I’m halfway through a seven-day program to be my best self, so I thought I’d give you a little Hell Week check-in on my progress so far. (Read my first post about starting Hell Week here.)
Today, I want to share some thoughts on the seven rules of Hell Week by Erik Bertrand Larssen, now that I’ve actually followed them during the past few days. My favorite rules are 3 (exercise to the extreme) and 5 (take charge of your digital life). I like these because they both directly address habits I’ve “been meaning to get to” but just haven’t summoned the momentum for yet. You know how that goes.
Making exercise a daily habit
I’ve never been much of an athlete, but as a kid, I took swimming lessons at the YMCA and even swam competitively on a team for a few years. As an adult, I’ve gone through exercise fits and starts, where I’ll hit the gym, or do a walking regimen, or take group exercise classes, or do streaming video workouts at home … for a while. It’s never stuck, and currently I don’t have a daily or regular exercise habit. Coming into Hell Week, I wanted to change that.
I know you’re more likely to stick with a fitness habit if you do an activity you genuinely enjoy, so I decided to join the Y, where I can swim all year long (they offer two indoor pools and a large outdoor pool in the summer). I love to swim because it clears my mind completely. Each stroke, kick, and breath generates a kind of active meditation for me. I can’t hear anything but the rush of the water. I don’t see anything but bubbles and the surface between water and air. And given my chronic back pain issues, a no-impact exercise like swimming gives me all the benefits of cardio without the side effect of an aching back.
Per the Hell Week rule of one hour per day of intense physical activity, I’m packing my pool bag at night with towels, goggles, combination lock, and toiletries. I wake up early and head to the Y for a vigorous swim. (I should note, I have the advantage of a husband who works from home and a babysitter who comes to our house when the kids are out of school for summer.)
It’s quite satisfying to get my workout done first thing—I can see why regular exercisers often recommend this approach. I also feel like a wet, limp noodle after swimming laps, similar to my experience after a long professional massage. Then I can shower, get dressed to look my best (rule 2), and head to work ready for a productive, focused day.
Getting a handle on digital noise
Do you ever feel like you’re drowning in a constant stream of social media, email, text messages, entertainment, and digital stuff? It’s too much for any person to take in without losing your mind. I was more than happy to go along with rule 5, which involves abstaining from unnecessary information streams (as much as your job permits) and no TV watching.
One tool I recently started using to eliminate email distraction (one of my worst digital offenders—compulsively checking for new emails): Unroll.me. It’s a free app for your phone and desktop that allows you to unsubscribe to the emails you don’t want, “roll up” the ones you do want into a single daily email, and let the most important, urgent messages continue going right to your inbox. After using Unroll.me for just a few weeks, I’ve unsubscribed to a staggering 475 email lists(!), combined another 88 lists into a single daily message, and flagged only 2 regular senders for my “straight to inbox” messages. Combine this with Google’s Inbox app, and I’m living in sheer email bliss! Another digital change that’s helped me take charge of my digital life this week: ruthlessly turning off almost all push notifications on my smart phone. I used to spend way too much time checking and clearing all sorts of messages from the many apps I use and social networks I participate in. Now, I control when I look at these sites and apps, and don’t feel the need to continuously check my phone for those little red numbers.
My Hell Week ends this Sunday, so come back then for my wrap-up post. I look forward to seeing where this journey takes me, and maybe inspires one for you, too!