Work-Life Balance

My 14-year-old son asked me today about work-life balance. He wanted to know how to achieve it and get better at it. I think he believes I got this figured out, but the truth is that for me, this is an ongoing process. If you don’t balance your job or school priorities and your personal priorities, one of them will be negatively affected, resulting in frustration and possibly burnout.

I told my son that the goal is to learn to prioritize his personal and school tasks. Prioritization and focus are key. Here are a couple of things that have worked for me:

  • Focus on doing the challenging tasks first, even if you don’t want to or enjoy them. Completing the challenging tasks first will give you a sense of accomplishment and will reduce stress.
  • Split larger tasks into smaller, digestible tasks.
  • Focus on one task as much as possible. Avoid multitasking.
  • Allocate a fixed amount of time to an activity (Timeboxing), and don’t cheat. You can use the Pomodoro technique or similar to help you accomplish this.
  • Separate your work and personal environment. You can do this by working in a different place in your home, going to a coffee shop for work, etc.
  • Assess how you spent your day, week, month. This will help you determine how much time you spent doing tasks unrelated to work, school, or personal life. For example, most people spend a lot of time streaming tv shows, movies, social media, etc. And then question why they don’t have enough time to accomplish their goals, large and small.

Work-life balance is not easy. This is why there are so many books and techniques to help you accomplish this. It’s all about time management and self-awareness. It’s easy to spend time on things that are not our priorities, but we do it because it’s easy or entertaining.

Make sure to always leave enough time in your day to talk to friends, family, practice music, read, exercise, or whatever else fulfills you and helps you grow – no matter how busy you think you are.

Remember this: work and school are important, but we do both of those things to have a better life. Prioritize your personal life, always.

Your North Star

It’s a metaphor. Your North Star is your personal mission statement.

In my last post, I mention having a North Star a couple of times, and for me, it’s an excellent way to describe my single long-term goal. There are many goals on my list, but most of them align to the one single long-term goal, my North Star. It gives me something to look forward to and be motivated about; I might feel lost without it.

Having lists and agendas, it’s not something I do, not consistently. I collect notes and a logbook, but having an open schedule and plan is essential. It allows me to adapt and tweak my days, weeks, and months to ensure that the things I do help me progress towards my North Star. My North Star is described in a single sentence, and then I write things down that I might need to do to get closer to that long-term goal. That’s how I keep track of my North Star goal.

Divide and Conquer

Have you heard of the term divide and conquer? in computer science, divide and conquer is an algorithm design paradigm. The idea is to break down a problem into two or smaller problems until these are simple enough to be easily solved.

This is how I think of my personal goals. They aren’t problems, but I like having a significant, long-term goal or plan, my North Star, and then break that into smaller goals, maybe even daily goals that can help me achieve my North Star.

Why do this? It helps by making it easier to accomplish smaller goals, and doing so gives you the motivation to continue doing it. In the past, I had long-term goals that I didn’t achieve because they were too ambitious, and I just never knew where to start. The divide and conquer method, applied to objectives, is an excellent way to get things done.

Why a North Star Goal?

Because it motivates me. Without it, it doesn’t take long before I feel bored or unmotivated. My North Star goal is split into smaller goals, I do this so it’s not overwhelming either. So that’s how I keep things balanced. It works for me.

As time goes by, seeing the progress towards your North Star can give you a reason to keep trying, keep learning, and keep doing. This is very important, at least for me. Otherwise, it’s too easy to become complacent.

You can have more than one North Star, but for me, I can only handle one at a time. Otherwise, I end up distracted and making plodding progress to any of my goals. Therefore, I believe in avoiding multitasking, and instead, I shot to focus on one thing at a time.

One of my North Star goals in the past was to learn English, I tried different methods, and while it wasn’t easy, I made it a reality by focusing on that one big goal first. Another North Star of mine was to find a job as a web developer. Again, I started small, working on small projects on my own, reading books, then learning how computers and the internet works. And finally, getting my first job as a LAN engineer. This job was mostly about computer networking, but it allowed me to work with computers and software, from which I then transitioned into a web developer.

