NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 2 – How To Sit.

When I thought of the title for this week’s post, I couldn’t help but think about this scene from Family Guy.

How to sit? Really?

I’m hardly an expert when it comes to meditation. I’ve been doing it for a few years, but not long enough to forget the many issues I struggled with in the beginning. And one of those issues was deciding how, exactly, to sit.

Do I sit upright in a chair? I’ve heard of a “lotus pose” I think that’s a thing… I’m gonna Google it. Yikes – that’s not happening. Ok so do I just sit on the ground with my legs crossed? That seems uncomfortable after a while… do I need to sit on a pillow or something? How high should the pillow be? Does my back need to be straight? It’s starting to feel sore… and now my ear is starting to itch. Should I scratch it? Will that break the zen moment and I’ll have to start all over? Should the room be dark, or bright? Should I have candles? incense? Music? Gregorian chanting?

These are all great questions, and there are literally countless others. And for me, the answers come from taking a step back and trying to get a better understanding of what you’re trying to do when you sit to meditate. When you sit to meditate, your goal is to create an enviroment where you can practice being mindful.

To quote Allen Iverson: “We’re talking about practice, not a game.” So don’t put too much pressure on yourself!

I often find myself drawing comparisons between mindfulness training and going to the gym, and describing meditation a sort of gym membership for your mind. So let’s think about things that make for a good gym experience:

  • It’s inviting. Some people seem to be able to just jump right into brutal workout routines. Outdoor trainings, flipping tires, climbing ropes, Tough Mudders, things like that. But for me, I needed to familiarize myself with the gym first. Start with simple exercises and develop confidence in an inviting setting. I approached meditation in the same way – maybe you’d rather sit in a chair than on the floor. Maybe you’d rather stand, or walk or even go for a run. The (rather lofty) goal here is to eventually be mindful during every waking moment of your life. The point of having a meditation practice is to create an environment where it’s a little easier to familiarize yourself with, well, yourself. The only thing I’ll caution against is lying down while meditating – it’s certainly an option, but in my experience falling asleep can be an issue (note: or a huge benefit. Headspace actually has an awesome single on falling asleep that I use pretty frequently).
  • It’s convenient. Having the right equipment, the right pre-workout supplement, the right outfit, the right headphones, the right playlist… all of these things can be very motivating and can help snap you into focus when you go to the gym. But if everything isn’t perfect… are you still going to workout? One time I literally didn’t go to the gym because I couldn’t find my headphones. Unbelieveable. In the same way, when it comes to meditation, music, candles, incense and other bells and whistles are great if they get you in the right mindset, but try not to let them become a barrier to entry.
  • You push yourself. And this part is kind of tricky, and the gym comparison kind breaks down a bit. When you go to the gym, most of the time you can track measurable progress. You’re getting bigger (or smaller), stronger, faster, and you’ve got the stats to prove it. With meditation it’s difficult to come up with ways to measure “progress” without developing unhelpful expectations going into your practice. That being said, I do think you can push yourself in two, concrete ways: 1) by tracking the amount of time you spend practicing meditation or the consistency with which you do it, and 2) by pushing the boundaries of the environment in which you can practice mindfulness.

Imagine that the timeline of your life is like a “connect-the-dots” picture, and your meditation sessions are the dots. If you start meditating once a week in the morning, you might be able to draw a simple picture with the dots. Do it every day, and suddenly the picture starts to look little better. In the evenings too, even better. A few quick sessions on a park bench after lunch, even better. On a noisy bus, even better. The picture starts to become more nuanced. Maybe you’ll start doing walking meditations while you’re getting from point A to point B. Maybe if you do it long enough you’ll start to realize you don’t really need to listen to the guided meditation anymore, that you can just “turn on” mindfulness when you notice yourself getting caught up in your thoughts. Suddenly the dots start to become lines.

Your picture is becoming clearer. Your life is coming into focus because you, yourself, are learning how to focus. You’ve developed this skill by dedicated hours of time in a controlled environment focusing on the simplest thing you can imagine, something you take with you wherever you go, something that serves as your anchor (and also the subject of next week’s post).

The breath.

NYR 19-11: “Be More Mindful.” Part 1 – The Pause.

