Willpower – or “Won’t Power”

In my last post, I discussed how the choices we make affect our health.   After a crazy couple weeks of 7am meetings, late afternoon meetings, normal end of the month/beginning of the month workload, and a few dinners thrown in for good measure, I finally have a normal morning.  But yesterday it caught up with me a bit.

I haven’t missed a workout in the last month until the weekend.  I was doing some yard work and just sort of “tweaked” my back.  Then I had to mow the grass the next day, which led to back spasms that kept me up well past midnight and affected my sleep.  Of course, another 7am meeting followed, after which I received frustrating news about an employee resignation.  Then I had a late afternoon meeting.  The rest of the day, I did some relatively mentally strenuous data analysis on trying to quantify organizational financial performance around a specific type of work.

Exhausted, stopping to grab a six pack on the way home seemed like a good idea.   It was like I was on autopilot.   As if by divine providence, the beer I wanted and another great beer were on sale.  I had a few great beers last night, slept well, feel a little crappy today, but the back feels much better too.  I wasn’t a good husband last night either…just sort of watched tv and drank beer.

But I’ve done well on my fitness goals.  I’m down a little over 10 pounds in a month.  I’m at my lowest weight since early 2016, and overall I feel great.  But yesterday, I just feel like I ran out of energy to fight my urges.  But, I’m not down on myself.  I basically understand what happened.

There is an essay published by Dr. Frank Crane in  1919 titled Mule Power.  In it, he mentions only the strongest have great willpower.  But everyone has a stubborn streak.  He exhorts his readers to use their mule-like stubbornness to simply choose to do nothing, which is easier than doing the thing you don’t want to continue to do.  He calls it “Won’t Power”.

That’s all well and good, and I get a lot from his essays, but it’s not that simple.  There’s some physiological things going on in our bodies.  The lack of sleep, missing meals, and physical pain affected my ability to maintain my willpower.  Plus, i had done well, hit my first goal, so why not indulge?

The thing is, Willpower has a certain capacity each day.  Gary Keller likened it to your mobile phone in his book The One Thing.  If you let it fully recharge, you’ll get through a day, maybe several days if you don’t use it much.  But if you have one of those days when your on your phone all day, it needs to be plugged in to recharge at some point, or else it will become fully depleted and fail to work. And heavy mental work depletes the same reserves as willpower.

So yesterday, my willpower level finally hit that critical mark, and it needed to recharge.  And like many electronic devices, when willpower completely loses power, it goes back to default settings.   I wish my default was something else right now, but as an introvert who enjoys adult beverages, mindless tv and gaming by myself while enjoying beer or wine is part of my recharge process.   It is what it is.

This is exactly why it is important to find a routine that shakes up your habits and breaks the triggers.  What do you need to change to get enough sleep, to do the things that fulfill you and give you some recharge during the day?

So for me today, it was sleep in a bit, catch up on some reading, write a blog post, listen to some music.  Tonight we’ll go dancing.    Tomorrow I’ll take a half day to get some errands done, and do however much of my planned workout I can do in the afternoon. I probably need to start figuring out how to meditate as well.

So if you’re having trouble committing and sticking with a goal, examine your battery level.  Willpower is not infinite.  What is triggering your lack of compliance, and how can you more fully charge up your willpower reserves?

 

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Doctor Yourself

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It’s spring once again, and honestly it has been a dismal winter in Southwest Pennsylvania.  I think it snowed for 7 consecutive months.  Not continuously, but every month from October through April there has been snow.  If not, it feels that way.  And most of the time if it wasn’t snowing, it was gray, overcast skies or raining.  But Spring has sprung finally.

Around the holidays, I became more focused on my health and specifically the weight I had put on during the fall.  For several years after losing some weight, I maintained my weight around 195-200 pounds most of the year.  But I was up to 210 and not feeling my best.  So I went back to my 4HB supplements and eating plan, but made little progress this time.  So after 3 months, I started doing some more reading.

