the art of self discipline

Some time ago, The Times ran a weekly series of interviews with “celebrities” (my speech marks) and took the form of a timetable of events making up their day. I don’t know whether this would be their typical day or their perfect day, but it did give the impression of a life run like clockwork. I wonder how true it was.

My own life could do with an injection of discipline along these lines. I’m too carefree and lazy. It’s okay while I’m being paid to do work, in work, but while I’m taking a break from work – which can be months these days – a lot of my endeavours go to pot.

Back in 2009, when I took my first major sabbatical since my youth, I had the good mind to draw up a weekly timetable of jobs and activities to do. It looked like a school timetable. The days were divided into large chunks around lunchtime, and between breakfast and tea. The “subjects” comprised things like major DIY jobs, working on the allotment, practising art, and days spent out walking or cycling. It looked impressive and it looked doable. But I didn’t do it. Events, other people’s demands on my time, and the randomness of my moods had the upper hand. I spent a disproportionate amount of hours down on the allotment at the expense of all else. I had a great time, lost weight unintentionally, felt fitter and even developed a farmer’s tan – in February! – but when I went back to work – that is, paid work – I looked back with a slight tinge of regret and failure.

It won’t be long before full retirement beckons. I’m already receiving advisory letters from the pension companies. I don’t know whether I should accept who I am and simply go with the flow, something I do naturally and more or less enjoy, or knuckle down to commitments. Making the most of it, as life coaches and the self-help industry invariably prescribe.

So, timetables or cheerful randomness, which to choose for a happy life? I honestly don’t know.

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