Think about how your typical day goes for a moment.
What are the activities you give your all to? Are you the kind who prioritizes work as if your world revolves around it? What are the other aspects of your life in which you always do your best?
You know, sometimes it’s these simple questions—which tend to be the great ones—we forget asking ourselves. Sometimes, if not most of the time, we spend our days without anymore bothering to identify what does and does not matter.
We’ve Been Raised to Work
I am a millennial. I don’t know about you, but it seems our generation has been taught to live our lives primarily to work. Of course we know that technology wasn’t this advanced back then.
But I have to say that before Generation Y, all generations were the working generation. They had to work their butt off every time. Not just work all the time; they also had to exhaust all that was left in their body to show everyone else that they did work like ants.
For some reason, it’s even a sin to not appear exhausted these days.
Hold on right there for a moment.
I’m making it clear at this point that even though I sound as if I despise work, I have a very high respect for people who work with seeming tirelessness … for those who look for ways, for those who’ve already made it, for those who can make ends meet.
It’s good to figure things out by yourself especially for the next months.
However, if during all the time given to us, we only work—or think mostly about work—then I think some form of cancer starts. This cancer would affect how we’d deal with our families, ourselves, and life itself.
Doing Our Best
When I was a kid I was told to do my best at some special event or contest or competition I joined. I was caught up in that mentality towards such events. Perhaps everyone followed that outlook, too, implying that we have to do our best when all eyes are on us, and eventually, when we do work that’s lined up for scrutiny somehow.
Joining a math quiz bee? Better scour those books. Singing contest? That would mean hours of practice. Battle of the bands? Hope everyone’s available for rehearsals.
Right then and there, we’d know where to focus our energy, how much time to spend, what to sacrifice just so we could make it work.
And So, We Started to Take Things for Granted
I have to admit that it’s only recently I realized the importance of balance in my life. For the most part, I used to believe that work was life, that it was everything. Furthermore, I was in a job I didn’t like. And as you already know, doing work you don’t like is suicide … but I digress.
Listen up. Even though you’re living the dream job, you might still be taking the more important things for granted. You might be forgetting that you should work to live, not the other way around.
They could be really simple, these important things, that it would sound ridiculous and counterintuitive—especially during these fast-paced modern times—to do them just so we can “do our best” on things we really should.
There are times I’d think I owe myself some lack of sleep because I’ve been giving rests too much priority. (Oh, the irony. Sometimes change is hard.) And then all of a sudden I find myself in my previous self in which six hours of sleep seems the optimal amount, as if I need the kind of anxiety it would yield every time.
But every time I get back to my senses, sleep still appears to be my number one friend.
If you think your brain‘s not working any longer or you’re not in the mood or just weirdly feeling sentimental for some weird reason … if you’re feeling off … I’d argue that most probably you’re just lacking sleep.
It’s quite hard to go to bed early when you’re used to the six-hour (or four-?) routine, but it is possible to adjust your body clock. And when talking about better sleep, the next one has been or tremendous help for me.
My primary goal for committing to regular exercise for almost a year now is that I’ve been sedentary just working in front of the computer. I wanted to literally move to reduce the risks of heart attack due to a nasty lifestyle.
But that I wasn’t having quality sleep turns out to be my best reason now. I’ve always been a night owl, or so I think, that I couldn’t get myself to sleep early anymore, or at least at the time I wanted to.
I had trouble with one of my favorite things to do in the world.
So I started doing regular exercise. A consistent four-to-five-times-a-week strength and cardio exercises. And they’ve helped a lot. I swear to God I’ve been having the best sleep in my life. I can have it if I work it.
The Pomodoro Technique
To me this has been the first counterintuitive technique I started applying in my life. Because, you know, how are you being more productive if you’re cutting down the number of hours? Hah.
But studies have been making a good point as to why it’s indispensable to put short breaks in between the chunks of time we put our total focus on.
You don’t have to follow the traditional 25/5 minutes design (it doesn’t work for me). Just allow for short breaks in your whole working period.
For a particular length of time, the longer we try to concentrate on a task straight, the lower our productivity. And one easy way to keep up with the demands of work is to take those short breaks.
The best practice, in my opinion, is to give all your focus during an allotted work time, leave for a while and forget about it, and then come back with a rested mind.
Thank goodness for naps and for whoever discovered it. Sometimes there’s guilt in just thinking about it, right after I eat lunch—especially if I’ve some work to finish. Sleep/naps are bittersweet in nature.
But now I even wake up just before the alarm goes off. It’s quite amazing, actually.
And for some reason, I believe the guy who said that sleep is the best form of meditation. In my case, they turn out to be catnaps. There are times I find it hard to just sit and meditate (even though ironically I mostly sit) … but I don’t really worry about it now because of naps.