I pulled Mark Sisson’s Primal Blueprint 21-Day Transformation off the shelf and re-read it in about 2 days.  I’m now following a largely primal eating and exercise plan, which isn’t much different than 4HB.  The main difference is no beans in Primal, and no “Garbage Day”.  I had dropped 7 pounds in 8 days.  Then the weekend hit, we went to a party with virtually no Primal choices, and I had some beer.  Then wine and a couple cookies last night.  I’m back up 5 of the 7, but I think most will drop off in a couple days.

Honestly, alcohol is still my biggest challenge, as I crave it some nights after work.  So as i started looking into why that is, I learned some interesting things about vitamin deficiencies in alcoholics, and regular consumers of alcohol in general.  And also a little about willpower in general. I feel a little like Paul in Romans 7; I know alcohol is  a poison, I don’t really want to have any, I know I will feel better in the morning if I don’t drink, but yet some nights, I drink anyway.  If I stay on this path, it will become a problem.

So now I’m taking high dosages of Vitamin C (4,000-5,000 mg), B-complex Vitamins (300mg+), and Chromium(400 mg) daily trying to overcome the deficiencies that cause the cravings.  The Vitamin C has so many potential benefits.  I found Dr. Andrew Saul’s information about  vitamins via The Fat Burning Man podcast.  His website is  Doctor Yourself.

My previous round of intentional weight loss in 2011-2012 was in response to being offered yet another medication for high blood pressure and low HDL.  I was also having should pain, so an injection was suggested.  I chose a different path:  I started eating better, gave up alcohol, started exercising.  So I’m going down the same path of making better intentional choices this year.

Much of our healthcare costs in the United States can be linked to our choices, primarily regarding what we eat.   Ten days into eating cleaner, I had some of the best tasting broccoli ever for dinner last night.  It was weird, but we both commented on how great the broccoli was.   Food that is good for you can taste great.

I’m not a doctor, and this isn’t meant to serve as medical advice.  But with the guidance of a good physician, I think most people could change their futures by eating better.  Your DNA is a blueprint.  But just like a house that is designed for maximum energy efficiency, if you don’t put the wall of windows facing south, you won’t get maximum benefit.  We can affect the way our genes are activated by the fuel we give our bodies.  Many of us are actually killing ourselves slowly with the food we eat.

My wife likes to cite family members who lived a long time without taking vitamins.  But I know her grandfather had this apple cider vinegar concoction he drank daily.  Most of them had a can of bacon fat sitting on the counter they cooked with.  We didn’t ask them what they ate or what “elixers” they took.  They couldn’t get most of the processed foods we eat.  They grew their own vegetables and canned the surplus.  They weren’t overweight.

Once again I’m trying to take control of a specific aspect of my future.  What good will all the financial and strategic planning of early retirement be if I’m not health enough to enjoy it?

 

Lean Gardening

The photo above was from my first roll of home-processed color film last year, and I’m looking forward to the summer this year.  Even though this was a mild winter, I am realizing as the first good weekends of spring roll around that once again i struggled with some version of Seasonal Affective Disorder – the Winter Blues.   I have got to find a way to combat the feelings of “Blah!” during the winter.

As i wrote about last June, this happens to me every year.   Common themes:  I take less photos, I’m less active, I drink too much and watch soccer, movies, and listen to music instead of being active.   But after a couple weekends of being outside and working in the yard and playing golf, I’m feeling refreshed and motivated.   Ironic that it happened right around Easter, the season of renewal and rebirth.

One of the things that has me outside this spring is another attempt at gardening.  The first couple years we lived in this house, we planted tomatoes and peppers, but the chipmunks and deer enjoyed them more than we did.  The deer also devoured most of our ornamental flowers as well, including deer-resistant plants like rhododendron.

Last year, I was finally able to deter the deer in the yard, and I made progress on the chipmunks and will continue that battle, so I decided to give gardening another attempt.  A deciding factor was the price of certain greens last year.  For example, I really like rapini, or broccoli rabe.  It was selling for $7 a bunch last year, and the quality of the flavor was disappointing.  So why not try to grow my own?

