I’ve been trying to find better ways to organise my time and prioritise in the last couple of months. I haven’t made a great deal of progress in terms of tasks completed. I have made solid progress in how I feel about that though.
The advice people always give about time management is to prioritise. Decide what’s important to you and get that done first. The problem I have with this is that my priorities are all perpetual. Sure, I’ll pay the bills before they’re overdue and I’ll reply to an email before I let it sit too long. But in general I don’t do things I don’t think are important and I don’t worry about things that have a finite end point. For the longest time this was a source of great frustration. I’m getting better at it.
To break it down a little bit, here’s what I do in a week that I consider to be important / essential:
Make photos (when I can, a few hours on Mondays) – Important because: It’s my creative outlet. It’s the ultimate stress relief. It’s my favourite thing in the world.
Work (5 days, 9 hours, 12-9pm) – Important because: I enjoy teaching. I have rent to pay. Food is expensive.
Run (3 times a week, 40 minutes) – Important because: Running is the backbone of my exercise. It’s a chance to clear clear my head before work.
Study Japanese (not enough / an hour a day) – Important because: I live in Japan. It’s Yuka’s first language. I think people should try and learn a second language.
DipTESOL (almost never) – Important because: I teach English and I want to be good at it.
Write this blog (A couple of hours a week) – Important because: I’d missed writing. I like getting my thoughts out. I like having a neater collection of photographs for people who ask.
Hang out with Yuka (every day, as much as I can) – Important because: She’s the best and if I could spend all my time with her I would.
Dungeons and Dragons (Sunday Nights, 4 hours) – Important because: It’s ridiculous escapism, it’s hilarious, it’s the polar opposite of the rest of my week.
Read (a little here and there, usually on the train) – Important because: I like to learn about things that aren’t English or Japanese language.
Sleep (7 hours a night, 7 days a week) – Important because: Unfortunately it’s not optional. Not sleeping ruins the rest of the day.
I’m sure anyone could look at that list and find things to cut. But these are the things I need to do. That make me happy to be alive. So I do them. It’s tiring and sometimes I end up playing Warcraft of the sofa for 3 hours when I could have practised all the kanji for my Friday morning Japanese lesson a bunch. That’s what keeps me going. Knowing that if it all gets too much, I can take a break. Knowing that the option of a break will never go away means I’m feeling the pressure of getting everything done less and less. Sometimes I don’t study. Sometimes I miss D&D. Sometimes I feel like shit, call in sick at work, and worry about my next payday a for a couple of hours. But whenever I don’t do something, nothing really bad ever happens.
On the other hand, I don’t want to be the kind of person who puts everything off until later. I don’t want to slowly get better at Japanese and maybe be where I want to be in 10 years by osmosis; I don’t want to take photos when I’m 65 and retired; I don’t want to hang out with Yuka when we’re old. I might not survive ten years. I’m alive now. I want to live now. So I get shit done.
It’s a process though. I’ve settled on progress over completion. Is there an older cliché? I’m not sure there is, but it holds up. I don’t want to think about the English teacher, photographer, boyfriend, Japanese speaker, D&D player, blogger, runner, person I’ll be if I make it to 90. I want to think about who I am now. To know that I tried to improve on yesterday and that tomorrow I’ll be trying to improve on today. Never forgetting that if I’m tired or sad or frustrated, playing a game or watching a movie, looking at cameras I don’t need or cleaning the kitchen is going to help me get back on track faster than forcing myself to do things I care about more but don’t feel like doing.
In Japan you hear people saying 頑張る(Ganbaru) (or conjugated into one Japanese’s trillion verb forms) a lot. It basically translates as ‘to do one’s best’. The girl in the picture above said it when I asked about the heat. It was 30 something degrees, baseball games are long, stadiums have a lot of stairs, beer is heavy. I hear it in some form or another every day. Usually when kids come into class or when an adult student realises they need to practise something a little more. Me too.
Tokyo, March 2017.