Years ago I had the opportunity to participate in a panel discussion before a large audience here in Charlotte. It was my first time speaking at such an event, and I had all the nerves that came with it. But I was friends with the other panelists – I had the material down cold, and I was wearing a suit (rare) so I felt pretty good going in.

The 45 minute session flew by. Before I knew it, complete strangers were standing and clapping and I was awkwardly handing off the microphone as I stepped off the stage.

It felt great to step off the stage. I was fired up, riding the high of delivering what I thought was a decent (perhaps overcaffeinated) speech about a topic I knew well. And my suit was doing an equally decent job of hiding the fact that I’d completely sweated through my shirt at that point (not so rare). So it was with great confidence that I approached a round table of about 9 or 10 people to discuss the topic further in a breakout session following the panel.

I decided to kick things off with a quick icebreaker. I suggested everyone give the typical run-down: name, where you’re from, why you’re here, some sort of fun fact, etc. I took a seat, looked at the girl sitting across from me, and asked her to start. I leaned in as she began to tell me her story.

And it was immediately clear that she had a severe speech impediment.

I felt a wave of panic. My heart began to race. How could I have been so insensitive, putting her on the spot like that? What should I do? Well I had to do something. Everyone was looking at her and some of them were looking back at me. They must have wanted me to say something. After all, I was the one who got her into this mess. I needed to help get her out of it. I needed to rescue her.

And who knows, 9 times out of 10 I may have tried to do just that. I would have quickly interrupted her and apologized. But not this time.

This time, I paused.

Have you ever been buying something at a convenience store, looked up to see yourself in the security camera footage, and thought “wow, I’m actually really strange-looking from this angle?” That’s kind of what happened. I suddenly saw the situation from a different angle – the rest of the noise faded into the background of a birds-eye view of just me and her.

And in that moment I realized that I didn’t have to do anything. She didn’t need my help and she didn’t need to be “rescued.” I realized that this part of her story was new to me but not to her, and that the best thing I could give her at that moment was my undivided attention.

And so that’s what I did. I paused, and she spoke. Slowly at first, but after a few seconds very comfortably, and we moved on.

I’ve been meditating for over five years. This year, my New Year’s Resolution was to meditate for 60 total hours using the Headspace App, and to maintain a streak of meditating 180 days in a row.

You can see my progress here. I’ve already accomplished the streak goal:

and I’m only three hours away from meeting my hours goal, which I believe I can do comfortably since I’m averaging 9.2 minutes per session.

I’m not crazy about the structure of the Resolution itself, but tracking hours and sessions is the only way I could think of to hold myself accountable in a measurable way. But I think it misses the point of medidation, for me anyway.

What exactly is the point?

I could tell you that meditation makes me calm. And sometimes it does. But sometimes it doesn’t – especially if I go into my practice with the expectation that it should calm me down, it can often have the opposite effect. Suddenly being faced with the infinite thoughts swimming through my crazy head and feeling powerless to stop them can be downright stressful.

I could tell you that meditation improves my relationships. And sometimes it does. But other times the sense of clarity I reach during a meditation session just makes it that much worse when the zen moment is broken within five minutes of getting up from my seat when I snap at my wife or one of my kids about something dumb.

I could tell you meditation makes me feel closer to God. And sometimes it does. But other times it makes me feel painfully distant (not a particularly helpful or rational feeling, but a feeling nonetheless). FYI, while my approach to the practice is secular, I do feel that the message and the teachings of meditation, things like compassion, kindness and generosity, fit quite neatly into my personal belief system. But I won’t get into that in this series. Maybe later – at the moment, I think it’s a bigger subject than I am a writer.

So why bother meditating? The best answer I can give is this: the real benefits of meditation aren’t found in the ten minutes you sit, but in the rest of your day as you approach it more mindfully, moment to moment.

Like the moment I described earlier. That moment was, for the most part, completely ordinary. I doubt she even remembers it. But I do – I remember it as this one time where, unlike the thousands of other times I’ve screwed up, I exercised a tiny bit of empathy and ended up doing the right thing. Which was (and often is) nothing.

