An idea struck me today as I was reading Gretchen Rubin’s 10th blogging anniversary post, 10 Things I’ve Learned in 10 Years of Blogging. In it, she writes, “It’s often easier to do something every day than some days.”
Putting something on the checklist to do every day is easier than deciding whether to do it from one day to the next. There’s no energy spent thinking, “Is today the day? Tomorrow might be better for it. Yeah, I’ll do it tomorrow.” That’s true about exercise, whether or not to eat sweets, drinking, tooth brushing…any habit, really.
Gretchen knows from habits. Besides the fact that she wrote Better Than Before, which is a thoroughly-researched book on habit change that I loved, she also has been blogging for 10 years. Now that is a habit. I’ve never done ANYTHING for 10 years straight, except breathe.
So I thought about posting every day, and I could feel my overloaded mind reeling. After all, I have a full-time job, a toddler, a baby on the way (in like 2 weeks), and I’m doing my best to maintain my own mental, social, and physical health in my “spare” time. Writing the types of posts I have been creating to date – long, thoughtful, thoroughly edited meditations on big topics – realistically, these are not posts I could produce every day. At least not at this time in my life. So what could I do instead? I wondered.
My idea was this: what if I picked a research theme and posted a bit about what I learn each day? I do half of this anyway. I get obsessed with a topic and can’t stop reading up on it. I try things on in my own life to see if they work for me. In the past, I’ve had phases where I obsessively research improving cognitive function and performance psychology, social justice theory, the history and current political climate of racial disparities in the criminal justice system, best practices in exercise, healthy eating, weight loss, parenting and discipline, therapeutic dietary changes as applied by medical professionals to physical and mental illnesses, string theory, coffee roasting practices, Autism Spectrum Disorder, rock climbing/mountaineering, general management practices, etc. etc. I can’t really help it. If something sounds interesting, I want to read all there is to know about it.
So in my quest to write every day to become a better writer (that’s a quest I have, in case I haven’t mentioned it), why not pick something to write about that I’m going to be thinking about and reading up on anyway? And why not put some structure around it? If I think of other things to write for other forums, great, but at least I have one thing I know I’ll do every day, even if it’s just to post a link to a good article or a status update.
Now, to choose a topic. From prior experience, I know that weight loss is probably going to be my next project, once I have the baby. This is a pretty broad topic, granted. Lots of subtopics to include – healthy diet, habit formation, psychological barriers, type and frequency of exercise, sleep (as a new parent – now there’s a topic full of potential), and the complications involved in losing weight as a new mother (i.e. minimal room for calorie restriction while nursing, exercise restrictions while healing from birth, less time, etc).
So: weight loss. I’m happy with that as a topic – very rich and complex, plenty of things to research, despite having gone through the process once before. I hate being out of shape, because it makes it harder to act on the most significant action/habit I need to keep for my own mental health: exercise. I love rock climbing, yoga, hiking, and trying new sports, and I really like to be good at sports (fine, I hate losing), and I like to work hard. Let me tell you – these pregnancies have shown me how much I suffer psychologically by not being able to work out hard. Unbelievable how unpleasant exercise is when I’m carrying around an extra 35-60 pounds. Unbelievable. If you’ve never been overweight, please never give advice to an overweight person on weight loss. You lack the compassion that comes from the experience of exercising in a larger body. Hell, I barely got a taste, but it was enough to keep me from ever even thinking of getting in someone else’s business about their personal weight loss.
Back to the experiment. Assuming this goes well, once I hit my goal, I’ll do the same thing with a new topic. I’m excited! Let’s do it!
I can promise I will be eating a lot of salad, but I can’t promise I’ll always be happy about it.
Up next: Ground Rules.
Image credit: Amy Loves Yah