So many bloggers write to hand out advice. Nothing wrong with that as long as we realize they are no more expert in ‘life advice’ than anyone else. An expert in medicine can give medical advice, a carpenter can give woodworking tips, but who is qualified to give advice on how to live? The millionaires who have TV shows want you to think their advice is superior to your mom’s or your grandfather’s, yet there they are, year after year, abusing the ‘bad’ people and getting the ‘good’ people to weep. That’s exploitation, for one thing, and it doesn’t seem to work if they keep having the same sorts of people on year after year.
In my work in social services, and in my living among Bostonians and others, I have seen a lot of people with imperfect lives who managed to pull it together. They got sober, they got a job that fits their skills and their needs (as opposed to their desires). I listen to people talking about how they fixed their messed-up lives.
From all that, I have found one thing common among many of them.
I don’t give advice about life or writing; I only talk about what does and does not work for me.
From that I have gleaned one tool that I would recommend to anyone trying to change their life.
One thing I hate about the folks who claim “X don’t work” or “That method failed me” is that they usually haven’t followed the plan that promised to bring results.
People expect magic. They never say that, of course. But they think that if something requires some effort, some–not pain but inconvenience…they give up and say it wasn’t their fault.
What I’m going to recommend requires you stick to it. I’m not giving you tips on how to stick to it, that’s all on you. This is all on you–if it works, 100% of that is YOUR doing. That’ll feel good. (And you don’t get to reward yourself by stopping.)
If you’re trying to lose weight, spend more time with the kids, get your chores done, write a book, exercise, run, see more of a special person in your life, if you follow this, you will attain your goal. I guarantee it. Because it’s easy for me to guarantee it, it takes zero effort on my part, but I trust you.
Ready? Here it comes.
Create and FOLLOW a schedule.
Make notes for a week or two about what you spend your hours on–wake up at X, drive to work, spend X hours working, get home, spend X time watching TV.
This is important because you want to see what you spend your time on. Don’t skimp on this part. Ideally, spend a month on it, logging everything you do all day. No, “I took a leak at 2.37,” stop being a dipshit. But, “Lunch from 12 to 1. Back to work 1–5. Stopped for a beer… Supper 6–6:20, talked with kids…”
At the end of one month of this, you will have your whole month in front of you. You can see what entries make you smile, which you find are time wasters.
Then spend a day or two setting up a schedule. Presuming you wake up at 8 and go to bed at 12, I would only schedule the time between, say 12 and 6 as a start. Set that up, and follow it religiously. Or, 8–2, 6–12, whichever. But choose a stretch where you aren’t committed to work for the whole time.
Then follow that schedule. Once you’re comfortable with it, after you’ve worked out your frustration over not being spontaneous–that will come when you’ve gotten through the shakedown and know where to leave openings to deal with family, friends, coworkers outside of time you don’t have control over–schedule a complete day. By which I mean bedtime and wakeup time–if you need to sleep in on the weekends you’re not using your weeknights properly.
I don’t care about your objections. No one’s making you do this or anything else.
But this is the only ‘self help’ thing I’ve given my seal of approval to for everyone.
I’ve seen kids on prescription drugs for not being able to attend school. I used to be at the window, handing out the pills and watching for cheeking. I’ve seen some kids who dealt with their issues with scheduling, as well as or instead of prescription meds. I am not not not anti-pharmacological solutions to emotional and mental health issues.
I’ve seen adults in various situations whose lives were put in order solely by this method. Their obsessive natures actually helped, though we’re not supposed to say that.
But if I could only suggest ONE technique I think EVERY person could benefit from, it’d be “Get a day planner, set up a schedule on an index card, tape the card to the inside front cover of your planner, and refer to it and FOLLOW it, religiously if you must.”