Turning Over a New Leaf

My house is cleaner.

I’m more relaxed.

More productive.

More active.

Dare I say…happier?

Happy? In this climate?? How does one go about finding this happiness I speak of?

Well, for me, it was simple. Set an alarm.

I know, I know: what a concept. But something happened to me about a month ago and I realized that I had a lot of problems, stressors and time management issues in my life….

And I was to blame.

The thing is, I didn’t know I was to blame. I blamed my Microsoft Outlook Calendar which is jam-packed every single weekday with meetings and calls. I blamed the steady stream of emails that flowed into my inbox every minute. I blamed chiropractor visits twice a week that I had to work into my busy schedule. I blamed weekend plans and obligations and errands and everyone…but myself. Because while all the things I listed are very real, there was one person getting in the way of finding free time and well, “me” time, and that person was me.

So, I decided to make some changes. I don’t know about you, but when I make changes, I really MAKE them. They have to be well thought-out and documented. I started thinking about all the factors that were causing me grief and stress over the last few months, and tried to address them:

That’s some set of rules.

I put my money where my mouth is and instead of just making a list of goals on my iPhone’s Notes app, I actually…did the things. I set my alarm for 7am every day. I don’t have to start working until about 9ish, so that was going to give me some extra time to do… WHATEVER. Anything. Even if it was spacing out and having coffee while watching Saved by the Bell reruns, it was better than what I *had* been doing, which is laying in bed until about 9:00 (er, 9:15 some days) and then scrambling like a mad woman to start my day. Frantic. Aggravated. Rushing.

And, for what? I work from home now, and likely will be for a while. Why was I torturing myself? How many days could I get out of bed late and then turn on my computer only to realize I had a meeting in 15 minutes? How many days could I spend sitting at my desk working, and ONLY working all day, realizing when I signed off later that I never really moved much, never went outside, never took a real break?

It was unhealthy, and it made me unhappy.

I also started to wonder why I was getting out of bed so late, ESPECIALLY since my body clock typically wakes me up around 7:30 or 8:00am. If I was up, why didn’t I…ya know, get up? Physically?

I knew why.

The damn phone. We all do it. We wake up, and before anything else we grab that little device that connects us to the world with the touch of a button. What news alerts do I have; what happened overnight since I went to bed? What’s going on in Twitter World? What’s trending? Let me check Facebook and see whose birthday it is! Let’s scroll through Instagram and Tik Tok and Snapchat AND OH MY GOD IT’S 9:20???? How the hell did an HOUR AND A HALF go by??

Nope. No more. I made a ‘rule’ that I’d set an alarm, and even if I needed a few minutes (or hell, 30 minutes) to lay in bed before getting up, the one thing I could NOT do is scroll through my phone. And guess what? It helps. IT HELPS A LOT. Let me tell you all the things I did this morning: Wednesday, October 14:

  • dusted & cleaned some windows
  • rode the stationary bike for 30 minutes
  • threw in a load of laundry
  • had breakfast (hard boiled eggs & some turkey bacon) and coffee
  • caught up on the morning news
  • got ready for the day: makeup, outfit, hair
  • started this blog post

And I did this all before 9am.

The catalyst for making these changes happened one weekend in September when my parents were here helping me out with some outdoor cleanup and gardening. They were so helpful in undoing some of the damage Leo and I had done over the summer: we had overgrown plants, weeds, a messy/sandy deck, and we needed some serious ASSISTANCE. And while I appreciated the help, I also felt guilty. Why hadn’t I taken care of this myself? Why did I keep hearing the same phrase come out of my mouth multiple times that day while my parents were over?

“I don’t have the time.”

That was my response when I was asked why I don’t go to Home Depot to get some new outdoor fall stuff. That was my response when asked about watering plants or plucking weeds out of the ground. I DON’T HAVE THE TIME, OKAY?! I AM A VERY BUSY WOMAN!!!

And, I am. We’re all busy to some extent. And sometimes, it IS hard to find the time for things: house things, chores things, exercise things. But you CAN make the time. You can better USE your time. Since I’ve been getting up earlier each weekday, I’ve used those hours in the mornings for productivity quite often. On weekends, we’ve taken the free time we DO have (before or after plans we might have) to do the things we don’t get to during the week. Just this past weekend, before going to my sister-in-laws house to celebrate our birthdays, Leo and I went to a local preserve in our town to get a walk in. On a recent Sunday when Leo was watching the Jets, I did a LONG OVERDUE closet organization. For me, personally, spending my limited and precious free time on my phone or watching TV makes me feel shitty. Sometimes it’s okay, but I’m generally a happier person when I feel like I’ve gotten things done.

Oh yeah, and I’m happier the more I MOVE. This isn’t about weight loss or some unhealthy diet culture; this is about overall physical and mental health. Look at how little I moved in August and September. I felt it.

Let’s be real: this year has been TOUGH. We’ve had to make so many adjustments to all the curveballs tossed our way, and we’ve had to navigate the countless changes. But, despite how long we’ve been doing this whole corona dance, it’s never too late to pivot and turn things around. Since March, I’ve been trying to find ways to better myself and find ways to improve my daily life all while working around a challenging work-from-home sitch, a bad back, and a bunch of other obstacles.

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach, and I know everyone is different, but if you’re anything like me and think you can benefit from some inspo, great. I wrote this post in hopes that I’d potentially motivate someone to make a change that could help make them happier. The few times I’ve shared this with people — in person or on social media — I usually get a response along the lines of “I need to start doing this.” Or, similarly, a coworker/friend recently DID take my advice, and wrote me to tell me:

…am I a self-help guru???

Bottom line, take care of yourself. I know it’s hard, and sometimes it takes some effort. But it’s important: especially in a year like this one.

Stay safe & healthy!

-Ali

Sometimes writer. Born & raised New Yorker. Wannabe photographer. Social media junkie. Pop culture guru. Habitual line stepper.