Discipline is the day-to-day expression of your commitment. #

I just finished my first week of the “independent” life. It’s been enlightening, that’s for sure. Knowing what you want to do with your time and actually doing it are two very different things. If I had to summarize this past week, it would be something to the effect of “Catching up on the entire internet, reading all of the things I’ve wanted to read for the last year but haven’t had time to, absorbing as much information as possible on every topic imaginable. And sleeping. A lot.”

This week has felt a lot like what I imagine returning to reality after a season of Survivor. Going from being trapped on an island where your goal is to live day-to-day and to do what you can to make it to the end, to having a roof over your head, food aplenty, and the big question of “what’s next?” Making the switch from “just get through today” to long-term thinking and planning takes some getting used to. And finally having the time/ability to indulge in the things I haven’t been able to do in so long (ohai sleep and Twitter) is certainly a distraction from that goal.

So I’m imposing some rules / constraints / routine into my life. I do my best when I’m busiest, and I’m very good at making myself artificially busy (i.e. spending a day reading travel blogs instead of taking measurable steps to actually traveling myself). Putting some things in place that control my behavior is critical to success in this new “independent” way of existing.

Here are my new rules:

  • Write every day. I'll be using 750words for now and once I get into a solid routine, hopefully that will roll up into me being able to post here more frequently.
  • Read at least 1 article from either the New York Times or The New Yorker daily. I've been reading a lot of blogs and Medium articles, but I'd like to include some more traditional media in that mix. I read through the NY Times headlines every day, and almost always read 1-2 articles, but I'd like to do a better at it. I also firmly believe that writing is improved by reading, so see above.
  • Focus and single-task for at least 1 hour/day. I am a multi-tasker. I don't think there's anything wrong with that style, but I think I often chalk up some of my tendencies toward distraction as multitasking, when really it's just me not being focused. I realized this last week when it took me over 3 hours to read a single article because I kept doing things in between. I've downloaded an app called SelfControl that lets me blacklist my main distractions for a period of time. So far it's working like a charm.
  • Social sites can not stay open in the background. I always have a Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest tab open at the very least. When I decided to close them I found a significant improvement in my ability to focus on a single thing (shocking, right?), so now they stay closed unless I have something specific that I want to do on them.
  • At least 1 social event per week. It's funny that I need to make this a rule, but my tendency toward introversion means that I'd much rather stay in and talk to people online vs. go out and socialize. This rule has been in place for a while. I may up it to twice a week depending on how complacent I get.
  • Gym at least 4 times per week. This one is going to be rough as it's a 200% increase over my previous schedule and I already have a tough time sticking to that, but if I'm paying for the gym, I'm going to use it.

That’s a start. Most of them are possible in any location, so I don’t really have many excuses for slipping. I’ll need to come up with some substitutes for the gym when I’m not home (I hate running), but I’m sure it won’t be too difficult.

These rules take effect immediately and I’ll check back in a few weeks to see if they’re working and adjust accordingly. I’m giving myself until the end of September to bum around to my heart’s content. After that it’s down to business.

How do you keep yourself focused without a regular schedule?