Chastity

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Twelve, Q1

Chastity: “Rarely use venery but for health or offspring. Never to dullness, weakness or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

Personal notes:

  • Stay off the internet. Porn is everywhere!
  • Focus on my wife; think about our relationship.
  • Do the reverse and schedule time together.

Remember last week when I mentioned our apartment setbacks: critters, hot water, leaks, etc.? Well, one major and unspoken setback was the lack of door locks. Now, I immediately mentioned this upon first inspection of the apartment but received a shrug. Before signing the contract, I reminded my wife, “No locks on the bedroom doors.” Response, “It’s ok.” Turns out, no, it’s not ok, unless of course your goal is chastity. You see, if you want to practice chastity, the combination of children and non-locking doors guarantees 100% success. I love my children but I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say we’ve been practicing Chastity well before this week arrived.

During our first week in the new apartment, it was probably the third or fourth successive nighttime invasion that my wife sighed and said, “Ooooh, there’s no door locks.” Yup, kids are ruthlessly effective at squashing intimacy (and sleep). They’re merciless marauders, sapping time and energy, springing traps on you in the middle of the night and ambushing you when most vulnerable. I’m still confused how we created a second child, and even more uncertain how we’ll satisfy my wife’s urge for a third.

The other night, everyone was asleep when we realized we never showered that day, standard Saturday. Making use of the time, we slipped into the shower for a necessary wash and maybe a little fun. Well, before the soap was lathered, one little cupped hand pressed against the foggy shower door, followed by another, and ending with a nose and cheek smushed hard against the glass asking, “Mommy, daddy, what are you doing in there?” In Harry Potter they say mischief managed; in our house it’s chastity chasten.

Since our open door, abstinence as birth-control policy is fool-proof, when this week’s Chastity challenge rolled around, we effectively shrugged; bring it. But that wouldn’t be fair. There has to be some sort of challenge or introspection. Why not look somewhere else? How about porn? After all, porn helped me get through some far longer stretches of unwilling, adolescent abstinence.

I’m old enough to remember when coming home early from school to find a Victoria’s Secret catalog in the mail was better than winning the lottery. Today, the ease and magnitude of what’s available is insane in comparison. Don’t get me wrong, this is no denouncement, I’ve made use of this new found treasure and enjoy watching it, but I’ve never thought anything about porn until now. So what happens when you think about the definition of Chastity while watching porn? Well, pretty much the worst thing imaginable. The whole experience of watching porn was ruined. When I watched, all I could think was “This is degrading.” That revelation was miserable.

Why was it miserable? Because porn is something I’ve enjoyed in one variation or another for decades and now this experiment was ruining it for me. In fact, the conflicting emotions triggered a mini-existential crisis. Who would’ve thought? An existential crisis over pornography? The recognition of degradation, particularly the feeling I was degrading myself, had an effect; I couldn’t watch. Not being able to watch made me sad, but not just sad, conflicted. Half of me thinks this is a victory, but there’s another half that hopes this feeling goes away.

Truthfully, I know this feeling will go away because I’m going to ignore it. Hell, there’s no way I could keep this up! A life of virtue is one thing, but complete denial returned me to the state of a 13-year-old celibate. How can one continue life as an adult when the slightest sight of a woman’s ankle is enough to send me over the edge? Locking myself in the closet is not an option, besides, they have no locks. So let’s return to the core of Ben Franklin’s statement, “rarely use venery but for health or offspring.”

“Health and offspring,” all right, Ben’s giving us an out. In fact, by my interpretation, we need to increase our physical engagement in order to improve our physical and mental health. Yes, one more reason that moving is a good thing. On our “must-have” list, between dishwasher and storage, we’ll be sure to put locking doors. There’s hope for us yet! As for “never to dullness or weakness,” well, come on, let’s be honest, that time has passed. Maybe if the internet existed when I was 16 “dullness” may have been a problem, but today, with my kids running around, all I lust for is a nap. 

