November 02, 2009

Ready, Set,... Ah Hell.

Preliminary Note: Are you entered in the Cranky Fitness Fall Giveaway? Do check the post before this one for an important update.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming...

Is Transition Time Eating Up Your Day?

Does anyone else find that a really huge and annoying percentage of the day seems to take place not actually doing things, but getting ready to do things and tidying back up after the things have been done?

"Going to the gym," for example, may consist of working out for an hour or so, but is that really how much time you need to budget for it?

No, of course not! Not unless you work as a personal trainer or have a home gym and happen to spend all day in your gym clothes, ready to go at any moment. Oh, and you'd also need to manage to work out vigorously without perspiring.

Depending on your routine, "going to the gym" could also consist of finding your car keys or bus pass, collecting all your gear, driving/riding/walking to the gym, waiting in line at the front desk, chatting with friends, changing into workout clothes, using the restroom, working out (which could also including waiting for machines or class to start or whatever), going back to the locker room, stripping off your sweaty clothes, showering, drying your hair, applying deodorant/lotion/sunscreen/make-up or whatever you tend to slather on yourself, putting on your clothes again, getting back into your car... and then, finally, getting ready to do the next thing.

Don't You Hate It When You Realize
You've Forgotten Something Important?
Photo by NataliaEnvy

And yet, some folks stubbornly refuse to acknowledge that life is like this. They are surprised, every single time, when things take so much longer than they should. How come the day is over already and so many things didn't get done?

It's my theory that people who tend to be lead healthy, balanced, productive, yet stress-free lives are often really good at mastering transitions.

Alas, I am not one of those people.

I would further hypothesize that there are at least two important components to mastering transitions, both of which I suck at. But if you, unlike me, actually want to work on these two things, perhaps you can be one of those Successful, Balanced, Healthy, Stress-Free Productive People!

1. Prepare Ahead or Improvise?

Some people are natural "prepare ahead" types; others may have to try to teach themselves this skill. Pack your gym bag the night before your workout! Make a list of things you need to pick up after work! Have a single place to keep your keys so you don't put them down all over the house and then forget where! Think through meal planning, shop for days/weeks/months in advance, cut things up for the week ahead, make extra portions to freeze for later, and have lots of matching food storage containers that are not warped and actually have tops!

There are people out there who actually do all this stuff, consistently, and you rarely see them at work all wild-haired because they forgot to bring a brush to the gym, or guiltily scarfing sad vending machine items because they didn't manage to pack a healthy lunch.

Those of us who wait until we're hungry for dinner and then stare into the refrigerator and realize we need to go shopping unless we want to make a meal out of microwave popcorn and canned tuna and raisins? And then three hours later we're back from the store and actually finally eating something and wondering if the dishes will just this once agree to do themselves because, damn it, it's bed time already?

We're the ones who don't tend to get stuff checked off our "to do" lists very often. (Not that we're very good about making them in the first place).

2. Philosophical or Frantic?

Whether you prepare well or not, there's a certain amount of transition time that everyone has to go through. We need to gather things up, we need to get ourselves places, we must wait in lines and endure delays and deal with things that break at the wrong time or people that don't do what we want them to.

Some people take a very Zen* approach to everyday transitions. Life is life! Might as well enjoy each precious moment! So what if those moments are piling up and you're stuck in a long line at the grocery store and the cash register does something funny but the clerk doesn't know how to fix it and the supervisor is busy elsewhere and no one is opening another checkstand and a little boy is screaming Mommy Mommy Mommy Lookit Me Lookit Me over and over and over but Mommy is still not Lookitting?

Smile! It is what it is. You'll be out of there soon enough. We'll all be "outta here" soon enough.

Anyway, others of us are not so Zen. We get frustrated and make ourselves miserable; we rush and so we forget things; we get anxious and frantic and fumbly so we drop things. We try to extract revenge on obstinate inanimate objects or, even worse, find culpable humans to blame when things go wrong. We rage and fume and fret and worry, which doesn't get us through our transitions any faster or more happily. Yet to change our approach? That would mean effort!

Perhaps some day I'll join the Stress-Free Healthy Balanced Productive People Crowd, and life will seem like it's all Doing! and not so much the Getting Ready and Waiting and Cleaning Up!

But then it just wouldn't be Cranky Fitness, would it?

How about you folks, are you all Prepared and Zen, or do you struggle with all the extra crap that gets in the way of Doing?

*Like many health and personal development bloggers, I often invoke "Zen" principles without having any idea what Zen is about, liking the sound of it but being too lazy to educate myself. Actual Zen people--feel free to make tsking noises, if you Zen folk are allowed to do things like that.

[And yes, this is another re-run, but I will be back really soon with brand new stuff!]


  1. I struggle with transitions and change in general...unless it's my idea, of course.

    There's moments when I prepare (I do have a certain place for keys, now), but I have many more moments where several things seem to be a priority ... and......I......just......can't......hurry......things.....along.

    Exercise does take the edge off, a bit.

    {Word Verification is "ershese" which sounds very much like Hershey's...darn! Can't get the Halloween candy out of my head!}

  2. I keep telling myself that if I prepared for and organized my whole life the way I do for my workouts, my house would be spotless and I'd be a millionaire from some thriving home business.

    Yes, I am totally prepared for the gym the night before. Clothing and props on the table, and food prepared for pre- and post-workout.

    The rest of my life? Let's just say you wouldn't want to eat off of my floors.

  3. That was me; I'm not anonymous!

  4. Even when I prepare for something beforehand the time gets away from me. Sigh.

  5. "Does anyone else find that a really huge and annoying percentage of the day seems to take place not actually doing things, but getting ready to do things and tidying back up after the things have been done?" Hahahah! It's like you are staring in the windows of my house!! You just described life with my children. Perfectly.