Is 60 hours of sitting worth one, critical pause? We’re going to explore that question this month.

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 4 – Evening Routines.

Not all of us are early risers, and there’s no reason why we can’t apply a few of these habits later in the day. And when it comes to role models for Evening Routines, I can’t help but think of this guy:

image-104

George Banks from Mary Poppins. I mean come on, look at him go! In less than two minutes Mr. Banks goes from marching through his front door to resting in his easy chair, sherry in hand, surrounded by his loving wife and servants. Life goals.

And along the way, he demonstrates several habits that are common denominators among most Evening Routines.

Expressing Gratitude

Expressing Gratitude is all the rage lately, and studies have shown that gratitude journaling can be an effective way to improve sleep and general well-being. But to hell with just journaling – Mr. Banks kicks it up a notch, breaking out into song with “The Life I Lead” as soon as he gets home. Literally an entire song dedicated to how awesome his life is.

image-105

Patriarchy and traditional gender roles aside, you can’t say the guy isn’t grateful. Noblesse oblige.

Consistency

“Consistent is the life I lead.” I talked about this in last week’s post. Consistency and specificity make routines easier to follow and more fun. Mr. Banks has his routine timed down to the minute “At 6:01, I march through my door…”

image-106

I like to think that Mr. Banks going through this entire routine every single day when he comes home from work.

Changing Uniform

My slippers sherry and pipe are due at 6:02.” Changing clothes right when you get home can be an effective way to transition from work life to home life.

image-107

I try to get into casual wear as soon as I walk in the door. In addition to the comfort and physical health benefits, there’s definitely a psychological boost and I feel like I’m more likely to play with my kids.

Of course, as much as I love Mr. Banks’s routine, it isn’t perfect. It’s missing a couple of key ingredients, most notably awareness. It isn’t until after he’s finished his number that he realizes the nanny just quit and his children are missing.

And we have to bring some degree of awareness to our routines. Because at the end of the day, a routine is about more than just going through the motions. Routines, ultimately, are about control.

It’s about controlling some aspect of your life, however small, among the chaos that you have to face throughout the rest of the day. And it hasn’t been easy to write about. These past few days I’ve felt like a hypocrite – I wrote an entire post about my splendid morning routine, but I need to be honest with you guys:

  • One (or both) of my girls has woken up six of the past seven nights between 2:30 and 4 a.m.
  • Work has been busy, and I’ve been going to bed after 10:30 most nights.
  • I recently listened to a podcast series with Dr. Peter Attia (one of my favorite podcasters) and Dr. Matthew Walker (author of Why We Sleep) which has me freaking out about how much sleep I get.

So when my girls wake up in the middle of the night, I’ve been pushing my alarm out 30 minutes, sometimes an hour, to get more sleep. And I’ve averaged almost 20 minutes of (worthless) snooze time on top of that. The meditation goes from 10 minutes to 3 minutes. The workout goes from 30 minutes to 10, then to nothing at all. A lot of days I’ve caught the late bus, tired and irritable and frustrated knowing that I’m not going to get an hour, just one hour, to myself that day.

But some days I do.

Some days I get that hour and then some. And if you’re trying to get that hour, I feel you. It’s hard, and some days it’s just not going to happen. That’s ok. We’re not looking for perfection, we’re looking for improvement.

And this week… there’s hope.

Because this Sunday, November 3rd, just before 2:00 a.m., most of our clocks are going to magically turn back to 1:00 a.m. And that hour is all yours.

That hour is literally the most unaccounted for hour of the entire year. Nobody can get you. Maybe you need to catch up on sleep. Maybe you’re overdue for a night out, and need to have a morning where you can sleep in a little later. Maybe you want to start an exercise regimine, a podcast, a business, or a blog. To me, it doesn’t matter so much what you do – what makes that hour yours is that you do something purposefully.

So, what are you going to do with your hour?

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 3 – In With The New.

