Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Benefits of an Accountability Partner

After I read the book Done and Done, I knew that having and accountability partner would be a huge help in my life.  As an Obliger, I would now be obliged to be accountable for what I was doing.  I admit that it has surprised me just how well I can now stick to goals that were very, very difficult before.

Let's take exercise as an example.  This, for me, is an incredibly easy habit to break, even when I've been successfully doing it for months at a time.  A change of season (whether of the year or of life), a change of schedule, even a minor interruption on a single day can derail my exercise goal completely.  And in the passage of time that it would take to snap your fingers, I suddenly can't figure out how to get to the gym even though I'd been successfully going for months.

Part of why I think I'm easily discouraged on this one is my weight.  I'm overweight and I know it.  I work pretty hard not to make that a big focus of my life.  I work to make healthy choices in what I eat and to exercise regularly. But I must admit that these seem to be small things when compared to the obstacle before me.

I have had a bunch of stuff that could easily set me back this year including back problems that I haven't had before.  But having an accountability partner means that someone besides me sees how hard I am trying.  She sees how much effort I put in.  She honors and encourages that effort every day.  This one witness makes all the difference.  Sometimes when I talk with doctors or others, I think they're thinking, "Yeah, right.  Like she works out that much..."  But knowing that Kari knows. That she actually knows which days I get to the gym, how long I'm there, the walks I take on day I can't get to the gym, etc. gives me a confidence and encouragement that I hadn't had before.

I honestly have no idea if accountability partnering is helping Kari or not, but I'm so grateful that she's jumped into this with me.  If you're thinking of having an accountability partner, but don't know who to ask, here's some questions I asked myself before talking to Kari.

1. Who is in a similar phase of life?  While I think that it might be possible to have an accountability partner who is notably older or younger than you, I felt like it would be best to be well matched.

2. Who has a similar schedule?  I have some wonderful friends who are ambitious and goal driven, but work full time.  They're likely not going to be able to text often during the day to either report or give feedback.  (e.g. I can't really imagine my a dear friend who is a teacher pausing her 1st grade class to text "Good job!" when I'm done at the gym.)

3. Who can text often?  Kari and I don't text much on the weekends--Sunday's almost not at all--but the rest of the week we text each other 15-30 times per day, both reporting our progress and encouraging each other.  

4. Who has similar goals?  Kari and I both have a blog, like marketing,  are invested in public education by helping in classes, PTA, etc.  We have a similar number of kids who are of similar ages. We have found that we often are driving carpool on the same day. We both love being stay-at-home moms, but have interest in entering the work force at some point.  Maybe.  It depends on how well the work-at-home stuff can go. This is a lovely place for both of us.

5. Who do you like, but don't naturally see often?  Kari and I live on opposite sides of the same city.  Our sons (her 1st and my 3rd) were in a gifted program together for 3 years. And then they went to junior high.  Our boys will go to different high schools and none of the rest of our kids line up.  Except for a chance meeting or deliberate scheduling, Kari and I don't run into each other much.  I think that's actually a helpful characteristic. I really don't think I could have a neighbor or ward member successfully be my accountability partner.

6. Who is supportive, but not judgmental?  If I take a nap or read a book, I need someone to say, "Way to go!  You took time for yourself!  That's so important."  You have to be honest.  This needs to be someone you can say, "I've been on Twitter for the last hour and I need to get going." without feeling overly embarrassed. 

7. Be flexible to stop being partners if it's no longer helpful.  When we began, we agreed to try this for a month or so, then talk about it.  We adapt as we go (not texting on Sundays) and we can stop being partners at any time.  We're also going to have to figure out how to get through vacations and other pauses. If there's one thing that I know for sure, it's that having an accountability partner is helping me not only reach my goals, but also my potential. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Great News for Nathan!

For the first time in more than a year, both of Nathan's eyes have shown improvement between doctor appointments.  And he'll get at least a 5-month reprieve from eye surgery because of it.  I am overjoyed, overwhelmed and grateful.  The catch is that I know that I am no more deserving of this good news than I was of bad news for the last year or more.

Still, it's good news.  Heck, it's GREAT news!

When we got bad news, I would take it to my Father in Heaven and pour at my heart and plead for my son.  Now, I'll do the same, but this time pouring out my heart in gratitude.  I am grateful to accept this blessing for as long as it is extended to our family.

Nathan after the Christmas band concert.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The New Way to Set Goals Part 4 | Closing Loopholes

When I began goal tracking, I gave myself permission to change my goals if they weren't fitting my needs.  While a lot of goal setting data says you can change or update your goals weekly, with my monthly tracking sheet, I figured once a month would do.

Having achieved 100% success on my goal of kneeling to pray, I took it off the list.  It was time to focus on things that I was struggling with.

After reading some of Gretchen Rubin's work on loopholes (you know the moments when you say, "This doesn't count."), I began setting some rules around my goals.  So instead of the goal of "going to bed by 11:30."  I changed it to "be in the bedroom by 11:30."  If I need to grab something, take pills, etc. I'm allowed to leave the bedroom after bedtime as long as I don't sit down.  I can go and do, but I have to come right back.