I didn’t want to put in a garden plot, I don’t have a roto-tiller, and I don’t like pulling weeds.  So I started applying my Lean process-improvement mindset to having a vegetable garden.  I remembered having a book years ago called Square Foot Gardening, so I tracked down a new copy.  After reading through the book, I believe that Square Foot Gardening, or SFG, could accurately be described as Lean Gardening.

SFG uses 80% less space, has little to no weeds, and allows you to grow a lot more types of plants in that smaller space.    As Mrs. Outspoken and I started discussing what plants we’d want to grow, I had a very long list of candidates.  So we ranked them from 1 to 5 in priority, and planted all of the top priority plants, either hers or mine (otherwise, beets and radishes wouldn’t have made the cut), and then planted the top scoring remaining plants.

When all was said and done, there were 31 seed packets on the dining room table.   “You’re never going to have room for all those” was the Mrs.’ response.  But that’s the amazing thing about SFG – not only do we have the space, I already had it planned out, and we probably have 2-3 years worth of seeds.

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My dining room – in garden planting mode

We installed one  3’x6’x14″ and two 2’x12’x7″ raised beds.  Those beds provide us the opportunity to plant 66 squares, with each square possible of providing three harvests per year.  So after laying out our plants, I had room for eight additional plants, which will be comprised of tomatoes and herbs.   Here’s what our garden layout looks like on paper:

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I planted 14 squares in a little over an hour last Sunday morning, and five more on Monday night.  Of those 14, I think 11 have a second square to be planted, but I want to stagger those so the crops ripen in a staggered fashion.  For example, there are 16 carrots in a square, and I plan to plant 3 varieties of carrots, 2 squares each.   If I planted all of them this weekend, they would likely all be ready around the same time.   I wouldn’t need 96 carrots at one time!

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Our Raised beds for Square Foot Gardening

This is also very Lean in it’s concept: produce only what is needed when it is needed.  So I planted three squares to start with, but then will plant one square per week of carrots for the next three weeks.  Even that may be too much, but I’m just in my first “do” phase of this round of gardening.  I’ll check the results and make adjustments as needed.

Likewise, I’ll be staggering the beets.  I’m the only one who eats them, so having 4 squares of beets, each producing 9 beets, becoming ready for harvest simultaneously makes no sense.  But this is how we’ve traditionally planted gardens.   Part of that is probably because way back in the old days, people canned all the excess.   So having waves of crops ripen actually smoothed out the canning process, because you needed some volume of veggies to can, and also, everything was getting canned, so it probably made sense to just keep the harvest flowing to maximize the canning process.

An interesting part of this was that it seems like the hardest and most time consuming aspect so far – other than perhaps deciding what to plant and where to buy my seeds (the whole “Plan” part of Lean and PDCA), was the actual process of preparing the soil.   I also find this interesting, because in real life we often don’t spend enough time preparing the soil – preparing for change and growth.  In Lean, this is often referred to as “nemawashi” – which literally translates to “going around the roots”, as in placing new soil around the roots of a plant to prepare it for transplanting.  Mixing up 42 cubic feet of peat moss, vermiculite, and 5 different compost blends took me all of three hours, and a lot of sweat.  That’s after probably 5-6 hours of rounding up all the ingredients.

The soil mixture I was using – which is defined in the SFG book as “Mel’s Mix” – is apparently so uncommon in my area, that I had to special order the vermiculite.  Anywhere I asked for it, when the asked me what i was doing, tried to steer me to “something that will work great” – but they didn’t stock what i wanted.  Lack of demand or too large of a minimum buy (which translates back to lack of demand) was the primary reason.

So I’ve spent weeks planning and thinking about how to do this project.  Probably a couple days  actually building the foundations of the garden – the raised beds and the soil.  I’ll spend what appears to be hours planting seeds.  Then I’ll spend probably an equal amount of hours building trellises to support the plants once they’re growing.  All to reap a semi-continuous harvest of organic vegetables well into fall – if all goes well.

Five days later: We had our first sprouts!  Radishes, Rapini, Mizuna, and Arugula all started pushing through!  It may sound silly, but I was really excited to see my first “crops” start growing!

