When you discover what you need

Pay attention.

I’ve been a little overworked last week and contrary to my plans totally didn’t manage to focus on writing another blog. I’m not lacking topics I want to write about, not even time is the issue. I have simply been too tired and therefore unable to concentrate on writing coherently. I am still tired, but work will ease up somewhat this week, and can put more energy into this as well.

So, I had this idea the other night as I was sleepless tossing and turning despite being horribly tired. It occurred to me in the middle of the night. I took out my phone, wrote these first few words, and managed to go back to sleep.

My idea was that it is important to discover what it is we need. On so many levels. And when we do, we must pay attention. My frustration when I had this thought was the many hours I had been putting in and the late shifts.

I considered the alternative, a 9 to 5 office job. Been there, done that. Not what I need.

More so, however, it was the fact that last week I had five shifts, which meant having to leave the house on five days, cycling to work, being among hundreds and hundreds of people, having to engage with dozens of them, and being completely drained every night.

That was the main frustration. As much as I like my job, and the social aspect is part of it, I have a limit. I am still an introvert. I cannot be out among so many people for so many days in one week. I need a break. No wonder I feel completely depleted and unable to even write.

I know what I need in that regard. I know my limits. That is the reason I only work part-time in this job, 25 hours a week. Last week it was easily 45 hours. Mind you, that is an exception – thankfully. But it was a stark reminder of why I work part-time.

The next few weeks shouldn’t be this extreme and I sure as hell don’t plan to repeat this experience. Covering someone else’s vacation or illness is a different story, but that wouldn’t just fall on my shoulders.

I’m perfectly content to be at home multiple days in a row, working from home and sometimes not even leaving the house if I don’t need anything. I don’t often do that in summer, mind you, as I love to enjoy the weather and just be outside. But in winter I may well hole up inside for days at a time.

I discovered what I needed in a job and in my work week long ago and sometimes I fail to adhere to it. Whilst I don’t make my own schedule, I can give preferences, which I do, and that works well enough, but I also tend to help out when needs must – more so than others. So, I end up with plenty of overtime.

By the way, figuring out what you need from your job or work is incredibly important to achieving a healthy work-life balance. But beyond that, we do have many other needs that we have to consider or discover and we always need to pay attention and not push those needs away in favor of work, people-pleasing, or for any other reason.

Yes, I may be a bit preachy here and I don’t want to go further into this at this point. I was mainly concerned with my job these past few days and remembering why I don’t work 9 to 5.

This may change in the future. And if or when it does, I will have to adapt.

You live for yourself first

It sounds simple. It also sounds selfish. But it is true and necessary. It is something I need to remind myself of surprisingly often.

Of course, I’m not out to promote selfishness. That’s not what this is about. The simple fact of the matter is that we shouldn’t neglect ourselves.

Today, once again, I feel tired. I have another long shift ahead of me at work, which means I likely won’t be home before 1am. That means I’m likely in bed by 2 if I don’t collapse earlier than that.

Tomorrow the same. And I have a work Zoom call in the late morning that may last a little longer than usual as there is much to discuss. Then I head out once again.

I know I’m going to be fine, probably even energized when I get to work later today. Tomorrow probably not so much anymore. But I will manage either way. The price will be paid on Friday when I will be too exhausted to get much of anything done, even though I will still have obligations.

When I feel this sort of exhaustion in my bones, though, I remind myself that I really like my job and that I have chosen this. Not usually so many shifts in a row, with so much to do and so little rest (I should also be doing some freelance work, after all), but I still like my job and it isn’t always like this. Most of the time it is not, in fact.

But yeah, the question crops up as to why I am doing this. Or the thought that I’m definitely not getting paid enough. And I’m not.

And this, inevitably, reminds me that I live for myself first. This includes taking care of my mental, physical and emotional well-being. If not looked after, I’m no use to anyone anyway.

I am allowed to say no. I am allowed to rest. I am allowed to take a break and also ask for one when I need it. I am allowed to re-evaluate the status quo, question it and ask for more because it isn’t good enough.

Saying that I live for myself first doesn’t make me selfish. Unless I act selfishly. There is a huge difference. Living for yourself first only makes you an ass if you trample on everyone else to serve your own needs.

This is not what I am talking about.

When we recognize the simple truth that we live for ourselves first, it acknowledges that we don’t need to put anyone else’s needs or demands above our own. There are times when we will do just that, of course. Especially as a parent, for instance. Or in the line of duty. But even then we shouldn’t neglect ourselves to the extent that it will impact our ability to care for or serve others.

For me today, and tomorrow, telling myself that I do live for myself first is a reminder to treat myself more gently and to say no in order to protect my energy. I like my job, but it shouldn’t leave me this exhausted and feeling that I am not compensated well enough. I can ask for more. And I should.

And then I rest.

A busy week

Last week I had no freelance work to do at all. I had a few shifts at my job, but a lot of time to myself besides that.

I sometimes struggle to make the most of my time. And I am not talking about being productive all the time. I see no sense in that and it would make my life miserable if I were to measure it in terms of productivity.

But when I find myself idle, not feeling like reading, mindlessly browsing through YouTube and getting the same five videos recommended over and over again, not watching anything in particular on TV, and just going through the motions, I do wonder how to better use my time.

I have tried to keep a schedule and appoint time slots for the things I want to do. Thus far, it hasn’t stuck. I might have to try to use an actual paper calendar, though that didn’t stick in the past either. But I really don’t want to keep checking my phone for what I had planned to do next. If anything, I want to reduce my screen time.

Whilst the schedule-keeping is not really my cup of tea, it did give me a better feeling of how much time I have every day and that I am able to use it better than just idling about and doing things when I feel like doing them.

For the longest time as a freelancer, I have kept a rough schedule, at least, and that has never faltered. Not when I have a shift in the afternoon, not during the long months of lockdown, not on my days off (unless I have a proper day off from everything).

Now, as I am also giving this blog more focus, I have to make time for it.

Today, I have written an article for my client. Now I’m doing this. In about an hour, I will head out to work, returning only after midnight.

This will be my schedule until Thursday. On Friday I will take a day off from everything. On Saturday I will at least return to this blog. On Sunday I will have a very long day at work.

In other words, I do have a busy week ahead, which I prefer to too much time to myself. Or rather, idle time.

Don’t get me wrong, I am an introvert, I need me-time. Enough to balance the time I spend at my job. And then some if possible.

But I also like to have something to do during that time. If that is freelance work, great. I need to make a living and have some savings available. If I get to use that time to fall into a book, awesome. And now that I work much more on this blog, I can always sit down and do that.

Yet sometimes I don’t want to do any of these things. I might grab my phone for the umpteenth time and put it away again with a sigh as there is nothing new to discover. Sitting and not doing anything is not something that comes to me easily.

Sometimes, when I truly need it. Like those times when I sit in the window, enjoying some peace and quiet time. But when I have had my fill, I need more than that.

So, I keep busy. Not always the kind of busy I would prefer if I were financially stable or (eventually) independent. But mostly a good kind of busy.

There is the stressful kind as well, where you always rush to keep up with a schedule set by someone else. I choose the busyness on my own terms. Not on someone else’s. That’s a huge difference and something we should all strive for. It is an important step towards that work/life balance that is so often talked about.