At the start of the year I wrote that my word for 2021 was habit. In January, I challenged myself to do something creative every day, a habit that I’ve continued (although not quite as diligently).
In February, I challenged myself to do two things every day. The first was read a book, the second was exercise. I continued challenging myself to exercise in March, but replaced books with email.
Reading was prioritized because “typical” for me is finishing a book a week but I was barely picking up my kindle. Not reading is never a good sign for me, but some of it seemed like life changes – I used to read in cafes (lol), on planes (lmao), on a lazy morning in a hotel waiting to head to wherever I was going next (rofl). And then, cohabitation means that typically at mealtimes I eat with my partner and make conversation, rather than losing myself in a book.
Forcing myself to set an intention and make it a habit helped a lot. Sometimes I just read a chapter, but some days it was more. I’m not back to reading a book a week, but around two a month, and I’m consistently making progress so that’s something.
I am so so bad at email, and March let me test a theory that I’m bad at it because it backs up and becomes overwhelming. So in March I tried to chip away at it, or at least get through that day’s mail. I didn’t manage it every day – but I did manage it most days, and for the first time in… I don’t even know, I’m ending the month less behind on email than I started it. This momentum helped me make inroads on other things, and the random things for my taxes that were buried somewhere in my inbox have been dug out and dealt with.
The challenge proved to me that chipping away at it helps, and the mindset of trying to stay on top of things stopped me from avoiding things until I forgot them, and pushed me to delete the things that might be interesting if I hadn’t read them within a couple of days. We’ll see if I can keep this up or if I am immediately buried again.
The hardest one – I am truly tired of continually rebuilding this habit throughout this pandemic. I made it 26/28 days in February, and somewhat less in March. There were a couple of phases to this one.
Phase 1: Redefine what “counts”.
Pre-pandemic, I had a definition of “worked out” that was contingent on the gym and the pool. A year ago, I would focus on meeting my step goal. But everything being shut, and being constrained to a 5km radius and very limited hours of daylight, that wasn’t really working for me. It was really annoying to go for a 1 hour walk, but only have ~8K steps and be feeling like it “didn’t count”. Now we have a spin bike, so I refined it around “zone minutes” which worked better. Two months in, I’m less worried about metrics, I know when I exercised (and when I didn’t).
Phase 2: Rediscover enjoyment.
At the end of February I was consistently checking the box but… it felt like a chore. This felt even worse than not exercising at all in some ways – I’m someone who loves physical activity, but I wasn’t feeling that love. I would either begrudgingly walk the same circuit I’ve walked for the past year, or get on the spin bike with some TV show I felt ambivalent about, and try and clock the zone minutes as fast as I could so that I could do something else instead.
Finally, I got the peloton app. I had been contemplating it but not doing it for weeks, mainly on the basis that 1) I hadn’t been taking spin classes before, so would I like it and 2) that was the only idea I had, so if that didn’t work… I had no more ideas.
My first peloton class I ugly cried for… a lot of it. Turns out, it felt so good to really get my heart rate up and enjoy exercise that all the grief I have for the gym came pouring out of me. Now I’m trying to do a peloton class every other day, working up to longer ones, and on other days I either go for a walk or… chill. It took two months, but I feel much better about this habit.
In April I’m focused on two things.
Skincare. After having a bunch of issues that resulted in a trip to the dermatologist, I’m finally doing better, less strung out by the regime she has me on, and trying to rediscover my love of beauty products. In April I’m trying to do something every day that makes me feel good, whether it’s a mask, a scrub, or actually wearing makeup.
Human contact. This timeline has been pretty isolating, and at times I feel like life is so boring I have nothing to say. My challenge this month is to have a meaningful human interaction with someone who isn’t my partner or a colleague every day. This already pushed me to make up a bunch of packages I’ve been meaning to send out for months, but y’know, more phone calls, more longer text message conversations, more making an effort to check in.