If January is any indicator, this year is going to whiz by. It feels like I just made my first #12in12 commitment, and boom — we’re at the end of the month!
To recap, inspired by this post by Jacqueline, I’ve committed to taking on a new challenge every month of this year. It may be a goal I’d like to integrate as a permanent habit, or it may be something I’m trying out just for the month.
Either way, you’re invited to join me!
For January, I took on two big commitments, one very publicly, and one which started as a stealth challenge, and then later became public.
Commitment 1: The Great Bedtime Experiment
My challenge was to get to bed every night this month by 11pm. Lights out.
Given that my previous M.O. was 2am (or later), this represented a pretty radical behavior change. Honestly, I was not sure I could do it. I’d tried — and failed — to move my bedtime up many times in the past, and knew that this could be just one more failure in my logbook.
So, how’s it going?
I’m truly delighted to report that the Great Bedtime Experiment is going glowingly! It has had, however, some rather surprising results!
Unexpected Results: Increased Stress!
I was surprised and rather amused that the first few days of the GBE actually increased my stress level.
Previously, if I didn’t finish everything on my to-do list, I’d just stay up later. There seemed to be no real “end” to my day. Of course I’d always get to bed eventually, but my perception of my day was that it was kind of limitless.
Not done? Just keep working!
This vicious cycle kept me up late most nights, which left me wrecked the next day, which was, of course, the big impetus to try a new, more self-compassionate way.
Now that I “had” to get to bed by 11pm, suddenly my work days had a “hard end” to them. I couldn’t just keep going like the Energizer Bunny, and that knowledge stressed me the hell out for a few days. All day long I’d be anxiously watching the clock, knowing I had to get X, Y and Z done, and myself into bed, by 11:00.
But of course it was just a head game. The reality is, I never got everything on my list done, no matter how late I stayed up. Now I was just more conscious of prioritizing. More mindful of having to let stuff go for now.
That unexpected rise in anxiety only lasted a few days, as I mentioned, and then I experienced an energetic shift that felt quite easy and natural. I actually took to the new regime quite happily, which was something of a surprise since previous attempts at earlier bedtimes had always resulted in such dismal failure.
Anticipated Results: Better Prioritizing!
Several times in the past 4 weeks (practically daily, in fact), I’ve had to let go of something I’d wanted to get done because it was time to shut down. Without the Great Bedtime Experiment commitment, I would have kept going — and suffered for it the next day. Instead, I was able to see that all that suffering simply wasn’t worth it. Very few things, it turns out, are really that urgent, no matter how much they might feel like they are.
(Granted, I didn’t have any major product launches or big client deadlines — thank god — so my resolve has not yet been tested as strongly as it might have been… and probably will be at some point…)
Blog post not done? ArtSpark* not loaded and scheduled? You know what, that sucks, and it’s definitely not good to not maintain consistency, but I made the decision that my priority is health and sanity — I’m on the Way of the Peaceful Entrepreneur, after all. Nobody was gonna die (always the ultimate gauge of relative importance), so I went to bed.
And life went on.
Lo and behold, with a “hard end” to my day, my ability to prioritize has (largely) gotten better! And my ability to just let stuff go altogether is improving too, which is, of course, part of my ultimate goal of living a more humane, Self-Compassionate life.
So yay me!
Anticipated Results: Melissa Pushes the Limits!
I confess I have (not surprisingly) learned exactly how far I can push the end of my day and still follow the letter (if not the spirit) of the “law.” I originally set my ideal computer shut-down time as 9:30, or 10:00pm at the latest. That allows for a gentle, meandering wind-down, plenty of time to do my getting-ready-for-bed ritual and toilet (said in a French accent) in a relaxing manner. Even engage in some pillow talk with lights out well before 11:00, and sleep soon thereafter.
More common lately, I’ll confess, is a rushed 10:30 (or later!) shut-down, which has me racing to beat the clock into bed and still fussing with my iPhone after I’ve achieved a “technical” lights-out (but not devices out).
Yeah, skirting the rules, for sure, and I know it! I’m thinking it would be a good idea to set my Mac to automatically shut down at 10:15, or even 10:00, instead of 10:30. (Turns out the Mac gives you a 9 minute grace period. And fyi, it isn’t truly an auto shut down, because most of the programs I run have to be manually quit out of, otherwise they’ll prevent the computer from shutting down.)
So, I’ve learned (or relearned what I already knew) that I’ll push the limits. Better, then, to hem those limits in a bit, I think…
Other results: No Cures, but Improved Quality of Life Nonetheless
Though I was hoping the Great Bedtime Experiment would cure my tendency toward insomnia and migraines, I’ve had no such luck. It doesn’t seem to have affected them one way or another. But, on a positive note, the insomniac attacks have not left me as utterly destroyed as in the past. I’m still exhausted and tired, but before the GBE I was wrecked. And virtually guaranteed a migraine sometime during the week.
