Put Yourself First? (But What About the Dog?)



One common piece of advice is “first things first.” If writing is the thing you struggle to fit into your day, then do it first.

When Tracy and I were struggling to find time to work on the book, we set ourselves a goal of working on the book first thing for 30 minutes.

And would-be runners and cyclists and yogis get the same advice. Do it first! Before your day gets in the way, we’re told. Ditto those who want to establish a meditation habit. Start your day with meditation.

Personally, this kind of advice has never really worked for me. I figure the people who offer this advice don’t have children, or dogs.

When I tried the ‘writing first’ thing with the book the only way to do it was to tiptoe to the bathroom and take my laptop into the bed. Otherwise, Cheddar, my dog, would hear me and want love, food, access to the backyard, and shortly after that, a walk.

Really what happens first in my day is coffee and getting people out the door and often, unless someone else steps up, a dog walk. Lately I’ve been walking Cheddar through a nearby nature area, The Coves. And while it’s not really meditation and it’s not serious exercise, it is a little bit of both combined with natural beauty and the great outdoors. And when we get back from our walk, Cheddar snoozes and then I write.

(I was talking about the conflict between writing first and dog walking, and a friend and I had fun making Cheddar memes.)

If you’re a dog owner, or the parent of small children who get up at 5 am, how do you handle the “first things first” advice? Do you make it work for you? Or like me, do you just find it unrealistic?



6 thoughts on “Put Yourself First? (But What About the Dog?)

  1. “Personally, this kind of advice has never really worked for me. I figure the people who offer this advice don’t have children, or dogs.” I would add to the list: “…or any number of other things that compete for their attention first thing in the morning.” You can only do one thing “first thing” in the morning. Sometimes, even for dogless me, writing just can’t be that thing. Swimming, running, and meditation are all things that I also find on my “first thing” list. It used to be journalling. I journalled three pages, first thing, without one missed day, for over ten years. Since I gave up the journalling schedule (it was too rigid!) it’s been hard for me to get a consistent habit going on any one thing, so it shifts around depending on the day.

    1. But for me, it’s never been a “me” thing. It’s been kids and now dog, meeting the needs of others first. Different choices and I don’t regret them but it rules out the “first things first” strategy. I guess they are my first things. Walking Cheddar feels good though.

  2. Oh heck yeah – my Hermes would never put up with that. Food, water, walk – those are the first things. For me that advice really means prioritizing my project time first. So, outside of the day-to-day things that must happen – like dog walks – when I look at the rest of the day, making sure my time gets scheduled first – even if that isn’t technically the earliest part of the day.

  3. I feel like I’m in the same boat as Tracy on this. All the self-care messages we get are vying for the pole position on our day– do me first! No, do me first! Argh. For me, it’s a conflict among: 1) meditation; 2) writing for research; 3) yoga stretching. Of course, what happens is this: 0) coffee. Then, 1) assess for self what is seeming most pressing– 1a) get out door to some place I have to get to; 1b) do emails– always a bad choice, but they’re always there; 1c) do light tidy-up housework (seems silly, but I actually love doing these tasks as a way to wake up in the morning; I feel more orderly); 1d) head to yoga or ride or something active. I still haven’t worked it out, and maybe it just has to be more fluid. Good post– a theme worth revisiting!

  4. I relate to this so much. As an aspiring writer who is having trouble finding the time to actually sit down and write, I’ve gotten the “write first thing” advice so much, but in my life it’s completely impossible, since most days I start work at 5 am, and I also have two furbabies that demand my undivided attention as soon as I’m awake!

  5. I have tried to make time early in the morning for runs and exercise, but I don’t always get it and sometimes I choose sleep over 530am workouts and suffer the consequences.

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