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And the great thing is – most of the hard work done to lay the foundation this year makes next spring’s garden even easier.  I see applying Lean in my workplace, and in my life, in much the same light.  Do the hard work up front, do it right, and there’s a steady stream of rewards.  Prepare the soil, then as the work progresses, build a support system to continue the growth.  After all the hard work, you just need to keep up with the harvest and sustain, at least until it’s time to make another improvement.

So do the right thing early in the process; do the hard work, and prepare the soil.  Have the tough discussions, and don’t settle for the easier, more readily available alternatives.  Be different, and dare to be great.

In work, life, and love, getting your hands dirty and preparing the soil will usually yield a bountiful harvest.

 

 

March Vinyl Acquisitions

I actually made it a month without buying any records!  Of course, I was recovering from illness and working through the 2,000 records I bought in January, plus it was the shortest month of the year, and I had a couple business trips (photos from one coming soon!), but the fact remains I didn’t buy any vinyl in February.  I had worked down the January acquisitions to less than 100 records to process, which included clearing one of my two shelves of about 150 records that were “in queue” to be listened to as well.  So overall, a good month for working through my acquisitions, and I felt like I had reclaimed much of my available space in the man cave.

I made up for it in the last 8 days, buying about 825 records, of which about 75 are “junk”. Of the 750 I like, about 475 are mostly Motown and soul, and the other 275 are classic rock.  They’re currently sitting in 9 crates and boxes, so all of that available space I created in February is about gone.

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9 boxes of vinyl remaining after sorting out the “junk”…

The group of classic rock is fairly spectacular in my opinion.    It came after the Motown collection, and Mrs. Outspoken’s response after I received the call about the collection was “Really?   You have all these albums yet to clean and listen to, and you’re buying more?!?!”

Yep.  I gotta buy when the opportunity arises.  I went 7 weeks or so with nothing, so buying 2 collections in a little over a week might seem a little over the top, but both were great deals at under $1 per album.

So what makes the collection of rock so great?  How about 4 Zeppelin, 4 Pink Floyd, 4 David Bowie, 4 Allman Brothers, 3 Beatles, and 20 Bob Dylan for starters?    Other artists with multiple albums include Van Morrison, Elton John, The Rolling Stones, Steeley Dan, Springsteen, Foreigner, Rush, Yes, Kansas, CCR, ELP, Grand Funk, Heart, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Jackson Browne, the Cars, and Aerosmith.  It’s basically a compendium of 70’s and 80’s radio rock music, including some of the softer folk-ish tunes, with none of the pop-disco stuff.

Then there’s some oddball stuff too – stuff I just don’t see. The Butterfield Blues Band, Steve Hackett, Kate Bush, Patti Smith,  Nektar, and some Christian praise stuff by 2nd Book of Acts and Phil Keaggy.  Honestly, I could probably enjoy listening to about 80% of this collection, and if it comprised my entire collection, it would represent probably 60% of what I’d want to have.  Basically, the guy who assembled this collection and I had similar tastes.  🙂

One of my favorite finds so far has been an album from The Monroes.  It’s an EP, only 5 songs, and it was their only album.  I really enjoy it.  Definitely and 80’s sound, but 80’s guitar, not the electronic stuff.

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It was missing a lot of Beatles (but hey, it has Abbey Road), Hendrix, and some of the psychedelic stuff I like, but overall, it’s a great collection in my opinion.   I’m sure I’ll find enough titles to cover my costs, but I think I’ll be keeping a much higher percentage of this collection than normal.

Both of these collections came through my previous contacts; the albums are finding me at times!  It’s also part of why i got the deal I did on them.  I’ve treated the sellers fairly, and they’re active collectors, so I was in a way helping each of them move a large quantity of records quickly.    I also agree to buy them all, and don’t get into cherry picking the collection  or nit-picking on the condition of certain albums.

The way you treat people is important in life and business.  Over the course of my career, I’ve always been focused on process improvement; how to find ways to do “it” better.  It hasn’t really mattered what “it” is, as the basic problem solving methodology of Lean works anywhere (at least I’ve yet to find an application where it doesn’t).  While some people call me an efficiency expert, I look at it more as improving the overall performance of the teams and systems of an organization.    We change the system to change the result, and coach the people through the systemic changes.  But it’s about more than results; for the changes to stick, it’s also about behaviors.