Now, even if I’m awake for 4 hours in the middle of the night, the very fact that I got to bed earlier in the first place has established a foundation of sleep that my body likes much, much better. Tired, yes; utterly destroyed, no.
So that’s an improvement.
I LOVE this new way of being (which, by the way, is also helping me open up to taking time for R&R in other ways — a good thing!), and fully intend to continue with my 11pm lights-out general rule going forward.
Commitment 2: Daily Clutter-Busting
Tackling my long-held clutter issue started as a stealth commitment. I decided to try out doing one thing to bust clutter every day, and just see how it went. No need, I figured, to broadcast to the world that oy vey I would really like to clear up my clutter problem!!!
So I’d do it quietly.
I’ve tried similar projects in the past, but never managed to keep it up. This time, though, my persistence has been nothing short of miraculous.
First, rather than set a daily time commitment (ie, 15 minutes a day), I made my commitment to “do one thing.” Sometimes my “thing” was tiny, like sorting and filing all the papers in a small pile, and sometimes it was more dramatic, like purging an entire drawer or cupboard, but making the discrete commitment requirement open-ended like this seems to work better for me.
I also intentionally made my clutter-busting commitment just for the month of January. I will absolutely be re-upping at the end of the month (and I expect to do so every month throughout the year), but rather than making my initial commitment indefinite (which makes it feel overwhelming, annoying and downright painful), I’m taking it one month at a time (which makes it feel more like a fun game!)
Meanwhile, once I’d had a week or so of experiencing some real positive change, I decided to pull out another tool that I know from experience is always helpful for me: the power of community.
Let me back up for a moment and say that several months ago I thought of leveraging my ultimate success — complete with Before and After pics — into some kind of paid program (the ability to turn my personal projects into a way to help other people and earn some income always being a positive incentive, after all!) But there was a problem with this idea. I couldn’t possibly lead some sort of home/studio beautification project (I thought) if my own space were a chaotic mess! I needed to achieve, if not perfection, at least massive improvement (I thought) before I could even consider it. And since that felt impossibly far off, the whole thing was a bust.
For some reason, though, I was able at the start of this year to break out of my in-the-box thinking. Thankfully, it occurred to me that (duh) I don’t actually have to be a model of perfection in order to be an effective leader!
In fact, my leadership style has never been one of “I have all my shit together, so follow me,” but more of “I’m trying out doing this interesting thing, wanna join me?”
I knew from experience that my Playshop format of checking in via phone/Skype/web conferencing, then working individually, then checking in again, really does make a difference — Playshoppers have told me as much, and I know there’ve been times when the only thing that got me to do a designated task was the very fact that I was on a call with other people who had set aside the time for that very thing.
Why not, I thought, create a similar group for busting clutter?
ClutterBusters was born.
Currently still a pilot program, I’ve been leading two clutter-busting sessions a week — Mondays at 5pm PST and Fridays at 10am PST — plus there’s a private Facebook group just for ClutterBusters. The pictures here show you some of what I’ve personally accomplished, and the success stories from the members of the pilot program have been so inspiring!
(Want in? There will be a membership fee at some point, probably in the next month or two, but you’re welcome to join the pilot program now for free if you want — click here for more info.)
What’s up for February?
Now that January is almost at an end, it’s time to set my #12in12 commitment for February! I’ll be continuing with the Great Bedtime Experiment, and with daily clutter-busting (yay ClutterBusters!). To that I’m adding a new commitment I actually started this week: to write a minimum of 750 words a day on the book I’m working on. (More on that later. For now, suffice it to say that my first ebook, Creating Happiness: 9 Essential Secrets for Creative People (and Everyone Else) is in the final edits and slated to come out via aspindle.com in the middle of February, and I’m now working on a new book.)
I’m also toying with the idea of restricting my time on email to twice a day.
Which honestly makes me break out into a cold sweat.
Which makes me think I really need to try it.
What do you think?
Wanna join me with a month of daily commitment? Have you made any interesting changes so far this year? What challenge will you be taking on in February?
PS — Pssst! Know someone who might benefit from seeing this today? Pass it on!
*As part of practicing Self-Compassion, and in keeping with my Stovetop model of life design for Passion Pluralites, the ArtSpark is currently on vacation while I work on my book. Time to rotate the pots on the stove, in other words. I reserve the right to make art any time I damn well please, of course, but my daily commitment to playing in the “Creative Sandbox” is now a commitment to writing, rather than splashing paint and ink around. If you’re a blog subscriber and/or ArtSpark subscriber, I will, of course, keep you posted when the ArtSpark returns from its travels! (I’d actually like to know where it’s headed — maybe Istanbul? — but it’s been mum on the subject.)