Tranquility

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Eleven, Q1

Tranquility: “Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

*this may also be viewed as “Acceptance”

Personal notes:

  • Forgive yourself, your setbacks and flaws.
  • Find and nourish a sense of calm.
  • If there is something you do not like, get annoyed by, or worse, say “Tranquility” or “Acceptance.”

Tranquility is my favorite week and it couldn’t have come at a better time. You see, this week we’ve been dealing with our landlord and trying to get a rent reduction. This was of course, after they proposed a rent increase.

Our borrowed home is beautiful, but the situation hasn’t been smooth: leaks, critters, hot water shortages, the list goes on. An increase seemed like a reward for a terrible season and we felt we rode out the worst of the messes, fixed their problems and were flexible when they needed help. Why not ask for a reduction?

We posed the question to our landlords who, for lack of a better comparison, represent the epitome of aged Bernie Sanders supporters. The warm, fuzzy exterior however, quickly turned cold and detached when the conversation involved money. They live a nice lifestyle, summer in the North, winter in the South, travel the world, etc., and they very much want to keep it that way.

It’s their property after all, and they’re free to do with it as they choose, but as rent and home prices steadily climb higher, what are young families supposed to do? I posed that question, and their answer was “you can move.” Of course, they’re right: we can, and will, move. So now we have to think about moving… awesome.

Maybe this all came back to miscommunication. But Tranquility was certainly important. As texts, emails, phone calls were exchanged, sitting back and not taking it personally was valuable. In fact, my wife and I even talked about it in one of our text exchanges:


  • Me: Also. Had a moment we’re I remembered this week is Tranquility. Just saying it to myself had an effect. This is certainly a pain but just a road bump in life.
  • Wife: So, so true. All of these are truly minor annoyances. Which lovely home do we live in, what job interviews do we take, how do we take a deep breath when our safe & healthy & happy 4 year old accidentally spills her juice. *acceptance* of all good things.
  • Me: I know. It’s all super annoying, but that’s just it. It’s annoying like a gnat buzzing in your ear. No real threat. I don’t have any great answers or insight. But saying Tranquility actually had a little bit of an impact.
  • Wife: Completely agree. Reading my book another one that helps is “transience”. Like our presence in this world is too brief to get worked up by minor details.

Negotiating with landlords is not battling cancer. An annoying commute is not the same as living in a war zone; both are a long way of saying, don’t sweat the small stuff. As for moving, who knows? The universe may have aligned and we might have a possible solution at a new, much smaller apartment.

Downsizing to a smaller space with greatly reduced rent immediately sprung forth a seed of contentment. The idea of finding something cozier, smaller, cheaper grew happiness. All we can do is keep our finger’s crossed, hope for the best and remain at ease with the outcome. And that’s something I’m learning, remaining tranquil when confronting little annoyances has helped in the larger battle to reduce anxiety and depression.

In the end, I wrote our landlords a nice note thanking them for allowing us to live in their home the past year. We did enjoy our time here but it is time to move on and, when I think about it, moving on is by far the happier solution: the unexpected outcome of saving more, downsizing, getting rid of junk all turned out to increase our happiness. But to be fair, getting there required a lot of Tranquility.

Cleanliness

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Ten, Q1

Cleanliness: “Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes or location.”

Personal notes:

  • For me, this also includes how I dress. Go with the 007 mantra. Look like bond – when going out at least 😉
  • While I don’t think it’s necessary to wear a suit around the house, I should dress up, get out of PJs, don’t look like a slob, aim to look like an adult with style.
  • Pick up little things laying around the house. We leave little piles everywhere and it drives me crazy!
  • Maintain front of the house & garden (more so during summer).
  • Fix what needs repair.

Cleanliness is a week I enjoy but don’t always know what to write about. I guess if I had to distill why I enjoy Cleanliness, I would have 3 reasons: First, and now I know I’m getting old, when I am physically cleaning, my mind falls at ease. Second, when I improve my state of appearance, sometimes even marginally so, I simply feel better about myself, more confident. And finally, piles of mail, clothes, whatever, are little land-mines waiting to set me off and it’s important to clear them from my life.

