Day Fifteen: Time

What an appropriate topic for today!

I was just thinking about time and time management. In fact, I was stressing out about being behind on my blog posts. I just finished up yesterday’s blog post a few minutes ago, because I had the kids over yesterday and sitting around blogging while the kids run wild in my apartment wasn’t an option. I’m already behind on getting some evening exercise, I have some small household tasks to accomplish, I haven’t eaten dinner yet, and I still need to call my girlfriend tonight.now-clock-1_grande

I’ve been tracking how I use my time for the past couple of days, and how to tweak my time to accomplish the things I want to accomplish this year like:

  • Blogging every day for 365 days.
  • Daily meditation.
  • Exercising at least three times a week, with various 30 day challenges.
  • Reading goals.
  • Writing an ebook.
  • Getting my finances in order, and getting out of debt.
  • Traveling.
  • Learning to be a better cook, and get off fast food and junk food.

What I’m finding is that a huge chunk of my time- surprise!- is eaten up by my job, and getting to and from my job. I work 10 hour days four days a week (in theory), with Wednesdays and Saturdays off. I get Sundays off if I don’t get called in for mandatory overtime. This is interesting because I actually cannot survive on $12 an hour with a 40 hour work week. This week, I will work 60 hours, just for the extra cabbage to pay off my medical bills from early 2016. That’s before I start working on paying off all other debts and getting my credit rating back to the 600s, average credit, where it used to be before baby mama suddenly ran off with her married coworker just over two years ago, right before I lost my job, had a serious injury, and my credit was destroyed and put in the 400s (which was worse than before I repaired my credit last time!)

I would describe my job as a dead end situation.

There are worse jobs, such as the sweat shop in Louisville where I assembled attic ladders for $2 less an hour, with an added 30 minutes of car commute, and only ten minute breaks instead of the usual 15 minute breaks, with a really mean Type A boss whipping us to boost the production numbers, very little time off allowed, and grumpy co-workers.

And then there were the horrible call center jobs I had for 10 years, chained to a phone that rang nonstop  in a cubicle with a computer, while eating bagels and cakes that were brought in almost daily.

I don’t hate my job. In fact, it’s easy work, provides physical exercise with the added boon of  allowing headphones so I can listen to audiobooks, podcasts, and recorded lectures to learn from.

But when it’s over for the week, I lose 40-60 hours of my life, and I hopefully have almost enough to cover my expenses until the next payday. I usually phone in excuses and promises to pay every week to somebody.

If you can believe this, I also played in bands for the last 20 years, tying up my weekends too. Sometimes I got paid. Sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I worked 10 hours on Friday, played a gig on Friday night, stayed up all night, and went in for another 10 hours of work on Saturday, using a mixture of coffee during every break supplemented with 5 Hour Energy supplements, which were quite effective.

Somehow, I still used to find the time to get drunk several times a week, stay up late listening to music, engage in arguments and feuds with other people, waste hours on Facebook and text messages, and watch several hours of bad television programming too.

LIFE is really lived in the moments when I don’t have to be at work.

Sometimes when I am ready to experience life during those brief windows of opportunity, I am thwarted by the weather, such as the rain we’ve been getting all week in Kentucky.

Enter a pretty old, tried and true concept in my life for the first time ever.

TIME MANAGEMENT.

I’m experimenting with another old principle, a staple of the Protestant work ethic in America.

Early to bed, early to rise… 

This may seem strange to many people, who keep day timers and have their shit together as much an average adult is expected to, but I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants since high school, with a few false starts and failed attempts at improving my time management. Here I am again.

I’ve been getting up at 5AM since 2017 began (which is only 15 days in, as I type this) and this week, I will bump it to 4:30AM. This allows time for shower, breakfast, morning meditation, starting my blog post for the day, planning and creating my To Do list (which I’ve never used with any regularity until now).

Up until a couple years ago, I would stay awake until after midnight drinking Miller High Life beers while listening to music or internet surfing, until I woke up hungover and running late to my soul crushing call center job the next day. Repeat daily for a decade. Take a vacation or go on tour with my band once in a while, which were the highlights of my life back then.

