A couple of months ago, I started a new job. The job is about 3.5 miles from my house (which means nothing in the DC metropolitan area BTW), it uses my degree in engineering, I work with some amazing people and the work is insanely fun and challenging.
Suffice it to say…it’s a dream job. To support this dream, I had to do a couple of things. I ramped back up to 40 hours a week. I started a new world of commuting via bus, rides, walking and cycling, adding effectively 1 – 2 hours per day to my schedule. I pushed up my workout schedule from 7 – 8AM to 6 – 7AM. I tackled my new dizzyingly complex job, barely hanging on as an assault of deeply challenging technical information came barreling my way, causing me to stay at rapt attention for hours on end as I listened and tried to learn.
Turns out that it didn’t matter that my job is a dream job. It was incredibly hard to make all of those changes. Particularly as I’m not one to handle being ‘overly scheduled’. My days are now scheduled down to nearly the minute.
- 5:30: I get up
- 5:40: Brush my teeth, put in my contacts and throw on my workout gear
- 5:45: Eat a banana, grab my water bottle, shoes and keys
- 5:50: Walk to the gym
- 6:00: Lift with my gym buds MWF, Cycle with my cycle buds TTh
- 7:00: Fly out of the gym like a bat out of hell
- 7:15: Walk in the door, throw some eggs in the pot to boil for breakfast and wake my husband
- 7:25: Shower, help with residual baby tasks
- 7:45: Makeup, hair, get dressed
- 8:00: Run out the door with husband and baby in tow
- 8:30: Arrive at work, compliments of my husband AKA carpool buddy
- 8:30 – 4:45: Work at my awesome job
- 5:00: Walk to bus station
- 5:30: Grab the bus
- 5:45: Walk in the door, greeted by an enthusiastic baby
- 6:00: Get dinner going while my husband and I tag-team the baby
- 6:45: Eat dinner while running around with the baby
- 7:00: Baby in bed, we flop down on the couch and relax for family time
- 9:00: Me in bed, ready to do it all over again
That schedule took a lot of time to get used to. Initially, I couldn’t do it. The overscheduling made me feel like I had to hit each of those tasks; living in fear if I missed one of my mark. It depressed me. I had a real low week in January as I struggled to get used to my new schedule. It reminded me of the depths of postpartum depression as one particularly hard day, I dragged myself home, laid on the couch and told my husband that I had no energy to cook dinner, put the baby to bed or clean-up.
Like a champ, my husband jumped in and took care of everything. My previous past history of postpartum depression helped me steer through this period of about five days. I recognized the symptoms and knew what I had to do to mitigate it. I felt confident I would get through it and sure enough I did.
But just like the transition you go through when you have a kid, kicking and screaming, you do eventually level up to the challenge.
I’ve worked hard to overcome my aversion to feeling overscheduled. I make sure my evenings are usually free, I don’t do any late activities during the week and I read productivity blogs to invigorate me and gradually shift my attitude. Over time, of course, I’m naturally becoming more adept at managing my weekly schedule. With working on my attitude toward my schedule, I’ve decided to try to be more consistent in getting up earlier to make getting up easier…and some weeks it works and some weeks it doesn’t. A mindset is possible to change, but there are intrinsic qualities of an individual that don’t change. I learned a lot about myself, what limitations I had and how to deal with them.
But probably the biggest point I keep in my mind is that I’m working toward this schedule as a goal, rather than a rigid line in the sand. I’m also constantly looking at ways that I can tweak my routine and I’m staying flexible. For example: if I’m traveling for work (which is OFTEN), my routine looks a bit different but I try to weave in commonality, such as getting up at the same time after the time change correction, working out and going to bed early. The other thing is, I’ve still got a baby who is teething. He’s got nearly all of those suckers out, but that still means that some nights are tough.
When those nights are tough: I text my gym buddies and cancel, because sleep is SO incredibly important. I sleep in and then try to go for a walk at lunch or after dinner with the baby, now that he stays up an hour later. Or I add a workout session on the weekend. The other day, I had a monthly dinner date with some of my girlfriends and missed my son entirely as I went directly to dinner from work. So, instead of cycling the next morning, when my son woke up early (again due to teething…when does it end!?!?), I grabbed him and we went for a walk and did push-ups and pull-ups at the park.
OK, OK…well we did about two of each and I don’t think my son’s counted if we consider who was doing the heavy lifting. But my husband got to sleep in and I got my exercise in while staying consistent with my wake-up schedule.
My husband and I have frequent check-ins to ensure that we’re on the same page with what everyone needs and where we are in our weekly routine. He knows it helps me to give me a ride to work; it means I get home a little earlier and I’m less stressed in the morning. But the other week, he couldn’t make that work and was super stressed out, so one day I drove, another day I caught a ride, one day I took the bus and walked (got that exercise in!) and we figured it out.
My biggest project for myself is to continue to make sure that I’m not looking at this as drudgery, but as an optimization plan to get our family safely through the week. Flexibility is key and when that just doesn’t work, well then my husband and I lean on each other to help fill in the gaps. We’re figuring this stuff out. Some weeks look better than others, but we’re getting there…and that’s really what life is, isn’t it? There’s no prize for completing everything on the checklist; just the measure of a healthy, intact family.
None of this is intended to be prescriptive, it’s just my experience.
It’s also important to remember that you have to be in a healthy mindset to work on this daily optimization.