The tried and true suggestions such as keeping it simple, avoiding multitasking, focusing on smaller tasks and goals will continue to be solid advice, in my opinion. But having a North Star goal will give you purpose and direction.

What is your North Star?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

As a kid, this is something we are asked often, and often we have an answer for this – an astronaut, a firefighter, a policeman, a pilot, a veterinarian. However, is there anything more complicated to answer than this as an adult? Think about it. The question makes you think about your education, work, hobbies, your life.

Are you doing what you love?

Why is this hard to answer? It reminds us of the things we love and that we are not doing. It’s hard to realize and accept that we are not following our dreams and are not on the right path to achieve them either. It’s always easier to avoid thinking about this and continue to do what we are doing.

I don’t know about you, but I am not doing anything remotely to what a veterinarian does. That’s what I said I wanted to be when I grew up. But it’s also true that I don’t want to be a veterinarian today. My goals and dreams grew as I grew older.

Life takes you to places you didn’t even imagine when you were a kid. Sometimes you are lucky and have more support available to you as an adult to pursue what you said you wanted to be, but you often don’t. Instead, life necessities get on the way, and you work doing something that pays the bills but that you don’t love or like at all.

This is fine, as long as you keep your dreams in front of you, as long as you still have your North Star, it’s okay to do what you need to do while you work on getting to where you want to be one day.

Avoid doing the same thing while expecting different results. If you are not progressing towards your dream of becoming something else, then you are on the edge of insanity, as Einstein said…

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Albert Einstein

Overtime our goals evolve, we evolve, and it is essential to check with ourselves about this question again and again. What do you want to be when you grow up? This has nothing to do with age; it’s more about what you want to be doing next, on the next phase of your life. I’d expect that most people’s answers to this question will continue to change.

If one day you ask this question and the answer is equal or similar to what you are doing, and this doesn’t change in the future, you’ve arrived at a place in your life where you are contemptuous with who you are what you are doing. Congratulations, you are in the minority.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ask yourself this question often, and make the necessary adjustments to your life if what you are doing is not what you want to be doing. Our time is finite, and it’s easy to go through life without stopping to see if what we are doing is what we love.

We go through life worrying about our family, paying bills, global pandemics, wars, social media, the latest Netflix series, etc. But in comparison, spend very little time and effort on our North Star, which is ironic because this is where we have real influence and the possibility of change.

It takes patience and consistency. It is necessary to have clarity of mind, passion, hard work, and luck. However, the thing with luck is that the more patient you are, the more consistent you are, and the harder you work towards your goals, the greater the surface area of luck you’d have.

Am I doing what I want to be doing today?

Not yet, but I am close. It has taken me years of work, luck, learning, and perseverance, but I am not doing what I wish I was doing professionally 100% of the time, not yet. But I am happy, and this is because I know I am on the right path to achieve it. There is more learning to do, more focus, and more luck.

What about you? What do you want to be in the future?

*North Star: It’s a metaphor. Your North Star is your personal mission statement. It’s a fixed destination that you can depend on in your life as the world changes around you.

We are moving

We signed a new lease. This lease represents our commitment to staying in Seattle for a few more years. We wanted to buy a home this year. That was the original plan before coming to the Pacific Northwest. The idea was to go to Seattle, rent for a few years, and then buy a home once we knew the area more. That would help us make an educated decision about the neighborhood for a house.

We moved to Seattle from Austin, TX, in January of 2019, and right after our first year in Seattle, COVID happened. At first, I thought that because of COVID, the housing market was going to crash, and perhaps, we would have an excellent opportunity to buy. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the housing market went a bit out of control, prices have gone up a lot. So for us, the wisest decision right now is to wait more, avoid buying now, and hope that prices come down or the housing inventory increases, so at least there are more choices available.

