The past week has been a non-stop rollercoaster of social and work-related events. Front to back, back to front – life has been nothing more than one domino falling on another as I watch in bemusement. Work, family, friends, work, work, work, rinse and repeat. Life should not be spent like this, as a series of reactions instead of actions. This is the opposite of purposeful living, which is what I’m trying to practise.

Amidst this madness I’m glad that I have somehow managed to keep to a relatively stable routine that I now consider as my anchor. At the start of December I resolved to stick to three things: exercising, learning Spanish, and cleaning up my living environment. These were the three main things that I was unhappy with in my life at that point. My day job and non-profit work had started to consume me, and when they didn’t go well I fell into a slump, because those were the only things that defined me. Self-maintenance became secondary, and I ceased to do things that mattered to me outside of work.

The worst thing is that all that stress made me even less productive, which created a downward spiral of anxiety. I’m a firm believer that a happy worker is a productive worker.

So I did some soul searching and created a plan. I thought about habits that would make me happier, and narrowed it down to three: physical activity, learning something, and cleaning up the mess around me. I needed some way to track my habits and downloaded an app called “Way of Life“, which is quite brilliant really, and the free version of it enables you to do rather detailed tracking of three items every day.

Here is what I have so far:

3 weeks worth of routine

3 weeks worth of routine. Green means I was good, red means I didn’t accomplish my goal on that day. The little dog-ears indicate notes taken down.

As you can see I’ve not been doing well in the cleaning department at all. It’s really not my favourite thing to do, and at the end of a working day it takes the most energy to push myself to do it. The goal was to just clean for 15 minutes a day, but I’ve not even been able to do much of that. I think the best way is still to get a part-time cleaning lady to come in every one or two weeks to keep the surroundings passably clean, so that it doesn’t get so dirty that I’m too intimidated to do anything at all.

The bright side is that I’ve been doing relatively well in the other two aspects. For exercising, I’ve done quite consistent 4-days-out-of-7 weeks (see figure below), the past three weeks. Mostly I swim and stick to my 200 sit-up challenge, with some other stuff thrown in for good measure. Sometimes it’s yoga, sometimes capoeira, one time I went for a Brazilian Jujitsu women self-defense course. For the sit-up challenge, I just did a intermission test today. Turns out that I can already do 100 consecutive sit-ups, which is rather good because I was only aiming to hit 40 in the test. The goal is to do 200 consecutive sit-ups at the end of a six-week programme.

As for Spanish-learning, I’ve also kept up the learning, at least one duolingo exercise a day if I’m really busy or tired. One weekend I spent hours on it. So far the app informs me that I have learnt about 740 words. I hear that there’s around 1,500 words in total that Duolingo covers, so I have still quite some way to go, but I’m already able to speak very haltingly to The Boyfriend, and get myself generally understood (in present and past tenses, and if all else fails, the infinitive). I still have about 3 months to go till I go to Argentina. Much more to learn!

chart

The good thing about this app is that it gives you the perspective that things should go at a steady pace, and habits require time to build up. It doesn’t matter if I miss one day, because I know that it doesn’t mean that I’m a failure in general. I can do it tomorrow. For things such as language-learning, or aiming to do a handstand, the key really is perseverance.

It’s late now and I should go to bed. It’s funny that amidst this crazy life, I still feel that the year is winding down. Things go slower at the year end somehow. I’m glad that I started my new year resolutions a month early, and I’m confident that I’ll be able to continue carrying it out without much problems in the new year.