An Overarching Theme in 2021: Designing My Life
Ryan Holiday, a writer I admire, just sent out an email newsletter on “the secret to better habits in 2022.” As I read through the advice, I nodded to myself, thinking – that stalker, Ryan’s been watching me this year! Of course he hasn’t (he’s a busy guy anyway), and it’s probably not such a coincidence that my behaviors and attitudes line up with his writing, as I know I’ve been influenced by his ideas. But wow, yeah, my 2021 looks a lot like what he wrote in his newsletter, and that makes me feel proud of myself. (I like to think Ryan would be proud too.)
Routine + lay out your supplies
My alarm goes off at 6:00 each weekday. While I do hit snooze once or twice, my feet are always on the floor by 6:15 and my workout gear, always on the chair by my bed, is on. I head to the sofa, swipe the 7-minute timer on my watch to start, and I meditate. Counting my breaths helps me not get too lost in my thoughts when they inevitably pop up.
Next: on to exercising. I’ve saved all my daily workout videos in folders labeled Monday to Friday so I don’t have to think much about which workout to do that day. Monday is toning, Wednesday and Friday abs, Tuesday arms, and Thursday legs. I’m following Blogilates, created by Cassey Ho.
After my workout, it’s a quick shower or washing up, breakfast (green tea, oatmeal with soy milk and peanut butter) and pulling up all the appropriate documents for my classes.
While I don’t have a lot of control over my work day schedule as each day is different, based on students scheduling classes, I can at least get my morning off to the right start and not feel frazzled throughout the day. Aside from that, I’ve done something for myself before I make my day all about listening to other people.
Even though it’s not part of my daily routine at the moment, I go running every Saturday or Sunday morning, and sometimes once during the week.
Deciding who you want to be
Yep, I’ve been thinking about this a lot this year. About becoming a person who, for example…
-Exercises every day: see morning routine above.
-Reads: Wow, making time for reading has been been a game-changer for me this past year or two. I read quite a bit before, but I’ve made it a priority this year and I’ve read more books in Spanish than ever before. I’ve even managed to read two Almudena Grandes tomes (500 and 700 pages) in Spanish! I’ve also read a lot of books about anthropology (“Work”, “Affluence Without Abundance”) and indigenous cultures (“Braiding Sweetgrass”, “Los Guardianes de la Sabiduría Ancestral”). Total books read in 2021: 47
-Eats well: I spent a good portion of this year eating a plant-based diet during the week, which was a great experience and made me get creative in the kitchen. It also made it easier to eliminate crappy choices in the grocery store. Then I added a new “rule” this summer of trying to buy local fruits and vegetables after re-reading “Animal Vegetable Miracle.” It got a little complicated, but I saved money by NOT buying avocados because they travel way too far!
-Gets enough rest: I’m also choosing to be a person who goes to bed early during the week, so it’s easier to say no to plans that are too late for me. All my students know this about me, which makes me laugh. “But Dina, how do you go to bed so early?? When do you have dinner?!” This is Spain, after all, land of the 9 or 10pm dinnertime.
Join a program
AKA, making time for activities that are important that are led by someone else. This year I’ve joined a choir class at a local theater, directed by a hilarious and talented woman who pushes us to sing better.
Back in the spring I took a rollerblading class, which was highly educational. I learned so many fundamentals that helped me feel more confident skating. (Fun fact: this city is full of rollerbladers!)
Also, I recently started taking Irish dance classes. This has been my long-buried dream since I was really young and I still can’t believe it’s possible to do this in Spain! My teacher, Megan, forces us to work on the fundamentals each class, and I can already see some improvements. (She’s even said “not bad!” after observing me, which is honestly a huge compliment.) I practice at home a lot as well, which is a fun way to spend my free time!
Associate with people who make you better
Yeah, I definitely agree this is important. I spent most of 2020 with a very limited social life, a hermit in my bedroom who went for solo walks and runs during the week and only spent time with S on the weekends. Man, I got socially awkward there for a while, but life was pretty peaceful.
Fortunately, the second half of 2021 has been an explosion of socialness, as I signed up for activities involving other people, I moved to a more central neighborhood where I could see S much more often, and I signed up for Bumble BFF, which led me to some interesting people who I see regularly.
While I am spending a bit more money than I was before (bars! cafes! dinner parties! tomar algo after choir class every week!), it’s well worth it to spend time with people who are talented, fun, and encouraging.
Free up resources
Yep. Cutting back on social media, news, and TV frees up time to do other things. And vice versa: I’m doing so many other things that I just don’t find much time for that type of entertainment. If I do feel drawn in, I ask myself “what else could I be doing right now?” and there’s almost always something else better. Maybe I’m a little less aware of what’s going on in the world, but I always find out what I need to know.
I came back from my summer vacation in September with clearer ideas of habits I want to spend time on and how much time each day. I think I was overly ambitious with the time allocations, but it has guided a lot of my choices and helped me narrow down activities to participate in and people to spend time with. I even added web development studies back into my life, making it a priority to work on some lessons an hour per day.
Reflecting back on the year, I’m pleased with my habits and general progress, accelerated social life, and new neighborhood. I’ve traveled to the places I wanted to go and spent time with the most important people. I know the pandemic is still with us, but I’ve personally had a fantastic year.