Why I have no vacation and stopped celebrating (in the traditional sense)

Why I have no vacation and stopped celebrating (in the traditional sense)

Berlin (Germany) on 4 December 2016

I left university in Spring 2013. I had become dumb and numb during my studies, at least that is how I felt. So the years after I started thinking again and asking why.

In my following journeys to the Americas, Asia and Europe work, leisure and travel have been a dominant topic. How to find the sweet spot of this triangle?

I want to be productive but I also want to see the world and meet people, and I want to have solo time where I can think, ponder and write for myself. Sleep was also a topic. Getting enough sleep is important whereas the amount is dependent on one’s own preference. But this leads to the topic of when to go to bed, how much to be a night owl or early bird, or an in-between bird. For me it all came down to the day structure.

How to structure your day

I didn’t plan to structure my day. It was never my goal to have a super structured, organized and scheduled day. Yet, having a plan for the day was part of the personal success I’ve had. A plan for the day helped me solve a financial situation in 3 months and I had been dealing with it for 3 years.

A daily plan helps me being organized because I’m usually everywhere with my thoughts but not on point. A plan means to have focus.

The plan also helps me to actually move forward and do things because it’s a structure I can follow with ease. I don’t need to think about what I want to do now. I simply look at my daily schedule (I scheduled the night before) and execute. If I respect myself and my own decisions (I made the night before) I will do what’s scheduled. If I don’t respect myself following my own agenda how can other people respect me?

I’m hard and maybe even harsh with myself, I know. But you need to know that by default I’m a lazy, easy-going person who likes to let things happen. I would start something, lose interest and not pursue it further. With a daily plan I’m a different person. A plan made me become an executer, and I’m not talking about working insane hours and burn out. I’m meaning to work a consistent amount of hours every weekday (at least) so that you have a consistent amount of hours of no work.

Introducing the rich day

A rich day is where you have sleeping hours, productive hours (I call them success hours) and leisure hours. In a rich day your goal is to dedicate specific amounts of time to sleep, producitiy and leisure.

For example:

8 hours of sleep + 8 hours of productivity + 8 hours of leisure = 24 rich hours = 1 rich day

Rich hours enrich you. They fulfill you. Rich hours satisfy you. They make you happy and even smile. A rich day is demanding because it requires you to be discplined and focussed when you define to have a rich day.

I encourage to make every day a rich day. Are you also saying that I should work every day? No, with intention I didn’t mention the word “work” in the context of productivity. You can be productive and not work, at least it’s not what you probably consider work.

A conversation can feel productive, a revelation can be productive, a day with your family can happen in a productive way. To be more modern, I would call those productive hours your hustle. Your hustle is when you do the important and urgent things. It can include:

  • family-related things,
  • organizing your finances,
  • tidying up your room,
  • washing the dishes,
  • mowing the lawn,
  • doing sports,
  • and making money, of course.

A rich day is like having 3 days in 1. When you consider every part of the three as a separate day it makes sense to start and finish that part of the day just like you would finish your day as a whole.

Sleeping hours are easy to accomplish

Saying “stop” to one part is hard. It can be hard. Take for example the sleeping part because it is the easiest part. You go to bed and you sleep. That’s it. When you know how much sleep you need to feel well-rested and you know when you planned to wake up, you also know when to go to bed.

If I want to sleep 8 hours and want to get up at 6am, I go to bed at 10pm. Easy. I know I want to be sleeping by 10pm already so I need to prepare myself for that half an hour, up to 1 hour before — unless you are the type of person who can sleep instantly (which I would admire).

Personally, I found myself sleeping in between 5 to 7 hours. I find 6-6.5 hours comfortable but 5 hours also doable from time to time since I will balance them out with a another night of 7 hours of sleep. So, 6 hours is what I like to sleep on average — from Monday to Saturday. I take Sunday as my open day where I allow myself to set no alarm and get up whenever. I’m therefore making an exception to my rich day routine on this day since it is my caesura, on which I am in my playful and exploration time. If you read the book „The Artist Date“, Sunday is my artist date, the exception to my rich day rule.

So, when you’re done sleeping, you finished your first day out of 3. Therefore you made your first accomplishment. Bravo!

Productive hours are hard

Here comes the hard part. Being productive means to do something that is constructive and builds something. It can mean family time, office time or other duties. To make it easier, I will simply call it work.

Work itself can be hard because the task is hard and challenges you. You are on the verge to give up but you continue because you want to have it done. This is the inner-work-struggle.

