Earlier this year I thought I would optimise the sh*t out of my life, but while I finished the first quarter with high productivity, it still wasn’t enough for me. It wasn’t enough because I haven’t ticked off things on my priority list.

I’ve always thought that the best way to be in control of my time is to make sure I can account for every single minute of it. One of the most important things in my life right now, ever since I turned 30, is time. I was tracking every single minute of my life through Google Drive, some IFTTT recipes, my phone and my failing memory. For a month I was doing okay, until one day I forgot to do it and basically, I stopped. I liked tracking it because it was nice to see how I spend my time (mostly doing nothing). As if I needed a graph to realise that. To be honest, I stopped not only because I forgot but because I achieved something out of it already. I was able to understand that during “nothing minutes”, I have to be doing something.

Sometimes when people get what they want they realize how limited their goals were. — Joan ‘QUEEEN’ Harris, Mad Men

Late April I took two weeks off from work because I’ve felt I’m almost going to burn-out. It was one of the best two weeks of my life ever (maybe I’m exaggerating). I listed done my priorities this year, again and added urgency and targets. When I knew my target for the second quarter of this year, I broke them down in hours. I thought, how many hours in a day should I allocate for each activity? After assigning hours, all I have to do is spend my “nothing hours” doing them.

I am waking up early now and going and leaving work on time. Gone are the days I go to work late and feeling guilty about it and ending up staying late at work and working more than I was required. I make sure I finish all my tasks before 3 pm, and I leave by 3:30 pm and nothing can make me stay, not even a raise. While I use to give importance to salary, I realise, I have this job because I deserve it and it doesn’t mean I have to do extra work to justify my salary nor do I need to get more. By doing so, I’ve eliminated a couple of stress in my life too:

  1. My road rage is down to around 10%. There’s a huge difference in Dubai traffic between 6 am and 7 am. My drive to work is now scream-and-cuss-free.
  2. I can pick a better parking spot both at work and at home.
  3. I finish my work earlier.

You could say that I’ve reached a good life and work balance, however, I’m still not satisfied because I’m not working on my priorities and I’m still doing nothing when I get home from work. Actually, no, I’m not doing “nothing”. I reach home and rest until I have to prepare dinner because I feel tired from working all day and driving. It’s still a 30-minute drive after all. After dinner, I rest again because I feel tired from cooking and washing the dishes. The next thing I know is, it’s bed time because I have to wake up early.

This brought me to two more realisations. One, I need to go back in shape for proper energy consumption and fight or at least slow my ageing body. Two, I need help and a drastic change in my life.

More about, “I need help and a radical change in my life”. I told you last month that I’m leaving. I’ve decided that I’m leaving this country in the next two years for a couple of reasons, one being, this country doesn’t support or allow me to have the lifestyle and work-life balance that I want. I don’t want to spend more than eight hours (cumulative) on work and feel exhausted the rest of the day. While I believe that this is the safest country in the world, I would love to go for a run or a walk and see greenery in the morning all year round. I’m thirty-two, and while I still don’t want to have children of my own, I can’t imagine having to take care of another person or even an animal here without employing some help, which I don’t want, not at least right now.

I grew up always having help that my parents weren’t convinced I could survive on my own when I moved here. Well, they were wrong, because not only do I know how to keep a household clean I can keep it running and well fed. But it’s still tiring, and I’m not going to lie. Can you imagine being a mother on top of that?

I would love to read and study rather than clean dishes or laundry. I missed finishing work and going home to a home-cooked meal already prepared and not having to worry about a single plate to wash.

Nora, Jazzy, Inday, Pane and Dudes are some of the names I can remember of all the people who helped me grew up to be who I am today. While there were only three children, my mother, who didn’t work for at most half of her married life had to support my father in a lot of ways, like cooking and taking care of business guests, etc. They were the ones who helped my mother manage our house and us. Ensured we have breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner and pressed clothes in the morning. They were the ones who made sure none of us was left alone. They were the ones who kept our secrets from our parents and the people who loved us like we were their sibling or their child. They were family. It never occurred to me that one day I will consider having someone to help me and I’m still unsure if I want, but I guess it’s too early to tell.

Since option one, getting help, is not an option; I suppose we have to see how getting back in shape can help me reduce if not eliminate the “nothing minutes”.

My Family’s Slave — This letter is inspired by Lola. If you haven’t read it, I suggest you read Alex Tizon’s story today. It made me cry yesterday and for some reason, when I read the title, I immediately associated it with home. Truth be told, Alex and his family are U.S. immigrants from the Philippines. I am unsure how common Lola’s story, her being a “gift” and not getting paid, but for me, it really doesn’t make a difference. As I said, I grew up always having help (very common back home) and while they get paid and receive benefits and we always treat them as part of the family, I don’t think anything can repay anyone who helps others with their time, effort, love and devotion. I’m just having a hard time equating it to money.

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