Time Bandit

A few recent experiences have me questioning exactly what the fuck I do with my time:
  1. I reviewed my 2016 goals and realized that I had not accomplished ANY of them.  No, not one.  That was a nausea inducing punch to the gut.
  2. I looked at my annual credit card statement.  Christ on a cracker, did I really spend that much on Amazon?  
  3. I realized that I have 27 (yes, twenty seven) physical books sitting around waiting for me to read, most of which I was supposed to have read by the end of summer, 2016.

I’ve got to get my shit together.  

Wait, this isn’t a pity party.  Not by a long shot.  It’s not like I did nothing in 2016.  At my 9 to 5, I was part of a team that launched our new client-facing and internal website.  I also spent time traveling to other offices around the country, training people on the new website.  I was accomplishing my work goals…just not my other ones.

I’m not really a person that goes for the whole New Years Resolution.  Not in a formal way.  I don’t give up anything for Lent.  However, going into 2018 with 1, 2 and 3 remaining the same isn’t an option.

I think number one hurt the most because it included important writing goals and I never even got out of the gate.  I started slacking on my blog posts because I was “too tired” and the research I was doing for another project just fell to the wayside.  I also finished writing a short and I was sincerely interested in getting things together so I could make my film.  I have to write.  I need it.  When I don’t write, I get a little insane.  Instead of writing, I spent most of my weekends in 2016 falling asleep on my couch while trying to catch up on the shows on my DVR. I rationalized that I was using my weekends to recover from my work week.  I told myself that “next weekend” I would get back into the swing of things, but next weekend turned into months.

I’m not saying that I don’t need some form of recovery time or that I don’t need to sleep.  What I am saying is that I leaned into that excuse for too long and before I knew it, it was the end of the year and it had been months since I’d posted anything on Brick Sandwich and I was no further along on my writing projects.  Realizing that broke my heart a little.  It felt like a failure. 

Number two?  Well obviously I was on my computer - not writing.  I was too busy trolling Amazon looking for shit to buy.  I have a great job and very little overhead.  I’ve spent more time in my life counting my pennies than not, but I think I’ve now become a little too free with my discretionary income.  A while ago, I figured out that I wanted to be a person that values experiences over things, but the boxes  with the creepy arrow smile, that looks vaguely like a penis, were still showing up on my doorstep.  I will announce loudly that I don’t like to shop, but that really isn’t the entire truth.  I like to shop, but only online.  I hate trolling stores.  I loooooove books (hence problem #3).  Not all of the purchases were frivolous and I don’t have any credit card debt, but despite my hard work, I don’t feel completely comfortable with my improved financial circumstances.  Crazy, right?  Back when I was newly divorced, with an infant, about $25,000 in credit card debt and having to move back in with my parents, this - my current situation - was always my goal.  Back then, I’d see something I’d want and just dismiss it completely out of necessity.  I went years without buying anything new for myself.  I didn’t even have a cell phone, because I wasn’t spending $50 a month on something so frivolous.  If it wasn’t for my kid or on my debt, I wasn’t buying it.  

I’m grateful for that experience.  I learned soul changing lessons.  I never want to go back to that place again.  Ever.  It’s just that now that I can buy most things without really thinking about it, and…well, I don’t like that either.  It’s not that I haven’t earned it, I have.  What I don’t like is the unconscious spending.  I like it and I immediately click ‘add to cart’ or ‘buy with 1-click’ (damn you, Amazon!).   I feel out of control.  I’m setting myself up on a budget.

That’s brings us to number three.  I read a lot.  A lot.  Mostly on my Kindle.  It’s great for my long commutes to work, but not so great when you’re trying to be an active, engaged reader and highlight passages and make notes in the margins.  There were several books I wanted to read for that purpose and I completely dropped the ball.  Same old excuses and no discernible plan.  The pile just kept growing.  For this, I’ve made myself a pledge. I typed it up, listing every single book with a completion date of August 31, 2017.  I’ll cross them off as I finish. These books cost money - but it’s only money well spent if I actually read the books.  Looking at them sitting on a cabinet in my home office - well, that just feels like another failure.  Another broken promise to myself. Not cool at all.  

The problem is the same: waste.  Wasting time and wasting money.  Neither is good, but at least you can make more money.  I cannot ever get back any of 2016 and that weighs heavily on me.  Nothing can be done about that.  What I can do now is recognize the problem and take steps to eliminate the distractions.  

I’ve committed to posting twice a week on Brick Sandwich for 2017.   I’ve downloaded an app that allows me to turn off internet access to my computer for blocked periods of time.  I’ve shut down my Facebook account.  In the past,  I would have insisted on relying on willpower, but that isn’t enough.  I’ve gotta set myself up for success and if I can’t get on the internet for 4 or 5 hours while I’m supposed to be working, then I’ve got no choice but to either write or get reading on the next book on my list.  So far, it’s working.   These are just the first steps. I’ve got a lot further to go, but at least it feels like I’m moving in the right direction. 

I was reading a quote recently from a retired Navy Seal, Jocko Willink, who was featured in Tim Ferriss’ book ‘Tools of Titans’.  He said “discipline equals freedom”.  When I first read the quote, it made no sense to me.  Discipline is rigid and full of limitations.  Freedom feels easy.  But all I have to do is look at what happened with 2016 and I know that he’s exactly right.  Discipline would've gotten me a lot farther with my goals and I wouldn’t feel so shitty.  He also said “If you want to be tougher mentally, it is simple: Be tougher.  Don’t meditate on it.”  I spent so much time last year feeling guilty about not writing, but never really doing anything about it.   Just more meditating on it and more broken promises about writing the next weekend or when I got home from work.   It was a vicious cycle. 

In my heart of hearts, I long to be a good writer, but a prolific one too.  I need practice to get better, not excuses.  I admire people who can seemingly make a dollar out of fifteen cents, but with time.  That’s what I’m looking to do.  If I have 15 minutes - what can I do now?  If I’m waiting somewhere, what can I do right now to move things forward?   I may not always get blocks and blocks of time.  

What I know for sure is that the perfect time (when I’ve gotten enough sleep and nothing else needs my attention) will never come.  

I’ve got to make the most out of what I have right now and see where that takes me.