What Works for Me

By Diane Stark

While visiting my sister and her family, I noticed a small notepad sitting on their kitchen counter. On the open page, someone had written a list of dates with a number next to each date.

My nephew, Ben, saw me looking at the notepad. “That’s my dad’s weight notebook,” he explained.

My mouth dropped open. “Your dad writes down his weight every day and then leaves it on the counter where everyone can see it?”

Ben nodded like it was no big deal. “He says it helps him stay skinny.”

“Ben, your daddy is a brave man,” I said. “I would never want everyone to know how much I weigh.”

My sister, Mandy, walked in and nodded. “I agree with you, but flip back through the pages. My husband lost almost 50 pounds last year, and now he’s using that notebook to make sure he keeps the weight off.”

I did as Mandy suggested. She was right. My brother-in-law’s weight had barely fluctuated since he’d started tracking it.

“Bart knows how easily the pounds can sneak back on,” she explained. “This is a struggle for him, and the accountability really helps him stay on the right track.”

I smiled. “It’s admirable and brave, but I don’t think I could do it.”

She nodded. “I’m right there with you, but it works for him. Leaving that little notepad where everyone can see it is a powerful motivator for him.”

“Like I said, it’s admirable,” I responded.

Months later, I was going through an especially busy season in my life. My kids were in a lot of activities, I had several social obligations and work deadlines, and my husband’s job was extremely stressful and time-consuming, which made him unable to help out with the kids and the house as much as he usually does.

I felt like I was running from one task to the next with no break or time to do anything for myself. Writing is my job, but it’s also my passion, and I didn’t have as much time to devote to it as I wanted to. Months earlier, I’d worked hard to develop an exercise habit, but even that had gone by the wayside during this busy season. I felt overwhelmed nearly every day. It was bad, and I knew something needed to change.

And that’s when I remembered my brother-in-law’s notepad trick. I wondered if I could use it to manage my time better during this crazy time.

I bought a small notepad and wrote my To Do List on it each morning. I was determined to get back into my exercise routine and daily writing habit, so I included both of those things on my list. After I’d written down the laundry, housework and errands that had to be done, the list seemed overwhelming. There just didn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get it all done.

I’d hoped that leaving the notepad on the counter would provide me with motivation and accountability like it had my brother-in-law. For a few weeks, I marked off tasks as I did them and then showed it to my husband each night.

More often than not, the daily reports were not pretty. “I exercised today, but I didn’t get any writing done,” was a frequent report. Or, about as often, I wrote but didn’t have time to exercise. The majority of the time, the laundry and errands got done, if only because my family was counting on me to do those things.

My husband is the most supportive man on this planet. When I would show him my incomplete list each night, he would shrug and say, “Honey, I’m sure you tried your best. Besides, you can’t fit ten gallons of water in a five gallon bucket.”

Was that what I was trying to do? Fit too much stuff into each day?  Did that mean that my life would always seem disorganized, and I was destined to feel overwhelmed forever?

A few weeks before, a friend had recommended Gretchen Rubin’s books to me. “I think they’ll really help you,” she’d said.

Boy was she right! I discovered that I am what Gretchen Rubin calls an Obliger. An obliger is someone who will keep commitments to other people, no matter what, but all too often, an obliger will let internal commitments slide, because those goals only impact themselves.

That’s why the laundry and housework always got done. Because I couldn’t let my family down. But my own personal goals, like those involving my writing and exercise routines, impacted only me when I didn’t get them done.

So they were at the bottom of my To Do List. All the time.

I learned that obligers need external accountability for their personal goals. Could my little notepad help me with that?

The problem seemed bigger than a notepad. But the solution was also in Gretchen Rubin’s book. She wrote about her treadmill desk, which is just exactly what it sounds like. A treadmill with a desk attached to it.

I could exercise and write at the exact same time? Both of my personal To Do’s could be accomplished simultaneously? It sounded perfect.

And it is. I’ve had my treadmill desk for a few months now, and I’ve used it nearly every day. I’ve exercised more, and I’ve written more because I can do them at the same time. My family still comes first, but I no longer feel as though I never have time for my personal goals.

Time management is a tricky business. What works for one person won’t work for another. Our personalities weigh heavily into what motivates us. My brother-in-law uses a little notepad for accountability.  What’s worked for me is a treadmill with a desk attached.

I got my treadmill desk in September, but it has felt like a brand-new start for me. I’m setting new goals – and reaching them – because I found what works for me.

About this writer

  • Diane Stark Diane Stark is a wife and mom of five. She loves to write about her family and her faith. Her essays have been published in over 20 Chicken Soup for the Soul books.

You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

2 Responses to “What Works for Me”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    Diane, this was enjoyable and eye opening. How often do we oblige and disregard our own needs. I’m not saying I am getting a treadmill, but I am going to say yes to myself more often.

  2. Rose Ann says:

    I recognize myself in your story–but I gave up. Now I’m thinking of ways to fit myself into my day! I’m thinking a treadmill desk may be in my future,

Leave your mark with style

Comment in style

Stand out from the crowd and add some flare beside your comment.
Get your free Gravatar today!

Make it personal

avatar versus gravatar Close