It’s true, small, insignificant clutter can drive me insane and ruin the day of not just me, but everyone around me. Example: the other day I was making Saturday morning breakfast for the family. The bacon was sizzling, coffee brewing, music playing, the sun was out, everything was great, but then I began to set out the plates, and there in front of me was a giant pile of mail. I was so annoyed laying out the breakfast spread that a moment later, when my wife asked me a harmless question, I was short, abrasive and set of a spiral that ruined the morning. That little pile of mail might as well have been a pile of dynamite.

It’s amazing how insignificant it all seems in retrospect but the cluttered counter space sprung a well of annoyance and anger. Why even let these piles accumulate if I know they’re going to have a negative effect? To be honest, I have no good answer; laziness I guess. The weird thing is though, I don’t mind cleaning. In fact, when engaging in big or little projects, I enjoy cleaning, clearing, working. In that moment I can shut off my mind and disappear into a task.

In the case of my yard, I spent hours removing a tree stump and couldn’t care less what was going on in the world. Working in the dirt, physically laboring away, feeling the sun and knowing I was making our yard more enjoyable allowed me to disappear into the present. I looked at that stump a million times thinking how difficult it would be to remove, setting up obstacles and preventing its removal. Don’t get me wrong, removing the stump was a bear, but once the process began, time flowed and the labor was its own reward. I walked away thinking, why do I let mail piles become tree stumps?

This week, I also upped my wardrobe and did my best to look like an adult. Don’t worry, I didn’t remove the tree stump wearing a three piece suit, but quickly remembered that it feels good to look your best. Feeling good, who doesn’t like that? No one; but writing about it here, I think of it a little bit more complexly. Yes, we know all the cliche “dress to impress” and dressing well helps with promotions and social interactions, all of which make you feel good, but what about when you’re alone? Safely in your home with no strangers, no meetings, no social pressure, how do you feel then to dress your best? Surprisingly, I found you feel pretty good.

It all stems from my wife and I’s experience on Sundays. Many times we’d stay in our PJ’s all day, being lethargic, hanging out, rolling around with the kids. Winter kept us on the couch, gray and sleepy. But we always felt bad at the end of the day, sluggish, detached, never really embracing what was before us, until we started dressing up a bit.

We did it to see if we felt better and you know what, we felt the benefit almost immediately. We felt better about ourselves, got more accomplished during the day, engaged more with the world, began attending church again, got the girls away from the TV, it was an all around improvement. Was it all tied to the clothes, probably not, but it was a part of the small steps we took to change our psyche.

There are days when we’re still in a rough place, but overall our outlook has vastly improved, and it all stems from little, simple changes. I guess it goes back to our theme, these little incremental pieces all add up to a larger benefit. It doesn’t have to be a tree stump, small actions like wearing a pressed shirt or cleaning up a mail pile have dramatic consequences. One of the best things we ever did was change our sheets on a Sunday night. Now we do it every Sunday night because climbing into clean, cool sheets on Sunday night is a simple way to vastly improve your Monday.

Moderation

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Nine, Q1

Moderation: “Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.”

Personal notes:

  • I am a person of extremes; focus on control.
  • Sometimes I go 0 to 60. Pump breaks. No need to fly off into a rage or think dark thoughts.
  • Avoid hyper-criticism of those closest to you.
  • Master emotions.

I thought I was doing well this week. In fact, during one moment of foolishness I had a cheery idea, “there might not be much to write about,” but that proved to be wishful thinking. You see, I have kids, and as much as I love them, they are a relentless force; piling on requests, pleas, cries, and messes, until the weight of exhaustion crushes my resistance and destroys all notion of emotional control. 

