What I’m doing now

This might be a longer update than usual, but a lot has happened since February.

PhD (almost) completed 

Yeah, that’s right! Last Wednesday (July 15) I had the final defense session of my PhD, a 30-min presentation of the highlights of my research. It was the last big test before graduating. But wait, commitments aren’t over yet. The process of handing in a doctoral thesis here in Japan is long and tedious, culminating with the submission of two printed copies of my dissertation at the end of the month. Hopefully, that will be the last thing I’ll need to take care of.

The past few weeks have been tough. Although, truth be told and in hindsight, this time I’ve dealt with tough better than ever before. On top of everything that’s going on in the world right now, having to deal with a stream of last-minute pointless demands and requirements while running on an almost-empty tank is never fun. It requires a lot remembering what the goal is, muting your ego, asking for advice, diligence, pragmatism, and patience—a lot of patience.

In case you’re wondering what 3 years of notes looks like, here they are:

Every notebook I used for my PhD, from Sept ’17 to July ’20.

What kept me sane 

Two things: gardening and walking.

I don’t have a garden (unfortunately), but one of the things I’ve been spending a few hours on every week is taking care of a small orchard in our balcony. It still amazes me how even just 20 minutes of watering, pruning, tying, and sometimes simply observing the ecosystem of herbs, tomatoes, cucumbers, and other plants does to my mind. Besides, the feeling of cooking with products you just harvested is priceless.

The other aspect that has helped me lately is walking, or simply getting off my chair and doing some sort of physical activity. I know, I know, we all know the benefits of and need for exercising. But it is still something I have to remind myself to do, particularly when I’m working on a tight deadline, I’m stressed and burned out, all I want is to get it done ASAP, and suddenly, a new email arrives asking me to do one more thing or change some other thing I already did based on their previous request; I’m getting anxious just by writing about it.

I’ve gotten a lot better at noticing this flood of feelings and frustration, and reacting to it by closing gmail, putting on shoes, and going for a walk. No podcast, no audio book, no consumption of information, just walk. Another option that’s worked great for me is to get up and to do a short 15-min workout at home, no matter how urgent, important, or necessary the task at hand was or appeared to be. Actions should define priorities, not the other way around.

Time to reflect and redesign

From time to time it’s worth slowing down, enough so you can look around. Assess whether the trail marks you’re leaving behind, the decisions you’ve made, your habits and actions are helping you or harming you.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about and listing the things I’ve done right (the “must-keep”) and the things I’ve done wrong (the “must-change” or “must-remove”) over the past 3 years of living in Japan. And I’ve noticed the latter list is way longer than the former—does this ratio ever change?

But only recently I came to realize that most of the must-change or must-remove items can be dealt with with just one simple solution: a change in perception. Ok, maybe is not that simple.

I realized I have subconsciously removed PLAY and FUN from most aspects of my life; almost as if PLAYING and having FUN were synonyms of unproductiveness or uselessness. I’ll write about this change in perception in an upcoming blog post but, for now, you should know that I’m in the midst of redesigning my life so that I can start optimizing for prioritizing PLAY and ADVENTURE (=FUN!). Another benefit of this change in perception is that it consequently makes the must-keep items a whole lot better.

After Japan…a new adventure!

Part of redesigning my life is coming back to Europe! In October I’ll (hopefully) be moving to Switzerland. New home, new perception, new decade of my life, a change that feels right to me at this very moment. But more about this soon…

Last update: July 19, 2020.

Do you have a website? You should make your own “now” page. Credit for the idea goes to Derek Sivers (sivers.org). Learn more about how to create your own /now page in nownownow.com/about.