Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Considering the Structure

Since I'm in a writing mood, I think I shall capitalize on it, and continue with my explanation of the process of Remodeling My Brain. When you are doing any sort of remodeling, one must consider the structure in which you are working. If you are remodeling a kitchen, you have to consider all aspects, not just where you want the cabinets, but the location of pipes, wires, walls, and the condition of all of the above, as well as setting up a sensible layout (if your kitchen is only 10x8 with large doorways and limited wall-space, a center island is not a good idea, for example) so that your remodeling continues to provide you with a usable space.
The same is true of remodeling your brain or your life. One must consider the structure, both current and desired, and what changes must be made to said structure to create something effective, efficient, and useful. In my case, a lot of this involved reviewing my daily and weekly routine and considering which parts of it were useful and which were not. Let's have a look, shall we?

Take a day where I was scheduled to work from 8am-5pm:
  • Alarm set for 5:55AM.
  • Snooze for 9 minutes apiece until 7:20 (ruining both my sleep and Michael's), roll out of bed.
  • Search frantically through dryer for work clothes. Decide clothes are too wrinkled, set dryer on fluff cycle.
  • Wait for clothes to fluff for ten minutes, search even more frantically for work clothes, underwear, socks.
  • Get in shower at 7:35-7:40, shower for 10 minutes.
  • Brush teeth.
  • Shave, maybe.
  • Pack laptop up in bag, run out door at 7:50-7:55.
  • Arrive at work 8:05-8:15, beginning day late, frantically try to get through morning office work and opening Cafe.
  • Cafe opens at 9:00.
  • Finish opening duties 9:30-9:45 because I've been waiting on guests while trying to finish opening duties that should have been done at 9:00.
  • Be frustrated and running behind all day because of poor open.
  • Get to 5PM, punch out, then remember six things that I had to do, decide to do them before leaving, bitching about how much needed to be done.
  • Get home around 7-7:15pm, tired and cranky.
  • Growl like a thing possessed when Michael suggests going to the gym.
  • Screw around on Facebook until 12:30-2:00am, finally going to bed when I can't keep my eyes open any more
  • Repeat cycle.
Sounds like a great plan, right? Clearly, this wasn't working for a number of reasons, including, no time to eat breakfast, always being late to work, not always having time to do things like shave when I really needed to, et cetera. I had to think in detail about what I was doing wrong here, and correct it. So let's look at the specific things that were screwing up my day:
  • Not going to bed until well after midnight when you need to be at work at 8AM isn't a great plan. My sweet spot when it comes to sleep is about six hours, so I needed to adjust my sleep patterns to accommodate this.
  • Setting the alarm for 5:55AM. My goal has been 6AM for a while, so why was I setting my alarm for 5:55? So that I could snooze it and still be up relatively closely after 6. Except that I wasn't doing that at all! I kept snoozing until after I absolutely had to be out of bed to be on time for work with the bare minimum of preparations.
  • Not having clothes ready, and waiting until they were done fluffing in the dryer before getting in the shower. Clearly, not a productive use of my time. What did I do while I waited? Play around on Facebook. Hmm...
  • Why wasn't I getting enough sleep? See above bullet point including the word: Facebook.
  • No breakfast! Biggest mistake that any of us can make, and so many of us make it consistently, for a variety of excuses.
All right. The basic problems have been identified, so now what? Well, the obvious next step is to correct these basic problems with the structure, followed by installing new, additional goodies to improve on the things you've corrected. Here is what I've done:
  • Set alarm for 6:00AM. When alarm goes off, get out of bed. Now, some mornings, today for example, I set a timer and go back to sleep for an hour if I really feel like I need it, and on these days my routine is always a little off. The important key here, however, is that on days when I have to work, I know how much time I need in the morning, so rather than setting my alarm for 5:55 and expecting to hit snooze repeatedly, I set my alarm for 6:00, when I intend to get up, knowing that when the alarm goes off, it's time to get up.
  • Immediately go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, and step on the scale. Disposing of your body's waste and natural toxins first thing also gives you time to do something that doesn't require a lot of brain-power while your mind is still "booting up" for the day. By the time I step on the scale, I'm feeling a little more grounded and awake.
  • Proceed to the kitchen, start a pot of coffee or warming the teakettle, decide on this morning's breakfast fare and begin cooking. This takes 15-20 minutes, so breakfast is usually done around 6:30 in the morning.
  • Once breakfast is cooling on the table (I make things hot and let them cool for a bit before I start eating), run downstairs to check and make sure there are clothes ready for when I go to work. If the dryer is holding them hostage, I start the fluff cycle, letting it run long enough for me to go eat.
  • Check Facebook and the news while eating breakfast, stopping only to read the articles that are truly important or interesting.
  • After breakfast, get clothes out of the dryer (if needed) and hang them up.
  • Proceed to Craft room and select today's meditation. We're at 6:45-6:55 at this point, so the specific meditation will depend on how much time I have--I use pre-recorded meditation tracks as I've not yet developed the skill to count myself down and remain focused for all of the necessary time. I'll talk more about this in a separate post. I have chosen to meditate for a minimum of 10 minutes each day, just enough time to help calm my mind and give me the sense of peace and focus that will help me tackle whatever comes my way.
  • Get in the shower around 7:15AM, be out by about 7:25 with enough time to shave, do my hair, and be ready to leave for work around 7:40-7:45.
  • Arrive at work at or slightly before 8:00, on time, which both keeps me out of trouble with Erik, and lets me not feel so stressed and rushed to get everything done. Since I'm not trying to rush, I don't miss the details, and the morning goes much more smoothly.
  • Leave work on time or very close after my scheduled "out" time.
  • Change out of work clothes into something comfy (jeans and a t-shirt, usually, but the point is to stop being in my work clothes) and eat dinner, talk to Mike about my day, play with the cats, etc.
  • Read the news, check Facebook, read a book, watch some TV, whatever.
  • Write at least a page in my journal about my day--whatever comes to mind, whatever was important to me about the day.
  • Go to bed between 11:30 and midnight, to get at least six hours of sleep.
The really amazing thing here is that the three major points of what I did to change my day were just this:
  • Wake up at a specific time, giving myself sufficient time to do whatever I need, and having enough sleep to do it.
  • Eat breakfast every day.
  • Meditate every day.
By fixing the things that were wrong with my structure (largely to do with timeliness), and adding in two things specifically that I felt would make my day go better (breakfast and meditation) I have drastically improved my quality of life. As I mentioned, some days I don't get up at the same time, and my routine gets thrown off a little, but I am still getting up earlier than I ever used to, feeling more well-rested, and building a sense of balance in my self and my life that was sorely lacking. It is so much easier to maintain positive thought when you build useful habits and routines, rather than maintaining habits and routines that do not serve your best interests.

Step 2: Consider the structure. Fix the little things before you start the big remodeling project. Know what you want from it, and add things into your routine that support those goals.