This is a long post, but I wanted to give a complete run-down of what, exactly, my Morning Routine currently looks like. The routine is based on three principles:

  1. Don’t do in the morning what you can do the night before. I’m trying to create a block of time that I can dedicate to myself. If blocked off appropriately, an hour or so every morning can yield powerful results, so the ROI for those minutes in the morning can be pretty high. By comparison, in the evenings I’m not terribly efficient. The idea is to take on some of the more mundane tasks in the evening to sort of “wind down” so that they don’t waste my precious morning minutes. Some examples: showering, shaving, doing the dishes, and packing the girls’ lunches.
  2. Do the simple stuff first. And work your way up toward tasks that require more thought.
  3. Be irrationally specific. The reality is that most of the details here don’t matter all that much. But specificity itself is important – it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the more specific I am with the details of my routine, the more likely I am to adhere to them. It’s also more fun in a weird way, and helps prevent one of the biggest time killers in the morning: decision making.

So, here’s what I do:

  • Wake up at 5:30, with zero snooze time. And immediately put on workout clothes which are next to the bed. If you look at the data, you’ll notice that very rarely do I snooze for just a minute or two. It’s usually all or nothing. Which means that those first few seconds are incredibly important – the idea that I’ll just rest for a little bit, or finish a thought before getting out of bed, is a dangerous one. Recently I’ve noticed that dreams have even been a culprit. I’ll wake up in the middle of a weird dream, and even after realizing that it was just a dream I’ll ponder it for a while and then slowly drift off… at one point I even tried having my alarm show this message when I woke up:

image-103

(not my most inspiring work)

  • Bathroom. Including (but not exclusive to…): brushing teeth, tongue scraping, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. In that order, every time. The order in which you should perform these tasks is actually a fiery issue in online forums. I don’t think it really matters, but again it helps to be specific. Also, I hyperlinked tongue scraping because I didn’t know what it was until about a year ago and now I’m a huge fan. Once that’s done I put on some deoderant and drink a glass of tap water. Yes, tap water – because it’s right there, it’s easy, I live in America and room temperature water might be marginally better for you as a pre-workout. Zero time spent on my hair – I shaved my head recently, which means no more doing this in the morning.
  • Workout. Right now, I’m trying a new at-home workout called The Happy Body Program. This is still in the early research stages, but I’m really enjoying it so far. It’s sort of like yoga with dumbells – a sweatless workout that I do in thirty minutes, performing the same 18 exercises every day. I ran into some injury issues with the Brad Pitt workout earlier this year, and while I think I’ll end up supplementing this with something in the evenings (lifting/swimming/boxing) right now I’m just sticking with the Happy Body.
  • Meditate. 10 minutes using the Headspace app. I’ll get into this more in a later series on Meditation, but I love this app and have used it for years. I’ve gone through most of the “packs” and lately I’ve been doing the “Everyday Headspace,” which starts each session with a sort of “thought for the day” from the guide, Andy Puddicombe.
  • Get dressed for work. In an outfit I picked out the night before. I used to put off getting dressed for work until the last possible moment so I could enjoy being comfortable at home. The problem is that I don’t always budget enough time to get out the door, something always comes up and suddenly I’m in a rush to get ready. The reality is that my work clothes aren’t all that uncomfortable, and I can approach the rest of the morning with ease knowing that I’m ready to head out the door at a moment’s notice.
  • Drink coffee. Notice I didn’t say “make coffee.” I prepped the night before, and programmed our $20 Mr. Coffee maker to start brewing at 6:00. If you guys are looking for one, simple hack to get a win early in the day, look no further. Nothing makes you feel like you’ve got it together quite like your coffee maker starting to brew midway through your at-home workout. I don’t eat breakfast, as I mentioned in last week’s post.
  • Plan my day. Using the methodology I described in detail in the August series on being more productive. I used to wait until I got into the office to do this – the idea being that it would jump-start my productivity right when I got in. But I’ve come to realize that the earlier I do this process, the better, so now I try to do it at home.
  • Do whatever I want. Until it’s time to catch my bus. The 6:56 usually gets to my stop around 7:00. The rest of my routine takes less than an hour, so I usually have a good 30 minutes to read, write, outline, or just drink coffee on the balcony.
  • Ride the bus. This is kind of an important one – in addition to saving money/the environment, riding the bus is a time that I actually look forward to because it’s a time I’ve dedicated to reading. I’ve averaged two books per month since I first started tracking this four months ago. I listen to podcasts from my house to the bus stop and from the bus station to work. Some of the most common complaints I hear from friends and family concern their commutes – reframing helps.