This week the (first) moment of lost emotional control happened in the bathroom. Like most dads, I just needed a minute, and there’s no place better to catch up on world events than some quiet time on the throne. Halfway through a Wall Street Journal article on the Panama Papers, my 4 year old daughter kicked down the door SWAT style and blew up my momentary fortress of solitude. Now in this exposed position, my ability to physically respond was limited, so I resorted to a hard and angry bark “Get OUT!”

“But I just want to show you this picture I drew for mom.”

“Get out, NOW!” 

It’s hard to capture just how angry I was, the emotion electrified my entire core, my voice turned to a growl, and while it may be tough to capture this evocative anger here, one thing was for certain, the anger and annoyance was clearly audible to a four year old. She backed away, lip downturned, eyes at the floor, sad and upset that her dad was so angry. After all, all she wanted to do was share her exciting art, but all I wanted was a moment alone. She left and my victory was fleeting. The preceding moment of calm was gone, never to be recaptured, replaced by guilt, anger and sadness. Quite an emotional rollercoaster for a trip to the bathroom.

I’m always in awe of people who have seemingly mastered their emotions. As a history nerd, I think of the story of FDR who barely flinched when he learned the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor; here I am erupting over an interrupted bathroom visit. But we all have those moments, at least that’s what I tell myself, when we’re overwhelmed by the persistent force of life. Sometimes this wear forces us to snap at someone we love. I don’t hit my children but I’ve certainly clenched our child’s hand knowing it hurts, forcing her back in line, watching her eyes fill with fear. I know at that moment I’ve lost control again and my subtle grip is trying to hide my lashing out, not so much from the child. It’s shameful when I think about it.

But like I said in last week’s email, I wanted to think about triggers. Moments where Moderation escapes me and I loose emotional control.

  • Electronics: When I am interrupted on my phone or computer, there is a noticeable rise in anger that otherwise would not be present; and let me emphasize, it is very noticeable. Next time you get angry at your kids, or anyone for that matter, look at your hand and see if it’s clutching a phone or typing on a keyboard.
  • Exhaustion: If sleep the night before (or week before) was a poor, I am terrible and quick to spark. We’re currently in a trend where my daughter will not sleep in her room. In the beginning, with every night interrupted, I would be furious, and being furious in the middle of the night is one way to ensure the next morning sucks. It took a long time to allow her to sleep in a blow-up bed in our room. We essentially admitted defeat in order to win a victory.
  • Hitting: Somehow my kids are amazing at hitting me in the tenders. Always by accident, yet targeted perfectly: hits to the groin, eye, nose and any other sore appendage raises a deep rooted, mammalian anger. Often, I have to leave the room or I sit there seething in pain, calming the muscles waiting to respond, waiting for the moment to pass.
  • Screaming: There is something about high pitched screaming, particularly if it’s directed immediately in one’s ear, that creates a visceral response. When I was in the military, we spent a few evenings locked in a dog cage for survival training. It sounds bad but it didn’t bother me, until they started blasting the recording of children screaming for hours upon hours. There’s no quick fix here. Have to just realize it’s a trigger and walk away. 

There’s a million other examples that will do: trying to feed my child, only to have the food thrown on the floor; trying to change the child’s diaper while she squirms and spreads poop all over her hands. Like I said, children are relentless, but so is life. You don’t have to have kids to cause these triggers, just look at your day-to-day: a crowded commute, a particularly rude grown-up, a terrible driver, a relentless co-worker, all of them break down the notion of emotional control. You snap, you’re angry at everyone, your life is consumed by rage; what can you do about it?

I’ve come to realize you need to embrace a long-term project to re-wire your brain. For me, the list is long: I’ve put down the phones when my kids are around, work on a daily gratitude journal, found a physical outlet through martial arts, say to myself “maybe that driver is in a hurry because he has an emergency,” choose to not have an opinion, work on Bens13, and force myself to explore my triggers. These are just a few steps and I’ve come to realize I will not achieve emotional control over night, but I’m getting better.