Tonight, I planned to go through a basic Qigong tutorial video, finish my blogs, and spend an hour on the treadmill while talking to my girlfriend. However, 2 hours have passed while working on blog posts, and I turn in for bed in about an hour. Qigong and treadmill exercise will be migrated to tomorrow’s To Do list now.

Deng Ming-Dao on Time:

Key points:

  • Each day, we face a problem. We must validate our past, face our present, plan for the future.
  • Those who are nostalgic about how great the “good old days” were miss the reality of the present.
  • Those who live only for the present (guilty as charged) “have little regard for precedent or consequence”.
  • Those who who live for some reward in the future strain themselves with too much denial.
  • Understand how the past effects us.
  • Keep the present full of rich, rewarding experiences.
  • Devote some energy each day to building for the future.

My present project is to change the past a bit, or at least, my story about the past, which is a lot of pain, and pleasures pursued to escape from the pain. I used to live in the moment all the time, with some thoughts of future going about six months out, and a far off, far-fetched goal of being a writer/rock star in the future.

Somewhere around 2007 or 2008, I started living in the past with a tragic victim story of all the malicious things people did to screw up my life, and I wasted a lot of mental energy on maintaining grudges and entertaining revenge fantasies. My enemies called what I was doing “hate”, having a different perspective and an alternative story where I was the villain. Sometimes, years later, after some self-introspection, the offenders will apologize for what they did, and empathize and say things like “I don’t blame you for being so pissed off at me after what I did to you.” But until that day comes, you are the asshole in their version of the story, and your anger is the problem, and what they did was justified. It feels good when that day finally comes, but it doesn’t change the fact that you may have wasted years holding a grudge about whatever it was.

My Vipassana instructor referred to my grudge hangup as “righteous indignation.”

I feel pretty sure the thieves who sawed the catalytic converter off my car a few months ago, if caught, would also find a way to blame me for the theft. My fault for parking the car in a dark place without a car alarm, perhaps? Seems to be human nature. My exes blamed their affairs and running off with other men on the idea that I neglected to affair-proof the relationships.

I find you never really learn the actual reasons. You only hear the excuses.

To be fair, I probably provided a lot of excuses for own moral failings, and usually didn’t even know what the real reasons were, due to a complete lack of self awareness. Maybe most people are this way.

So, I need to:

  1. Get out of the past and change my perspective of the past as something to learn from, instead of something to suffer from.
  2. Fill the present with rewarding experiences, which I’ve been doing well at for at least a year, given my circumstances and limitations.
  3. Every day, devote some effort to building the future.
  4. Balance all three as a whole.

The Daily Stoic: Peace is in Staying the Course

Ryan Holiday says:

“In Seneca’s essay on tranquility, he uses the Greek word euthymia, which he defines as believing in yourself and trusting that you are on the right path, and not being in doubt by following the myriad footpaths of those wandering in every direction.’ It is this state of mind, he says that produces tranquility.”

Today’s post reminded me of the 2004 George W. Bush vs. John Kerry U.S. presidential election. You may remember how “stay the course” became a Dubya catch phrase, while John Kerry was accused of “flip flopping”. Here’s a funny attack ad, to refresh your memory.

To paraphrase Ryan Holiday, we should be assured that we are going in right direction (maybe not 100% sure) and we don’t need to compare ourselves to others or “change our mind every three seconds based on new information.”

  1. Identify our path.
  2. Stick to it.
  3. Make adjustments as needed.
  4. Ignore “the distracting sirens who beckon us to turn toward the rocks”.

The greatest temptation I’ve fallen for is taking advice and opinions, of both the asked for and unsolicited kind. Sometimes, you may be hearing sagely advice from the voice of a mentor. Other times:

  • You have any plan, and they will try to shoot it down for you, or explain why it’s a bad idea. Devil’s advocates. Crazymakers.
  • Their advice and opinions serve them very well, but don’t serve you.
  • They have a different goal, and are manipulating you to bend to their will, or serve their own needs instead of yours.

There have been many other “distracting sirens”.

  • My own fear.
  • Partying.
  • Facebook.
  • Television.
  • Depression.
  • Just giving up.

Tomorrow, I will discuss financial goals.

