A couple of weeks ago, I looked at my workout log and noticed I’d been weight lifting on average once a week for the past month or so. At first, I felt defeated. I aim to lift a minimum of twice a week, based on my own goals and general recommendations for health.
But then I looked more closely at my logs, and noticed that not only did I hit a bench press maximum, but on my first leg workout in three weeks I hit a new deadlift max. Because although I hadn’t been lifting as frequently as I’d like in the recent past, there are other months when I averaged three times a week.
It occurred to me that this is the case for a lot of my hobbies and interests. While a baseline consistency is important for forward progress, my enthusiasm for and interest in any given activity waxes and wanes. Sometimes, it might be a struggle to even hit the bare minimum, while other times I go well beyond and look forward to the next session.
I’ve noticed, as well, that I sometimes hold off on doing things like posting to my Instagram or sharing a new blog post because I’m afraid of setting a pace I can’t keep up with in the long term. And then, sometimes, I’ll end up with several posts scheduled at a time, and by the time I post one and people start commenting on it I’ve forgotten what it was.
I always think of balancing my hobbies and other life as a weekly or even daily thing. Perhaps that’s because my work and other commitments are on a weekly basis, or because some things, like housework, need to be done at least weekly.
I love a good schedule, because I’m a nerd, but the truth is I love developing a good schedule. I love looking at my life like a puzzle and finding spots to fit everything in, while still leaving lots of whitespace for reading, leisurely walks, or, honestly, watching telly.
But there’s a difference between the neat, colour-coded weekly schedule and the reality of how my brain functions. I don’t maintain a passing, 3-5 hours-a-week interest in everything that matters to me. More like it switches from 3-5 minutes to 3-5 hours a day. I didn’t post here for a month, and in that time barely posted to Instagram, because my mind was more focussed on my novel. For most of May, even though I stuck to my self-imposed posting schedule, I felt like I was dragging my attention away from the writing project I really cared about at the time for the one I wasn’t so keen on.
And then a couple of weeks ago it switched over. I couldn’t tell you what happened, exactly, only that I hit a wall in my novel and, after a few days trying to untangle it, I realised that this was the creative outlet I needed: non-fiction writing that allows me to sort through my head and connect with others with similar goals and aims.
This is how my mind has always functioned. After spending most of May bingeing on romance novels, a few weeks ago I switched to re-reading one of my favourite urban fantasy series. In July I might decide I’m not keen on reading at the moment and would rather binge Battlestar Galactica or Buffy.
It was looking at my workout log that really crystallised it for me. Although I’ve averaged once a week for the past month, over the past three months I’ve done 25 sessions, or about two a week. Averaging twice a week over three months seems to be working, based on my latest numbers, so why not try the same thing for the other things in my life?
By this I mean that instead of trying to post a new blog every week, as I did for the first four months of this site, I’m aiming to post 12 times over the next three months. Instead of trying to post to Instagram twice a week, I’m aiming to post 25 times. Same for lifting and yoga.
Monday is the start of a new quarter, which is the perfect time to give this a go as it gives me a clearly-defined 13-week period to test this out. Initially, I thought of doing it for the final six months of the year, but I think on balance a quarter is a good amount of time to get started with. It’s a long enough time period to see if I start to push everything to the end of the quarter, and short enough that if I do that I’m bound to fail.
This means I might have three blog posts in 8 days, and then nothing for a fortnight, and I think I’m okay with that. As I said above, I love scheduling. I love creating routines (that I never stick to) because they leave out some uncertainty. If I do X activity Y times a week, then Z will happen.
If I lift weights 3 times a week, then I’ll get stronger and lose weight.
If I post to my blog once a week and my Instagram 3 times a week, then I’ll grow my audience and build a community around my site.
If I work on my novel for an hour a day, 7 days a week, then I’ll finish my draft in three months.
None of this, however, leaves room for, well, life. Some weeks I want to post more than one blog post and three photos, all with long captions. Some weeks I barely have time or energy for a single quick drive-by Instagram post.
Of course, there are some things in life where we have to stick to a schedule. I work the same hours every day. I go to karate on the same days each week because those are the days my classes are. I have to hoover my flat at least once a week because my cat sheds like it’s going out of style.
But for everything else? Nothing says I have to post to my blog every Monday at 09:00. Sure, there’s lots of advice that says to post on a schedule so your readers know when to check back, but to be honest I’ve never noticed a schedule for any of my favourite blogs. I follow a lot on feedly, or failing that either see their new posts via Instagram or in the latest newsletter.
And while I’d like to think people might miss my posts if I don’t show up for weeks on end, I’d rather do that and have a solid, thoughtful post when I come back than disappoint people with half-arsed ramblings because I felt the need to post something.
In the fiction world, there’s lots of talk about how you can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. You have to put in the effort, whether you want to or not, and treat it like a job.
I’ve never had any of my books published, so I’m hardly qualified to speak as to whether or not this is sound advice. I’m sure there are parts of completing a novel, like line-editing, that are always going to be difficult and unenjoyable. But I know from my own experience that, while I sometimes need to push myself to start writing, if I’m still pushing myself 15 minutes into a writing session there’s something wrong. Maybe the story isn’t ready yet, and I need to go back to brainstorming. Maybe there are plot holes three chapters back, and I need to resolve those before I can figure out where to go next.
And maybe my brain just wants a break.
It’s the same with my blog. While sometimes I need to encourage myself to start writing, because sitting around reading a book is always easier than writing, once I start the words should flow relatively easily. I’m not saying I get the perfect, most cohesive post out on the first try. Of course not. But if I’m struggling to pay attention, constantly talking to the cat or shift-tabbing to Instagram, then that means that what I’m trying to write about is either a topic I don’t particularly care about or it’s one that I’m not ready to write about yet.
My hope is that by taking a more flexible, medium-term approach, not just to my blog but to my other interests, like my fiction writing, I’ll allow myself to harness my creativity and enthusiasm more effectively, and ultimately produce work of a higher calibre. And with any luck, it’ll happen with a little less stress along the way.