Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hour-a-Day April 2014

It's been a long winter.

A year ago, we packed up our home and moved an hour away, to a small town in the middle of Amish country where we didn't know anyone. It's a lovely place, and exactly what we wanted, but it's been a long, lonely year. Our van died, we had a baby, Valerie started kindergarten, Dorothy turned three (which, any parent will tell you, is so much worse than two). And then: the. longest. winter. ever.

I've lived in the greater Philadelphia area for about 8 years, now, and in that time, there have been about 5 snowfalls that have stayed on the ground long enough for Canadian-born me to drag out a sled and play like it's a real winter. But this winter, even cold-loving, winter-fun-having Jule Ann shouted, "Enough!" 11 snow days (or was it 12? I lost count.) Snow past my knees. And days on end when I never saw a single ray of sunshine, literally or figuratively.

Meanwhile, my normal housework roller coaster was getting wilder than usual. I would start to get caught up on things, then someone would get sick (usually me), or something would break, or I would just run out of steam, and it would all pile up again. A few days later, I would start to get a handle on things again, feel optimistic again, bake some bread, then it would all fall apart again. I was diagnosed with depression, and have seen some progress with SSRIs, but nothing has broken the cycle. I feel like I spend 2/3 of my time in survival mode, and the remaining 1/3 of the time is not enough to catch up, let alone get ahead.

Then, last weekend, I choked on a sip of my drink, and got sick again, and was worried enough to go to the doctor this time. They ran some blood work, and apparently my Vitamin D levels were very low, so I am taking ridiculously high doses of prescription vitamin D until my levels come back up again. In retrospect, it all makes sense. The low energy, the depression, the frequent illnesses - all symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. It's been a dark, dreary winter, and we've been cooped up inside far too much. We drink raw milk, which is not fortified like the grocery store kind, and I don't eat fish, which is the only really good dietary source of Vitamin D. Unfortunately, all of the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency also look a lot like the symptoms of just-had-your-third-baby-and-moved-to-a-new-town, so it never occurred to me that I might have a physically treatable problem.

Which brings us, in a very roundabout way, to Hour-a-Day April. My house is a mess. I need to do dishes and laundry. I have a newly-mobile baby who gets into everything. I have lots of creative/organizational/fun projects floating around in my head. I could do so much with an extra hour of productivity squeezed into every day for the next month. But I'm going to need to give myself a lot of grace, too, because I run out of steam so quickly these days. My commitment for Hour-a-Day April this year is to at least START every day. I want to do the hour, I will try to do the hour, but if I can't do the hour, I'm at least going to start. Even a few minutes of progress is better than no progress.

If you don't know what Hour-a-Day April is, it's a productivity project I created a few years ago. For the month of April, you make it a goal, every day, to spend one hour doing something that you normally have a hard time finding time for. My original post is here, but I will post the updated "Rules" for 2014 below as well. Who will be joining me this year?

Hour-a-Day April 2014 Rules

  1. Think of something that you normally have a hard time finding time for. Sewing, cleaning, painting, organizing, playing basketball, crossing things off your honey-do list, it's up to you! It can be one big project, or a bunch of little projects. For me, it's going to be mostly sorting/organizing, deep cleaning, and planning. Those are the things I never seem to get to, because any motivation I have gets used up on the surface stuff before I get to it.
  2. Spend an hour every day working on your chosen project(s). Set a timer and stick to it. Kids need your attention? Stop the timer and give them your attention. You have all day to squeeze in that hour, and if your kids are anything like mine, it might happen five or ten minutes at a time. But by the end of the day, make sure you've clocked that hour. Know yourself. If the best way for you to get in your hour is to get up early, get up early. If you clean best after everyone else goes to bed, skip CSI. It's only for a month.
  3. Take one day off a week. If you're religious, you may already have a set sabbath, if not, just pick a day to be your "break" day. Or don't pick a day, and let it be a floating day off, so if you miss a day, you can just say, "Oh well, that was my day off." (I tend to do this last one.)
  4. Keep others updated on your progress. Comment on this blog. Blog about it yourself, and send me the link. Join our HADA Facebook group, and come chat about what you're working on. Phone up your mom. Put a gold star on a chart.
  5. Don't give up. Missed a day? Just brush it off and get back on the proverbial horse the next day. Even if you only do half the days, that's still 15 hours more productivity than your April would have otherwise had.
  6. Don't let HADA set you back on all the stuff you normally do find time for. If you're having a hard time keeping up with the daily stuff, count some of it towards your hour (but not all of it, or the point of HADA is lost).
  7. Don't let anyone or anything steal your joy and sense of accomplishment for the things you have done. HADA isn't about becoming perfect, it's about deliberately spending an hour every day tackling the projects you rarely get to. If you did your hour today, YOU WIN. Period. It doesn't matter if someone else did two hours, or if the sink is still full of dirty dishes, or if there are still 17 more hours of organizing to do. If you managed to squeeze a whole extra hour of blood from the stone of your already-busy day, be proud of yourself.
  8. Celebrate when it's all over! If you live near me, let's go out to dinner together and order gooey chocolatey desserts. If you live far away, have your own celebration and tell me about it. Go ahead and splurge, you've earned it!