B.G.

Day Fourteen: Positioning

Yesterday, I cleaned up using the book Unfuck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess by Rachel Hoffman. I skimmed the beginning and while I hesitate to call it “fluff”, it was essay material. I went straight for the meat of the book.

Unlike the Marie Kondo book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, Hoffman is the proponent of “Do a Little at a Time “.

 I’m a “messy person”. The reasons for that go deep into psychology, habit, and laziness and I’m not really concerned as much about why as much as how I can fix it.

I will need to be tidier and more minimalist if I want to be more “Zen”, right?

Clean in “20/10s”, she says.20 minutes of work. 10 minute break. Repeat.Mini-challenges.

Mini-challenge #1:

Before: Absolute disarray. Nothing here actually belongs here.
After: Minimal approach. My faux leather-bound “bullet journal”, Kindle Fire w/ Bluetooth keyboard, copies of “365 Tao” and “The Tao of Pooh”.

Mini-challenge #2:

Before: Nearest flat surface. This is usually much worse. I have obvious issue with throwing things down on flat surface and not throwing trash away immediately.
After: Cleaned off. Incense holder, TV remote, “How to be Idle: A Loafer’s Manifesto” by Tom Hodgkinson, & two children’s books.

Kids Room Project:

Before: Just beginning to attack some clutter.
After: Not perfect, but much improved.

“One of the toughest concepts for people to wrap their heads around when it comes to housekeeping and cleaning is the fact that it’s a never-ending cycle. Cleaning, by its very nature, is never actually finished. That’s probably the most aggravating thing about it, and that’s why most people can’t stand doing it. You’re never done. How annoying is that? So we rebel against it or ignore it entirely, because why on earth would we bother doing all that work, just to have to turn around and do it all over again in a few days or next week or next month? It’s incredibly frustrating and makes the whole process seem pointless. And yeah, any task that needs to be repeated over and over really is a pain in the ass, because you never ever feel like you’re finished.” -Rachel Hoffman

Another tip I found helpful. I will put this as a Reminder on my phone and use every night before bed.

HOW TO UNFUCK TOMORROW MORNING …TONIGHT!

  • Wash the dishes in your sink.
  • Get your outfit for tomorrow together, including accessories.
  • Set up coffee/ tea/ breakfast.
  • Make your lunch.
  • Put your keys somewhere obvious.
  • Take your medication/ set out your meds for the morning.
  • Charge your electronics.
  •  Set your alarm.
  • Go to bed at a reasonable hour.

Deng Ming-Dao on Positioning:

Key points:

  • Actions in life can be reduced to two factors: positioning and timing.
  • If we are not in the right place at the right time, we cannot take advantage of what life has to offer.
  • Almost anything is appropriate if an action is in accord with the time and place.
  • Even if time and place are right, we can still miss our chance if we do not notice the moment.
  • When life presents an opportunity, we must be ready to seize it. Position is useless without awareness.
  • If we have position and awareness, we make no mistakes.


The Daily Stoic: Cut the Strings that Pull Your Mind

“Understand at last that you have something in you more powerful and divine than what causes the bodily passions and pulls you like a mere puppet. What thoughts now occupy my mind? Is it not fear, suspicion, desire, or something like that?” —MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 12.19

Another great day from Ryan Holiday’s book. Ryan refers to “temptations and forces that distract us and pull us away from the things that truly matter.”

So, what does truly matter?

The first answer I found was provided by Gary Keller, author of “The ONE Thing’.He divides the most important things in life in 7 areas.

  • Spiritual life
  • Physical health
  • Personal Life
  • Key Relationships
  • Job
  • Business
  • Finances

That’s a pretty good list. Obviously, with Gary being something of a business guru, and my being more of a creative type, I would probably add “Creative Work” somewhere on that list.

List of my top distractions & temptations:

  • Facebook (particularly reacting and responding to provocative posts, time consuming debates, addiction to checking Facebook for new feeds and messages, etc.)
  • Smoking
  • Engaging in bickering and pointless arguments
  • Gossip
  • Eating junk food
  • Being angry at others
  • Fear

Tomorrow, we’ll cover the subject of “time”.

B.G.