Just breathe: Setting air quality improvement goals without being a perfectionist about it

Hello, lovely readers!

I don’t know how it’s the middle of February already, but here we are! I’m halfway through my first quarter of 2021 self care goals and I haven’t even told you what they are yet. In truth, though I did some research on common indoor air toxins December/January, I didn’t figure out my goals until the start of February. Better late than never, right? I’ve only recently come to recognize that one of my perfectionist habits is to do a lot of planning, getting myself really psyched up about a project, and then when it comes to doing any of my plans, I feel overwhelmed and get stuck in an endless cycle of telling myself I’ll start “tomorrow”. So this is me, learning and practicing to keep my goals more bite sized and ignore the excuses my brain is so fantastic and coming up with.

The research

I started with a little online research on common indoor air pollutants and put together the following list based on a collection of sources:

  • Lead (in house dust)
  • Formaldehyde (by-product of common items like cigarettes/cigars/e-cigarettes, furnaces, stoves, fireplaces, water heaters, vehicle exhaust, perfumes, air fresheners, anti-wrinkle clothes/sheets, cosmetics…)
  • Radon
  • Fragrances from cleaners
  • Dust mites
  • Mold
  • Pet dander

I’m sure this list is not exhaustive. I’m going for progress over perfection here. 2020 me would take a look at a list like this and immediately start thinking up ways for how I can thoroughly tackle ALL of the items in this list (and I did… my brain was quite content to get to work on this). 2021 me is determined to break my perfectionist all-plan-no-action cycle. I limited myself to THREE goals.

The goals

Taking the above list into consideration, I wanted to set myself up for success with goals that are small, somewhat easy to pull into my regular routine, and impactful. This likely looks different for everyone but for me I was also inspired by the two loveable fur shedders in my family and home. I decided I wanted to build a regular habit of 1. sweeping/vacuuming the floors and treat the problem at the source with 2. more regular brushing of both my pets. For my third goal, I did something completely different and pulled in a previous on-again-off-again goal of regular exercising. Our exercise habits affect how we breathe so it’s not totally out of left field.

Those are the general goals, but I also wanted to make them SMART. That is Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound. So here’s what the final goals look like:

  1. By the end of March, I will have vacuumed/swept my floors at least 8 times (since I’m in February, this comes down to about 1 times per week).
  2. By the end of March, I will brush each of my pet’s fur 8 times (which comes down to completing a fur brushing about two times per week)
  3. By the end of March, I will have completed 900 minutes of physical exercise, stretching, or breathing exercises (which I’m breaking down into 60 15-minute sessions and I started this in January so it doesn’t have to be daily, however I am going to attempt to do something daily even if it’s just 5 minutes).

The wins I made without trying

I may not be seeking to do it all right now when it comes to improving the air quality in my home. I also think it’s important to recognize that I’m not starting from square 1. There are habits I already have that contribute to a healthier air environment in my house including not smoking or living with smokers and avoiding bringing anything with perfumes or synthetic fragrances into my home. So even if I did fall off the productivity wagon and failed to meet any of my new cleaner air goals, I’ve still got some wins here that are worth noting.

One response to “Just breathe: Setting air quality improvement goals without being a perfectionist about it”

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