About every ten years or so, I become aware that my energy level is just a little less than it used to be. Up until now I haven’t had to take that too seriously, but recently I’ve been experimenting with the best ways to make my dwindling resources go further. Here are five strategies I’ve been testing.
60-90 minute blocks: I tried this out because it’s a good idea not to sit at a desk or computer screen uninterrupted for more than an hour and a half. And it’s enough time to spend on a task, whether mental or physical, to actually make some headway. I’m the kind of person who likes a schedule. One of the things that never bothered me about convent life was the strict routine. I knew when the bell was going to ring, how long I had for any activity, and what I would be doing next.
I’ve tried this strategy for several months with some success, but actually, it has morphed into something else.
Identify my next task: This sounds so idiotically obvious I can’t believe that it is now the most significant strategy I’ve found for getting things done. The 60-90 minute block, I found, still left too much time for me to procrastinate over short but essential tasks lasting less than fifteen minutes. This is not a To Do List. I’ve been making those for years and more often than not, find them unrealistic and overwhelming. What does work for me is to identify quite specifically what I am going to do next, (by which I mean now) even if it’s no more than read the morning news.
It gives me a day full of a sense of accomplishments. And I’m much less tempted to engage in another time-waster – like a computer game – before I get started.
Making computer games inaccessible: I suspected this wasn’t going to work because I’ve never been someone who adapted well to the cold turkey method. I gave up smoking gradually, reduced my alcohol consumption the same way. I have found that replacing computer games with a clear, even short, task is a more effective way of weaning myself away from this neurotic activity I don’t usually enjoy anyway.
Nap instead of nibble: I don’t need to make use of this strategy too often because my energy usually lasts out my waking hours. But I have found that I do need to distinguish between being hungry and being tired, and not reach for the quick calorie fix when what I need is twenty-minutes flat out.
Exercise: Ah, the queen of the strategies. My osteoporosis has made a huge contribution to getting me moving, because the alternatives are so dire. But exercise brings with it another huge unforeseen benefit that I haven’t ever heard experts talk about. I have found that putting on some music and going through my stretching, strengthening, and aerobic routines is amazingly creative. Solutions to problems seem to appear unsought, creative ideas develop out of nowhere, the insightful reply to someone’s difficulty which has seemed to be stuck somewhere inaccessible, its existence unrecognized, blooms when I start exercising.
I hate exercising. It invariably starts out as utterly boring. But at the end of 30 minutes I’m on an endorphin high, feeling ten years younger, and ten IQ points smarter. (Well, okay, maybe not ten points smarter; but definitely more in control.)