It's Been Awhile

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Wow, it has been quite some time since I made a blogpost.  As it turns out writing a blog can be a lot of work, and trying to balance that with life, work, and cycling can be tough.  Sometimes you just get burnt out while trying to pursue everything at once.  That's essentially what happened to me, too much, too little time, a lot of stress.  Though blogging can be a great way to get rid of that stress, it can also add to it.  As my cycling got more serious I found it hard to make the time to write for this blog, and as the time went on every time I thought of writing it came a little easier to just put it aside, and the desire to write slowly dwindled.

During this time I have had an epiphany about myself, the trouble I always seem to run into in my pursuit to do everything and to optimise the things I am doing.  No one taught me how to balance everything in life, I never read any books on it, and blogs I've read don't really touch on the subject other than getting the important things done, then doing the rest with what little time you have left.

There is even a little object lesson that many have seen before about trying to fit everything in your day.  It usually starts with an empty jar, then you fill it with some sand, then some pebbles, and finally some larger rocks.  Supposedly the size of these things correlate to their importance.  You find that by filling it with frivolous sand that it can be hard to fit the pebbles in, and even harder to fit the rocks in afterwards; but when you first place the large rocks in, then the pebbles, and shake it a bit, everything falls into place, then you can repeat the process with the sand, and suddenly you find that everything fits.

It's an interesting analogy, but again, it doesn't really teach you the HOW of actually fitting everything in, just that somehow it is possible.  It's almost like those annoying get rich quick schemes that tell you about how great this plan is, and by following it you can make a ton of money, but we won't really tell you how to do it, and usually if you buy the book, or so I hear, you still have no idea how to make money.

Scaling Back

I've come up with my own solution now, after countless years of trial and error.  This may not be perfect, it might even be wrong, the long term will show us, but for now I'm scaling back.  It would be awesome to be a rock star, movie actress, husband, cyclist, marathon runner, and internet personality, but to achieve each of these separately is nearly an insurmountable task, let alone doing all of them.

Here’s what I’ve put myself through in the past 6 months:

  1. Kahn academy - It’s a life dream of mine to eventually have a degree in something, to learn Calculus, and advanced my knowledge

  2. Cycling - The cycling group I joined was awesome, we did a lot of riding, and now I enjoy 40 mile rides each Saturday and Sunday, rain or shine

  3. Running - Signed up for a 5k in March, started training last week

  4. Work - Busier than ever, with fewer people on the team more responsibilities fall on me, getting more testing done while keeping up with my gate keeping tasks which cover multiple teams

  5. Married life - while I’ve been married for 5 years this doesn’t suddenly stop taking time.  You still have to be willing to sacrifice some of your own interests at times, or realign your priorities with the person who you have decided to spend your life with

  6. Gaming - I do have my vices, and sometimes it comes in a pretty box with a download code because I don’t even have a CD/DVD-ROM drive on my computer

  7. Blogging - well, not so much as my readers will know, this has been put to the side as I focused on everything else

  8. Dieting - I’ve been pushing myself pretty hard with this, and gains (in the form of losses) have been coming slowly but surely

  9. Family - holidays and other activities put me spending time with my father and brother, since they are about 30mi away this means we can only meet on weekends which are already packed with everything else

  10. Reading - a lifelong passion that I loved from the time I was reading “Fun with Dick and Jane” in kindergarten

Sometimes the sensation and desire to get everything done can be overwhelming, and at times it can be downright destructive.  I’ve come to realize this by looking back at some things I’ve accomplished in my life, and how I always strive to do things better, faster, different than anyone else has done.  One example from the recent past comes to mind.

Last year a friend of mine had introduced me to Zombies, Run! C25K.  We were both signed up for the same 5k run in March, and I was determined to finish the training before then.  Instead of heeding the advice of the app which had an 8 week schedule with 3 runs a week and plenty of rest I decided that I am more physically fit and can accomplish the same in just 4 weeks and running every single day.  It didn’t take long but I ended up getting shin splints the first time I ran off a treadmill and on pavement.  I also strained some muscles after recovering from that, and overall felt fatigued.  I was still able to run the 5k faster than I had ran one the year before, but I probably could have done better by just following the schedule that others had spent so much time developing.

I almost fell into the same trap this year, with 8 weeks until the run I was a couple days behind on their schedule and was thinking of ways to get a couple extra runs in to finish the C25K program just in time for the 5k.  This, while also training for Seattle To Portland (STP), where I want to ride my bike 150mi or more a week.  Thankfully I woke up from such training torture and realized that I don’t have to push myself so hard.  I can already run a 5k in less than 40 minutes, the 8 weeks of training will probably get me down to below the 34 minutes I ran it in last year.  I am already up to the March/April training schedule for miles per week according to STP, I don’t need to push myself further.  This has been a great weight off my shoulders.

The reality is, if I accomplish just a fraction of what I set out to do I am already doing more than having never set out to accomplish anything.

Living In the Now

What I have come to realize is that I don’t have to do everything, and especially not everything that society says I should do, and I don’t need to hold those same things at as high of importance as others may like me to hold them.  I would love to learn Calculus and be able to use it daily, but for now other things that are happening take precedence.

I am preparing for a 200mi cycling ride, I am running a 5k, I am losing another 8kg, these things are important to me.  The gaming now gets maybe an hour once a week, family I try to keep down to once a month or so, but often turns into twice.  Work feels ever more like it is getting in the way, yet it is what enables me for now to afford doing the things I find important.  Blogging is still something I would like to do, but I want to do it right, I want to do it well.  I don’t need thousands of people coming back weekly for my every word, hell, Mr. Money Mustache doesn’t publish every week, sometimes he takes a couple off, or even an entire summer.  The realization to me is that I am not competing with everyone, and there is enough things to keep people entertained that if I come up with an article once a month that will be enough.  So blogging is something I will continue to do, but I will not commit so much time to it.

There are things that need to be done now, and things which I can do later and which won’t affect my happiness, or the happiness of those around me.

Feeling Satisfied

At least once a month I get this feeling of immense satisfaction.  It comes from having accomplished something monumental, such as a 60mi ride over 2500’ of elevation.  Knowing that I set out to accomplish something and I did.  Having time to spend with my sweetheart, working on the house that we’ve bought together, seeing it transform into a home, and realizing that we have everything that we need.

One moment came after figuring out our yearly budget report, seeing our net worth rise month after month, knowing that we have plenty set aside, and that we are on the right path to financial independence.  We found that even buying everything that we wanted to we still came within Mr. Money Mustache’s yearly expenses, and that this year we will most likely spend less.  All that hard work has paid off, putting money into investments, and finding a great hobby which works out with other desires that we have.

The key I have found is not in how much I can optimize, but in how much I can simplify.  Instead of finding ways to fit more things into my busy schedule, I found ways to simplify the things I must have, and to get rid of the things I don’t need and using that extra time to do the things that I want to do.

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