I spent my last three months in California, visiting my girlfriend. To do so, I took really long unpaid holidays (Prezi, I am really grateful for that). During this time, I learned a lot about myself, changed some of my habits and I like it.
Let’s go through some of those changes, why I like them or not, and how they have an impact on me. Some changes are related to work, some of them are just related to my daily life.
- taking time away from my laptop
- working remotely
- sleeping and daytime management
- writing down all my ideas
- working out
- changing the way I eat
Taking time off from my laptop.
I was leaving my job and Budapest before Christmas, and then flying to San Diego. The plan, at the time, was to work remotely until January, in order to finish an important project with my co-worker. I felt like I wouldn’t be able to let it go before it was completed. As a software engineer, I spend a lot (aka “all”) of my time on my laptop. When I arrived in the US, I wasn’t able to spend as much time on it, instead I was spending it with my girlfriend and her family, getting ready for Christmas and other events. I was thinking it would have a negative effect on my work, but I was surprised to see it was the opposite. When I was on my laptop, it was for a specific goal, I was focused, therefore more efficient. (I am waiting for your opinion dear co-worker..). I was allocating my time, knowing that I needed some of it to get focused, and evaluating more consistently the time it would take to complete a task.
**TLDR: **Taking time away from your laptop forces you to focus more. Knowing your time is limited when you are on it, makes you more efficient.”
Working remotely is hard. I’ve had this conversation with different people over the last few months, engineers or not. Working remotely is hard, for me. I like to be able to show a snippet of code, explain what my problem is, in person. Explaining it written is hard for me as I would have the French term instead of the English one when I need it, and vice-versa. You begin to use new tools, even if they look simple, they are life-savers. Gists/Pastebins become your best friends, branches in git become your lovers. I nevertheless prefer working on-site than working remotely, just for the sake of real human interaction.
**TLDR: ** Working remotely is hard for me, I need to learn more about it.
While taking more time away from my laptop and living with my girlfriend’s family, I was happy to help doing daily errands. Cooking was one of them. I really like it. Before coming in the US, I was more of a frozen food kind of guy. I was not really used to the chop, cut, blend, bake terms. Pasta was probably the only thing I was cooking on my own. Taking time preparing dinner helps you think. These automatic easy tasks gave my mind time to think about my day, what went good or wrong. It also brought new ideas, or clarified some others. This half an hour a day was really needed. I want to continue this while I’m on my own.
** TLDR: ** Cooking is a cool activity and helps me think.
Sleeping and daytime management.
The point that changed the most during my stay here. Most of the time in Budapest, I was waking up around 9am, going to the office at 10am, and leaving around 7pm. It means that I was never going to bed before 1am. And, I was feeling really tired all the time, even with 8 hours of sleep. Here, I am going to bed around 9:30pm. I either watch a movie or read. I wake up around 6:30am, reading my emails with a coffee in my hands at 7am. By 9:30am, I have caught up with my emails, news, and additional reading. I usually begin to work on some projects around this time, until lunch. After this break, I usually feel that going back on my laptop will make me sleepy/lazy. I have included in my day a quick walk with the dogs of the house. It is always sunny and warm, and where I am staying is a beautiful area. It wakes me up. I come back ready to work a bit more. At the end of the afternoon, I usually go for a longer walk or a run.
Some people don’t like when their time is managed closely. I love it. It helps me a lot. It makes me feel like I’ve had a long and productive day. It makes me explore outside of my usual browsing routine. I need to continue to wake up early and go to bed earlier than before. I feel more energized and this matters to me.
**TLDR: ** I am more productive in the early morning.
I take time to read more. I was an avid reader when I was younger, and I forgot how good it was to finish a great book. I read only in english, it helps me increase my vocabulary, and it seems natural to me now. I fell in love with David Baldacci’s books. Totally the style of books I like.
**TLDR: ** I discovered David Baldacci.
Writing down and explaining out loud all my project ideas.
I have ideas. I was always letting them go, thinking about the fact that “it probably already exists” or that “I don’t know how to do that”. Not anymore. I write them down, either on my phone, laptop or whatever. I explain them out loud to people around me, usually starting by, “Would you like to have an app/website where you could…” and I just listen to their reactions. Does it mean those are good ideas if they answer yes? Not necessarily. Does it mean it is a bad idea if people are like, “But how would it work?”. Not at all. In my mind it means, think harder. When I have explained my idea, and it still makes sense, I write them in a Trello board. When I begin to work on a project, I create a Trello board dedicated to this project. Why write down the ideas? Ideas are easy to forget. They just come and go in your mind. Writing the context is also important for me. Writing down “shopping project” is not enough. I need to write where I got the idea, if it is in a specific place, and a few lines about how it would work.
** TLDR: ** Having ideas is cool, no need to be shy about it.
I am curious. I want to try everything, whether they are new languages or new frameworks. This attitude is nice most of the time but not when you are unable to finish any side project. You have them on your github, but incomplete. You cannot show them. I decided to focus more. I am not trying everything anymore. I archive new frameworks demonstrations, videos, and presentations. I read a tiny bit about them but that’s all. I focus only on one or two things at a time. For example, right now, android development, and small flask applications. I try to do them as real work projects. Testing, documentation, planning. I rely on trello a lot for my personal projects, and it works pretty well. I think I’ve evolved as a programmer during my time off; not being a programmer.
** TLDR: ** Finishing a few side projects is better than beginning a lot of them.
I wanted to work out more. It was working well at the beginning but I have not worked out as much as I wanted. Nevertheless, I have been running and walking a lot. I have also been hiking more than I used to, and it was good. I hope to improve on taking more time for this.
Changing the way I eat.
I loved sweets, I loved drinking a lot of coffee, and I loved soda. I didn’t like vegetables that much. This has changed. My girlfriend is vegetarian, and she cares about nutrition, without being a freak about it. I forced myself to try new things, to try food I thought I didn’t like (broccoli I am looking at you). Now, I enjoy eating healthy, it has a real impact on me. It makes me energetic, curious, and I begin to recognize flavors. Way to go.
** TLDR: ** Eating healthy is cool.
These three months are almost over, and I feel sad. But, I have learned a lot in such a short period of time. I will work on keeping the good stuff, and check from time to time on how it goes. I am also really grateful to my employer for giving me this opportunity, I feel really lucky. I will come back with more energy, more hunger and more memories from California.