Category: goals

One-on-One Time with My Kids

I’m setting a new goal. One that I should have been setting a long time ago, but sometimes you need perspective before you see what you need to be doing.

The past while, my video game time has been steadily increasing. I’d justify it to myself by reminding myself that the rest of my goals and chores each day were already done, so why did it matter if I took some time to destress by playing video games for an hour or two (or three)?

But as I looked at my family, it was becoming clear to me that this “destress” time was having a lot of side-effects I didn’t want. I’d come home and play on my own. Tomas would be off playing something on his own. MC was watching something on her own, and DC was watching something else. Denisa would be working, because it was the end of the semester, so you’d have all of us at home, but we were all in different rooms doing different things.

Not a fan.

Of course, I’m also not a fan of being grumpy, and I recognize that a bit of destressing can really help me be more pleasant to be around. My solution? I’ve decided to cap the amount of time I can spend playing video games each day, and I’ve started up a goal to spend more one-on-one time with my kids each day.

I’ve always done a pretty good job connecting with Tomas. He likes to play Magic. I like to play Magic. Problem solved. But I can’t just spend all my time with him. DC and MC deserve some time and attention as well. So yesterday I started reading Fellowship of the Ring with DC, and I’ve been trying to do things with MC that she likes to do. (Her current favorite activities are making crafts and watching Spirit on Netflix. But she really just loves it when people spend time around her and talk to her. It’s not rocket science.)

I’m not sure yet if I can make it a “one on one time every day” sort of a goal, or if it’s “at least some one on one time with a child every day” goal instead. I tend to think I’m busy enough that it will often have to be the latter, but I’m going to shoot for the former whenever I can. Spending time doing an active activity all together counts for something as well. Watching TV day after day? Not as much. Playing a board game as a group? Sure, why not?

Because Tomas is just home for another three years, folks. And he’s followed by DC a few years later, and MC a few years after that. The video games aren’t going anywhere . . .

Here’s hoping the new goal sticks. It’s always a bit of a balancing act to see how I can fit new goals into my schedule and life, but this one’s important enough that I’ll prioritize it over other goals if need be.

Wish me luck.


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The 100 Pushup Challenge

Late last year, a friend of mine shared a video with me of what turns out to be a pretty common health fitness kick: The 100 pushup challenge. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Do 100 pushups every day. Not necessarily all at once, but over all, from the time you get up to when you go to bed, complete 100 pushups. He was giving it a shot, and he encouraged me to do the same.

I’ve been doing some strength exercises each day (after I do my 30 minutes of jogging in place, which continues to be my go-to exercise of choice), and I thought I might give this one a whirl. The research I did into it said it was a decent goal for people who can do 15 pushups at a time, and that was the outside range of what I could accomplish, so it seemed like a good fit. (Though they go on to say that for people who can manage 30 pushups at a go, they’ll need to switch things up some to keep it being a challenge, either by increasing the reps or changing the pushup style.)

The biggest hangup for me has been that my left wrist hasn’t been up to the “pushing” motion. I injured it a while ago, and it’s had trouble healing. So instead of doing a regular pushup (where you use open palms on both hands to push against the ground), I’ve switched to doing ones on my fists, basically punching against the ground. I can’t do as many pushups this way, but it doesn’t hurt my wrist, so . . .

I’ve started with 50 pushups each day. It’s all I could really manage for the first week. Now that I have a week under my belt, I’m trying to branch out, doing as many pushups as I can each set, and then doing more after that by switching to knee pushups. I hope I can get to 100 a day with that approach.

So far, I like it. It’s easy for me to do, it lets me keep exercise in mind all day, every day, and I think it will help me get in better shape. Nothing earth shattering, but as usual, big changes can only happen if you overcome inertia and start doing something.

What exercise goals are you setting for yourself this year?


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The Best is the Enemy of the Good

I generally like to do a good job at whatever I set out to accomplish. More than that, I’ve been taught from the time I was little to “always do my best.” And that’s generally good advice. But I’ve definitely come across instances in my life where that desire to do my best overwhelms me, and I end up doing nothing at all.