I realize my child is at her purest stage in life and I have to do my best to encourage her and not let the weariness of adulthood punish her innocence. Clearly I’ve stumbled and had set backs but I’m getting better, and you can too. We just have to remember, we allow many of the events and people around us to define us. Why do that? Why let them make you angry? All I can say is, next time the cheerio crushes underfoot and the scintillating fire creeps up our neck, it’s just easier to grab the broom and move on. Allow the moment to pass.

Justice

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Eight, Q1

Justice: “Wrong none by doing injuries, or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

Personal notes:

  • Put others ahead of yourself;
  • Empathy;
  • Give how you would hope to receive, the “Golden Rule”;
  • What does “Justice” mean?

A friend of mine is destroying himself through addiction. We confronted him last week. The confrontation released a storm of pain, denial, anger, betrayal, sadness, honesty. I told my friend he was killing himself. How do you do that and then go about the rest of your day?

You don’t really. Days are ruined, and being honest with you, there was a big part of me that didn’t want to be there. Why burden myself? Why expose myself to the darkness? I am not family. He has to make choices for himself. This is someone else’s problem…

But there is no one else.

It was after the intervention that I had a moment to reflect and understand the second half of Ben’s phrase, “omitting the benefits that are your duty.” As friends, we have a duty to act on his behalf. Failure to do so is more than an omission, it’s a betrayal; a betrayal risking his life. So we acted.

I understand Justice better now. Said simply, do what is right. Do it despite the pain or discomfort it may cause you. Act with honor in your interactions, both large and small.

Sincerity

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Seven, Q1

Sincerity: “Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.”

Personal notes:

  • Stop being short;
  • Stop using wise ass comments;
  • Express what you’re thinking rather than hiding it (leads to personal frustration when people don’t “figure out” what I’m thinking; How could they? Aren’t they psychic?);
  • Share your emotions rather than using stupid phrase as cover;
  • Give more to Caryn (my wife); talk like you would to Clara (my daughter).

My goal this week was to be more honest and sincere with my wife. When I had a feeling or thought, I tried my best to share it; without being glib or vague. Sometimes it was a simple text “I love you.” Other times I asked where she thought we were as a family, parent, and couple.

In our talks we agreed that Sincerity is very much tied to Silence. Practicing the two has led to a lot of improvement in our relationship. We’re not really experiencing highs or lows (no epic poetry, no teenage angst), just a steady, pleasant modicum of happiness. When before too many thoughts were blocked by noise or too many virtues atrophied from lack of care, there’s now a sense of mature calm.

For Sincerity I had to learn to drop my guard and share. Being open had the unintended effect of building a sturdier, happier relationship. Even more, by focusing on one person, my quality of interaction changed and that had the unintended effect of including others in my life. It’s been quite interesting these last few weeks; they have decidedly made an impact. All I can say at close is this, my wife went away this weekend for a conference and when I said goodbye, I was genuinely sad to see her go.

Industry

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Six, Q1

Industry: “Lose no time, be always employed in something useful; cutoff unnecessary actions.”

Personal notes:

  • Fully engage with what you’re doing; immerse yourself;
  • There’s not much time left; we’re getting old. Use time wisely;
  • Shut off distractions!

I’m exhausted. With sleep still in my eyes, I’m looking at a glaring screen this morning. Only one eye open. Hope this counts for Industry.

Industry: hard work; energetic, devoted activity at any work or task.

Simple definition, right? But does industry deal with “work” or the love of being engaged in a task? Regardless, “industry” had its intended effect this week. Whenever I started to drift, and that was often, I would catch myself. An encouraging mantra “Focus. Force the task finished. Start the next one.”

Drift happened most when I was at the computer tackling tasks. There were 2 points this week when I didn’t have to worry about drift: writing a short story and removing a tree stump from the backyard. It’s hard to argue “love of task” for the latter, but the hours melted away. Industry was on auto-pilot. I enjoyed the physical labor. If writing doesn’t work out, it appears I would be happy digging ditches.

