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31 days – each one a challenge

An Cailín Rua

An Cailín Rua
Anne-Marie Flynn

I t’s hard to believe it’s almost February already. The older we get the faster the years seem to whizz by – all the more reason to make them count, I guess.
You’ll recall in December that I made the usual resolutions about getting better at stuff. I try every year, but underpinning real change is the need for something I don’t think I ever put down on paper, because it’s so glaringly obvious – organisation.
I am chronically disorganised. I suffer with notorious Last-Minute Affliction (as The Mayo News team will testify through gritted teeth). It is a constant wonder to me that other people can run households, raise children and still be on time, while I, living alone with no small dependents, can barely manage myself. You are all heroes, frankly. While I thrive under pressure, the stress of leaving everything until the final minute has probably shaved years off my life. So in order to prolong my existence on the planet and make life more bearable for those around me, I decided in January to embrace the revolutionary concepts of planning and discipline.
Well, it’s been quite a month. In order to fully equip myself to embark on this new journey, some essential purchases were required. In this order, I bought myself a large notebook, a pocket diary, a clock radio, some new running gear and a slow cooker. Thirty days in, has my life changed beyond all recognition? Well, I’d like to say it has, but in the interests of keeping everyone’s feet on the ground, I’ll say it’s emm … evolving. But there has been progress. Honest.
About the tools. The slow cooker (a €20 Lidl bargain) is the best thing ever. Like a child with a new toy, I’m obsessed. I spend evenings chopping vegetables and I get up earlier in the morning to put stuff in it, with the result that I have a hot dinner waiting for me most evenings and a full freezer (albeit full of experimental meals). I find myself gazing lovingly at it as I make a cup of tea. Miraculously, it appears to have freed up a remarkable amount of time.
Which is good, because as part of this drive towards planning and discipline I embarked on Ballina Athletic Club’s annual torture ritual – sorry, I mean personal development journey – the 31 Day Challenge. This entails covering 5km every day in January by whatever means possible - walking, running, hiking. More about that later, but it explains the new running gear. (One day to go!)
The notebook houses a rolling to-do list which combats my forgetfulness and the pocket diary is self-explanatory, ensuring I neither double-book myself nor forget about things I should be at. (It’s not foolproof). Finally, the clock radio was not a nostalgic effort to reclaim my youth but rather, an attempt to distance myself from my phone. I’ve a love-hate relationship with my mobile and am adamant about reducing screen time in 2018. Small measures like this mean less mindless, useless scrolling and time better spent elsewhere.
It’s been an interesting month. Lessons have been learned.  
Firstly, that being organised is habit-forming, motivational and a bit addictive.  It sounds obvious; but it mustn’t have been or this January would have been no different to any other! Letting things slide now already feels far less appealing. Secondly, I’ve had to grudgingly accept that using a lack of time as an excuse to avoid committing to health regimes or hobbies is a complete cop-out.  The 31-day challenge has been in reality far from tortuous; rather it’s been an excuse to get out and hike or run every day, make memories with my partner-in-crime and explore new places. Finding an hour a day or even a few hours isn’t hard; it’s a question of attitude. No excuse now not to run a marathon? We’ll see …
Above all, it’s been a good exercise in prioritising the important stuff and regaining a work-life balance. More fresh air, good company and healthy food, less screen time and stressing over deadlines in the office. So far, so good. Here’s to the rest of 2018.