On ‘lost time’, productivity, and a challenge

On ‘lost time’, productivity, and a challenge

Well, it sure has been quiet over here!

It’s been a slow and somewhat blurry start this year. February and March seemed to have some kind of grip on me that made me unable to really move. The weather has been dark and cold and rainy, and I know I’m not the only one who’s been struggling with that. Add to that some mental health stress and a certain video game, and here we are – mid-April.

I never quite know how to feel about what productivity enthusiasts might call ‘lost time’. I had a good couple of months; I interviewed for a new job and wrapped up my old one (last week now!), I met friends, went to museums, and read books. I even wrote a little. But apart from my first ever graphic design commission (!), I barely made anything.

In the past, this used to make me despair and feel like a failure. I spent my 20s watching hundreds of hours of Youtube videos and reading books to increase my productivity and time management, and it seems very little of it has actually stuck. But because I’m getting tired of the despair, I’m trying my best to see these situations as opportunities to learn about myself. What is a good learning environment for me? What do I need in order to do work outside of the work I’m getting paid for? How do I spend my free time, and how much and what kind of rest do I need?

Spring is coming. The clocks have changed. The outside world is lush with greenery, and I’ve heard rumours of the sun making an appearance soon. We had a preview of what that life could be like on the Easter weekend, when all of Berlin seemed to spill outside and soak up the sun like the lizards we are. My life force is returning.

Do you ever feel like your time is not your own, even if you don’t have any pressing commitments like children or relatives to care for? I recently had to reassure a friend who thought she was slacking because she felt like taking a day or two off from her full-time job, side business and I don’t know how many other projects. ‘I don’t do anything,’ I told her, which helped her but made me wonder. Where does all my free time go?

I did some maths on Sunday. In the 68 days since that video game had come out, I’ve logged 117 hours in two play-throughs. That’s about 103 minutes per day. The daily screen time on my phone is 2 hours, one of which is spent scrolling (not interacting!) on Instagram, sometimes getting stuck so bad I go to bed an hour late. That’s 163 minutes per day that I don’t necessarily have to spend that way. (And that’s without the nebulous number of minutes spent on my laptop on social media.)

Real gamers may scoff at this time, and I enjoyed those 117 hours. Video games are just not high on the list of the things I would choose to do if I was indeed the master of my fate and time, rather than a Tencel-wearing anxiety monkey with vitamin D needs and no filter for distractions. Also, the new Zelda game is out in May and if there is no intervention now, one day I’ll blink and it’ll be November.

So I’ve decided to kickstart short-sleeves season with a little challenge. Let’s call it “intermittent dopamine fasting” or “in search of lost time” or “taking back my brain space”, just pick one.

These are the rules:

  1. No screens after 9pm
  2. No Internet usage between 9pm and 8am*
  3. No more than one Youtube video per day*
  4. One blog post per week
  5. make something every day and share it on Instagram for accountability

*Exceptions to these rules are ambience/playlists and workout videos

That’s it for now. I did something similar a few years ago and it did wonders for my mental health and sleep quality. The goal is to free up some time for my mind to just be and see if that’ll help break me out of the lethargy that’s been gripping me since December.

Let’s see how it goes. See you next week!