Today I was supposed to have a doctor’s appointment and tomorrow I am expecting a package from DHL. My doctor’s office called and changed my appointment to tomorrow. DHL texted to say they were delivering the package today.
And that is basically how things go here. I missed a dental appointment a couple of weeks ago because they scheduled the appointment two days after my first appointment. I am so used to being scheduled weeks out that I screwed up the dates. Not to worry, they fit me in the next week. My three appointments for a crown? Now reduced to two. But that second appointment isn’t until the beginning of September because… August is when all of Europe goes on vacation. Many things will not be done this month. That’s okay because many things will not be done across the entire continent and no one is expecting results.
Europeans sure know how to take the pressure off.
Of course, I am still working. My clients are in the States and we must all hustle, hustle, hustle lest we fall behind and (gasp!) someone else gets ahead. Heaven forbid you’re not #1.
I had convinced myself that I would get no work done this morning because I had to leave for the clinic. When that changed, I picked up my laptop and sat my butt down. Some people run on a very strict schedule and frankly, I don’t see that working in Portugal. All my days are flex days. The 45 minute sprints I talked about last week make it easy for me to create “modular” work days. Once I realized I was “in the office” for the day, I did my first sprint, taking care of a client’s final edits. I did another 45 minutes taking care of admin stuff, including texting a client to tell him I sent him an email last week. (It’s our little system.) I’m doing a 45 minute sprint now. Which will probably stretch to two sprints because I am popping up and down, checking for the DHL person.
The business culture in the US is to be relentless, to keep pushing, to live to work. Your job as your identity.
That doesn’t fly here. We’re chill.
Things move more slowly here in general (medical appointments excepted). The instant gratification culture doesn’t exist. Delivery from Amazon Spain is two to three days, not next day. More often than not, if someone doesn’t have an answer for you, you won’t hear back from them until they do. I live in a small town but even when I have gone into Tavira (think of Andy and Barney going to the picture show in Mt. Pilot), office supplies are hard to find. Well, specific office supplies. I can find all sorts of strange things, though usually not what I’m looking for (That’s okay. I love to wander the aisles of stationary and office supply stores.) You have to let go of attachments to certain brands. My favorite Bic Stic pen looks like it is marketed under the Staples brand here. Index cards need to be ordered in from Amazon Spain. Three ring notebooks are four ring. (Kind of cool.) My Epson printer here is not as forgiving as my Epson printer back in the States when it comes to non-Epson brand printer ink.
I don’t work as fiercely here as I did in the States. I work, I take a break. I look out at the water, watch the people. If the DHL package shows, I’ll walk to the grocery store to get something for dinner. If it doesn’t, I’ll walk downstairs and order from the restaurant and keep waiting. I am surprised that I seem to get more done by going a bit more slowly. I have that pressure all writers have to produce a stream of words, hopefully coherent. But I also have a general sense that the words will come, the job will be completed on time, without making myself crazy. Maybe it’s the whole “slow and steady” thing. I plod along, doing about eight sprints a day, sometimes seven. And then I leave it. I have a glass of wine, look out at the water, and let it go.
August is when Europeans reset and recharge themselves. They understand the importance of downtime and how it helps you do more in the long run. I would love for US workers to have that same opportunity.