"Don't take this the wrong way," my friend said, as she placed a hand on my arm to assure me of her affection. "But, you have a habit of telling everyone how to live their lives. Because you do certain things, you think everyone should follow suit."
I thought for a moment, and then said: "You're right; I'm pushy."
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, listen up: I know what's best for you. In no particular order, here are suggestions -- honed by me -- that can assuage loneliness, lift depression, curb procrastination, improve efficiency, and build self-esteem. (Okay, let's scratch can and substitute, may. It's possible I'm not actually omnipotent.)
-Write in a journal every morning. I prefer a spiral 6-x-8 notebook and Pilot V Razor Point fine pen. But you can choose your own journal and writing instrument; no electronic devices permitted. A cup of coffee is a lovely companion as you mentally review your previous day and record accomplishments, disappointments, anger, happiness, prideful moments, despair, or anything else that pops into your brain at that early hour.
Important: the journal is for your eyes only, no competition as if you were a member of a writing workshop. This practice is not just for would-be writers; it was extremely therapeutic for me when I was a caregiver for Tommy. My pages were akin to a support group where I could pour out my frustration and fears without getting well-meaning, but ill-fitting, advice from others.
-Enroll in a class or three. Currently, I'm taking lessons in Spanish, piano, and yoga. You may remember that I have attempted these three things in previous years and then abandoned them for one reason or another. No matter, currently, the schedules, locations, and teachers of these disciplines fit into my life. So, I'm back at the chair, bench, and mat. And, along with improving at each, I'm meeting new friends.
I'll throw in another nag here: don't avoid trying something anew because others will remind you that you're previously bailed and re-upped on the very same class. So what; give it a go again.
-Use a timer for tasks. This practice works well for writers who procrastinate about getting anything down on a blank page. But, I also recommend it for those who stall on doing household chores, paying bills, preparing taxes, or any other onerous job.
I use the clock on my iPhone, but a simple, plastic kitchen timer will suffice. Set it for 30 minutes, and then hunker down. When it signals, you are permitted to pop up, and then do something more pleasant. But, as is often the case with writing, you may find that those 30 minutes have unleashed some buried creativity. If so, you are permitted to silence the buzzer and continue to follow your muse.
-Become a morning person. I realize this will be tricky for those of you who enjoy sleeping late and staying up till midnight. But, if you can massage your body clock to go to bed earlier and rise before sunup, you'll be amazed at the amount of stuff you can accomplish.
I'm not suggesting you incorporate my hours -- 8 pm bedtime and 4 am wake up -- for even I recognize its absurdity. Yes, I need a nap at midday, and ditto to my fading at evening events. I'll trade those hindrances for the calm of being on top of tasks.
-Prepare the night before. This habit works well if you plan to visit a gym in the morning, but find yourself scrapping the goal. It also succeeds for any other first-thing-of-the-day meeting, class, or appointment. Before going to bed (early, remember?), fill your gym bag with workout clothing, stack your class books and notebook, assemble folders and notes, or gather anything needed to make sure you get out the door on time and arrive prepared.
-Take a walk and talk to yourself. I have a bountiful gym in my high rise, but when weather permits, I do a mile jaunt outdoors. I eschew ear buds and audio, but instead talk to myself. Sure, passersby may think I'm bonkers, but because I live alone, I don't use my voice often enough. Not only does this help vocal cords, but it also forces you to take in your surroundings and perhaps comment, as in: That's a good-looking grey-haired guy. Wonder if he's got a ring? Maybe I'll smile as I get closer. (See the possibilities?)
-Express appreciation. If any of my directives feel reasonable, fitting, and potentially fruitful, try my custom: To profess gratitude, send a thank-you note. Electronic can suffice, but handwritten is awesome. (Too pushy?)