Volume 2, Issue 23: November Habits

Hi friends! Last Friday my team at my day job had a virtual Halloween party. Someday I’ll write an essay about why Halloween is the perfect holiday but aside from my birthday, it really is my favorite. I won the first round of our scavenger hunt and I am super pleased with how my costume came out. I went as the “This is fine” meme from this comic. Yes, I absolutely took a photo of myself and I even made a gif which I will leave here, as my autumn gift to you.

Before I get into the juicy bits of today’s newsletter, I did want to remind everyone that Daylight Saving time ends this weekend and we “fall back” an hour.

Today I want to talk a bit about forming habits and the project I’ve started this month. It actually starts with me a couple weeks ago. I was really in the mood to write some postcards. I had just gotten a new book of postcards and I was eager to send them out. A typical person might then just write a few postcards and send them out and be fulfilled.

But not me.

Immediately my brain jumped to, “I want to write more postcards, therefore, I should set a goal for next year to write one postcard a day!” I know my boundaries with myself have improved because I recognized that that is a bananas thing to automatically decide and also that plan does not serve present Me in any way.

I tend to have this cycle of thought during this time of year. I think of something I want to do then stash it away to start it at the beginning of the calendar year. I’ve said before that the “perfect time” to start something doesn’t exist and I also recognize that it does help me mentally to start doing a thing at the start of a time period. But there’s no reason to wait until the start of the next year. So, I started some things this month that I plan on doing daily for a month and I started on November 1st.

I had a therapy appointment on the 1st and while setting goals and forming habits definitely aren’t new to me, it was still helpful to have someone who would find the weak spots in my plan, help me think about ways to make the plan stronger, and also act as my accountability person to check in with me about these specific goals each time we meet.

Each day I plan to:

  1. Stretch

  2. Write

  3. Write snail mail

I know I’m shitty at keeping a monthly tracking journal so I’m using these sticky notes with 31 numbered circles to keep track of how I’m doing.

For the first, stretching, I thought I had a pretty solid plan. I knew exactly what stretches I’d be doing each day (the upper-body stretches I used to do for archery) and that it would typically take about 15 minutes to do the circuit. My therapist said, “Okay, when will you stretch each day?” I said in the morning. She asked me to be more specific so now I aim to do these stretches each morning by 10am. Not setting a time would make it easier to push it off until I no longer want to do it.

For the second, writing, she encouraged me to be more strict than I intended to be, like set a length of time or word count. I actually have a lot of small writing projects that need to get done (newsletters, podcast scripts) so I compromised and said I’d do one project each night. Most will take 20 minutes, though this weekly newsletter takes at least 2 hours each week. I then decided to actually make a spreadsheet of what thing I would write each day. I know that one of my big roadblocks with writing is that I sit to write and I’m overwhelmed by trying to decide what to work on in the moment. If I pre-plan, then that takes the anxiety-inducing daily decision-process out of the picture.

For the third, writing snail mail, I wanted to keep flexible. My therapist thought one piece of mail a day would be a lot. I told her I average 5 a week and I even took a lot of time off from writing mail this year so I stuck to my plan of one piece a day; however, I will not be writing a multi-page missive each day. Some days are going to be postcards with just a handful of sentences and I will allow myself to also just send postcards that have a sticker collage on it if I really don’t feel like writing.

I think most importantly, I’m going to not only check in with myself and this process at the end of the month as I planned but also every couple of days. Is this working for me? Are these things sparking joy? How do I feel after completing them? I plan on sticking with everything for the full month but allowing myself permission for next month to maybe only write mail on odd-numbered days, etc.

If you get anything out of today’s newsletter, I hope it entails giving yourself permission to start anything at any time. If it helps to start on a Sunday, then start on a Sunday. And you don’t have to do a thing for a whole month. It’s okay to cultivate a habit for a week at first, then evaluate at the end. I get really ambitious come December 31st and I overwhelm myself with some things before I can get very far. I have heard many people say they’re going to “start flossing” but as soon as they miss a day (or evening) they give up completely. So I’m hoping that breaking down things into smaller chunks makes them more manageable and sustainable and helps form habits, not just goals. And I’m giving it a go now, in November, when there is not all the “new year” pressure. I’ll surely make some goals for the new year, but forming some habits now might make it feel less stressful when January 1st rolls around.

That’s it for this week! You can shop any books I’ve mentioned in this newsletter at my affiliate shop, The Infophile’s Bookshop, and support independent bookstores. If you want to send me some snail mail, you can find me at P.O. Box 21481, Oakland, CA 94620-1481. If you want me to send you some happy mail, feel free to give me your address.

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