Renting isn’t too bad, but I dislike the idea of looking at places, applying for a lease, and then moving… knowing that you won’t be there for long. In addition, just like buying a house, renting in the Seattle area is also a bit out of control. Prices are high, and there is a lot of competition. For example, the other day, Felly and I went to see a condo, and once we arrived there, there were 3-4 other couples to see the same place. At the end of that day, there were more than 10 applications in addition to ours. So we didn’t get it. But it’s OK, we got a different condo in the same building at the same price, so it’s okay.

We will try to stay put as much as we can unless the market changes and it becomes friendlier to homebuyers instead of sellers. In the meantime, I a happy to have a place to live and work. We are very fortunate, and we recognize that. This area is expensive, but it is also gorgeous. The Pacific Northwest is unique. There are mountains, the ocean, ferries, islands, cities like Seattle, Bellevue, Vancouver, and all within driving distance. It’s quite a change from Texas.

The plan might change in the future, but for now, we are going to stay here for at least a few more years. After that, we might buy a home here, or we might not. Hopefully, things work out for us and for everyone else out there. There are a lot of crises in the world right now, but I am optimistic, and I think that while things aren’t good at all for a lot of people right now, everything will improve, and as they say, there will be calm after the storm.

The plan after Seattle might be moving to another country, Italy is a place that we have talked about in the past, and it might happen. Felly and I both like that country quite a bit. The people, the food, the wine, and the countryside are beautiful. Also, living in Italy will make it possible to visit other countries nearby by train. It would be amazing.

I think moving to different places is overall good for the soul. I know many people disagree, but in my opinion, humans are much happier when they don’t stay in the same place forever. I have written about this before; all humans were nomads, often looking for shelter and food. Unfortunately, today, many people are still moving and migrating for these very reasons, and that’s heartbreaking, and we all should be empathetic to this reality and help in any way we can.

I am grateful for having the ability to move by choice and not a necessity. This is an opportunity available to more people in this country due to the increase of remote work. It’s incredible how things have changed because of COVID and the need to work from home. Not everyone benefits from working from home, but those who do, should take advantage of it by traveling more and looking to finally move to those states and cities you’ve always wanted to move to but couldn’t because of your job.

Often I think about how lucky we are. I am grateful for having my family, our health, a place to live, and a job I enjoy doing. Then I look at Twitter or other news sources and see all the human loss and material devastation in places like the Middle East and Ukraine due to stupid wars. Thousands of young lives are wasted in senseless wars that are almost always the result of greed and power from the people in power. Young people go to War, giving their lives for a cause they probably don’t understand. It’s sad. Everyone is talking about Ukraine now, but this same human loss and material devastation has been happening in the Middle East for decades. I hope that I experience world peace lasting for decades in my lifetime, the world needs it, and most people want it.

War is never OK.

Imagina si pudiéramos parar el envejecimiento

En años recientes se han publicado muchos artículos que defienden la idea de que el envejecimiento es una enfermedad curable, y artículos que critican y ridiculizan esa misma idea.

En el mundo existen criaturas que viven por muchos años, mucho más que nosotros los humanos. 

La ballena de Groenlandia es considerada como el mamífero más longevo en existencia. Esta ballena puede vivir más de 200 años y casi nunca contrae cáncer.

En el 2015, investigadores secuenciaron el genoma de una ballena de Groenlandia e identificaron genes relacionados con la reparación del ADN, el cáncer y el envejecimiento que podrían ser responsables de la larga vida de este espectacular animal.

¡La almeja oceánica es una almeja del tamaño de un puño que puede vivir hasta 500 años o más! Algunos investigadores creen que el secreto de esta robusta almeja para una larga vida es su capacidad para proteger sus proteínas del cualquier daño.

El mecanismo de protección de esta almeja, si logramos entenderlo mejor, podría conducir a tratamientos potenciales para enfermedades relacionadas con la edad como el Alzheimer, que es causado por alteraciones de las proteínas en el cerebro.

La medusa inmortal de mar hace algo aún más sorprendente, como lo dice su nombre, esta medusa es biológicamente inmortal. Estas medusas son pequeñas y se encuentran en el mar Mediterráneo y algunas aguas de Japón.