Most days in the journal were listed as failures this week. That was unduly harsh. The week was more successful than I gave it credit for. The intended purpose was achieved: being aware of when drift occurred and righting the ship. There were noticeable periods when I didn’t have to “right the ship,” when everything proceeded smoothly. If the task was enjoyable or felt good, Industry took care of itself. I fell into work and gave over to it. I wish I could find that more often.

Anyway, since industry is over, I’m heading back to bed.

Frugality

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Five, Q1

Frugality: “Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; waste nothing.

Personal notes:

  • Burn our credit cards! (or just don’t use them this week);
  • Our family bleeds money on one off purchases;
  • Make a donation;
  • Go monk for the week;
  • The best way to pursue affluence and independence is to pay down debts.

By the Chase on the corner there is an old man. His age is indecipherable but his look is tired. Deep bags hang under his eyes. A spaghetti lip falls from his face. Green, oversized fatigues swallow his battered body. Hunched forward he brokenly whispers “socks” as one calloused hand holds out a package of tube-socks. His face carries no expression. I’m scared of this man.

The man on the corner overwhelms me because he is discarded: no future, all alone, broken. I dread that fate. It’s a sad, dreary image. All week I couldn’t shake the notion that we’re worried about buying too much stuff while he’s worried about living.

Did my family buy too much stuff? Were we successfully frugal? That depends. We sat down, walked through our spending habits and realized it’s just too easy to spend. Everything is available at the click of a button. To fight impulse, we created a “spend” day. All one-off purchases waited until Saturday. Forced to mull it over, we found success: no take-out, no Amazon, no “stuff.” That was the easy part.

Could we reign in all purchases? No. The two small girls in our house eat like a varsity football team. At the grocery store I winced as small numbers added up to an ever-larger total. All that eating led to a $500 pediatric dental visit this week. Oh, and another unforeseen expense, my wife had to pay for a mandatory $800 exam. Talk about poor timing.

While the timing was poor, I have to remember that we are not. We are in a position where we save to build a better life, not to stave off disaster. When I hand that man on the corner a few dollars, it’s a powerful reminder. Yes, life is expensive and sometimes overwhelming but sitting here in a warm house listening to the girls laughing and playing downstairs, I know that I am a rich man.

Resolution

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Four, Q1

Resolution: “Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

Personal notes:

  • Act like you would if someone challenged you.
  • Do not approach things mildly when you could approach it aggressively.
  • Be indomitable; not lackadaisical.
  • Act with purpose in everything.

Fuck this hurts. All the pressure is on my neck. Pain shooting down my back. Eyes hurt. Can eyes hurt? I don’t know. Focus dummy. Need to get out of this choke. Try one more escape. Damn. He countered. I’m gassed. Got nothing. Choke is tightening. All right, I’m done. Waaaait a minute. Is he talking shit?

I can’t explain the rage that exploded inside but I can tell you that at that very moment I violently threw him over my shoulder. If we were in a bar, I’d roar like the Hulk and pretend to throw a tree like a Scotsman. But why focus on a moment like this? Because those 5 minutes sum up one of my greatest weaknesses in life: the failure to use resolve unless directly challenged.

Why is it so difficult? Why does it take a lack of oxygen for my brain to wake up? Am I alone in this? Is Resolve a muscle? Do I need to focus on it at the gym? Whip it into shape? Maybe. I guess that’s why we’re here.

In the weekly email I asked you to come up with a long term goal. What’d you do? I signed up for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and paid for a year in advance. Another goal is this blog. Write for one whole year. To cement the commitment, I invited a group of close friends to follow along. Nothing keeps you honest like peer pressure and the risk of wasting money.