  6. Yeah, there definitely are a lot of "time-sucks" that we have to navigate every day!

  7. I want to be Zen, but mostly I stress myself out by thinking of all the things that I don't have time to get done and then I get cranky. Yup, Cranky Acolyte, that's me.

  8. OMG, that pic of the guys on the bus, too much!

    And I think I am a mixture although I get more stressed & definitely not Zen except for:I often invoke "Zen" principles without having any idea what Zen is about, liking the sound of it but being too lazy to educate myself.

    I liked that! BUT, I do get my gym bag ready the night before & I TRY to make lists because my memory is so bad in my old age & sometimes I do & sometimes not.. lots of times I make the list on the cell phone note pad so it is with me for sure!

    BUT, I tend to always find things I forgot because I tell myself I will remember. :-)

    LOVED this post!

  9. Pam and Peggy, the "SLOB Sisters," as they called themselves, termed us either "Born Organized" or "SHEs" (Sidetracked Home Executives).

    Sandra Felton, The Organizer Lady, has her "cleanies" vs. "messies".

    Whatever terms you use, it boils down to the same fact. Those 7 habits that highly effective people have, they are born understanding how to do it. It comes naturally to them. The rest of us might be able to learn and catch some of it with lots of training and practice.

    The two sides have brains that work differently, and neither really understands how the other half lives or thinks that way.

    At least, that is how it appears to me.

  10. Must confess to having a check-list just for walking the dog: ipod, keys, sunglasses, gloves, leash, bag for poop (his). Hmmm...something's missing...oh yeah - the dog.

  11. This made me smile...I'm of the Zen variety, and my husband is the stresser. I've found that as much as I hate being adult and making lists and planning things, I get WAY more done. I make sure I plan things out before the day I need them and I am so much more sane. Little things like having my workout stuff in the same place ready to go all the time and certain things always beign wehre they need to be have helped. The biggest things was (don't laugh) putting things back when I was done with them.
    Seriously. This was huge. I spent so much time looking for things. I have a vain hope that someday we'll be organized...and everything will ahve somewhere to go and...oh stop laughing :)
    My husband is still figuring this out but I think eventually we'll get there...:)

  12. I am of the late, frantic, wild-haired crowd. But I'm good with unanticipated events. My whole life is an unanticipated event.

  13. Ya know what gets me? When I plan ahead and pack my bags and fix my lunch the night before. And then somehow its STILL 45 minutes since I got up and I haven't even managed to get dressed yet. (I blame it on the munchkin and the puppy.)

  14. Some of us are genetically predisposed to being forever trapped in the transitional time void. I prepare for my mornings the night before (lay out workout clothes, set up the coffee maker, get the dog leash and coat by the door, etc.), yet I'm still racing with the clock and losing.

  15. Ok so maybe I'm a minority but I'm one of those Prepared and Zen people.

    That was not always the case for me though. It took taking a good look at my life and making the choice to become more scheduled and prepared for things because the stress I was experiencing was out of control. It started with little changes like getting up a little earlier and prepping the night before. Now I have a schedule that I follow every morning before work that takes care of all the prep items for the day. Once I started to truly make me a priority those changes became much easier to implement.

  16. I'm pretty good with the gym bag... it usually has my essentials in it, I just need to remember things like putting my swimsuit and cap in, or a change of clothes.

    I'm not always so good with other stuff though. Like housecleaning. Though I keep my food prep surfaces clean at all times. Kitchen floor, not so clean.

    But when I end up in lines, sometimes I fret, sometimes I work on balance exercises, sometimes I boogie. Once I was in San Francisco, stuck in traffic and I got all my friends in the car singing loudly and we had fun in that hour long traffic jam. After we rolled down the car windows, we got some other people doing it. We were all stuck in a tunnel, so things resounded beautifully.

    So maybe my stresses are balanced by my Zen times. I hope so. My meals are kind of grab and go... not much planning there.

    The main time-suck is the computer.

  17. 1) I think I'm more toward the "Prepare Ahead" side of the spectrum; however, I can improvise with the rest of them. Oddly enough, I plan the next day ahead of time, but when it comes to posting/updating my blog, I usually do it first thing in the morning without knowing exactly what I'm going to write about that day.

    2) I don't get frantic, I get even. Wait, that's not right. But, I don't get frantic. I get impatient when driving, but never frantic. I can't live like that; I'm too OCD.


  18. I notice that on the days when I really try to get an early start on something, so many things happen that usually put me at my destination around the same time as if would've procrastinated.

  19. Hi Crabby,

    Nice to have you back! I've been kind of silent in the cybersphere of late, but have, of course, been following the crabbiness.

    Since I'm not a naturally prepared "girl-scout" type myself, something that helps me is to actually do away with as many transitions as I can.

    So, if I run to work, let's say, and at least do a French shower (or whatev--you know, towel and big sink), then I've eliminated gym, and commute. Some transition is still needed, but a lot less.

    Some people call that slacking, but I call it minimalism ;-)

  20. I don't plan ahead for everything in life but I do for some things. But I am definitely not zen when it comes to waiting or when transitions don't go as smoothly as I would like.

    What drives me crazy is when I go to Pilates fro 6-7PM and then try to get in 45 minutes on the elliptical thinking I'll be out of the gym by 7:45. Yet, somehow, I only manage to get in 30 minutes on the elliptical and out of the gym by 7:45. So, where did those other 15 minutes go? Eaten up by transitions. Grrr.


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