Last week was spring break, so my daughter was home with me. It was also spring break for the elementary schools around here, so I took the week off from my Let Me Run job as well. I know that this phase of our lives will be coming to a close quicker than I care to think about. It’s therefore important that I make the most of our time together.
We didn’t do anything particularly special and admitted that we may be a bit of a bad influence on one another in terms of snacks, Netflix binges, and just basically goofing off. She claims she gains weight after a week with me, and in the time she was home I only ran a total of 13 miles, never got to the pool, and never did any core workouts. Although, from my perspective as a parent, there were far worse ways my (almost) 19-year-old could have been spending spring break.
Personally, I was somewhat productive. In addition to getting out for a couple runs, I put in about 10 hours at my part-time Fleet Feet job and also had a couple of very positive networking meetings. We enjoyed some springy weather, went out to the movies (Captain Marvel), and before I brought her back down to her dorm on Sunday night, vowed to create some heathy habits before she comes back for summer in six weeks.
April, as it turns out, is the perfect “get your act together” month. In the realm of “30-day challenges,” it has the perfect number of days with the added bonus of the first day of the month falling on a Monday this year. I should have written about this last week, so you could have joined me on this quest, but it was spring break, and all. 🙂 With the added incentive of spring, I mapped out a plan that would have me up and moving – doing my workout – first thing in the morning.
When I work with coaching clients who are struggling to get to a better place, one of the questions I ask is “what has worked for you in the past?” The nice part about working with adults at or approaching middle age is that there are always things – routines and habits – that worked for them and they can draw on those successes when creating a plan to move beyond the point where they feel stuck now.
The biggest challenge I’ve had in being able to work from home – or a coffee shop in my neighborhood, or the park on a nice day – is the lack of structure. I envied this lifestyle before I was doing it and there is still so much I love about it, but I have found, especially since moving last summer, that it might not be working for me. And yet the thought of going back to a Monday through Friday, nine-to-five grind, made my stomach turn.
The first question I asked myself? What has worked for you in the past? When I was working full time, because I had a set work schedule and had to be on a train or on the road by a specific time, my morning routine was fairly inflexible. I never hit the snooze. The only time I could fit in my workout was first thing in the morning. Social media time was limited to downtime like when I was eating breakfast, and I had a hard-stop on everything in order to get out the door on time.
This week I began focusing on my morning routine and nothing else. However, what I have experienced in just a few short days is that by focusing on just that one critical part of my day, I have seen positive shifts every place else. A first-thing in the morning work-out, I realized, was the key ingredient to a productive day. Remember what I wrote about dopamine last month? Well, yeah, there’s that. And it’s huge!
Getting out of bed without the snooze starts the day on schedule (I actually have Alexa set to play a beautiful instrumental version of Here Comes the Sun instead of an obnoxious alarm, and I give myself the 3 minutes that the song plays to get out of bed), I have my workout clothes laid out and I’m out for my run or at the gym before I’ve even have a chance to think. This isn’t something new for me. It’s what worked when I was a new, full-time working mother, when I was a non-profit CEO, and when I was a fundraiser commuting into New York City every day. It wasn’t the structure of the job that worked for me, it was the structure of my own morning routine. And that I have control over.
Routines become a habit in about 30 days. April is my month to stay focused until this is all automatic like it once was. By the time my daughter completes her freshman year and is back home with me, I vow to be only a good influence. Although I can’t promise that Netflix binges won’t be replaced by some lazy days at the beach topped off with mango smoothies.