Some observations:

  • Find something that will help you build your resolve. I specifically focused on martial arts as a means to bring focus and discipline back in my life.
  • There’s a lot out there. Groupon is a fantastic place to start. Do something.
  • When I joined, I was surprised how many moms were in the Jiu Jitsu class. Don’t restrict yourself to what is expected or typical of your demographic. Experiment. Expand.
  • It felt good to share this blog with close friends. To be honest, I was nervous and embarrassed but forced myself to bite the bullet. Their surprising words of encouragement and support were heartfelt and motivating. It was a kind reward. Don’t be embarrassed to share with those closest to you. 
  • Don’t be your own obstacle. Sometimes, just getting there is a victory. I intently walked to the Jiu Jitsu school but then walked right passed it. About a block away I stopped, turned around and forced myself to go in and sign up.
  • It feels good to stand tall.

With this blog we’re choosing to change who we are and build a better life. This is not without setbacks. Last week I had a few failures. The key component missing in Order was Resolve. I’ll spare you the joy of finding an accountant – wahoo midlife excitement – but it felt great to get a win. As for legal stuff, I got yelled at for using LegalZoom. Apparently it’s much better to find an actual lawyer that deals in Estate Planning. Friendly tip, Family Law is a euphemism for Divorce Law. Made for an awkward phone call.

In the end, I’d love to hear your own thoughts below. Share your comments. It may help with your own process. It certainly helps me with mine. 

-Pat

Order

Ben Franklin’s 13 Virtues: Week Three, Q1

Order: “Let all your things have their place; let each part of your business have its time.

Personal notes to start the week:

  • Stick firmly to a prearranged schedule.
  • “Seize the day.” wake before/by 6am (goal 5am).
  • Focus on tasks at hand/block out noise.
  • Navigate pain points by preparing for them.
  • Ensure time is scheduled for critical pursuits +exercise +personal development +new skills
  • Allow flexibility to enjoy family; plan “cheat time” for one off events.

This week was a failure. All my attempts at Order were botched. One thing after another brought disorder: inclement weather, daughters sick, winter blues, winter break, mother-in-law, helping a friend. Worse still, I couldn’t stay focused. Aiming for “Order,” I bulls-eyed “Distraction.”

When I derailed, I tried to get back on track but it was no use; bad habits reappeared. Despite spending the last several months weening myself away from the internet, I easily drifted towards email, Facebook and the iPhone. Mindless distractions and sore thumbs followed.

There were some wins but not enough to offset the feeling of failure. To get rid of clutter I organized the office and the bedroom. Spent some time tackling the retirement plan. Cleaned up the garden. But nothing you would call a home-run. Maybe that was the problem. I should have been swinging for singles.

A few observations:

  • In the beginning of the week I “Ordered” my schedule into 1 and 2 hour segments. It did not work. 2 to 5 hour blocks were superior.
  • 1 hour segments resulted in being busy but not productive. If I organized bigger chunks of time, I was productive and not busy.
  • Small time blocks worked for email – if you stick with it! I did not and found my day destroyed by email. When email was limited to 15 or 30 minutes at 9am, 12pm and the close of the day, I was effective. When email controlled me, I went down the rabbit hole of distractions.
  • Having a check list for the day was helpful but my goals were unrealistic. Need to lower the success hurdle.
  • There were periods when the kids needed more from me than planned. I organized around that time so we could hang together. If I tried to do something during those needy periods everyone ended up angry.
  • Ah, and about that goal, “wake up super early this week.” Up by 6am? Yes (begrudgingly). Up by 5am? Not even close. Kids are exhausting and I’m not a morning person. I also haven’t been drinking coffee.

Looking back, I had a great week. Seriously. Despite sickness and interruptions, everyone was happy. My family was all smiles. The gratitude journal provided a solid base for the day.* The angst stemmed from “Order.”

It’s odd that by aiming for Order, I achieved the opposite result. That was frustrating. If I could distill it to 2 failures it would be 1) email and 2) lofty goals. By setting impossibly high goals each day, I paved the path for failure. My outlook was clouded as more and more items did not get addressed. Failure became self fulfilling – swing for singles and aim for consistent wins. As for email, it was a gateway drug that opened up a million avenues of distraction. Remember 9am, 12pm and end of day.

 

*This was a challenge listed in the Bens13 weekly email.