As we change the behaviors and systems to produce different results, we start changing beliefs within the organization.  What happens when the shared beliefs of an organization change?  One, we change the future of that organization.  Two, we have created a culture change.

How’s all this tie into me buying arguably too much vinyl?  Honestly, I wasn’t sure at first.  But for one, I buy with no fear of spending too much, because I have a several year track record of all my hobbies actually producing money.  I have the tax returns to prove it.  🙂 Plus, I’m spending cash that has come from the hobbies.

Therefore, I believe, as does Mrs. Outspoken – even if not as completely as me – that I’m not being irresponsible or delaying our objectives, because in the end I actually contribute towards those shared  objectives from my hobbies.   And I believe I’ve done so buy dealing appropriately with others, and the evidence of that is the number of opportunities that tend to find me.

Second, since there was so much David Bowie in the one collection, would be this album:

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A line from the song Changes is perhaps the foundation of the best inspiration I can think to provide today:

“These children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds, are immune to your consultations, they’re quite aware of what they’re going through.”

No matter what it is you’re trying to do or achieve, there are often people who will try to hold you back, make you feel like it’s too hard, not worth it, or even impossible.  Don’t listen to them.  Act responsibly and with intention, treat people with dignity and respect,  but be courageous at the same time.   You can’t do what everyone else thinks you should do and still achieve the greatness that is within you.

Great things aren’t done by being average.

 

 

End of year update on the Sailing Dream

Step by step, we’re getting closer to realizing our dream.  We just made our last mortgage payment of 2016.  Since refinancing late this spring, we’ve made enough progress to be at the three year mark of our amortization schedule.  So that’s 3 years of a 15 year mortgage paid in 6 months.  In respect to our 5 year plan to get it paid off, we’re already 6 months ahead of schedule.  If we maintain this pace, the house is paid off in December 2018 – two years from today!

And as if that’s not motivation enough, I stumbled across a Craigslist posting for a CAL35 sailboat.

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Picture from the Craigslist post for a 1983 CAL35 sailboat

The CAL35 was on the shortlist of potential affordable sailboats for us to live on as part of the dream when it was first defined.  We’re in good enough financial shape that we could buy this one right now if we wanted.  I mentioned I saw it to Mrs. Outspoken, and she seemed a little excited too, then responded that she’d rather get the house paid off first. I agree.  Plus, we can’t use a boat this size around Pittsburgh due to the mast height not clearing many of the bridges in the city.  It’s more of a coastal/Great Lakes/Carribbean cruiser.

We have decided to take the vinyl/book selling and try to ramp it up next year, focusing more on the vinyl.  I’m making about 3x the profit on records, although it requires a little more work to clean and grade them.  As long as it stays relatively fun, the work won’t be so bad.  Hopefully we can make a little extra as insurance to getting the house paid off by the end of 2018.

Then what?  We’ll we’ve started down a path of gradually transforming our lifestyle.  We decided that buying a canoe is a good first step to start creating more of a focus on spending time on or around water when we can in 2017.  We’ve saved up some money from our Christmas budget and gifts to fund the purchase.

The next step would probably be those sailing lessons in 2018.  After the house is paid off, we probably would need to take some extended charters in a couple locations we’re dreaming of visiting via sailboat.

We’re not entirely ready from a financial perspective to retire.  Getting the house paid off would relieve much (almost all?) of our financial pressure, and then we’d have to decide where to invest over the coming years to reach financial independence to support a potential sailing lifestyle.   My retirement calculator at work says I’m good to go at age 50, but it will come down to what else is happening in our lives at that time.

I’m also going to really take a look at my spending on alcohol.  I enjoy decent wine and whisky, as well as craft beer, but some months I spend way too much.  Also, the only two times I’ve been sick in the last year (both this month) were after a night of drinking a bit too much.   So for my personal health as well as our financial health, I need to cut back, and cutting the spending by 50-75% should make that happen.

