Freedom, Death, Angst
Or, how freedom cursed me with procrastination and what I'm going to do about it.
In this stage of my life I've been moving around a lot, and it's something that has caused me to start seeing life in a different way, everything is now transient, temporary, ending.
Before this traveling I'd been living in London for 18 months, and before that I'd been in and around Leeds for all of my life. Things were stationary, comfortable, normal. Time passed, almost unnoticed. Since then I've been moving through and living in various South American countries, usually for between one or two months in each place.
I've been in Santiago for close to seven weeks now and I'll be leaving in a few days. I've had a great time while I've been here, I love this city already and I'm sad to leave. But I booked this flight a while ago, and I knew I'd be leaving when I'm leaving, it affects things.
Before I arrived I'd already booked an apartment, a nice place to live in central Santiago. I arrived and I knew right then that I had 51 nights in the city, in Chile, and then I'd be gone. Now it's coming to the end of those nights I realise that it's not a long time, not even nearly a long time.
Before I became a professional software developer I worked a few low paid, unfulfilling jobs because there was little other choice to live. Then I started working in software, and since then, earning enough to start appreciating and valuing time over money. Now I've gone even further by choosing to spend less to, in effect, buy more time.
My greatest decision now, is how to spend the time that I have. I actually have a lot of things that I had been postponing due to lack of time, my todo list of software ideas contains 20 entries (in reality, only ten or so are viable), I have a long list of books and papers to read, and many other things that I want to do. Of course, I haven't done any of them.
The freedom, the sheer amount of possibilities, it just paralyses me.
The worst part of all of this, is the regret, self loathing that comes from wasting my time and not achieving anything. It also makes it harder to re-motivate myself, if I do nothing one day I'm like to also do nothing the second day.
I'm sure there are many contributing factors to my current procrastination / motivation issues, but there are a couple that I specifically know about:
- Procrastination is easier. When the task at hand is difficult or unpleasant then there's a lot to go through before things start to get easy. Why go through that hard work when I can skip straight to the Dark Playground and have fun instead?
- Fear of failure? AKA, what if the thing I'm doing / working on is worthless? What if no one wants it? What if it doesn't work?
I know and understand both. I know that not-procrastinating can be hard, but I also know that it can also be enjoyable and totally worth it. I also know that the fear of failure is valid, but it's a reason to consider what I'm doing and perhaps change some things, rather than avoid it all together.
I understand everything about avoiding procrastination, and whenever I get particularly frustrated about how I'm wasting my time I can easily spend hours upon hours reading about how to avoid procrastination.
I've been thinking a lot about death recently. It terrifies me, although I never realised before exactly how much. Death isn't a usual thought for me, but something that's been extrapolated out of the current impermanence I am feeling by moving around a lot.
Moving around so frequently really highlights the impermanence of things— Barba Roja (@djmidwood) May 31, 2014
If there's one thing that free time is good for then it's good for thinking, really dwelling into things.
That tweet-stream of thought then moved on to this happy number:
That's right, it's one of those "one day we'll all be dead" days. I guess I should go out and enjoy the day— Barba Roja (@djmidwood) May 31, 2014
Soon after, I did go out and enjoy the day and I found a nice coffee shop too. It was a pretty good day.
However, maybe all this thinking about death and impermanence can be a good thing, a catalyst for greater achievement. Perhaps. Through these recent thoughts, I often come to the same extrapolation, "what if it's all like this?". What if I do nothing and do nothing and then die, what if I waste all of the time until there is no time left?
I talked about fear of death above, but that's not exactly it, what I really fear is a life not lived.
I know that one day I will be dead, and I know that I have a finite amount of time and that there is an infinite amount of things I could do. I should start now, or, even better, before now.
But how? With what? If I start, then how do I know what's important? What should I even be doing?
I have considered buying all of the self help books, inspired by a friend I also considered hiring a life coach. But the decision I've reached is to not do these, I've taken my todo lists and pulled out a few things, things that I want to work on. The other tasks can wait, I'm not even going to think about them.
I pulled out three tasks and those are big, medium to long term tasks that I want to work on and I'm going to pledge to work on one each day. There are four rules:
- One only each day, no more
- Select the task in the morning, choose what inspires me
- If I skip a day, it doesn't matter.
- If I'm working (employed) I can ignore the above three rules.
After working on the single task through the day, if I need a break then I have a backlog of smaller tasks that I can pick from. Those are mostly "relaxing" work, reading, consuming rather than producing.
It's been a few days since I put the above into action and it's working well so far. I see this as a honeymoon period, so I'm reluctant to place any real significance on it right now. But I'm feeling good.