I’ve been thinking lately about and idea I’ve started to think of as momentum and the areas of my life in which I do and don’t have any.
I heard once that 95% of the battle of working out is putting your shoes on and closing the front door behind you. I think about that almost every time I work out because it is so so true for me, and actually applies to a lot of things that I do. Things that, like working out, are good for me, that I LOVE doing once I’m actually doing them, that I am always happy I did after I do them, that would make me happier, more fulfilled, etc. etc. but why on earth are those things just so hard to do sometimes?! I’ve been learning the life lesson that sometimes you just have to START what it is that you want to do. My new tactic is timer setting. I used this with doing family history, which was something I really wanted to be spending time doing and learning about, but I had no idea how and the whole thing just seemed daunting. I didn’t know how to get going, so I decided that once a week, every Sunday, I was going to spend 30 minutes on family history. I would set a timer for 30 minutes and do whatever I could, and when the 30 minutes was up, I could be done. Sometimes that only meant figuring out what my username and password on ancestry.com was. Sometimes it meant emailing a friend asking them a question about getting started. Or watching a couple video tutorials. It was slow going at first, but eventually I knew enough and had enough momentum that sometimes the timer would end and I’d keep going for hours just because I could and wanted to. Now I know where to go, what to do, what to read, how to use programs, and there are endless hours I could spend on family history without getting stuck.
I hear people say all the time that they want to be better at journaling. Or blogging. Or exercising regularly. And for things like this, daily habit items, a little bit of momentum goes a long way. When I used to bike a ton, hopping on my bike and going on a 30 or 60 minute bike ride was no big deal. Last week, I decided I wanted to go on a ride after thinking and thinking about it for weeks, finally drummed up the energy, but it took me almost an hour just to get out my bike, pump up the tires, find my helmet, water bottle and biking shorts. I gave up on finding my gloves and patch kit, then dinked around on googlemaps trying to figure out a good route for how far I wanted to go, yada yada yada, it was waaaay more effort than it used to be, but once I get into the groove of doing it and it’s habit again, it won’t be nearly so hard. Starting the project is the hardest part, and once you’ve started, all you have to do is just chip away at it every day. An object set in motion will stay in motion. . . or something like that.
I’ve noticed a phenomenon about my evenings. I put my kids to bed really early (for sanity purposes) and depending on what time I’m trying to get to bed, (read: how desperately exhausted I am) I have about 2-3 hours to do whatever I want. I’m sure every mother of young kids knows that those hours are precious. For me, I’m probably starving, dinner leftovers need to be put away and my house could use an hour (or seven) of solid cleaning time. I want to spend a good chuck of time bookbinding, but also I need to RELAX! rejuvenate, maybe read a magazine, zone out on social media for a minute, take a hot shower, watch a show and have ice cream with Tanner, take time for spiritual upliftment, and . . . two hours is not a very long time amiright? And the phenomenon I’ve noticed is that what I usually spend almost all of those two hours doing is whatever I started doing during the first 10 minutes of it. If I go straight up to my loft and start working, I will gain momentum and get a ton done. If I sit down with dinner and a magazine, I’ll want to finish the article I’m reading and spend longer than I intended. If I decided I’m going to spend a quick 15 minutes loading the dishwasher and switching the laundry, I usually won’t stop after that–I’ll wipe down the counters, pick up the toys, and keep going because I caught a second wind and it really won’t take that long to get things looking really clean. And if I pull up Facebook, I will still be on it an hour later, kicking myself for wasting my precious downtime.
What I’m NOT trying to do here is convince you to maximize your efficiency during these hours and get as much as possible done. What I am endorsing is using your time to actually do what it is you want to do and what will bring you the most benefit. Where do I feel depleted? Does my body, mind, or spirit need the most help right now? Do I want to create and accomplish something I’ve been wanting to do, or do I need to veg? If cruising pinterest or binge watching The Mindy Project is just what you need that night, then by all means go for it! But if you accidentally did that instead of what really would have filled your cup, you’re probably going to go to bed wondering why you never have enough time to do what you want.
Right now I have some good momentum going with my etsy shop, with organization, with meal planning and cooking—but. . . exercise has stopped dead in its tracks, I rarely write, and my guitar has gathered much dust. That’s okay because, a time and a season, and you can’t be awesome at all the categories all the times, but sometimes I unintentionally gain momentum in areas that I really don’t need or want any. (I think that’s how the science of addiction reads right?) Any I’ve realized than most of the time, if I wish I had something better under control, or was dedicating more of myself to some dust-covered area of my life, it takes much less than I used to think to get the ball uprooted from it’s resting place, gaining a little bit of speed, and then forging ahead full force.
And after I wrote this (and thinking I’d come up with that clever timer trick all on my own), you know what, I found out that Elizabeth Gilbert already wrote it better than me, so dang it, here you go:
“Don’t wait for the world to clear out time and space for your dreams and your art. It doesn’t happen that way. The world rushes in, and always will. Wait for things to be perfect and you’ll die waiting. Push back a bit. You go get yourself a kitchen timer and clear out your own little space. You’ll be amazed what happens.
Every single day. 30 minutes. I’m serious.”