There’s an outer-work-struggle which is the around your work place and environment. In a shared office space colleagues (of other companies) may like to talk to you, what do you do? In the cubicle of your company you have your own calm place but you are missing the social interaction here and then. In your home office, everything is calm until your family (kids) are back home. How do you handle that?

I can’t answer you those questions because I currently have no kids (or my own family) and I work from my home office. So, I have as good as zero outer-work-struggle except for my Vietnamese neighbours whose kids like to be loud and stomp onto the floor — I’m living below them. So, I cannot give you an answer for these questions and they would be a topic for another article anyway.

Let’s sum up. Work hours are hard because you can struggle with the task itself or you can struggle with the conditions you’re working under.

Here comes the third: When do you pause and take a break? You cannot work 8 hours straight and still be productive. Mayb in an exceptional context like a contest I could see myself doing that, but on a regular work day you don’t work straight eight hours.

I find that to be a key struggle. Unlike 8 hours of sleep that you execute all in a row, you don’t work all 8 hours in a row. You want to eat, go to the toilet, have some social interaction and a screen break for your eyes.

How do you tell your work flow to pause when you’re feeling good doing what you are working on? You can’t just arbitrarily tell it: “Hey work and work flow, I need to leave you to have a break.” That’s not very convincing.

You convince your inner work censor by pointing him/her to the schedule. 1pm is lunch time. He/she can’t argue with that. That’s why you also want to have a dedicated time for lunch (ideally breakfast and dinner as well).

Did someone say free, leisure or spare?

How can you possibly take time off during a work day and use it for your own pleasure, you may ask yourself. Easy. You just do.

When you are done with having been productive, you enter the pleisure (pleasure + leisure). I know, 8 hours of work is not realistic in today’s world. So, let’s make it 12 hours because you spend 10 hours in the office and your commuting time is 2 hours back and forth. With 8 hours of sleep and 12 hours of work you have 4 hours of pleisure. Now, let’s also say that you have a wife and 2 kids. It means that you want to spend time with all three on that day as well and still have your (very important) solo time.

For example: With 4 hours of leisure left, you have 1 hour for your wife, 1 hour for your kids (respectively) and 1 hour “you” time. You divide the amount of time equally to amount of people asking for your attention (including yourself because you deserve to pay attention to yourself as well).

Or. when you need more “you” time, you divide the 4 hours by 2, so you get 2 hours of solo time and 2 hours are for your wife and kids which gives each one 40 minutes.

What about eating and just sitting on the couch? Good question. Easy and straight forward answer: You eat and sit while you interact and talk with your family. There is no clear separation of doing things here, unfortunately. You need to merge both needs into one action.

A rich day is enriching every day

There you have it, the concept for a rich day. To answer what the article promised to deliver: If you lead a rich day every day, you don’t need vacation or sabbaticals or other kinds of time-off. Your day is so rich that you feel accomplished, healthy, well rested, socially happy, self-happy and great!

I’v been applying the rich day for more than 8 weeks and most of the time it worked great. Here is how an example week full of rich days looks like in my life:

  • Monday-Friday: 7 hours of sleep, 8 hours of producitivity, 9 hours of leisure (includes 3 hours for my 3 meals a day and 3 hours for self-school/learning/practicing).
  • Saturday: 7 hours of sleep, 8 hours for open tasks that are important and urgent, 9 hours of leisure)
  • Sunday: No scheduled hours of sleep, 1-3 hours for open (important and urgent) tasks and the rest of the day for my artist date and overall leisure (I also like to call this day my “Greek” day referring to the life of a Greek philosopher which is a lifestyle I would have enjoyed to have).

It happened and it still happens that I have no time left for school hours because I spent too much time working or in my leisure hours.

Be aware that things cannot go as planned. Plans change and I also struggle sometimes to stick to my plan and routine. Why? As a human person we like routine and embrace it, but we don’t like change and even less the change of a routine. With a daily plan and schedule you are trying to do exactly that: changing your routine (by having a plan that you present to your inner and lazy boy/girl or weaker self inside you).

Two weeks ago, I tried to make changes to my daily routine on my day template. It didn’t work and I spent 3-4 hours to realize that I tried to change too much at once on my day schedule template. I returned to my original day template. Keep in mind: Make subtle changes to your routine so you routine and you as the executer can adapt smoothly to it.

Also, when you know what your priority is (in my case it’s work and food in my leisure time), then you can get over to not have had school hours as I didn’t have for example two weeks ago.

PS: I wrote this article as part of my morning writing session. It took me 1 hour and 40 minutes to write it from scratch on 24 December 2016, and I edited it for another 25 minutes today. My morning routine made me do that. That’s why a routine, especially in the morning, is pure magic.

Also published on Medium.

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