Thursday, August 20, 2015

What do you do when what you're doing isn't working?

This applies to anything, really - weight loss, fitness, parenting, work, marriage. I'm feeling this keenly in multiple areas of my life right now. I'm spread too thin, and it can often feel like none of my efforts in any of the above areas are working. In my case, I think it's fair to say that I'm putting in maximum effort, but not really achieving much output. So, what should I be doing?

A few things jump to mind - you can do either:

  • Option A) Give up. Perhaps a good choice if you determine that the goal isn't really suited to you, and/or after exploring it, you determine that it's not worth the effort.
  • Option B) Change something
Let's take one of the areas above & work through what's not working in my life - fitness, in this case. I do want & NEED to be fit, so giving up isn't one of the options. So, I guess I need to choose Option B - Change something.

Being fit, staying in shape, running, & generally being a healthy & active person are all important to me. Not only because it's needed for long-term health/short term energy & the overall way I feel when I'm in shape, but also because it's critical that I manage this to keep my lupus in check. Yet, I'm not currently in what I would describe as great shape. I'm very inconsistent with my workouts, and "something" is not working. 

Breaking it down a bit, what exactly is not working? I find that listing out all of the things that are currently getting in the way of my good intentions is helpful.

My schedule is busy, so finding time to work out is complicated. More specifically:
  1. I'm often too tired from late night calls to get up early & work out.
  2. If I plan workouts during the work day, they are almost always interrupted by work conflicts, urgent things, etc.
  3. Evening workouts are also hard. It's part of my very limited time window with the kids, and/or, I have evening calls as soon as the kids go to sleep. I feel guilty taking away kid/family time
  4. If I don't have evening calls, I'm exhausted from all of the other evening calls, and/or feel super guilty about missing kid time, and want to make it up.
  5. Weekends are filled with kid activities, but I do have success if I get up early enough to get in my workout. 
  6. When I travel for work, jet lag, eating out & generally working 12-15 hours a day makes working out very difficult. 
So, how can I solve this? There are drastic solutions (quit my job & look for something with fewer hours, less travel, & no evening commitments)  to smaller solutions. Honestly, the quitting the job is pretty high on my list of potential solutions, but I'm not mentally (or financially) ready to make that decision right now. So, what else can I do?

  1. Look for smaller windows of time to work out. I often convince myself that if I don't have 90 minutes, particularly at work where I have to shower, that I don't have time to workout. While not awesome to get in a 15-20 minute workout, it's good for my mental health to get in a quick workout. 
  2. Limit my evening meetings to one night per week. Even if I have to work later one night, I'm willing to try to do that vs having multiple nights with late meetings. It's extremely hard for me to manage personally (family, my own mindset, not feeling like I can relax) when I put in a 10 hour day at he office, come home, make dinner, help the kids with homework, and then get on the phone for three more hours. It throws off my entire schedule & is just, quite frankly, depressing. I've said I'm going to do this, and now I'm going to force myself to make it happen.
  3. Wake up early two times per week. This isn't crazy, will still give me days where I can "sleep in" until 6:00
  4. Get in workouts both weekend days, first thing in the morning, regardless. This needs to be my top priority to knock out first thing in the  morning. Otherwise, it gets too hot, my day gets filled with other activities, I get lazy, etc. ;-)
  5. Skip reading, and do yoga one night a week (on a nights without calls) after the boys go to bed. 

I'm already doing a few things that are helping me get in workouts. Here are the things that are currently helping me.

  • Review my work & family calendar over the weekend. Plan early mornings, late nights, & (when possible), book workouts. I need to make the workout booking more of a priority.
  • Keep my hand weights out & accessible. I regularly squeeze in 2-3 minute intervals with the hand weights. It's easy, and keeping the weights out & where I see them (in my case, on my bathroom counter) means they are always top of mind. 
  • Make fitness a part of my life, generally. I register for race, encourage my kids to be active, try to make social activities with friends & family active (we always work out on family vacations, I meet friends for hikes, etc). 

I'm finding the need to step back & evaluate my life in more detail. Do you ever reach that point where things don't feel like they are "working"? If so, what steps do you take to fix it? 


  1. Long time reader, first time I think I've commented. I too am at the point where things are not working for me in many aspects of my life. I'm pulled in too many directions and am so stressed that I can't sleep - yet, I'm exhausted. I don't have the answers but I understand the spot you're in.

    1. Thanks for commenting! I'm sorry you're feeling similarly. I hope you're able to step back & determine what will help & how you can take steps that will improve things. (I say, let's see if I can put into action ;-))

  2. Re. finding time to exercise: There have been several studies that show that several short periods of exercise are just as effective as one long one, maybe more effective in some cases. I think the smallest amount of time recommended is 10 minutes, so finding 15 minutes three times a day would definitely work.

    Also, when I am feeling overwhelmed, or things just aren't working I will stop and think of *one* thing that I can let go. There's usually always one thing that doesn't have to be done, or at least can be put off until later. Letting just one thing go seem to help everything else fall into place, and gives more breathing room than you might imagine.

    1. Thanks! I am not opposed to the three bursts of exercise, but the clothes changing & cleaning up afterward makes it difficult to work around that part. But, I'll have to be creative!

      I love the idea of letting one thing go. I've done a pretty good job of letting things go. Just need to figure out what it is, and choosing something I won't regret. I've given up a couple of workout classes, time with friends, & I feel like it's a mistake with work. It makes me feel better in the moment to have less on my plate, but I just work more, which is not helpful or meeting my larger goals.

  3. I've wondered about how you seem to burn the candle at both ends. I'm not ever one to get up early to work out so I can't even fathom that. I try to get in running 2-3 nights a week and I do it when my kids are still awake. I don't feel guilty because that time for myself makes my parenting better.

    If you are thinking about quitting, can you work less? What would happen if you did? Your employer seems to count on the fact that you are an overachiever and takes advantage of that. What about still working but finding a job that you would actually like? When I hated my job previously, it seemed like everything else was way harder. Could you make some lifestyle changes to accommodate less income?

    1. I'm not doing awesome with my work life balance, that's for sure. :-)

      I have 7 open roles on my team, three of which are people manager roles for each of my teams. So, theoretically, if I fill all of the roles, the time commitment, the travel, and the late nights would be greatly minimized. My manager is desperately trying to get us more support on recruiting, but recruiting for our office in Tokyo is super difficult. I think she's very aware of the fact that I can't do this forever, but short of finding me candidates, there's not much that she can do.

      My mid/long-term plan is definitely to work less/make less. My current job doesn't allow that option - too big of a role, too big of a team. But, I spend a lot of time thinking a little bit further out to the changes we can make to accommodate me taking some time off & then potentially working a lot less.