Write On Wednesday: Small Doses

Sometimes life lessons come in unexpected places.

Like from exercise videos.

I wrote about it once before, in Life In General, in a chapter called “You Can’t Do It Wrong.” My favorite exercise videos are Leslie Sansone’s Walk At Home program, and Leslie herself always provides an extra dose of energy and “feel-good-ness” that I appreciate to start my day. Her upbeat optimism and encouraging words (like “You can’t do it wrong!”) are the best thing an exercise averse person such as myself needs to hear. 

The other day I was in the “cool down” phase of a video I’ve done many times before, when a particular phrase jumped out at me. 

“Believe in the power of small doses,” Leslie said, encouraging us to take advantage of the  flexible workout sessions divided into mile length segments on the video, so you can do only one mile or as many more as you have time for. “If you only have time to do one mile, just do one mile a day,” Leslie says. "You’ll still get incredible benefits.” 

Those words were important to me that day. I’ve been struggling with finding a good pattern to work in. I’m excited about a new writing project, I have research and work to do on it, but so often I let the days get away from me without actually accomplishing anything concrete. Somewhere in my head is the notion that I need to set aside hours every day to write; that it has to be the same time every day; and that I must have this hefty block of time in front of me to dedicate to writing before I even start. 

But maybe I could apply Leslie’s advice to this work I’m doing as well as my exercise plan. Maybe if I intend to work on this project for just one hour every day -a small dose - I could make progress and dispel this disturbing sense of floundering around and being unproductive.

I’ve been experimenting with this idea for about a week, and so far I’m happy with the outcome. At the beginning of the week I looked at my calendar and pencilled in an hour on each day I could work. It’s usually not the same hour every day - sometimes it’s in the morning, sometimes late afternoon; and a couple of times I did have to change the hour because something came up that needed attending too. But I’ve gotten some significant reading/note-taking done, completed one long-form essay and have a good start on another. 

I’m carrying the small doses principle into Life In General as well. This life of mine gets awfully fragmented - with errands for my mom, with appointments, with the dogs and their various eccentricities, with volunteer work, with social events  - all wonderful and necessary, but not ever predictable or conformable to the 9-5 schedule I always think I want (or need). So I’m using this principle of planning an hour each day to tackle some of the other projects I have on my list - some clutter cleaning, some painting in the house, taking care of the garden, etc. It’s easy to find an hour - I spend plenty of them just scrolling through Facebook and Twitter feeds - and even if I’m “not in the mood,” I cajole myself into it with the thought that “it’s only ONE hour."

It’s progress in small doses. It requires more patience than I usually allow myself, because I  want to complete those items on my checklist and tick them off as “done.” Small doses means I have to step back, step away, and trust that all will be done in its own time. 

It’s also about Intention - a word I’m adopting as a new mid-year Word. Setting intentions for myself has proven a very effective way of completing projects in the past, but also of changing my attitudes and habits. The word implies a serious effort without connoting punishing recrimination. It has a loving connotation to me, something I will do for myself because I want to have a happier, better life, not because I’m trying to whip myself into some kind of arbitrary shape.

 I’m very susceptible to self-talk, and being Intent upon accomplishing something is one way I talk to myself with words that are meaningful.

Wisdom arrives at just the right moment sometimes, even if it is from an unexpected source. The concept of small doses feels like a relief, like a benediction on the effectiveness of baby steps toward a goal, whether that goal is losing weight, writing a new book, getting my kitchen pantry in order, or having a more loving relationship with my husband.

In this moment, it feels like the right path to walk. I intend to follow it.