Are You on the Hamster Wheel?

Why is it I struggle so much at the beginning of the new year? The new year is supposed to bring a promise of great things, a new beginning, a fresh start. I’m excited and awakened to new possibilities. Yet, it’s not too long into January, where I find myself floundering….already. It’s so discouraging!

You’ve heard it said that most new year’s resolutions fail before January is over. Another study says by the second week of February. In other words, resolutions are difficult to keep. I don’t necessarily make resolutions, however, I do set goals and try to go after them with a renewed vigor. But like last year, when I felt like I was being batted around like a ball in a pinball machine, this year, I feel like I’m on a hamster wheel, spinning faster and faster, and never getting anywhere. It is frustrating. I can see how easily the “new” from the new year wears off, and the gray days of winter overtake us again. Then like I said, I’m back to floundering, and frustrated…. And any other f-words you can think of, like freefalling. (And shame on you if you went “there” with the f-word – grin).

In looking at my January flounderings, I wonder if I get too overwhelmed at the prospect of all I want to accomplish in a year. You’ve heard the joke about eating an elephant? You can only eat it one bite at a time. Like many of us I believe I look at the entire elephant, and think there’s no way! Not even in bite-sized pieces. Once you’re overwhelmed by looking at the entire elephant, or the entire year before you, it stops you in your tracks. You give up, say there’s no point, and chuck your planner in the trash.

There’s one the key thing to remember when you reach this point: STOP! Stop beating up on yourself. Stop looking at the entire elephant, and focus only on what you need to do next.

Get off the hamster wheel, and tackle what needs to be done today and only for today. How do you do this?

For me, time management is usually my problem. Knowing this, I’m going to try to schedule my days better. Go back to the basics: Make a list. Then do the next thing. I’m not going to worry about tomorrow’s list, or beat myself up for what didn’t get done on yesterday’s list. I’m only going to focus on the next thing. If I get interrupted, then I adjust my schedule. Sounds simple, right? What if you don’t know what should even be ON the list? Well, I’m not sure I can help you there. But here’s a thought. If you can’t get specific with itemizing a list, what about blocking off chunks of time to work on a certain project? Then another block of time will be devoted to the next project?

If you get interrupted within that block of time, then shift it to another day (making sure you have some flex in your schedule to shift to).

This concept is from one of my writing groups, where the author blocks off her writing time, then blocks off family time, then has exercise time, etc. She leaves one day free in her week in case something does need to shift. This all makes sense to me, and that’s how I’m scheduling my days.

I’m not sure how it’s all going to work out, but I have to try something. I want to get off this hamster wheel, and work toward my goals. Whether I succeed or fail, at least I can take the next step.

What about you? Are you floundering this year? Going in circles on a hamster wheel? What advice do you have for getting off the spinning wheel and making progress?

6 replies

  1. Hi, Becky: I’ve had so many people ask me about my writing schedule. I laugh and say, “I write in between the interruptions.” It works … and then, last year during the pandemic, it didn’t. There were interruptions and there was EVERYTHING ELSE. And the everything else of COVID-19 trumped writing. This year I determined to write. To do this, I had to find uninterrupted time, which meant getting up earlier than anyone else so there are no interruptions. So far, it is working. Not perfectly, but better than last year.

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    • Hi Beth – First, thank you so much for stopping by. It’s good to hear from you. Second, I think to accomplish any of our goals, we need to be intentional about it, like you’re doing by getting up earlier. I don’t believe there’s a perfect solution, but from the sound of it, you’re on the right track for 2021. I look forward to your next novel! 🙂 Take care!

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  2. The time blocking concept really resonates with me personally, Jeanne. And like you, finding that balance with distraction and making room for unexpected things is a tough one. I’m also determined not to beat myself up if I completely blow it for a week. All we can do is take it one day at a time!
    Thanks for stopping by. It’s good to hear from you!

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  3. What a great post! I can totally relate to this. For me, stepping back and reading God’s word or writing a quick prayer in my journal helps me recenter and refocus, then I can tackle the next thing on the list.

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  4. Ahhh, Becky. I know that floundering sensation. I feel like this year has started off with so much busy, and I’m already behind on my goals. I like time blocking. And I’m finding I still need to figure out how to not be easily distracted but also leave room in my schedule for the unexpected things that always seem to pop up.

    Great post!

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