I like being five hours ahead of the US east coast. I can do a day’s worth of work—or play—and still take care of business. For the most part, I don’t…but I could.
I am still working out the timing on some meetings. 8:00 pm EST is 1:00 am here. Any evening meetings are not going to work. I like that, too. It will force me to limit my appointment hours, putting them into an afternoon time block which means my mornings are cleared for productivity. Which means it is time to start setting routines.
Mostly, I need to start getting up at a proper time. Before I left the US, I was going to bed around 1:00 am and I do that here. Well, maybe 2:00. I am waking up around 8:00 or 8:30 which makes sense as far as hours slept.
But it’s cold out there beyond the covers and I usually roll over til 9:00, sometimes til 9:30 and once or twice til 10:00. This is new: Usually once I am awake, I am up. I had allowed myself a week of slacking to get used to the time difference, but it’s been a month now. I’m still sleeping in.
Today, for maybe the first time, I am out of bed by 8:00 am. It is cold outside the covers but not as cold as it has been. I sip my coffee, looking out over the rooftops of Albufeira at the gorgeous beach. Sunrise was at 7:25, but the sun hasn’t yet broken through the grey. The day is misty and overcast. It is eerie and lovely at the same time.
I am in a perfect spot for writing. I tell myself this because it is my brain’s way of pointing out that I have no excuses—this is where the rubber meets the road. If I can’t get my work done here, I’m just plain lazy. (Anyone else give themselves these lovely little pep talks?)
There’s this whole Pandemic Productivity Guilt (PPG) going on. My friends (mostly entrepreneurs) and I discuss it. I don’t know if it is an American thing or not. We’re in the middle of a pandemic feeling guilty because we haven’t used the time to learn a new language, write the Great American Novel, build six-pack abs, and sew a designer wardrobe. We haven’t done all those things we said we would do if we only had time. (But I think most of us are done with the sourdough bread thing, right?) I’m betting most of our houses aren’t spotless and our offices are still disorganized. And we feel guilty because, really, this shit should have been done by now. (Says who?)
When you work for yourself, there’s no office to go to and no manager checking to see if you clocked in. I have been self-employed for 20 years. I am a self-starter. I have lived for years without an alarm. I normally wake up between 6:30 and 7:00 am. I have my coffee, walk into walls, have more coffee, make my list for the day, start working at 9:00. Miracle Mornings do not happen in my house and I’m good with that. But here in Portugal, too often, I don’t start working until noon or 1:00. I’m not good with that.
It might be a bit of Covid fog. We’re in lockdown in Portugal. Most of the shops are closed; restaurants are takeaway and delivery only. Most days I’m not going anywhere so there’s no hurry to shower and dress. I think I make trips to the grocery store just to make sure I have a reason to shower and dress. The days have already achieved a certain sameness. I need to use this lag time to set my routines, knowing that those routines will be a bit different here.
Some things just take longer here. Most of the apartments (and so, AirBnBs) don’t have clothes dryers. This unit has a fantastic washing machine (15 different wash cycles–it’s the F-35 fighter of Washer World), but only a small portable drying rack. I have learned to hang sheets (one at a time) and towels over the railing on sunny days, otherwise they just don’t dry. I’m pretty sure the wind dries them more than the sun, and that’s fine. But it’s time consuming. The neighbor below me hangs his laundry almost daily. His spot gets no sun. Not much wind either. He almost always has laundry hung out before I am up. I am impressed by his consistency, but I’m sure it’s a habit that is born of necessity, not industriousness. He has a routine.
My kitchen consists of a two burner stove and a microwave. Cooking is not one of talents, to put it kindly. I am eating a lot of sandwiches (the bread here is fantastic!) and cooking up “real” dinners maybe a couple of times a week. I have yet to eat a vegetable here. When I first arrived, I was spending a lot of time figuring out meals and groceries, trying to find foods I like. I am not a foodie. I am not an adventurous eater. I grew up on Wonder bread and Twinkies and Welch’s grape jelly and really, haven’t improved much since then. I’ve found the major grocery stores in town and have assembled a decent supply of staples. This week, in addition to the normal bread, milk, eggs, Oreos, I picked up lettuce and a bag of frozen mixed vegetables and a couple of apples. There are vegetables in my near future. (I’m in no hurry.) The cooking and eating routines are starting to normalize.
But this all takes more time than it did back in the States. I make several small shopping trips a week rather than one big trip. I don’t have a car so I choose which store I walk to depending on how much time I have available. The small one is a five minute walk down the street (and a ten minute walk back up) and the bigger stores are a half hour hike each way. The walking makes shopping a daylight activity. I have to hand carry the groceries in my two Trader Joe’s bags, so I’m limited as to how much I can buy at one time. I could probably take cabs back and forth but it’s an expense I don’t need to incur at this point. I feel good about walking. Afterwards. Not so much during. My huffing and puffing tells me that I need to do more walking. It might be the only healthy thing I do. More Pandemic Guilt.
The refrigerator here is small compared to the typical fridge in a US house. If you ever wonder why America has an obesity problem, start with the size of our refrigerators. Though I notice the smaller refrigerator isn’t magically taking the pounds off me, so maybe not.
When I lived in Redington Beach, I would wake up about 6:30 or 7:00 and walk the beach first thing. I think I would like to do that here. In fact, before I arrived, I pictured myself walking the beach, a cup of coffee in my hand. (My hair blowing artfully in the breeze…in slow motion… I was also a lot thinner in that vision.) But mornings are a little too chilly for me. And all the little coffee vendors are closed down right now. So I tell myself it will become a part of my routine when it warms up a bit. I don’t know if I’m lying to myself. It’s another thing to discover.
Do What I Can
In the meantime, I need to firmly establish my two hour writing block in the morning to go with my not-bad-but-not-great coffee. (I really miss my Peet’s Major Dickason coffee.) I am working on putting out two blog posts and a newsletter a week. That is the hard quota. In addition to that, I have client work, regularly scheduled meetings, and several books in process. I need to create the marketing systems for the books I have written.
So lots to do inside when we are limited as to how far we can go outside.
I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time on Websudoku. And Facebook. Instead of writing. Plus the time I spend feeling guilty, of course.
But today, I am up. I am writing. I am getting it done. Maybe not in the exact time frame I have specified. But it’s a step in the right direction. Tomorrow I will do my best to repeat the process. I am retraining my brain and my body, acclimating to the five hour time difference and a new way of life. I will do what I can, when I can, the best I can. And screw the Pandemic Productivity Guilt.