When you badly want an emergency day off, you probably need it. Free yourself doing literally nothing, so you’re just left with your mind, body and soul … and a device to take notes on.
It’s nice to reflect upon what’s been going on. During these times I just let my brain think (or not think) about what could be missing in my to-do list, or something else I should be doing, or you know, just anything, without any arbitrary rules to follow. Most of the time I just wait for some enlightenment or epiphany or light bulb moment to hit my lazy brain.
And I take note of them.
Moving on with life makes it so easy to forget about the big picture, about why we do what we do. When this happens, we can burn out pretty quick, and sometimes, it can be depressing (and I freakin’ hate that feeling).
I was once watching an interview with a businesswoman. The interviewer asked where she was getting her inspiration from. To his surprise, the businesswoman replied she was finding it in books.
I was quite surprised, too, because as a success, I presumed it was the people she loved and looked up to that cut it. (I suppose this is a way too common answer.)
With today’s technology, we can get almost any book we want—particularly in the form of an e-book. We can pick the brain of humanity’s greatest minds.
I’d rather read books than watch the news, to be honest. In many ways, I agree with the businesswoman. I’d surround myself with people smarter than me, but during times I can’t, I’d rather read.
Reading has opened my eyes, especially in understanding myself.
If you want something to work, you first have to understand how it does. Reading can set you free in that regard.
Quality Time with Loved Ones
When it comes down to it, this is one of the things that matters to me—I know this deep in my guts but I admit there have been stages in my life wherein I’ve neglected this: I didn’t go see my relatives (at least those I like) when I had the chance; I insisted on doing overtime at the expense of meeting my friends; I allowed the depletion of all my bodily energy so that when I went out the office door, I had nothing left, except for which I needed to walk, eat, and go to bed.
It’s still one of my goals (throughout the process)—to make quality time with my loved ones available every day … or at least whenever I want to. It would seem impossible for now, but hey, goals.
Because I believe that, even though I’ve had previous blunders and excuses not to spend time with people important to me, this is what life is all about.
Life is meant to be shared. It’s for helping others, relatives or strangers. In the long run, we want to be remembered for who we’ll have been, for what we’ll have done. In a multitude of meaningful and stupid things we can do, we can be wise in choosing them.
Remember, resources are finite. Time is finite. Our patience, sanity, and the F’s we give are finite. We have to choose the things we’re going to use our resources on.
So after investing in ourselves, we don’t just stop there. There’s always going to be something bigger beyond us. You are a unique person, exhibiting unique personality and skills. You have to share it with the world, because if you don’t, you basically defy the fact that we are social beings.
The people that are already there for you are a good place to start.
Things We Love Doing (a.k.a. Passions)
Need I say more? Sure.
Passions are arguably what drive us.
If you want to live—as in live—not merely exist in a foreign place like Earth, then you’d have to look for your reason to live. A passion isn’t necessarily glamorous in that you’ll find fame or money in a year. But you’d do it anyway, because you love it, or more importantly, because it’s your own unique way of making a difference.
Beyond ourselves and own happiness, I’d argue that passions are motivated by an awareness that we also do them for others (who are in the same boat, supposedly).
You could have the weirdest passion (I bet you already have), but deep down you’d want to share and let the world know about that passion because you know there’s a community out there that will appreciate it. You are never alone.
I’ll leave it up to you to think about that weird passion of yours … but the thing is, you’d want to get better and better at it. You’d want to be the best at it, actually, because despite what you’ve gone through to get there, you’ll have no regrets.
When You Think It’s Procrastinating, Do It Anyway
You see, procrastinating and fantasizing and daydreaming are nice.
However, if you think all of the above are just ways to perfectly waste your life, they’re not.
How many times have you prided on your work when you knew you’d been pulling all-nighters to rely on coffee, or that you’d been going nowhere except the house and the office? Have you actually been productive and has it been worth all the time you sacrificed that could’ve been spent on something else?
Mindfully Taking Care of Yourself Is Mindfully Doing Your Best
Doing work, it strikes a chord. At least to me.
It’s not that work is supposed to suck the life out of us. However, if we strive to be the best at it, we make sacrifices. These sacrifices are the normal stuff we can go back to anytime or in other words, take for granted.
So choose your battles. And do your best at them.
When it’s time to rest, you bet your butt you’d want to relax and not get queasy over a project. When you work out, you do reps until muscles hurt. When you take 5-minute breaks, you intentionally look for something else to distract you. When you reflect about your future, you do give a damn reflecting about your future. When you attempt to learn something overwhelmingly new to you, you give your 101% attention to it.
Work is only a part of your dynamic life. In fact, it can be the smallest part of your life if you make it work. How well you perform at it is how well you perform at the other areas, and you’d rather be sane most of the time.
(Top Image: Dave Gingrich)