Giving myself the best part of my day


Three weeks ago I moved.




When the train carrying my furniture derailed across the desert, I was facing an extra week or so, over Christmas, alone in a near-empty strange house. My two very familiar cats were with me, the moving company had been very supportive about helping me get hold of essentials to tide me over, and I still had a dewy-eyed kind of outlook about this being one big, exciting adventure to be relished. And I had moved to be near the beach. The beach!!!!

BUT, with most of the objects around me totally unfamiliar, no real feel for the geography and no appointments to keep I decided I needed to do a bit extra to gain some kind of routine and stability.

I set a morning routine.

I’m not sure I would have otherwise thought so carefully or purposefully about what was important for me to do daily.

I am lucky enough to have a job where I can (within reason, and as part of a very two-edged sword) set my own timetable during the day. In the past, I have conscientiously tried to exercise before work and then make it in to the office as early as possible. Sort of a “you can have dessert after main course” approach, where I aimed to put in all my work hours as soon as possible so I could go off and play later in the day.

Except, I also have the kind of job where a few extra minutes spent at the end of the work day easily becomes a few extra hours, especially if I want to maximise the fun, interesting and rewarding aspects. I have written before about how the hamster wheel of academia works against self-care by encouraging people with a particular personality-type, who have been rewarded all their lives for a very specific set of actions and traits, to voluntarily strive for excellence beyond common sense.

When I made my list of all the things I would love to do daily, it was pretty long. And some extra ideas came after the inevitable Google search.

I asked myself “What would happen if I started work at a reasonable, but not so early, hour? What if I took the time when I was freshest and most rested, to do things I would love to do, but seem not to get around to each day?” I decided on a routine where I spent an unheard-of hour and a half of my freshest time focussing on activities that would make me healthier and happier.

So, for a few days I did just that. I’d like to say that I stuck to it and every morning has been a celebration of what I love, followed by a productive 8 hours or so of academic work. As far as academic self-care, though, even after ten years or so in the game I am still very, very much on “L” plates and I have already put in some horrendously long all-nighters. (This may, however, actually suit my work-style and not be so horrific… if I remember to balance it out…)

So, during my week rattling around in my house, I bought myself an oversized beanbag at Kmart and set up a “morning place” and decided on:

beanbag and plant
  1. Wake up. No devices in the bathroom. (Unlike usual Twitter, email, looking at teaching site. I am sure I am not the only one…)
  2. Floss and brush teeth
  3. Feed cats, open curtains and windows
  4. Grab glass of warm water with lemon and walk to morning place
  5. Morning pages using pencil on iPad into Goodnotes. This is three pages of writing without censorship or aiming for good form – just writing. It is the corner-stone of Julia Cameron’s the Artist’s Way . This releases any pressing thoughts that would otherwise be whirring about. It also reminds me that yes, I CAN write. So later in the day when I need to do it again I can just get down into it without any preciousness about how HARD it is. It’s only taken me 15 years or so to try it out, since John and Becky at Aurora suggested it was useful.
  6. Mindfulness/meditation. I have been setting a timer and am up to 12 minutes now. The cats detect when I am about to start and both climb on my lap. Better than goat yoga ?
  7. Walk down to beach and swim.
  8. Return home to shower and dress for the day
  9. Make breakfast
  10. THEN, over breakfast, for the first time since waking up, look over the news headlines and Twitter and what is on my Trello board for the day.

I did this on 6 January, and it brought home how beneficial this process could be. Instead of sitting on the loo, barely yet awake and doom-scrolling through reports of this outrage and that horror, I found out about the first 2021 U.S. coup attempt over breakfast, having been in a more relaxed and sustaining world for a couple of hours.

Thanks to Sandy for her very eloquent post this evening about why she has not been blogging for spurring me to blog this evening 🙂

3 thoughts on “Giving myself the best part of my day

  1. Curiously, I’m often scrolling throughout the day but my care factor is fairly low – undecided if that’s healthy or unhealthy. My engagement tends to be low these days unless it’s hobby related, by which I mean book related. Things did get a little out of hand a year ago during the bushfires and I had actively disengaged for a few months.

    Horrible re your stuff in the train derailment though.

  2. Hey Kathryn, thanks for this life-affirming post. I am so sad to be returning to work after nearly a year of working from home with all the good health benefits of moving about breaks, preparing healthy lunches (I have been eating SALADS) and a good long walk at the end of the day because Im not totally exhausted by the battle of working in a noisy open office. Your ‘doing the important stuff in the morning’ idea seems a good one…

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