Part 3, Get a Wall Calendar
Despite the busy, crazy-making lifestyle which trap many of us, there are some things you can do which will help regain a sense of control over your life. The current outbreak of the covid-19 virus has prompted measures to limit its spread; these have included restricting travel and closing schools and businesses. The situation offers a perfect example of the topic of this series: dealing with the craziness which can fill our daily lives. For many people, this public health issue has only increased the need to feel a sense of control over some parts of your life. When there are many things you cannot understand, predict, or control, it becomes even more important that you focus your discretionary time on things that you can.
This article continues the series about actions you can take to uncrazy your life. The first article urged you to work with your hands and the second was to keep score. This third step is about visibly tracking your progress so you can see, day by day, the direction your life is taking. It relies upon something quite simple and common, a wall calendar. (Most really effective solutions are simple.) The idea is to hang a large wall calendar in a place where you will see it frequently throughout the day. It is vital that your calendar has ample space to make notations for each day and that these be large enough to be easily seen at a distance. A desk calendar is an acceptable substitute if it is very visible but a large wall calendar, because of its size, is preferable.
The next step is to choose several areas of your life in which you want to make daily incremental progress. We all have some major projects that cannot be rushed to completion but which can be done in small steps every day or, at least, daily-ish. Examples might be: practicing the piano, exercising, learning a new language, writing a book, developing social connections, and regularly participating in a new sport or hobby. The idea is to continuously reinforce a new lifestyle with some activities related to that lifestyle. For example, if you wanted to become a writer you would begin to live a writer’s lifestyle. Every day, you would do some of the things a writer does. Activities might include actual writing, studying the craft of writing, publishing and promoting your writing, becoming friends with other writers, studying biographies of writers, reading great books and noting their writing techniques, etc.
A calendar on the wall over your desk is a constant, highly visible reminder of what you said you wanted to do – and what you are actually doing. (If you find that you are consistently not working on one or more of the things you chose, it may be that you were not really serious about them.) For me, in 2020, I have chosen four areas I want to develop. Then, as I complete a related activity during the day, I make an entry for one of those four areas in the day’s block on the calendar. As you can see from the photos of my own desk calendar, I am constantly reminded of my successes or failures to work on my four areas each day.
I have four symbols – red circle, green +, black X, and black circle. With colored pens, these are highly visible on my calendar. Even from a distance, their absence or irregular appearance is quite obvious. On a more positive note, when you see the circles and crosses on the calendar over a period of days, you won’t want to break the chain of consecutive days. Seeing the colored marks on the calendar is a good way to illustrate your series of completions in each area, and to make you aware of areas you are neglecting. Additionally, other people will see the calendar and become curious. Knowing that you may have to explain your lack of activities in those three or four areas can be a motivator to help you get started and to keep going. The calendar would become a public display of your failures.
Whatever areas you choose to strengthen in your life, a wall calendar and a few colored pens will make it easier to track your progress and serve to remind you of what you chose to develop. Especially in the early days, anything that will assist us in forming a new daily habit is valuable. Week by week, and month by month, your progress will be highly visible and a constant reminder to take daily action in those areas. Thus, you can take baby steps to uncrazy your life by choosing your actions… and recording them every day. Gradually, through enough baby steps, a new lifestyle is firmly established and a sense of control is regained.