Case in point: studying Slovak. Last year, I set a goal for myself to study Slovak for a half hour each day. I kept up with that for a while, and then I dropped the goal down to 15 minutes, because finding a full half hour each day was difficult, and I found myself skipping the goal when I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete it that day. Except I found on days when I was really busy, even 15 minutes was rough to meet.

Now, if I’d taken a step back and asked myself, “Which is better, studying some Slovak every day, or only studying if I can get 15 minutes in,” I think the answer would have been clear. Studying it a bit each day is better than not studying it at all. But I didn’t think of it like that. I felt like I had to do my best on the goal, or else I’d fail. And so I just did nothing at all, in the end. The goal slipped off my radar, and I admitted defeat.

This has happened before with me. Good things I want to do end up going nowhere because I can’t do them as well as I wish I could.

For me, this is the classic example of the best being the enemy of the good in my life. Because I can’t do my best, I don’t even accomplish the good I could get done if I settled for less. Whether it’s decluttering, reading my scriptures, cleaning the house, getting work in on a writing project, or anything else. I opt to do nothing because I can’t do everything, even though I realize how nonsensical that is.

Additionally, so much of getting something done on a project involves simply starting work on it. If I can commit myself to do something on a project, even if it’s just a little, I’ll often find myself ending up doing much more on that project than I’d thought I’d have time for. Overcoming inertia is a huge step.

So I’m trying to keep that in mind this year. I’m back to studying Slovak each day, even if it’s just for five minutes. Because with five minutes a day, I’ll still end up having studied Slovak for over 30 hours over the course of the year. And 30 hours is much better than nothing, right?


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Requisite Accountability Post: Goals for 2017 (and Updates for 2018)

2017 is over, in case you missed it. Which means it’s time for me to report out on how I did with my goals from last year. (I’ll discuss my goals for the coming year tomorrow.) Here they are, one by one.

  • Submit another book to editors. Last year I went into the new year with one real hope for a submittable book. UTOPIA. I wasn’t even sure how solid of a book that one was. I’m happy to report that I still got to check off this goal, since I’ve submitted MEMORY THIEF 2 to my editors at Adaptive. (Who have yet to give the final green light, but they’re happy with the book’s progress, and it’s still very much on track.) To make that great situation even greater, I’m in a much better place going into this year. UTOPIA is stronger than I thought it might be, and I have a completed second draft of MURDER CASTLE. It was a good year for writing. For 2018, I want to do this again. UTOPIA or MURDER CASTLE submitted, and ideally one other book written (at least the first draft done).
  • Get down to 180 pounds. Didn’t quite make this one. I did get down to 180.8 in December, but then fell off the wagon some toward the end of the month. That said, I have a good plan in place at this point, and if all goes well, I’ll be at 177.6 by the end of the month. So we’re very close on this one. My goal for 2018 is to get to 175 and stay there. I think I can do it!
  • Read a book a week. This was difficult. I had to push myself to stay at this day in and day out, but I’m pleased to report that I managed to finish my 52nd book on December 30th. It’s a goal I’ve really enjoyed, despite how trying it is, and I’m definitely going to stick with it for 2018.
  • Improve my Slovak. I did well at this one for a while, but then summer happened, followed by fall semester, and . . . it all fell apart. Still a good goal, but I didn’t do too hot on it at all. I’m hesitant to add it back to my list of goals for 2018, but I’m going to keep it in mind and see how it goes.
  • Continue to declutter my house and life. I do think I’m getting better at not being such a clutterer, but I still have a ways to go with this. The thing is, when I have lots of time, this is a relatively easy thing for me to stay on top of, even with three kids at home. It’s when Denisa and I get swamped with stuff that it all falls apart. So if you ever want a barometer for how our lives are going, just come and count the piles in our kitchen and bedroom. Sigh. Realistically, I’m removing this as an official goal.
  • Continue reading to DC each evening. I did a good job with this the first half of the year, but a worse job the second. On the plus side, that’s about when DC started blooming as a reader herself. She’s now reading Percy Jackson and loving it, so that’s a huge step forward. I’m counting this as a success, though I’d like to still do more of it. I bought all three illustrated Harry Potters that have come out so far . . . I’d like to read together with her, but I don’t think I need to have it as a goal anymore.

