Defending time

It’s been nearly two months since I last wrote something (on Medium or anywhere really). I just checked, and April 15th was the last time I wrote a story, and towards the end of April was the last time I left a comment.

My fault, my bad.

I let life get in my way and writing tends to slip down the list of things to do. Putting the pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard is a critical tool in my quest to achieve some form of clarity. On top of that, writing in and of itself can be a very enjoyable process.

Fortunately, I haven’t just been sitting around. Over the past two months I’ve sold one and purchased two investment properties. (Not an easy task when living abroad — the mountain of paperwork I’ve created and translation services I’ve engaged over the past month is mindblowing.) Now that this process is nearly complete and I can hand the rest off to my property manager I should have a little bit more time to devote to writing.

Additionally, in accordance with the “one thing” principle, any extra creative energy has been poured into this song that has been swimming in my head for the past six months. People aren’t lying when they say a creative piece is never finished. I think I’ve finally found a point where I’m satisfied enough to stop fiddling with the recording. Let’s see if I can get the embedded player to show correctly. If not, here’s the link:

Unfortunately, there has also been a fair bit of sitting around while letting Facebook and Quora rot my brain from the inside out. Quora is at least informative (as well as entertaining), but Facebook is just mindless scrolling through posts from people that I barely know. What a waste. On top of that, I have had the pleasure of introducing my German wife to Arrested Development. She loves it. The episodes are so short, but it’s easy to let one episode turn into two or three and we’ve eventually burned a full hour and we’re heading to bed later than targeted.

That last bit is what I need to work on again. There was a time earlier this year where I made sure to work on something creative for at least half an hour before sitting down to watch TV, before spending twenty minutes scrolling through FB, before reading everything in my TWO Quora Digests (English & German).

It’s such a shame watching all those good habits go down the drain.

I’m not sure when I let that slip, or that the “how?” matters. I think it was my annual trip home to the US. Those travels always start with such big ambitions. Optimistically packing: a parenting book, Kindle (also loaded with books), laptop (for writing), journals (one for daily entries and one for ideas). Besides reading about 50 pages in the parenting book and one short journal entry, I spent exactly zero minutes doing anything productive. Oh, I suppose the laptop and journals add a little bit of extra weight for me to carry around whilst meandering through the airport. I get caught up spending time with my parents and friends, reading newspapers, generally slacking. Maybe next time I can manage to do something productive during a trip home.

I sometimes consider deleting FB, but I like to look at the “memories”. I treasure some of the good moments we captured, and enjoy trying to decipher some cryptic message I wrote in 2009. But such an exercise is little more than a waste of time.

In July I will start a new job, and through clever use of parental leave was able to arrange about five weeks of pause in between. So I am now trying my hardest to not squander this little window of free time. I stand in wait, weapons ready, to defend as many free seconds that I can. Everyone seems wants a crack at them.

Well, by everyone I mostly mean the Mrs. And in her defense, she doesn’t have any idea that it’s important to me to write regularly, or to brainstorm about what I could possibly do to start my side hustle. She doesn’t know that I’m working on working towards something fulfilling outside of our 9-to-5. She sees me having free time and all of our unfinished projects around the house and concludes that this time would be perfect for checking a few boxes off the list.

So I do two things:
1. Agree, but on my terms. I will not waste a free hour in the morning doing menial labor. Painting the bathroom can be done with a beer after dinner and after the kids go to bed. 
or
2. Disagree, and argue how much her ask sounds like something we don’t need.

Statistically speaking, number 1 gets much more use. Most of the time, the things on our list need to be completed at some point, so ignoring them isn’t an option — and I can’t make a good argument for putting everything off on her.

Doing physical, boring tasks after dinner is usually the best option anyway. I can get some physical activity in after dinner, instead of just sitting on the couch watching TV. And, my mind is much more fresh during those mid-morning hours. I don’t recall anymore where I read it, but someone said that for many people, the time around three to four hours after waking up are when many people are at their sharpest mentally.

Now that I’ve made good strides with that, I have to re-learn how to defend my free time from myself. More on that next time, because I have things to do and it’s a very difficult topic.