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On Regaining Balance

For almost a year, I have been struggling with balancing responsibilities with recreation. It all started when the Moving Home date loomed closer. I was so excited to move to Berlin, then move home to start the next phase of our life.

It was bittersweet, though. I did not want to leave Germany, and I miss it now at the strangest times. Getting in my car to go somewhere instead of hopping on my bike. Sitting at Hooters to watch football, instead of Cafe Wolkenlos to watch Fußball. Turning on my food processor and thinking of the Baileys and the many nights we used their Cuisenart food processor as a precursor to an evening of food, fun, and memories.

Still, I was ready to come home, so I lost focus. Now, that’s fine if you’re a 12-year-old and you get antsy the night before school starts. You’ve finally settled on The Perfect First Day of School Outfit and packed and repacked your backpack. But that excitement is over in a day. Rob and I were anticipating our return to America for months. Things that should have been important were back-burnered.

Once the summer semester ended, I found myself with Free Time. I filled it with whatever I wanted, reading through a collection of short stories, Facebook, wandering around aimlessly on the Internet, and enjoying six precious weeks with Rob’s family in Berlin. It was fun, but besides the family time and short stories, I felt like I was filling my soul with  only fast food when it desperately craved a well-balanced meal.

Last week, I had enough. I was disgusting myself with my level of inactivity. My soul was sick with poor nutrition.

I don’t remember which productivity website I found it on, but I read somewhere that, to help yourself stop getting distracted, you should record what you work on in 5 minute increments.

I tried 15 minutes, set the 4 built-in timers on PhD Timer (a simple yet effective iPhone app) for 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minutes and started them all at the same time. When an alarm goes off, I stop, list what I did in the previous 15 minutes, and then get back to work.

It helped! Finally, something kept me on track. My own resolve has not been enough. My little mental tricks had not been helping. But this did, and that gives me hope.

There was a time, right after we moved to Germany, when I was super productive. I mean, I got my shit done, and I got it done on time, maybe even ahead of time, and it was done good. My desk was clean at the end of every day. I responded to emails in a timely fashion. I want to get back to that. It feels good to be productive and organized.

A very wise friend of mine believes in Baby Steps, and that’s what I’m focused on right now. I have made one small step towards regaining my former strengths, so now I can focus on the next one. It’s comforting to know that I am not alone, too, because it makes this funk feel more normal. Here’s to finding a way out of the funk, one day at a time!

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