As i discussed in an earlier post, we could cut back a little more.  But I think we’ve done a pretty good job of changing our future outlook.  Sure we could get there (wherever there is) a little faster by doing some extreme things, but I can’t say it would be worth it.  But I do wish I’d started this sooner, which is why I gave a copy of Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover to my niece last year at Christmas, and to her brother this year.  I’m also probably going to send them a few tweets in the coming weeks about Mr. Money Mustache.  If I can get one or both of them to see a different possibility for their future, that would be more satisfying than me getting to my destination of Financial Independence a few months earlier.

Whatever it is you want to do, it’s very likely you can do it if you put a clear plan in place.  Start with the “Why”, as in “why do we want to do this, to make these sacrifices or changes?” Then create a vivid visualization of what it would look and feel like to achieve that “Why”.   Next identify what needs to happen to get there, then lay out the simple, often very small steps to make it happen.  For example, why would we buy a canoe if our dream is to sail the Caribbean, Great Lakes, and maybe even the European coastlines?  Because it’s the next small step.

As 2016 comes to a close, take the next step.  Whatever it is, just commit to the next step on your path to achieving your dream.  Every great journey starts with taking the first step.  Where will that first step take you?

 

 

Simple Compliments

Last Friday I was asked to conduct a three-hour training session for our entire leadership team, which is about 140 hours.  It is part of an annual Leadership event that encompasses all levels from supervisors and managers up to the CEO.   I’ve done a lot of training sessions, and have worked with all of the levels, but to provide a singular message that represented about 75% of the days’training had me a little stressed.

I was worried about the quality of the videos that I shot and edited.  I was worried that too many people might think the targets of performance and behavior I was suggesting for the organization were too aggressive.  I believe any time a person puts themselves out there just a little too far as they urge the organization forward one of two things can happen:  either their stock rises or it falls.  People either get more aligned with your goals, or your can lose some support and momentum.

At this point in my career, I’m not worried about promotions, so it’s more about making sure that I leverage these opportunities to gain momentum on our Lean Transformation journey.  I felt like this training and the corresponding message, if successful, would take us to the next level on our performance improvement efforts regarding our Lean Management System.

If  you imagine a three hour seminar on metrics and leading effective team meetings (or huddles, as we call them),  you can understand why i was a little worried, because those were my topics.   To top it off, I had been battling a cold that had just gotten progressively worse all week, but was just starting to improve.

It’s one thing for my team and close co-workers to tell me they’re sure I’ll do a good job.  But the point of this long background story is that sometimes a simple, polite comment can do wonders for someone.  At our first break, which was 2 hours into my material, someone at the table in front of me looked at me and said “has it been two hours already?  Man, you really keep this stuff interesting, with the speed of your words, your timing, and your clear diction.  This is really good.”

I said thanks and mentioned I was a little nervous since I hadn’t been feeling well, and the response was “I wouldn’t have known other than the four cups of hot tea…”

The COO and a colleague that organizes the training session both provided very positive feedback as well.   So I was a little more at ease when i went into the most challenging part of the message, which was about changing our questions as leaders; about letting our staff occasionally work to learn the answer to questions we might already know as part of their development.

It seemed to go well, and I was pleased that the CEO had incorporated some of my message into his closing remarks and system update.  Then, as we were cleaning up, one of the managers stopped and said thank you.  He mentioned that he could listen to me for hours – I was just so interesting and seemed so knowledgeable.  He was amazed that I seemed to have really good suggestions when people asked questions.

This was a manager I don’t consider as being “on board” with my vision for the organization.  But the small comments from just a few people really helped me through the day and boosted my confidence.  I also think it eliminated my worry over the weekend, allowing me to focus instead of getting well for next week.

Never underestimate the power of a small compliment.  When organizations talk about motivating teams, sometimes they turn to financial incentives.  This is usually only short-lived in my experience, and also has the potential to lower intrinsic motivation.  But the simple act of giving someone a sincere compliment, or even just saying “thank you”, can go a long way in making someone’s day.

Give someone a compliment today.  Maybe the girl at Starbucks, or the grocery store, or better yet, someone at your place of work.  It really might change their day, and I bet it makes you feel better too.