And that’s it – I get into the office at 7:45, having already gotten in a 30 minute workout, 30 minute reading session, 10 minute meditation session and 20+ minutes to do whatever else I want to do.

Again, this is best case scenario – either one of my daughters could easily throw a hand grenade into the whole process (and very often do). The point here is to have a default setting, and on the days when I pull this off, I feel amazing.

NYR 19-10: “Have A Morning Routine.” Part 2: Out With The Old.

My Morning Routine has come a long way in the past twenty years. Which is saying a lot; after all, it took a lot of work to put this getup together every morning:

image-99

It might be helpful to go back and review a brief history of David’s Morning Routines:

  • Elementary school. I have a vague memory of my dad helping me develop morning habits involving a list with boxes to check and some sort of reward system. Stickers, toys… even money perhaps? I’m hazy on the details but I do remember 1) that it worked, and 2) that I had an alarm clock with two settings, one which I called “the beezer” which was the most terrible sound imaginable, and another which turned on the radio to Magic 96.1 which was more fun but not as effective. Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Cheerios.
  • Middle School. Somewhere along the way the wheels fell off. Way off. There was never, ever enough sleep. Personal hygiene suffered as I focused all of my efforts toward staying in bed as long as possible. At one point I remember my dad waking me up and telling me to shower. I went to the bathroom, turned on the shower, wet my hair under the faucet so that it looked like I showered, put on my clothes, and went back to bed… setting a twenty minute alarm and waking up with a strong odor, wrinkly clothes and formidable bed-head. Nothing a little Old Spice a big glob of L.A. Looks hair gel couldn’t fix. Girlfriends were inexplicably in short supply. Breakfast: Kellogg’s Low Fat Granola With Raisins. I devoured this stuff for years and as I’m typing this I can still taste it. I remember spending many a morning mindlessly reading the back of the box while I ate.
  • High School. Hygiene improved, but sleep took a backseat in favor of AOL Instant Messenger and a killer lineup on [adult swim] including Space Ghost, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, and Family Guy (a show which, were it not for [adult swim], you might never have even heard of). I slept through an astonishing number of my classes (including this incident) and in retrospect it’s weird how normal I thought this was. Breakfast: Still eating the Granola, still reading the box. Actually here’s a picture of it – apparently these are selling on Amazon for over $50 and I’m not entirely sure what’s going on:
  • College. Free to pick my own schedule, I rarely attended classes before 11 a.m. This didn’t result in getting more sleep, but staying out later. Drinking the night before became the new norm, and the line between hungover and perpetual tiredness began to blur. Classes got harder and I started to normalize my schedule a bit to compensate. BreakfastQuaker Apples and Cinnamon Oatmeal, V8 Juice, and Lipton Powdered Green Tea shaken up in a Deer Park bottle. Very weird… not exactly sure how this nutritional profile fell together. Went through several roommates who all complained about empty V8 cans lying around the house. I ended up marrying the last roommate.
  • Young Adult. Habits normalized further in order to navigate 9-5 jobs and not fall asleep at various desks. I began to dabble with meditation and working out in the mornings, although not on the weekends as Friday and Saturday nights are still spent staying out late. But that was OK, because on Saturday and Sunday I could sleep in as long as I wanted because I hadn’t stumbled into the next phase…
  • Dad. Drinking spiked, and then plummeted when I realize that “recovery time” was now unreliable at best and nonexistent at worst. I began setting alarms earlier, and babies still interrupted them. Working out became a privilege that I actually looked forward to whenever I could make it happen. Paradoxically, the stage of my life where my time has been the most limited ended up being my most productive phase yet, both personally and professionally. I don’t know how to explain it, other than the fact that nothing makes you want to get your shit together quite like having a kid. Sleep becomes more precious than gold, even more precious than the middle school days. Breakfast: 16/8 intermittent fasting – water and the blackest of coffee, nothing more.

