Last week at The Frisky, Amelia wrote about how while she has found an exercise she loves (yoga), she still has trouble getting motivated to go to yoga class after work. I totally understand. After work, all I want to do is stuff my face and sit in front of the TV for three hours. Hence, my thwarted attempts to work out in the evenings, even though my bus passes my gym.

So I decided to work out and go to yoga on the days I work from home, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and at least once on the weekend. You think that would be easy, right? Wrong. Although I had all the time in the world, I *still* had trouble getting motivated, and would find lots of excuses. I have a deadline for work, I need to write, I can go another day, etc.

Finally, last month I was able to meet my goal and go to yoga twice a week, and do cardio at least three times a week. How?

I set a short-term goal. Amelia said her New Year resolution is to go to yoga class three times a week. For me it’s much easier to say, “For this one month, I’m doing X,” instead of, “From now on forever, I’m doing X!” That’s what I did in December, which seemed to kick my ass into gear.

I broke down “going to the gym” into tiny steps. When I was working out after work, I’d tell myself, All you have to do is go into the building, fooling myself into thinking that’s all I had to do. But of course once I was in the building, I worked out.

In terms of working out and going to yoga during my WFH days, I fooled myself into thinking:

  • All you have to do is lay out your workout clothes.
  • All you have to do is get out your yoga mat.
  • All you have to do is load up your gym bag.
  • All you have to do is change into your workout clothes.
  • All you have to do is put on your sneakers.
  • Etc.

Soon that first step, laying out my workout clothes, became a trigger to getting my ass out the door and to the gym.

I remind myself that I will ALWAYS feel better after a workout. Even if I decide to do 30 minutes of cardio instead of 40, or “just” the elliptical instead of running, I always feel better afterward, never worse.

I try to stop arguing with myself. Back when I worked for a company that had a gym on the premises, I’d still argue with myself about going. Should I, shouldn’t I, should I, shouldn’t I? Finally one of my co-workers said, “You spend more time arguing with yourself that actually working out.” That made something in my head click, and I simply stopped arguing with myself.

I wish that had been a permanent change. At times, I still feel myself spiraling down the arguing sinkhole, convincing myself not to workout. What I’ve tried to do is simply take arguing with myself out of the equation completely. That way I don’t give myself the opportunity to come up with excuses not to go.

Now what I need to do is apply that to my writing.

In a lot of ways, working out is easier than writing. Quality matters less. If I have a sucky run, it doesn’t affect my next run. If my writing goes awry, it could mean I’m heading in the wrong direction, or that I have a lot of work to redo, which can be discouraging. You don’t redo a run over and over till it’s a right. Plus with exercise, you see faster results.

Writing coach Julie Isaac gives some great advice about how to get motivated to write daily (or whatever your goal is) more easily. The tips I like best are Make Writing a Priority, Write First, and Break My Daily Goal into Smaller Goals. I hadn’t realized that my writing (ie, not work-related) hasn’t been a priority. I often tackle other stuff (like, ahem, Words With Friends) before writing. This is what Julie says about writing first:

How often do you find yourself saying, “I’ll write as soon as I finish … (the dishes, my favorite TV show, organizing my desk, etc., etc., ad infinitum)” And how often does the day slip by without you doing any writing (or very little)?

There’s only one way to answer both of the above questions with “never,” (or at least “rarely”), and that is to Write First!

  • Let the dishes sit in the sink for an hour… Write First!
  • Record your favorite TV show… Write First!
  • Let the piles of paper on your desk get a little dustier… Write First!

For the past couple of days, I’ve been trying this. On Thursday, a WFH day, before I started my day job, I wrote in my notebook for about an hour. The amount of time or number of pages (or page in this case) wasn’t the goal. It was getting a short scene done. And it felt awesome for the rest of the day knowing I’d gotten at least a little writing out of the way.

I always plan on writing on the train to work in the mornings. But more often than not, I end spending the short ride catching up on Words With Friends or Twitter. Yesterday I consciously told myself, “Write first!” and I got another scene done, and didn’t even look at my iPhone. (In fact, I totally lost track of where we were and almost missed my stop.)

Today I did the same thing again: after breakfast and before my computer, I wrote another short scene. Then I wrote some more this afternoon. Just a little bit, but over the week it all starts to add up.

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