Tobias T–

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Structure does not bring you happiness

It has been five month now. Five month in which I completely changed the way I work. I focus on the task at hand, produce better results, take breaks, read more, write more and overall I have more time for exploring other things. This post is a reminder for myself to see progress when there is some.

What happened? During the summer I felt the urge to spend more time in the ocean. I realized that I need to optimize the time my day has. As the number of hours each day are counted, I had to search for ways that improve the hours I spend on the things I do. I needed structure.

Working is a huge part of the day. Most people spend more time with their colleagues than they spend with their family and friends. I did spend them alone at home. No people around me, with the exception of lunch breaks and the occasional meetings. It is easy to get distracted when you are alone. During research for work you discover this one article. You will just quickly read it and then get back to the task at hand. Unfortunately the last paragraph has a link to a video portal. You check out that link as well and soon you realize that you have to stop your work timer because you are not working anymore. Reader of this little site might know it already: the solution for myself have been Pomodoros. When I work, I indeed work. Deep and focused work. If I discover something interesting it gets on a list. If it's that important, the timer will end in the next 25 minutes and I can take my break to handle it. The result of this is quite interesting: while I work kind of the same hours as before, the results of my work are recognizable better. If there is some time left on the timer, but the tasks is done, I spend the remaining time to improve the result. This might be extra comments to make things cleared, write extra tests to verify it works, or even just a little bit more documentation so that everyone is one the same page. Then the timer ends. Take a break. That wasn't something I would do. I would get a coffee or an apple, but that would be it. Now I take 5 minutes. I spend them on all the things I want to. Enjoy the sunshine on the balcony, clean out the dishwasher or just read the link I added to my list. I can do everything I want, until the break is over. Hard cut, back to work. No matter what. This also changed a lot for me. Not that our apartment was messy and dirty before, but now there is almost nothing to do. There are no glasses standing around, no paper to put into the box, no nothing. For me the funniest thing about this: when my girlfriend comes home after work, she can immediately see how productive my day was. No dishes means it was a good day.

Still reading? Don't fall asleep. There is more to sleep then I ever wanted to admit. I am definitely a night person. I'm usually never tired and for me a day on which I got into bed early was a wasted day. All the hours that get lost because of an early sleep. Just 30 minutes more, and I will have more out of the day… until I realized what we do during the week on a night. Spending time on your favorite move rental service, watch mixups of TV shows that combine all the old ones, playing FIFA, talking about the important and unimportant stuff for hours. Except for the last one they are all not worth staying up late. A day does not get better because you watched one episode more. It gets better because you realize that the people around you are tired during nighttime. You realize that everyone will feel happier if they get a good night sleep. Happier people in your life will make it a better day.

Getting up early was never easy for me. It still is not. No matter how many hours I slept, it is hard. Live is a finite thing and there is only so much you can do. If you get into bed early, I thought, I could at least get up early as well. During the morning I will definitely not spend time with TV series and FIFA. Turns out: I was right. Strange things started to happen. I was one of the earliest persons in the gym to take a swim in the pool. I take a real physical book and read for half an hour. I enjoy the sunrise. I write. Everything I want, I can do. It's not that all of the sudden I got to be a morning person. But I have to admit that it is strangely satisfying if you start to work an 8 or 9 o'clock in the morning, and you have been to the pool already, read some chapters of a book and enjoyed a good breakfast.

Sometimes when I look at the person I am today I do not recognize parts of me. I was always living into the day, started work when I felt like it and worked until my hours where completed. Sometimes I worked more, sometimes I worked less. I got into bed late and liked to sleep in. It felt perfect. Today I'm getting more and more organized. I even try timeboxing my workday, do retrospectives with myself every Friday and constantly try to improve things for the better. Does this make me happier? It does. The feeling of getting things done. Having more time available and spending it with things I did choose for myself. Things do not choose to distract or occupy me anymore. I am the one in control.

Except on weeks like this one. Not every week is perfect. It's not every day I get up early. Not every week I go swimming. That's fine. But there are some weeks that cannot be saved. Some weeks just start of with the wrong foot and every day seems to follow the same mood. This week is one of them. That's why I'm writing this article. For my future and current self. Remember the things you experienced in the last months. Look forward to the moments you will enjoy in the future. Structure does not bring you happiness. Live does. If structure is one of the tools to make your live easier, use it. If it does not work today, accept it.

If something does not work for you today, it might again work for you tomorrow.

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