WEEK 18: Take Control of Your Lifestyle

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.” ~ Anthony Robbins

Is time speeding up, or is it just me? In the last few months it just seems as though I’m not getting the things done during the day that I want to. I get so distracted…even when I make a list to keep myself on track, I still find that I’m having trouble fitting everything in.

Maybe I feel this way because I have my project filling up a lot of the spare time that I used to have. Or maybe it’s my age, so instead of the years flying past now it’s whole days. Or maybe, in some crazy scientific way, time actually is speeding up! Whatever it is, though, I’d really like to get a handle on it, because being this unorganized goes completely against my Capricorn nature.

So as I was pondering the best way for me to ‘take control of my lifestyle’ this week, I remembered something I had read a couple of years ago in Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I guess it made a big impression on me because I was going through a bit of a lifestyle overhaul myself, at the time, and his idea seemed so, well, smart.

It was called a “Plan For Attaining Moral Perfection” and in it he listed 13 ‘virtues’ that he believed would set him on the path to success if he was able to incorporate them all into his daily life. They included: Temperance, Silence, Order, Resolution, Frugality, Industry, Sincerity, Justice, Moderation, Cleanliness, Tranquility, Chastity, and Humility. It was his hope that if he could adhere to these virtues every day (and he kept track in a little book he carried with him), then he would ultimately lead a very successful, not to mention morally sound, life. And, given what we know about Benjamin Franklin today, I guess it worked pretty well!

Anyway, my favorite part of his ‘Plan’ was the daily schedule he made for himself to help him keep ‘Order’ to his days:

Doesn’t it just make life seem so doable?  And such a perfect way to ‘take control of your lifestyle’? I decided to give it a try myself.

So I divided my days into 6 parts, just like above, and challenged myself to stick with it for the week. And I have to say, I think it really worked! I found that just by adding a little structure, if only in my mind, to how I thought my day should go, I was able to keep myself from drifting off track a lot more easily.

For instance, and this is a little embarrassing to admit, sometimes I can get so caught up on the computer in the mornings that I am still in my pajamas at 10:00am. And then I have to scramble to get myself dressed and the house in order, which somehow sets the tone for the whole rest of the dayBut, happily, what I found this week was that because I had allotted 7-9am as my ‘morning’ time, I was much more disciplined about being dressed and ready for the day by 9:00. And what a huge difference that made in how much I got done in the next time slot, and the next.

I also think it was really helpful to go over the day before it actually started…or as Franklin put it; “Contrive the days business”. I found that by spending a few moments in the morning picturing in my head how I wanted the day to go, I actually had more success in getting the things done that I’d hoped to.

I guess that, really, the main thing I realized this week is that it’s a lot easier to be in control of my lifestyle when I am consciously aware of what I’m doing, when I’m doing it. I think the problem I was having stemmed from the fact that I tend to switch into auto-pilot mode more often than maybe I should, and so when I  drift a bit off track during the day, I don’t really notice. And then I’m surprised, not to mention frustrated, when I don’t end up where I thought I was headed.

Of course, the trick now will be trying to stick with this new daily schedule, because otherwise I’m going to end up right back where I started…wondering where in the world the time is going. But I think it’s a lifestyle change that I won’t have too much trouble with because, really, it’s just a matter of paying a little more attention to what I’m doing during the day. Switching from chardonnay to pinot noir was way harder!

And if I do still find that I’m drifting off track every now and then, I will take comfort in the fact that even Benjamin Franklin had some trouble with this particular virtue. He admits in his autobiography:

“In truth, I found myself incorrigible with respect to Order; and now I am grown old, and my memory bad, I feel very sensibly the want of it. But, on the whole, tho’ I never arrived at the perfection I had been so ambitious of obtaining, but fell far short of it, yet I was, by endeavor, a better and happier man than I otherwise should have been if I had not attempted it.”

The key, I think, to taking control of my lifestyle is, ironically, knowing when I don’t have control. Because it’s in that awareness, in that conscious realization that I’ve drifted off track, that I can try to make the right adjustments to get me back on course.

I just have to notice.

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