As you can see, my road to developing an effective Morning Routine hasn’t been a smooth one. It’s had ups and downs and is still very much a work in progress. And my current routine still doesn’t happen every day – for example, this morning’s “morning routine” consisted of waking up at 5 a.m. and scrambling to get the family to LaGuardia to catch an early morning flight.

The idea here isn’t to develop a rigid system where I feel like I’ve failed if I don’t do everything consistently. It’s to develop a default setting where I wake up most mornings with intention, and with a little bit of time to work on myself each day. That word “intention” is important. It can be easy to look at the data I’ve tracked so far and assume this is a series about getting up earlier. It’s not – as far as I’m concerned an effective Morning Routine can start at 4 a.m. or 11 a.m. but it has to start with intention. That’s why overcoming the snooze button is so important.

Because my alarm clock is more than just a suggestion – it’s a promise to myself. And I’ve come to find that the key to personal growth of any kind is keeping those promises.

NYR 19-10: “Have a Morning Routine.” Part 1 – Q&A.

It’s hard to believe I’ve been writing this blog for as long as it takes to make a baby. That’s crazy!

I’ve gotten a few questions from readers over the past nine months. I try to answer all of them, and I’ve always thought it would be fun to go back through and do a Q&A post. So recently I scrolled through my emails, texts, and direct messages and started gathering questions to see if any of the answers I gave might be useful to the rest of my readers. And that’s when I stumbled upon a question that, somehow, slipped through the cracks. I completely missed it and never responded.

Well here at New Year’s Revolutionary we take our reader questions very seriously, and so I’m going to answer it now in New Year’s Revolutionary’s first ever reader Q&A post!

*Ahem*

This question came from my good friend Holland (in New York City, y’all!) on December 3, 2018:

(Dear David): How do you find the time to blog so hard???

That’s a great question Holland (and sorry for the delay in getting back to you). I’ve been blogging pretty hard the past few months, and finding the time isn’t always easy.

First, let’s talk about how much time of a time commitment the blog actually is. I spend a lot of time on content development, but it’s hard to say how much exactly – it varies wildly and is sort of happening all the time (ex. going to the gym, reading books, developing work habits, learning new things). As I mentioned in my very first post, one nice thing about blogging about Personal Development is that, ideally, “developing content” is really just trying to develop yourself and being honest about it.

For the writing portion, the first draft takes about an hour. If I don’t completely hate it the next day, then editing might take another thirty minutes. If I do hate it and feel like it needs a complete rewrite, it’s usually faster the second time because I’ve learned a good bit from the first pass and have a better idea of where I think it should go.

Overall, I’d say the writing takes about two to three hours a week. Which doesn’t sound like much, but those hours can be pretty elusive. In particular, it can be hard to find chunks of time larger than an hour, and if I try to write in smaller increments I lose efficiency.

Finding the time is hard! Work, chores, kids, all big time commitments. The kids in particular are kind of a wild card – sometimes they can be very forgiving and take long naps (like right now), but other times they are up and about during all hours of the day and night demanding my attention (like when I wrote this other post).

I wish I could tell you that I have a perfect, consistent process, but that’s just not the case. I write on planes, in bed, on the bus, on the balcony late at night, at our kitchen table early in the morning. I write whenever I can.

So how do I find the time? One thing that’s helped: developing a Morning Routine which allows for thirty minutes to an hour to myself every day. This time isn’t dedicated to writing specifically (although I definitely get a lot of my writing done in the morning). It’s better thought of as a pressure-release valve for my personal development goals in general. Sometimes the time goes towards working out, sometimes it’s reading, sometimes it’s meditating, but the point is it’s me time. And on the mornings where I pull it off, I find that it gets my head right for the rest of the day.

Which isn’t every morning. This is definitely a work in progress; however, when I first took a step back and evaluated the way I spend my time in the morning, I discovered one particular piece of low-hanging fruit that needed to change: I had to get control over the snooze button.

This year, my Morning Routine NYR is pretty simple:

“In 2019, I will measure and track the time I spend snoozing.”

More specifically, I will track 1) the time my alarm goes off, and 2) the time I actually get out of bed, and try to do this for 80% of the days of the year (292 days). You can see my progress here.

