I started drifting recently. Not in the fast and furious way but in the slow and lazy one. And you know what? That's okay. I liked it. For a while. Then it started to suck and I decided to do something about it.
End of September I resigned from my position as Managing Director at Deuromedia (now Swisscom Hospitality Services). The reasons for this decision are not subject of this post - suffice to say that I thought long and hard about it and eventually decided that this was the best course of action for me at the moment. I feel good about it and look forward to an exciting and challenging future.
As soon as it was clear that my contract would end, I started consuming my remaining vacation days. This period plus the time since September 30 adds up to a total of almost seven weeks. Seven weeks without business stress, professional pressure and the usual challenges coming with the job.
It took me a while to get used to this - especially in my mind. I did not stop thinking about what could and should be done at the company to make it stronger for the future and a better place to work for my colleagues until two weeks ago. And this is not because I was bored - I never am - but because I still felt connected and could relate to the situation there. I spent the first few days of these seven weeks really doing nothing much at all except the usual tasks in such a situation (update CV - check; update online profiles - check; set search agents on job websites - check; talk to friends and let them know about my availability - check) - you know how it is.
After a few days these things were done and I spent time on "fun stuff" like playing pool, surfing the web, playing games etc. - you get the picture. This was fun but left me restless.
So I found some online courses provided by Stanford University and the University of Virgina respectively via Coursera. I was particularly interested in "Organizational Analysis" and "Foundations of Business Strategy". Topics, to which I am no stranger and always eager to improve my knowledge. Highly valuable information! These courses are done now.
Note: If you don't know it, you should really check this out. www.coursera.org offers an amazing range of onlince courses from a variety of well-known universities. But finish reading this first.
Apart from this we had to prepare the move to our new home, which involved physical work as well as some planning. The move was finished last week and although there is still plenty to be done, we reached a state in which we can actually live comfortably. And as soon as our kitchen arrives, we will even be able to feed ourselves properly again.
Over the past two or three weeks I noticed that my general mood was not as it should be and certainly not as I wanted it to be. I was grumpy, short tempered and generally restless.
It took me until yesterday to pinpoint the reason: drifting.
You probably know what I am talking about, if you have ever been in a situation, where you CAN do anything you like at any time you choose, but you don't really NEED to do anything at a certain time or in a certain order. In other words: there are things to be done, but who cares whether you do them now, tomorrow or next week. Sounds nice? It is. For a reasonable period. For me this period has ended. It is a pleasant change not to be under constant pressure. But in my opinion having no timelines and boundaries whatsoever is just as worse as permanent stress.
Drifting will not give you a heart attack - unless you combine it with a lot of unhealthy food. But it will take your edge. Your mind is not challenged, it goes into energy saving mode. Why? Because this is still enough for anythign you are doing all day long. Playing games, watching movies, browsing the web are NOT highly intellectual activities (with the possible exception of a few very select games and websites). Your brain simply does not need to do more than the bare minimum and even then it gets bored and starts to waste away.
Shifting away from Drifting
At least this is how it felt to me. I realized it yesterday and - true to myself - decided to act upon this insight and change things. I started today with some simple changes. The most significant one is to structure my day. True, I don't need to go to an office at the moment. But this does not mean that I cannot have a schedule. So I decided to split my day into four major blocks:
- Body & Fitness
- Brain & Mind
- Fun & Games
- Heart & Soul
Body & Fitness
9:30 - 11:00: With the goal of staying in shape (or getting there, depending on how you see it):
- Same workout I did already, but in the morning instead of the evening
- Extended by running for at least 30 minutes (appr. 4km)
This is a surefire way to really wake up properly, get some oxygen into your system and (after a shower) start the day fresh and ready to tackle anything in your way.
Brain & Mind
11:00 - 15:00: Any activities that require thinking and/or learning. In my case these are currently
- Job search
- E-mails & Calls
- House tasks (always something to do here)
- Research on relevant business topics
- Checking Industry news and updates
- Checking General news
- My blog (especially the series of "Management Insights" that I am currently working on)
The interesting thing is, that I actually look forward to what seems to be the least fun part of the day. I feel fresh, relaxed and full with energy. I am able to focus my attention on the taks at hand and these four hours fly by. I also take a snack in between as it includes lunch time.
Fun & Games
15:00 - 18:00: Anything except work stuff. Could be any or all of the below
- Playing pool
- Playing video games (currently I am very much into FIFA14)
- Watching videos (YouTube is very good at eating up afternoons)
- Reading a book
- and other stuff along these lines
Sounds stupid? Maybe. But these are things I like to do and which help me to relax. And knowing that I had been productive before allows me to actually enjoy my "fun time". I don't need to feel bad or stressed about wasting time because I don't. I am in the situation of having the time and I consciously decided to use it in that way. No doubts, no regrets.
Heart & Soul
18:00 - lights out: All kinds of "couple activities" like
- Cooking (not necessarily together, but for both of us)
- Discussing the events of the day
- Spending quality time together
After being alone for most of the day, I really look forward to this part and thoroughly enjoy it.
I Can Hear You
I suppose this raises several questions along with some eyebrows. Let me try to answer some of them.
Q: Mate, how can you complain? It is awesome to be able to do whatever you want!
A: True. For a time. The whole point is, that if you have this for a prolongued period of time, you get used to it and will not be able to appreciate it anymore.
Q: How could this happen? Don't you have anybody at home to kick your butt?
A: I do. And she is actually very talented and experienced in doing so. But she is also very understanding and was patient enough to let me identify the prolem myself rather than hitting me over the head with it.
Q: And this works?
A: We will see. I am convinced it will work for me - I don't presume to claim this to be a solution for everyone. In any case it has to be better than to keep drifting. Time is infinite, but my (and your) portion of it is very limited indeed. And if need be, I will adjust. The important part for me is to actively shape my day rather than to watch it go to waste.
I hate waste. I almost physically dislike inefficiencies. When I found that I had let myself slide into a state of wasting time, I was surprised. I did not think that this would or could happen to me. But it did. If you know me, then you know I am not one to cry over whatever went wrong in the past. But I am one to identify what it was and to take action in order to correct it. And this is what I am doing now. And it feels good.