Esta medusa es un animal sorprendente, es el Benjamin Button del océano. En lugar de morir, la medusa se vuelve más y más joven hasta que comienza su vida una vez más, desde el principio. Su secreto podría ser su capacidad para transformar una célula en otro tipo de célula, algo de lo que también son capaces las células madre humanas.

Todos los seres humanos envejecemos con el paso del tiempo. La idea de que el envejecimiento es un proceso natural e inevitable es una idea muy antigua. Esta idea del envejecimiento es tan común que cuando una persona nonagenaria muere, decimos que murió por la edad o “causas naturales”. Aun cuando las causas reales son enfermedades relacionadas con la edad. 

Algunos científicos argumentan que necesitamos redefinir el envejecimiento. David Sinclair, un geneticista de la Escuela Médica Harvard, dice que el envejecimiento ya no se debe verse como una consecuencia natural del envejecimiento, sino como una condición en sí misma.

Las implicaciones de darle una nueva definición al envejecimiento podrían ser muy grandes. La Organización Mundial de la Salud y la Administración de Drogas y Alimentos de los Estados Unidos clasifican las enfermedades, esto guía como se pueden probar, recetar y vender los medicamentos. Si el envejecimiento se caracterizara como una enfermedad, esto podría dirigir más investigación e inversión a este campo.

Cuando los biólogos hablan de envejecimiento, se refieren a la parte de deterioro del proceso como “senescencia” para evitar confusiones, dice David Gems, profesor de biogerontología del University College de Londres. “La senescencia es un cambio deteriórente y es claramente patológico”.

Los críticos dicen que clasificar el envejecimiento como una enfermedad estigmatizaría aún más a las generaciones mayores o podría desviar la atención de fomentar estilos de vida más saludables.

Una línea de análisis fructífera es “reconocer que el envejecimiento es el principal factor de riesgo de una serie de enfermedades que restringen y matan a las personas en la edad adulta. Enfermedades como coronaria, accidente cerebrovascular, diabetes tipo 2, y demencia”, dice Alan Walker, profesor de ciencias sociales, política y gerontología social en la Universidad de Sheffield. 

Incluso si el envejecimiento no se redefine como una enfermedad, muchos científicos están de acuerdo en que la forma en que abordamos el envejecimiento debe evolucionar.

Esto es algo que no debería de ser controversial, en la medicina como en cualquier otra ciencia siempre debemos de tratar de descubrir nuevas verdades o posibilidades.

El hecho de que el envejecimiento no se reconoce como algo que puede ser tratado y mejorado, también evita que varios médicos en varias especialidades no trabajen juntos para tratar a un solo paciente con varias condiciones como demencia y diabetes. 

Las personas pueden tener un psicólogo para la demencia y un endocrinólogo para la diabetes, pero se tratan en silos. En cambio, necesita una fuerza laboral que pueda lidiar con la multimorbilidad de una manera integrada, dice Cristina Víctor, profesora de gerontología y salud pública en la Universidad Brunel de Londres.

¿Y qué hacemos con esta información? Como individuales y sin ser profesionales en este ámbito, lo que podemos hacer son cosas simples que pueden alargar nuestra duración de vida. En su libro “Lifespan. Why We Age and Why We Don’t Have To” Doctor David A. Sinclair recomienda algunas cosas que todos podemos hacer como comer con menos frecuencia y hacer ejercicio. 

Comer menos y con menor frecuencia no es desnutrición; no es hambre. El Doctor Sinclair dice que no se trata de que adolescentes utilicen esto como una razón para no comer suficiente, pero la mayoría de los adultos comemos demasiado y comemos con mucha frecuencia. 

En lo personal seguiré educando más sobre este tópico y escribiré sobre lo que me parece interesante y que vale la pena compartir. Tenemos que tener la mente abierta a nuevas maneras de pensar sobre ideas que nos pueden beneficiar a todos. La ciencia es el ejercicio de ideas y experimentos constantes para descubrir nuevas cosas.

¿Tú qué piensas?