When I set out to complete a list of 10 goals last year, one thing became immediately obvious: the more defined the goal, the more likely I was to accomplish it. Not the easier it was to accomplish. Just that when I gave myself an aim with clearly designed steps by which to achieve it, the result was that I completed the steps, and the most obvious example of this was running the NYC Marathon.
Of all the things I did last year, the marathon was the one that most defined everything else. I was having the time of my life writing and making friends at Bread Loaf, but also had to go for a few hilly runs and deal with my fear of woodsy areas being natural havens for murderers because of the marathon. I was reading bedtime stories to my kids while a blister on my heel throbbed because of the marathon. I was starting my day not with coffee - NOT WITH COFFEE - but with pre-dawn neighborhood five-milers, and showing up to school pick-up in running clothes and constantly taking hurried showers and throwing my hair up in a ponytail because of the marathon.
After I finished training, I made sure to note that being able to find time for all those training runs meant that in the months ahead I could look back at the experience and remind myself that when I think I have "no time" to get anything extra done in my busy days (whether that's writing or basics like the laundry, seriously, I have a getting the laundry done problem) I do. I must. I must have the time because I had the time to somehow fit in those hours and hours and miles and miles of runs over 18 weeks and that time is still there.
And the reason I'm writing this post now is because in the past couple months, I haven't exactly done a good job of rediscovering that time. Sure, some of it was very early in the morning, and some of it took up large portions of the weekend, and I don't want to be beholden to that schedule anymore, not on such a regular basis, which is why I'm considering some shorter races, like half-marathons in upcoming months (let's do it, Jen!), but not a full one anytime soon or probably ever.
But the time it is there for the taking and, good news, if I'm doing something that's not running during that time (working on a writing project for instance) I can have coffee before and during. And the other good news is that while not every task or project comes with a defined training plan like the marathon, you can make them up as you go, breaking up seemingly vague and impossibly time-consuming tasks (apply to a writing residency...do enough laundry so that Gabriel doesn't have a tantrum about his available clothing options every morning) into smaller to do items that aren't so intimidating.
Which, I know, J, I know, is exactly what you've been telling me for years after listening to all those productivity podcasts and whatnot, and my difficulty taking that advice is exactly why when I broke the closet the other day, I took one look at the slanted shelves and rows of clothing on hangers that had come crashing down and thought, "I guess I should try and fix this. But where would I even begin? I can live with it." And why you, on the other hand, assessed the damage, decided on the best course of action, and got to work.
Now we have a functioning closet again. Although my clothes are still all on the floor, of course. Working on it. Step 1: pick up a dress. Step 2: Put it where it belongs.