Realistically, 11:30 isn't early enough, but just changing the goal has made it much easier to accomplish. While I "went to bed by 11:30" only 4 times in January, I've accomplished the goal of "be in the bedroom by 11:30" nine times so far in February by the evening of the 21st (yesterday)!

Setting rules around my goals has helped me reach my exercise goals as well.  Last fall when I met with my gynecologist, the issue of my weight came up.  "Look," she said, "if you really want to do this, you've got to commit to working out 5 hours a week. I don't care how you get that in, but 5 hours is the goal."

At the time I was, realistically, working out twice a week for 30 min.  A whopping one hour. I began by jumping in for 45 minutes 4 times a week.  It wasn't 5 hours yet, but it was a huge improvement.  Then my hip flared up (I do have rheumatoid arthritis, after all), after that I struggled with back problems, a new medication made me nauseated and gave me heartburn.  And unless I could work out for 45 minutes, I wouldn't even try to do it.  I'm betting you can see how quickly my exercise was back to zero.

I was talking with my sister (in hopes that she could me meet me at the gym and that obligation would get my rear in gear) when she mentioned something her husband recommended.

"Sometimes I really don't have time to work out, but Michael suggested that, on those days, maybe I could just walk around the block.  Sure, it's not much, but it's better than nothing."

While our schedules didn't really work for exercising together, I loved this rule.  When I don't have time for exercise, I can at least walk for 15 minutes.  Turns out in my very strange shaped neighborhood, it takes me about 15 minutes to walk around the "big block." When my day is crazy and I know I'm not making it to the gym, a 15 minute walk allows me to check the exercise box and feel a lot better about myself.  

As I looked at my goals, I've realized I have to embrace my personal commandment of "Be Jenna."  One of these realization is that I'm not a morning person.  I want to be a morning person.  I want to so badly! But I'm not.  In fact, I think better, write better, and even love to talk more at night.  My whole family had a few week obsession with the game Trivia Crack.  I found I could win games in a single sitting at 11:00 at night.  I think both clearly and quickly then.  In the morning, I'm groggy, fuzzy and sometimes silly.  Not only can I not play Trivia Crack in the morning, I can't remember what I need to get done. My morning planning in January, while well intentioned, was abysmal because I don't think well in the morning.  Period.  (I checked that box a whopping three times in January's 31 days.)

Now I've tried to change. Really, I have. I read an ebook all about switching from a night owl to an early bird. I listened to a podcast about the importance of mothers doing a lot in the morning. (You must get up before your kids!)  I even joined a challenge called, "Hello Mornings." The sum total of all that effort mostly made me feel like a failure.  I can want it, but I can't seem to make the shift.  I am not a morning person.  I need a little time to wake up slowly.  And if I want to write a successful plan for my day, it had better be at night.

So I completely gave up on "morning planning" and instead do "evening planning."  And you know what?  It fits so much better with my life! Not only have I done this one (also an important component of accountability partnering) nine times, but I sleep better when I do it.

I can't tell you how much I used to struggle falling asleep.  I would often lie down only to have everything that l needed to do the next day running on an endless loop in my head, ruining my rest.  Once I managed put it out of my mind and actually get to sleep, I would often awake around 3:00 in the morning with at start, almost like a panic attack, with my adrenaline pumping, worried if I could get it all done.  When that happened, it would take me up to two hours to get back to sleep again.  And, oh, waking up in the morning was so painful because of my pitiful night's sleep.

Now that my next day's plan is all worked out in my bedroom as part of my getting-ready-for-bed routine, that worry doesn't seem to creep in.  I set up my to-do lists in two columns, the left is what can reasonably get done in a day and the right holds other stuff I need to do, which I will do if I have time, but can postpone if I don't. It removes the stress.  I only put on the left what I can, actually do.  The rest isn't mandatory.  And if I remember something after-the-fact, while I'm falling asleep, I just turn on my lamp, jot it down on my list and I'm back to bed with nary a worry.  Seriously.  This has been a game changer.

In the vein of embracing, "Be Jenna," I also pushed back my get-up-in-the-morning time to 7:15.  And I'm still really struggling with this one.  I'm going to have to give my morning goal a lot of thought and figure out why it's not working, what my goal should be, or if I should even should even have one.

In January, with my goal of becoming a morning person (and my Hello Mornings challenge), my mornings were structured around movement (exercise), the word of God (scriptures) and morning planning.  But if I didn't get my scriptures read FIRST THING in the morning, I wouldn't even try to do it later.  So I did my own personal scripture study only 30% of the time, because it was contingent on doing it in the morning.  In the reworking of my goals for February, I gave myself the leeway to accomplish it any time.  I now had some 16 waking hours in which to read one chapter of scripture, or less if I felt very pressed.  Suddenly my success ratio on reading scriptures is dramatically higher.  It took me until Feb 9 to rework my goals and start tracking again, but since then, I've only missed personal scriptures twice and that's a streak I'm really proud of!