Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rules for a Happier (and More Productive) Life

I have a love-hate relationship with rules. On the one hand, I hate being told what to do. (My mantra as I was growing up the bratty youngest of three girls was "You're not the boss of me!" I still sometimes feel like stomping my feet and shouting it at people who feel the need to impose their beliefs on me.)  I like to go about my day with fluidity doing whatever feels right in the moment without fear of repercussions from anyone or anything. Bosses? Parking cops? Screaming baby?--You're not the boss of me! OK, you kind of are… but I don't have to like it all the time. 

On the other hand, if it weren't for a few ground rules, I know I'd waste my days away and accomplish a lot less than I want to. I crave deadlines. And someone to shake a finger at me every now and then when I'm late or try to get away with doing less than my best. I realize that accountability makes me better at the things I do. When my editor points out flaws in a story it makes me a better writer, just like when my yoga teacher calls me out for cheating on my core work, it makes me stronger. Unfortunately, when there aren't any rules or anyone around to hold me accountable to those rules I've noticed I get less done—which just makes me feel bad about myself.

Now that I'm not going into an office everyday, it as vitally important that I build some structure into my day to keep this from happening. It is just as important to allow for the wiggle room to be creative when the moment strikes.

I recently read a book, Way of the Happy Woman by author and yoga teacher Sara Avant Stover. It inspired me on many levels. The happiest women she knows, wrote Stover, have a daily ritual of doing something to feed their souls—writing in a journal or practicing asana.. These women have structure and the hold themselves accountable! She also shared something that I've found incredibly useful in creating this structure and accountability. She suggested making two lists; one list of Yes's and one list of No's. These lists become the guiding principles for how you spend your time and energy. This exercise has helped me to build structure into my day without feeling too confined.

  1. Meditate for at least 10 minutes every day.
  2. Unroll your yoga mat and practice at least 5 minutes—more if the spirit moves you.
  3. Write something JUST for you. Read something inspirational every day.
  4. Set aside chunks of time for work. Work diligently during that time. Finish what has to be done and move on so you can enjoy your day.
  5. Shower, get dressed, and look your best—even if you don't plan to see anyone all day. When you look your best you feel your best.
  1. No TV during the day.
  2. No junk food.
  3. No surfing the Internet, checking email, or refreshing blog posts to read comments during work times.
  4. No procrastinating.
  5. No skipping meals.
What would be on your yes and no lists?