So there you have it. Not too terribly bad, though I could have done better in some areas. How did you do? What goals have you set for yourself in the coming year? Do share!


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How to Be Busy and Not Insane

Granted, I might not be the best person to write on this topic. There are certainly times in my life where I feel like I’m going to lose it, with all the balls I have in the air at once. But the fact remains that I have yet to actually lose it, so that must speak for something, right? Some people have asked me how I do everything I do and still have time to watch movies or read books or play games. This is actually something I’ve been thinking about for years, so why not write a blog post about it?

The key, for me, is making time to do things I like to do. Playing games and watching movies and reading books are an integral part of being able to do everything else I do. The times when I’ve had to work nonstop for a long stretch, I’ve discovered I stop being very effective at the work I actually do. Taking time to recharge every day lets me keep going. Marathon, not sprint.

This is something I first came across while I was on my mission in Germany. For those of you who haven’t served a mission, they’re pretty planned out for you. Missionaries have an approved schedule: wake up at 6:30, go to bed at 10:30, and all the time in between is blocked out. When to eat. When to study. When to work. When to shop. It’s all there. And while I was a missionary, I looked at how they had it broken out. Think about it from a logistical standpoint. Whoever planned that out had to figure out how to have 75,000 young men and women work hard for 1.5 to 2 years each and have as little burnout as possible. Better yet, they had years of trial and error to tweak things to see what worked and what didn’t.

Step one? Everyone got a good night’s rest. 8 hours, every night. I really do believe a regular sleep schedule is key. I might not get a full 8 each night, but I usually get at least 7, and I wake up and go to bed about the same time each morning and night. That lets me be active and focused during the days.

Step two? The other time was split evening between work and not work. Work (actively proselyting, meeting with church members and investigators) broke out to be 8 hours a day, on average. Not Work (studying, eating, sight-seeing, etc.) made up the other 8. Sure, you could choose to count some of that other 8 as work. Cleaning the apartment. Doing laundry and ironing. But it was fundamentally different than the 8 hours of work we were supposed to do.

Different is good.

I still use those lessons in my scheduling today. I try to do different things. Mix things up, so it all doesn’t get too rote-feeling.

Another lesson I learned came during my grad school days. I had so much work to do to finish my classes and write my thesis on time. It was absolutely daunting, and I felt I was going to explode with pressure sometimes. Everything felt scattered and disorganized. So I sat down and wrote out all the different things I had to do. How many pages I needed to read. How many pages I needed to write. How many days I had left to read and write them all. And then I came up with a schedule. Sundays were off limits, but every other day had a page count for reading and writing. And I knew that if I could get that page count done, then I’d be fine.

I broke that big goal down into bite sized chunks, and I started eating. But what helped me not feel too dragged down by it all was a mental trick I came up with: I got ahead. Being ahead of my goal, even by a day, was usually enough for me to feel like I was choosing to read and write those pages. Not that I had to read and write them. After all, I was a day ahead! If I wanted to, I could do nothing that day and still be fine.

For me, if what I’m doing is voluntary, I’m more likely to do it. I don’t know why that is. At the times when I’m behind on my goals, I feel like they’re a weight around my neck. I feel pressure. I worry. That’s usually when I have to sit down again and reanalyze my goals to make sure they’re sustainable.

And there you have it. The things I do to stay on top of it all:

  • Have a schedule
  • Break goals down into smaller pieces
  • Get ahead of those goals
  • Get enough sleep
  • Take time to recreate
  • Do a variety of things

It seems pretty straightforward to me when I write it out like that, but it’s gotten me through some very hectic times in my life, and I’m pretty confident that if it’s gotten me through those, it can handle whatever lies ahead.

Here’s hoping . . .

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