(This is a part of a multi-part series [the total number of entries I as of yet do not know] regarding the question, “How has your life gotten better since you were diagnosed with RA?” The first part can be found here.)
Way #3 I prioritize my time better.
Because I have only so much time, and have only so much energy, I have (as a result of mindfulness), have become much more attentive as to how I spend my time.
Before RA, I would have won an award for the World’s Best Procrastinator. I’m pretty sure I have a statue somewhere in my notebook-shrouded office. I procrastinated with everything, not just the things I didn’t like to do. I’d spend time willy-nilly, mostly as an escape from a to-do list, as if I had an unlimited supply of time, and then scratch my head when stuff didn’t get done.
Now, I set goals both weekly and daily. I may not hit them (I usually don’t hit them), but I can see where I fell short.
The two best organizational tools for me have been a monthly organizer and a two-columned stenographer’s notebook.
The organizer is slightly-larger than notebook sized, and I put my doctor’s appointments, meetings, etc. I also track my bills with it, listing in the side-column all of my monthly bills, and I check them off as I pay them. In the “daily” column for each day, I write the amount I paid and the confirmation number since I pay all of my bills online. If there’s ever a problem, I can retrieve the information.
I also use it to make notes like, “Call So-and-So” on Friday, “Dinner with So-And-So” on Saturday. Things like that. Because my memory IS a sieve, and I will have every intention of meeting someone or calling someone, but unless I “schedule it,” I won’t remember.
Sometimes I forget to write them in, but I have done much better with “remembering” since I started adding to the organizer.
The second tool I use is the stenographer’s pad. This is probably THE most important thing to keep me on track, and I only started using this about a month ago.
Every Sunday, I spend about 20 minutes planning my goals for the week. I am both focused on time and activity.
What are the things I want most to get accomplished this week in different categories? For cleaning, it may be cleaning the blinds. For writing, it is “book progress,” blogging, making quotation images. Even catching up on emails that I’ve put off for too long.
How much time do I want to spend on housework? Well, the answer is none, honestly, but I’ve schedule 240 minutes (an average of 40/minutes a day). What’s my goal for the book? For blogging? For exercising?
I break those things down into 20 minute increments (which can be halved if need be), and do one thing at a time. As I go along, I’ve needed to tweak things, add things. For example, I “schedule” meditation and dog time so that I won’t forget them. Plus, I can, you know, make that check mark that I so dig.
Here’s the thing: I almost never make my goals, falling short in almost all of the categories. Flares happen, exhaustion happens, deciding to go somewhere happens, getting caught up in re-watching Better Call Saul happens. Too much reading happens.
But at the end of the week, I look at how close I came to meeting the goals and list reasons why I didn’t make it. What where the areas that fell shortest? What were the areas that came closest to meeting the goals?
Was how I spent my time worth not accomplishing my goals?
Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. And sometimes things are entirely out of my control.
I still procrastinate. I still move slowly. My house is nowhere near as clean as I wish it to be.
But I’m accountable, and that’s a start. And I don’t think of it as “failure” when I repeatedly don’t meet my goals. It’s still a hell of a lot more than I did before I started making them, and I’m making progress toward meeting them.
And, in a bit of unexpected irony, as soon as I typed “things are entirely out of my control,” I had discovered that I had locked myself out of my house. Which, as I’m waiting for someone to come and let me in, I’ll get to the next way my life has gotten better.
I LOVE my new back door and the doggy-door with it. A friend promised me that a doggy-door would change my life. It has. It really has. I can schedule appointments or run errands after work without having to worry about the pup busting a pipe. It’s probably changed my neighbors’ life as well: sometimes I forget to close it before dragging my ass to bed.
I do try to do better. But onto the next thing:
Way #4 I’m a lot less stressed overall.
Sure, I have those moments when I get frustrated, panicked, and scared, but they seem to be far more fleeting than they used to be.
With RA, I’ve found that if I stress out, I pay for it doubly. Not just the stress of the moment (and the aftermath of things left undone while tweaking in my stress), but afterwards. For me, stress is a major trigger for a flare.
Funny enough, when I first made the connection, things got worse (way, way, way) worse before they got better. Apparently everyone has different triggers for flares–flares being acute episodes of inflammation and pain (thanks www.arthritis.org for the definition). According to some self-reporters, different things cause flares for people. For some folks, it’s sugar or dairy, for others, it’s gluten or red meat or infection or a host of a thousand other things that they know of.
The only thing so far–for me– I’ve been able to definitely connect to a flare-up is stress.
And when you know stress will make things worse (which, after a point, it always does, inflammatory disease or not), and you’re stressing cause you can’t get your stress under control, which is making you stress more because the end result will be harsher…it’s a cycle that won’t end without outside interruption.
So I meditate. Very short periods (I have gone beyond monkey-mind, I think–my “monkey mind” is more akin to a Mexican jumping bean on meth.), but consistently. And things are seeming to arrange themselves in a way I didn’t actively plan.
But because I’m scheduling time–or at least blocking dedicated chunks of it to specific tasks–I’m getting more done, being accountable, and not beating myself up for what’s not done yet because I’ve made a sincere effort to accomplish things.
Overall, I’ve noticed that my stress has gone down overall because I’ve taken an “active” (as “active” as meditation and scheduling can be, I suppose) step toward lessening them.
And, for a chronic procrastinator, that’s a huge step, with or without a cane.