Wednesday, February 6, 2008

10 Ways to Claim your Day

Note: Please check out Steve Olson's website to see the article that I penned about Education Vs. Schooling. Thanks again, Steve, for letting me guest-post.

Most mornings I teach an 8am class. Morning classes are my favorite; you haven't hit that afternoon lag, the coffee is fresh in your system, and you know that you're knocking one out right out of the gates. But I am constantly and consistently harried by students who droop and moan about how "early" it is.

But it doesn't just happen in the 8am classes. 9am, 10am, and even, I swear, half the time in any 11am classes I teach.

I'm sad for these students. They don't feel like they've made a decision to be there. They don't feel at all responsible for their presence--which goes to show how responsible they feel for the work we'll be doing. And I'm not a boring teacher, which I at least credit whith why they don't fall asleep.

What I want to tell them is this: It's your day. No one snuck up and took it from you. You're spending it right now and it's never going to come back, and you will have never known that it was yours in the first place. Wake up, grow up, take responsibility, and take charge.

With that advice in mind, I'd like to detail some of the things that make me feel ownership over the days I spend. Sure, some days slip past with me feeling dragged along the whole time. This is especially easy to fall into when you have kids and even easier when you have a set routine. At any rate, here are some ways to claim your day, feel free to mix, match, and ignore as you see fit:

1. Wake up Early
I know this isn't a popular one. But if Benjamin Franklin knew the benefits of early to bed, early to rise a couple hundred years ago, why in the world do we still struggle with it? Why can't we learn that these aren't words made in folly? I tell my students that the day starts at 8am. You can't possibly expect to wake up after that and have any control over your circumstances; they day has begun without you and others are already making the decisions that are going to run the rest of the cycle. I love to wake up early--regardless of the time I go to bed--and feel ripped off when 8am rolls around and others are sharing my day with me. Plus, it's possible to get a little extra time for yourself--or for you and your wife.

2. Start the day Writing
Pull out a notebook, a computer, or the backs of bills and start writing. It doesn't matter what you write. If you have no idea what to write, make it bland. Make lists about what your expectations for the day are. Or what you hope to avoid. If something is bothering you from the days before, write about that. Writing doesn't just serve as a form of communication. Writing is a way that people who practice it can metabolize things. Let it all run out onto the page.

3. Exercise
I used to hate running. I mean, really, really hate it. That's why one day I chose to start doing it three times a week. I figured that if I could start my day facing down something that I was afraid of, that I hated, and get through it, the rest of the day would be cake. Plus, it's good for you and all of that. I had a book that coached you through running a 10k in 13 weeks. It was a step-by-step regimine; a mixture of running and walking that brought you from coach potato to runner. I did it, it was wonderful, and I stopped. Why did I stop? Beats me. But I've got to get back into it. I was happier, healthier, and rested better when I was a runner. And I felt like I had conquered something that had always held me back. Plus, the time to myself (rarely more than 45 minutes a morning) was great. Yoga is another thing that you can do in the comfort of your own home, often with even small kids immitating you (or, in my case, sitting on me during the hardest poses).

4. Read
We've talked about this before, but reading can be a great way to spend your day. I take a book with me wherever I go. To the store, to work, to the mall, everywhere. You never know when you will have to wait somewhere and you can sneak five or ten minutes of page time in. If you're stumped about what to read, check out recomendations here and here or at the Badass Bookstore.

5. Turn off your TV
Did you think I wouldn't mention it this time? The TV is the biggest time-suck in the world. You burn less calories than sleeping while watching TV. It's a tunnel from corporate marketing firms right into your living room.

6. Go for a Walk or Hike
We are creatures meant for walking. Yet we never do it. Walking does wonders for your legs and for me it really helps to clear my mind. Taking the time out of the week to drive out to a good hiking spot does wonders for my entire family.

7. Meditate
This is another activity that is hard to do with your kids around, but if you do it before they wake up or after they go to bed, it can really keep your day on track. There are tons of books and blogs written about the subject and the benefits seem indisputible. While there are lots of different ways to do it that may speak better to you than others, there really isn't a bad way to do it. Carving out time for this activity will lower the volume on negative parts of your life and raise it on the good.

8. Ride your Bike to Work
Riding my bike to work and back is one of the best things I've ever done for myself. I know that many of us don't live close enough to our jobs to make this goal a reality. But when we bought our house, we had biking to work in the forefront of our minds. Our last home featured a 45 minute, heavily trafficked commute to my job and it was terrible. It added unwanted stress and really detracted from any peace I might find in a day. Biking to work actually decreases stress and by the time I'm in my office (clothes changed and all), I am more relaxed and ready for the day. When I get home with my totally nerdy bike helmet on, I've already shed the stresses of work through my pedals. Paul Dorn keeps a wonderful Bike Commute Tips blog that is really worth checking out.

9. Clean up at night
The hypocracy alarm just went off. Our house is as messy as any I've been to. Toys, laundry, dog chews all over the place. But if you can manage to get your house to a good, managable place, cleaning up at night will help you to wake up to a clean morning. Your day will start off on the right foot and you'll be able to concentrate on all those wonderful kids activities that serve to make the house messy again. Clean. Repeat.

10. Turn off the Internet
Again with that damn hypocracy alarm. Don't worry, I'm an English Professor and I see the irony in all of its levels when I suggest this. I'll go further and say that you shouldn't turn it off until you've had a chance to visit the Badass Dad Store and clicked on all of our sponsers over there on the right--->. But just because I'm a guy who wants to make a buck on the Internet doesn't mean I'm wrong with this advice. But I digress. Really and truly, the Internet can be the biggest time-suck of them all. Especially if you have Stumble installed on your browser (and most of the traffic to this site is from Stumble, so again, I get it). There's nothing inlcusive or promotional of family bonding about the Internet. It should really be kept to a minimum if you want to feel like the day was yours when you go to bed at night.

There's nothing that's more of a shame than being dragged around by other forces all day. And there is nothing better than being engaged in your present life. So next time you find yourself complaining about how much there is to do today, or how early it is, or when will the kids just go to bed already, ask yourself this: how much of your life are you going to wish away?


Dawn Seevers said...

Sol, I found your blog from the post you did for Steve Olson and and really enjoyed this article as well as the one you did for Steve. I highly agree with what you said on Steve's - guess that's why I homeschool! lol


lemming said...

Picking up at night = MUST do nowadays here. I hate coming downstairs only to have my first vision be of a cluttered living room. It just sets the whole tone of the morning.

Which probably explains why today has been cruddy so far. We didn't pick up last night. D'oh.

Sol Smith said...

Thanks, Dawn. I'm glad you liked those articles. The Education one was a lot of fun to write, and I really hope that Steve's site gives it some exposure. I'll check out your blogs today. Feel free to link me up!


Huckdoll said...

Awesome. I should print this list out and study. I love running and I hate TV, but I fail large on the others. I do wake up before 8am - but if it weren't for the kids, I could sleep till 10am easily!