Bad news: I’m almost out of gimmies (I’ll have to record my snooze time pretty much every morning for the rest of the year to reach my goal). Good news is I’ve got some pretty helpful data. As I’m writing this post…

  • I’ve recorded my snooze time 209 days in 2019.
  • My average alarm time is 5:30 a.m.
  • My average awake time is 5:42 a.m.
  • My average time spent snoozing is 11 minutes and 39 seconds.
  • Based on a prior year sample, that’s an improvement of ten minutes per day from 2018, which translates to about 60 hours over the course of a year.

That’s about an hour a week, which is enough time to write that first draft.

Or read a chapter or two of a book. Or plan my week. Or just enjoy a cup of coffee by myself. There are many more opportunities to make time for yourself that we’ll get into later this month, but if you’re looking to make a change and currently hitting the snooze button, that’s a good place to start.

Thanks for the questions – keep them coming!

NYR 19-09: “Be A Better Spouse.” Part 4 – Cleaning the Car.

Last week’s post was fun to write, but I’m having trouble making a smooth transition from writing a heartfelt love letter to my wife to talking about… wait what were we talking about again? Oh right. Cleaning the car. Well, let’s get on with it.

RSP

Why did I pick cleaning the car as my NYR? Well as we talked about in Part 3, my wife’s Love Language is “Acts of Service.” So I figured doing something for Liz is where I’m going to get the best return on investment for my efforts.

And I thought of other things I could do, mostly involving taking care of annoying household tasks. Dishes, laundry, trash came to mind. But all three of these are tasks we generally share. When I tried to turn these tasks into NYR’s and come up with some sort of metric to measure progress (ex. number of nights where, prior to going to bed, all dishes are put away) I would run into weird situations where my wife would be starting to do the dishes and I would tell her to stop because that’s my NYR. I think it’s helpful to work out who does what around the house for certain tasks (Ex. I take out trash, Liz vacuums), but for tasks that we’re already sharing pretty well it seemed unnecessary to just take it on myself.

No, what I needed was to take on a task that nobody was doing. And that’s where the car comes in. Liz doesn’t clean the car, I don’t clean the car, nobody cleans the car.

I mean eventually somebody cleans the car. My father-in-law sometimes cleans the car. Every once in a while we pay a high-school kid at Autobell to clean the car. And if someone outside of our immediate family is going to be riding in the car then one of us will step up if things are really, really bad. But for the most part the car just remains unclean.

And to be fair, we live in a condo and have two little girls. It’s a long walk from where we park our car to our front door, and so we have this situation:

  • We can’t clean the car while the girls are in it (I’ve tried, it was a disaster)
  •  We can’t leave the girls in the car unattended (because the world will get them)
  • We can’t leave the girls in the condo unattended (because they will destroy the condo and themselves)
  • We can’t make even marginal progress bringing stuff in from the car while transporting the girls (because transporting the girls into the condo takes a herculean effort involving every available hand, arm, elbow, neck and sometimes leg/foot)

So that’s our situation. It’s a river crossing puzzle with no solution. Here’s a picture of me trying to get my girls from the car to the condo while keeping them safe and also cleaning the car:

Vovk_koza_kapusta

The only way the car can get cleaned is if Liz and I are quietly enjoying an evening together after putting the girls to bed, and one of us says to the other, “You know, the car hasn’t been cleaned in a while – I’m going to go do that.”

That’s love.

And that’s what I’ve been doing and it’s going pretty well. It turns out that, if I keep up with a bi-weekly cadence, cleaning the car is actually not a big deal. It took over an hour the first time I did it, now it takes less than ten. If you clean on a regular basis, cleaning takes less time (imagine that).

In fact, it’s going so well that I’ve started the test phase for a new resolution – going on more dates. You can see our progress in the second tab of the same spreadsheet. Because believe it or not… the leaves are falling. September is almost over, and although the tagline for this blog is “Do Better This Year,” we’re heading into the fourth quarter of 2019 and it’s time to start planning to do better next year as well.

And speaking of planning… I haven’t decided which NYR to write about next and would love your feedback. Two choices: “Establish A Morning Routine” or “Be More Mindful.” I’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below, email me at contact@newyearsrevolutionary.com, or respond to my Instagram poll.