It’s Memorial Day, the national holiday during which we honor those who have sacrificed their lives in the service of our country. I’m fortunate in that no one in my immediate family meets this description. But my family and I are extremely grateful to those who do.
This is free week at the blog, and normally I would be sharing my reviews on the books I’ve read. But for some reason, this month I’ve been unable to complete even one! I’ve been reading, but I can’t seem to keep my attention on the story, despite the fact that there’s action, adventure, and a little bit of romance. The story is well-written, and I want to know what happens next. I should have finished reading this weeks ago, but every time I open the file (I read on my laptop), I find it difficult to read more than a paragraph or two before switching to another task.
I started to get really discouraged. Normally, I make goals and set up a plan to get them done. Sometimes, the goals aren’t quite met, and sometimes they’re met later than what I’d planned. But most of the time, when a goal is written out, especially if it’s posted somewhere, I manage to meet my expectations. Lately, however, I’ve really struggled to sustain focus on anything for more than a few minutes. Whether it’s reading, writing, researching, or sewing, I’m always moving from one thing to another.
Does this mean it’s time to cut back or abandon some of my goals? I was beginning to think so. But last week at my Weight Watchers meeting, the topic was “When to take a weight loss break.” We discussed the fact that sometimes we need to take breaks from pursuing our long-range goals, such as losing weight. It’s not that we need to let things slide or quit, but that there are times when we need to be satisfied with maintaining. When life forces us to focus on important things like health and family, we need to make adjustments. Extended family gatherings, holidays, and periods of stress are all drains on our time, our attention, and our energy, so we need to allow ourselves to simply maintain, rather than make progress.
The concept sounded intriguing and reassuring, but I’m not ready to use it in my weight loss journey. A recent diagnosis of pre-diabetes has me motivated to make major adjustments in my eating habits. But there are other areas of my life, like my reading goals, that are suffering, so I decided to see if I could apply the “maintain mode” idea there. Here’s what I came up with.
Reading: Since my original dilemma was my lack of reading, I figured I’d start with this.
Original goal: Read and review one book per week
Maintenance plan: Read when I can, for as long as I’m able to concentrate. I usually read during mealtimes, so that’s at least three times a day, unless we’re eating out. With a 300+ page book it’s taking some time, but at least I’m making progress.
Cleaning/Organizing: While I manage to keep track of what I need to have done and where I need to be, I’ve always had trouble organizing the THINGS in my house. And when I’m under stress due to an extremely demanding schedule, or problems that don’t seem to want to be resolved, the first thing crossed off my To Do list is housework. I’m fortunate that we have a family friend who comes over on a regular basis and keeps our bathrooms and floors from becoming uninhabitable. As for the STUFF, I’ve been working—slowly—to declutter. And no, I don’t thank each item for its service, despite the fact that I’m Japanese. Marie Kondo has a lot of good ideas, but I’m too Midwest Protestant for that.
Original goal: My May 1 goal was to get rid of a minimum of one box per day this month.
Maintenance plan: Whenever new stuff enters our house, an equal or greater number of things have to exit – or at least get placed on the giveaway pile (note to self: pack up the giveaway stuff and haul it away first thing after the holiday!).
Writing: I’m always working on something, and usually several at once. I can manage to sit down several times a week to write, but lately I’m unable to keep my attention on my story for more than five or ten minutes at a time. I’m beginning to think I’m not going to be able to finish either of the two projects I’m currently working on.
Original goal: add 5K to 10K new words per month.
Maintenance plan: at a faculty writing retreat earlier this month, the facilitator suggested that we plan several mini goals and then set our timers for 20 minutes, during which time we’d focus on one mini goal. For me, it might be a conversation between two characters, or a description of a setting. It really seemed to work, and I made a lot of progress that week. I’ve been using this technique ever since.
So now that I’ve switched to maintenance mode in three areas of my life, I’m feeling a little better. I’m hoping that things will calm down soon and I can resume my usual goal setting, but if not… well, I’ll just have to re-evaluate.
How do you deal with goals that need re-adjusting?