In anticipation of getting back to work in the new year, my cousin sent this article to our cousin group chat: Routine Maintenance: Embracing habit in an automated world. Like me, the author, Meghan O’Gieblyn, works from home and, like me, has developed a regimented schedule in order to maintain order in her mostly unsupervised life. She writes:
“When there is no time clock marking the start and end of the workday, no clear frontier between home and office, each hour becomes subject to negotiation, each task a battleground of the will. The effort required to resist the twin temptations of procrastination and overwork quickly depletes one’s reservoir of motivation. A regimented life, I’ve learned, is the only way to avoid the spell of noonday dithering, the infinite black hole of Google, the nap that will be paid for with a manic all-nighter.“
Ever since I quit my job and started working for myself, I have struggled with discipline. I am an exceedingly lenient boss; one who will pat you on the head as you spend hours playing candy crush and listening to audio books or nod sympathetically when you forgo exercise for a giant bowl of buttered popcorn.
I already knew this about myself when I left my job and so I joined a writing group before I even landed in California to make sure I had some amount of accountability. Since then, I have joined other writing groups, signed up for classes and am now a part of a the Left Margin Lit writing community where I spend three days a week in the company of other writers. All of this has helped enormously (as has my kids growing up) in the quest to develop a consistent writing habit. For the last few years, I’ve succeeded in treating writing like it’s my job, which, after all it is, even when I’m not getting paid for it; indeed, even when I’m paying to do it (see above). By keeping to a regular schedule, I’ve gone from needing to use apps like Freedom to keep me off the Internet and focused on my writing to sitting down at the designated time each day and getting to work.
Exercise is another activity that I’ve had to build routine around in order to consistently accomplish. Two years ago, I started the new year by joining an exercise class called Lift and Sprint. This is not remotely the kind of thing that would usually appeal to me. I’ve never thought about lifting anything and I’m more of a moseyer than a sprinter. But the class was a block from my house and met in the early morning. One thing I’ve learned about myself in nearly fifty years of life is that if I don’t exercise first thing, I’m probably going to talk myself out of it. Unless it’s going for a nice walk, the longer the day goes by, the more reasons I’m going to conjure up not to do it.
Lift and Sprint was in the right place at the right time and the first two classes were free so I checked it out and from the first few minutes I was sold. The coaches, Nick and Amy, are delightful: funny, supportive, down to earth and kind. Every class feels like a little gift. I leave energized and upbeat and over time I have felt my body getting stronger.
You may be wondering what any of this has to do with swimming? Well, as much as I love this idea of swimming every day, I don’t want to throw a wrench into my hard-earned routines. Like even though no one would fire me if I decided to swim instead of sitting down at my desk to write at 10am, I’m loathed to do so, at least with any kind of regularity. And, yes, I could replace Lift and Sprint with swimming for the next year, but I don’t want to do that either. Finally, I could decide to do either swimming or Lift and Sprint in the afternoons, but as I’ve already mentioned, I’m pretty much useless for exercising (or writing) after 3 or 4pm. Not always. I had some glorious afternoon and evening swims this fall and I look forward to many more over the next year, especially as the days get longer. But to maximize the chance that this year of swimming actually happens, I’m endeavoring to build swimming into my morning routine.
So, this morning I wore my bathing suit under my workout clothes and went straight from Lift and Sprint to the bulb. I arrived around 8:10, which meant the 8am crew had just gone out. There is comfort in being in the water with other swimmers even if you aren’t swimming together and so the timing was good. I didn’t stay in long, but it felt magnificent. The water was very cold (the kind of cold that creates a sharp pain like a knife stabbing the back of my neck) but it felt glorious as always.