 

Searching for Passion

It’s fall once again, that time of year when the in some ways the world appears to be dying in Northern climates.  There are things I like about fall: Our wedding anniversary, my parents’ and my in-laws anniversaries, Thanksgiving, winter beers, a break from hot summer temperatures.   However, more and more I find myself lacking passion and energy in the fall.

I had a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving, and here on early Sunday morning I’m reflecting on what I could have done the last three days.  While I did have a nice dinner with the in-laws and my wife and I completed all of the Christmas shopping for my family on Friday and Saturday, I still feel like I should have or could have done a lot of other things.  Fun things, hobbies, or productive things.

I have a book series that I’d like to get re-published, and I just have to type it into the computer and get it formatted for publication. I could have worked on that.  I have 400 or so albums to clean and grade for resale, and an equal amount to listen to for personal enjoyment.  I could be writing on the blog more.  I have another writing idea that I tested and just need to put the work in to making it a reality.  I could do more work on some training presentations for my real job.   I have 7 more rolls of film to develop.  I could have done taken some more pictures.  I have thousands of old slides to review, scan, and upload to various sites.  I have my grandmother’s recipes to scan for family.  I should exercise more.  We could have gone hiking in the damp, gray, 43 degree Pittsburgh November weather.  Talk about sucking your energy away.

There’s things I used to do, like brewing beer, roasting coffee, fishing, camping.  Then there’s church-related things.  Since leaving the Presbyterian church, we’ve struggled to find a church home.  As we near advent, it’s odd not to be engaged in preparing for the various church activities.  Or practicing new songs.  In fact, I haven’t even picked up a guitar since Easter.  This might have been a good weekend to put on some new strings and noodle around a bit.

I could have baked some bread or soft pretzels.  There’s things we normally do in the summer, like taking the dogs on a long walk or playing golf.  We could have played board games, cards, or  just found some friends to hang out with.   But instead, I watched  the first three Star Wars movies (numerically, not by release date).  I drank more than I should have.  I watched an entertaining Pitt football game.  I stayed up late.

I’m sure there’s other things too that I’m not thinking of that I could have done.  Maybe that’s part of the problem – I’m into too many things.  Other than feeding my introverted need to be alone sometimes, these weekend activities didn’t contribute to advancing my health, financial well-being, or my marriage.  They didn’t increase my bank of memories and experiences with friends and family.  In short, they didn’t bring me joy.

Spending some time thinking about why, a lot of it comes down to the fact that my routine has been disrupted over the last several months.  I guess I need a new routine.  I’ve kept work notebooks or journals for about a decade, but I’ve been experimenting with Bullet journaling the month of November.  It hasn’t worked great, but it hasn’t been horrible either, so I’m going to continue it for a while.  For December, I’ll create a habit tracking log in the journal. I need to really think about my routine, or my Leader Standard Work as we call it in Lean.

My habit of writing and exercising in the morning hasn’t worked well with so many early morning meetings lately.  But now, I wonder how often I’ll need to be in the office by 6am?  I could probably start hitting the gym at lunch a few days a week, and I could most certainly get there after work a few days a week.

It seems like when I put together a plan to get something done, it gets done.  So unfortunately, I probably need to plan my evenings and weekends better so I do more and ‘veg’ less.  I’m not really an impulsive spur-of-the-moment type of guy, and my wife isn’t either.

Ironically, the busiest weekends often seem the longest and the most refreshing.  I like feeling like I got some things accomplished.  Like I actually DID something.  This weekend, we had very few plans, so we could get most of our things done in 4-6 hours each day, leaving the rest of the day unproductive.  I guess this year, my plan for beating the winter blues is to focus on being more productive.  I need to identify which “things” should get done first, then move onto the next, and focus on getting them done.  It’s the time of year to set goals for the coming year anyway, so I’m going to identify the habits and routine that should lead me to accomplishing my goals.  By focusing on the habits, hopefully I’ll rekindle some passion in certain areas of my life.

This post was a bit of a ramble, but sometimes you just have to think through what’s bothering you to come up with a new plan.  I hope you personally had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and perhaps you can use December as a month to put a framework in place to achieve your goals in 2017, too.