Control your schedule and your routines, not your moods

This is a post about how to get things done. Specifically, the things that are most likely to help us be at our best, when we least feel like doing the work involved in getting there.

To get exercise into your schedule, I no longer wait until I’m “in the mood.” I just  do it, and I’m just about guaranteed to feel better afterwards.

Do you "forget" to work out when you're in a bad mood? I do, sometimes. But now, I control my schedule - not my moods. Works better that way.
Do you “forget” to work out when you’re in a bad mood? I do, sometimes. But now, I control my schedule – not my moods. Works better that way.

Routines are a thing. Any parent of a young child knows that children need them. But I think that adults need them too. I’ve written about living your life like a clock, having a plan for doing things around the same time of day, every day. But that’s easier said than done sometimes, especially when the world goes nuts around you. How do you get things done when your “inspiration” and “enthusiasm” siloes are at zero?

That’s when the practice of controlling your routines really works.

Control your routines, not your moods.

If moods dictated when I worked, I would never get a thing done. If moods dictated when I worked out, I’d exercise, oh, once every week or two – maybe. If moods were the marker for getting me to do the things that were most likely to lead to long-term success, I’d be in a world of hurt. Because moods are fickle things. And depending on how deeply you feel the world around you, living inside your head can mean being very deeply affected by what goes on around you. And by you, I mean me.

Take reps.

I don't always feel like working out. Sometimes I think lying around sounds much better. But I work out anyway.
I don’t always feel like working out. Sometimes I think lying around sounds much better. But I work out anyway.

Pro athletes don’t practice when they feel like it. They practice every day. Professional writers don’t write when they feel like it. They write every day. It’s called “taking reps,” in sports – how many plays did you run in practice? How many “touches” did you get (i.e. times when you touched the ball on a play)? For writers, maybe it goes like this: how many words do you write on a regular basis? How many query letters do you send out weekly? The most successful people don’t have success after success. They have attempt after attempt. Some will work, some won’t. That’s why pro athletes have the confidence after a missed pass or a botched play or a bad race to get back out there. Because they’ve been successful enough in the past, even when they weren’t at their best, that they figure they have a good chance of being successful the next time around.

What saved me: Routines and Schedules

Routines and schedules absolutely saved everything for me. Five years ago, in February 2009, I made the very tough decision that losing weight just wasn’t something I was capable of doing on my own. And I made the single health-related decision of my life: I found a Weight Watchers meeting with a leader who inspired me. It was held on Saturdays at 7 a.m., in a town twenty minutes away from my home.

And so was born the first entry in my new schedule: Saturday – 7 a.m. – Weight Watchers. A 30-minute meeting to reset the brain, learn a new skill, meet like-minded people going through the same thing as me. Okay. I could live with that.

Then I started to figure out when I could work out. I had a few gym classes in mind, and a friend met me for some of them. I didn’t really perfect this part of my schedule until I started going to subscription-based classes. Even when each class cost $5 or so, somehow the act of paying for a subscription-based class worked for me. I’m doing a swimming class right now for triathletes. I’m not a triathlete (yet), but that class might just help me become one someday soon. And it’s great cross-training for the Boston Marathon – two days a week of solid cardio without the leg pounding I get from running.

I don’t particularly feel like working out this morning. But I will, because it’s on the schedule. And – the other big secret to this game – I know that if I don’t do it today, it will be oh-so-easy to not do it tomorrow. And the next day. That’s why I never, ever skipped a Weight Watchers meeting if I could get there. If I was in town, I was there. If I was traveling, I would do everything in my power to get to a meeting in the city where I was that day.

It’s not the only weight-loss rodeo out there. But it worked for me because it helped me to learn to control my schedule – and to show up, even when I wasn’t in the mood. And my swim class? There are lots of other options for scheduling your workouts: groups, meeting a friend, posting your intentions to Facebook. Whatever works for you. Just stay on a schedule and your schedule will trump your moods. And you’ll get stuff done.

Yesterday’s #every48 update: A long walk in the afternoon sunshine. I’d had a run planned but work hit the fan yesterday, so I made it a light cardio/rest day instead. Today I shall swim.

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