Daily Rhythms

One thing which fascinates me is the practical daily rituals of people – I wonder, what time do people get up? What do they do with their mornings before work? How do they pace their work? What do they do at night? This insight helps me think about how to more consciously live my life. My spiritual gift is “adaptation” that is, I take what you do and make it better and make it mine.

I am particularly interested in the lives of people who get things done- things like: sermons, books, reading, prayer, meditation, exercise, art – these kinds of things. Yes, life is busy, it is often a whirlwind, but in the midst of everything else, how does one make time for those things beyond what needs to happen for work, school or family?

Personal development has always fascinated me so articles and podcasts on organizing life, getting things done, making sure the right things happen are part of the weekly routine. I muse on how do people organize their day so it is rewarding, renewing and satisfying? What interests me is how to move big projects forward while I live my everyday life.

My own morning ritual was often based in what needed to happen. I worked more than full-time plus had a family and home so I often got out of bed as late as possible, showered, ate breakfast and make coffee to drink on the road as I had stayed up late the night before.

There was a period when I stayed in bed till 8am as I did not get on to the road till 9am to avoid traffic–those days often found me working till 9pm, so the later rhythm worked.

My favorite rhythm was when my son was young and we’d watch morning cartoons till we both dressed and headed out. Evening during that time was homework, dinner, TV and bed.

While most of the day and night was a reaction to what felt like the need of that station of life, I have noticed that over the last ten years I spent more time on the computer, including social media as well as working on my lap top in the midst of evening TV and hanging out.

Three years ago, I left what I had been doing for 20 years and found without any constraints that I stayed in bed till 10am. This made me feel intermittently sad and restless. While I am not a morning person, staying in bed too late seemed to add a level of gloom to the day which felt unnecessarily. My make-believe-dream-morning would be getting up and walking, praying and reading – doing all this by 7am. But morning comes too early in my book, so even with good intentions and numerous alarms, I find myself unable to get up before 6 am. I did find regular time to exercise and meditate with my job change and that was immensely helpful. Evenings also had a new rhythm – I was home early and most nights I was happy to spend the evening in the garden wth my husband, dogs and a martini. And of course, a bit of Facebook and Pinterest were part of the evening.

In many ways I was satisfied. I felt I did get enough done. But I was curious if there was more. Time had opened up with Jacob at college and a new job that was less 24/7 and I wondered what things might be like. This was a new time in my life, might there be a new rhythm?

With July 1, I started living into new rhythms, getting up at 6:30 (most days), walking 10,000 steps some days and at least 5000 steps other days, I resolved to eat lighter and go to the gym, I made listening to God and responding to what I heard a weekly rhythm that I wrote down (which make it more substantial) and I expanded other spiritually renewing practices. Ten months in to this rhythm, I have learned new daily rhythms that have helped me focus and find meaning. I have also learned a new rhythm in my working life which has proved to make me more focused.

Here some of my take away points as I reflect on this last year, especially as it related to work:

1. Work for 90 minutes and take a break- you will get more done. I set my Fitbit to go off at 9:30, 12:30, 2:30 and 4:30 and I walk around the office and sometimes around the block. If it is late in the afternoon, I will walk down the street and drink a pot of mint tea (smile). I think more clearly and I waste less time when I take a break. Actually, everybody does.

2. I use Omni Focus to organize my projects and Any.do to make a quick list but each week I use a printed calendar to keep thing clearer. I also find if I can get 2-3 things done a day for work in the midst of everything else (phone calls, emails, meetings). Each day I make a list (usually on a post-it) of the 2-3 things I must get done. With the four 90 minute work periods I try to balance tasks with projects. Too many tasks (return email, file) drags me down, so I have to make sure the bulk of what I do is more project oriented.

3. I use the Freedom program to block my internet use during one or two of my 90 minute focus times. Sometimes I need the internet but since I am distracted by email (which has me become more reactive) this helps me focus when the internet isn’t necessary. I also use a timer to keep me on track with my 90 minute block and the ticking keeps me focused as well. (After a comment from someone in the office I realized it made other nervous so now I keep one earphone in while I work and that works.)

4. I use a coach to check in weekly on my goals which are around healthy living, balanced goals. I check in on how I am exercising, my spiritual practices and how I am staying focused. I will be transitioning to using my coach to help me work on my book which leads me to my next post – how artists get stuff done.

My next post: Artists and their daily rituals.