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Eugene Dorfling
Eugene Dorfling

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Balanced Life: Don't ignore the little things

Life is full of responsibilities. Some are easy and some take some effort to sort out but we can't deny the fact that they exist.

We have to clean our asses, move our asses, and get some sunlight at least once a day. We have to feed ourselves and be sure that what we eat is helping our brains perform at optimal levels. We have to keep our environment clean and keep in touch with loved ones all the while trying to super focus all our energy on that project you are working on.

It is easy when we are immersed in our craft to forget about some of our responsibilities. For instance, when you start dropping balls because your code is taking priority over clean underpants. I am referring to hypothetical balls.

These hypothetical balls represent the things in our life that we spend our energy on. Some of them because our life depends on them and others just because we want to.

The thing is we can only carry so many balls at once.

And if we blow up one ball too much, we push more balls out of our grip. Once a ball starts to slip it’s hard to stop it from popping out and once it pops many often follow.

You see when you stop moving your ass for a few days, you become lazy. Your body struggles to expend the energy you are building up, drinking all that coffee while your bum is growing bigger to store that energy for later. Your muscles start to take sick leave because of depression caused by inaction. We can also say that they deteriorate if you don't like my fancy wording. But nonetheless, real depression follows soon because you can’t think straight anymore and your code doesn't make sense anymore. And it all started with skipping that one-morning workout that you normally do.

Your brain cannot solve problems like it used to because movement is what enhances oxygenated blood flow to the brain. With the consistent demand we place on our brains to come up with creative solutions in our projects, we need to feed our brains more of the good stuff. In that sense, one can almost say, what you feed the brain is directly correlated with the quality of your work. The very brain that came up with those amazing ideas last week will soon feel out of service when you start prioritizing work over a healthy lifestyle.

Similarly, when you procrastinate from your work and run around town the whole day, your works start piling up. The bigger the pile gets the more you think about how far behind you are and the less motivated you will feel to get to work.

The bigger issue here is the psychological one. Where your mind has too many different things to process all the time. When you are leaving your balls lying around unattended, they start working on calling for your attention. While you are looking at a problem that you are trying to solve, you remember that you haven't paid your electricity bill yet. Then you see that your backyard is becoming a scene out of the jungle book. You don't have any clean clothes left in your closet and your significant other half is starting to experience withdrawal symptoms because you space out all the time. Thinking of all these things you still need to do.

Your mind becomes so crowded with all the things you need to do that you simply can't think straight anymore as you try and ignore everything falling apart around you. You try to stay focused on your craft as it normally is the only thing that matters when you find yourself immersed but all these things in your backlog are starting to make you a little crazy. All your balls lying around you, some that can never be picked up again.

The only thing you can do to get yourself out of this slippery spiral is to pull up your socks and start clearing your backlog. One by one picking up the balls lying around, mowing the lawn, paying your bills. Whatever the tasks on your heap of unattended responsibilities, start ticking them off the list.

This is also a time where you cut out some old stuff that you simply aren't interested in anymore. You need to take stock of what you spend your energy on and start prioritizing. Cutting out anything that does not serve you or that you simply don’t have the time and energy to work on. I always say " Sort it out or cut it out" as some things simply can’t be sorted and you need to get rid of the distractions. This will clear up space in your mind in order to focus on what really matters.

When you delay your responsibilities, they become bigger until they are unbearable and take up so much space in your mind that you cannot focus on the task at hand. The idea is to get as close to a clean slate as possible so that you can be present in the moment and focus your energy fully on what really matters.

Here is a fun story that I heard of a monk that goes to a master and asks to be taught the way of life.

A monk said to Chao Chou, “I have just entered this monastery. Please teach me.”
Chao Chou said, “Have you eaten your rice gruel?”
The monk said, “Yes, I have.”
Chao Chou said, “Wash your bowl.”
The monk understood.

It is such a simple story, and I might have a different takeaway than others. To me when you are hungry you must eat, when you are finished you need to wash your bowl, then the next thing happens and you need to do that.

Being 100% present and focused on what you are doing, giving it everything you’ve got. This is when we produce our best work when we are in what some might call a state of "flow". But when you leave that bowl in the sink for later a part of your mind remains behind with that bowl distracting you from what you are then trying to focus on.

We are demanding more from our brains every day and the only way we can ensure it operates at optimal levels is by keeping it focused on the task at hand clear from any other distractions. So, clear up that backlog, get back to the present moment and stay there for as long as you can.

I leave you with a quote that sums this up quite nicely:

"Life is like riding a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving" Albert Einstein

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