Alternating

Thu 1/22/2015

This year I had two new year's resolutions: 1) to go running more and 2) to play my trumpet more. And by "more" I pretty much mean "at all" because I don't think I got any exercise at all last year (other than walking to my P.O. box or running errands around Alameda on my bike) and I definitely didn't play my trumpet even once.

I have tried resolutions like these in the past, and, like most people, I usually keep it up for a week or two, before giving up on them. I'm happy to report that I've been having better luck so far this year, by using a new system of alternating.

Just before the new year I had a visit from my old pal Andy (of Songs From the Basewood fame!) who mentioned that he had been using his lunch breaks at work to go for short, thirty-minute runs. This seemed like an amount of time that I could commit to running, without it messing up the rest of my day too much, so I decided to give it a try.

On January 1st, I put all the Weezer albums on my iPod Nano and instituted a new rule: no Weezer, except when running! Now, usually I listen to at least one Weezer album every day (if not more) so this definitely provided an additional boost of inspiration to get me out there. Most of their albums are in the thirty-minute neighborhood, give or take a track, so I usually run out during the A side and then run back home during the B side. Surprisingly, my favorite album to run to so far is Pinkerton.

On January 2nd I was sore from running, and so I decided to play my trumpet instead. I consider it a great gift that I was taught how to play the trumpet. There have been times when playing my trumpet was the most important thing in my life, and it often bums me out that I don't play it much any more. When I do play it, I find that it greatly improves my mood and helps me to appreciate music (especially jazz) much more when I listen to it.

A few years back I bought a Bb "real book" which has about 400 pages full of jazz standards. I then got this amazing program iReal Pro which basically sets up a virtual rhythm section on my iPad. I can then run that through the little mixing board that came with the Silent Brass mute that I've had since high school, and I can play along with the tunes. It's the most fun I've had playing my trumpet in a long time.

Collectively I have been calling this my "mental health hour." It usually occurs around 3pm (typically my lowest point of productivity/energy during the day) and I have been alternating activities every other day. I go for a run, then the next day I play my trumpet, then I go running on the next day, and then it's back to the trumpet, etc. etc. etc. It's amazing how this simple alternation has kept both activities lively and fun for me. The minute I'm done running I think "Ooh! I get to play my trumpet tomorrow!" and vice versa, instead of getting burned out trying to do one activity every day. Anyway, I've kept it up for the last 21 days, and I hope it'll continue for a long time yet!

I've also taken this idea and applied it to some of the many projects I'm trying to complete this year. I've kind of "paired off" similar projects into little groups and then I alternate working on each side back and forth. I'm getting a lot of work done!

I have another productivity idea I've been experimenting with this year, but I guess I'll save that for another blog post, as this one is getting a bit long! Maybe this idea will be helpful to someone out there.

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