask?
Sometimes projects can be like water, in that they will expand to the limits of the vessel. If I allot 30 minutes to working on a quick drawing, that’s how long it will take. But also, if I set aside 90 minutes, that, too, is how long it will take.
If you’re a teacher, you have a strict schedule for each day. If you see patients or clients, your workday happens along a pre-determined roster. You’re most likely rewarded for your efficiency and loyalty to that agenda. How can you create the opposite feeling in your personal time?
There are no right answers to how you create and arrange your day. There are better solutions, viable compromises, but also, downright stinker attempts to manage your time. The good thing, once you try something to find it doesn’t work, you get to change it.
I’m playing right along with you. I’ve been away from home for work and family for about 5 weeks. As much as I love traveling—especially after a couple years of not, I’m so excited to be snuggling back into a schedule and a routine. In changing time zones, I’ve found myself waking up pretty early every morning. That time creeps a bit later each day (I went from 4:30a.m. to 7a.m. in the span of 9 days, but these last few nights I’ve spent hours awake coughing and feeling crappy so that doesn’t count). Now that I’m back home, and on antibiotics, I’ll be experimenting with a week of early mornings and early nights.
Apparently, the key to waking up with the birds is going to sleep before the owls.