“Never forget that anticipation is an important part of life. Work’s important, family’s important, but without excitement, you have nothing. You are cheating yourself if you refuse to enjoy what is coming.” -Nicholas Sparks
When I'm in the grind and working long days and long weeks, I use a hack called stacking my calendar. I open my calendar and look into the future when I know I'll be less busy, and plan fun stuff. It's like creating the light at the end of the tunnel. I first read about the idea from this post, http://www.nevblog.com/how-to-get-your-life-back-on-track/, and then turned it into a consistent monthly process. My calendar has 3 colors: work is green, personal/fun is blue, and travel is red. Naturally, my calendar fills up with green first, and it’s well over 50 hours/week most of the time, and sometimes when there are weekend trainings thrown in, I can go a pretty long time without a day off. That being said, having an all green calendar is a recipe for burnout. Stacking my calendar is a simple concept: when it gets too green, I stack the future with red and blue.
Stacking red in my calendar is my favorite part, because planning travel can sometimes be just as fun as actually doing it. I might plan a short weekend trip, or a longer 4 day trip when I can work remotely for a few days. Either way, the process of looking up flights and searching through Airbnbs can be really fun. The imagination goes wild when planning travel to someplace you've never been before. Once the trip is planned, the anticipation really kicks in, and the long work days seem very finite. For example, recruiting season from September through December is the biggest grind of them all, which is why I always plan a epic winter trip. This winter I did a 3000 mile road trip with 11 ski days at 4 mountains. The year before I spent 2 weeks in surfing in Australia and Tasmania. I get so excited in the months leading up to these crazy trips.
After my calendar is looking a nice combo of Christmas colors, I stack the blues. The blues are the small things you can sprinkle in here and there. First I look at the surf report and swell forecast. Then I check Songkick and Spotify to see if any of my favorite bands are coming to town. Then I’ll plan some dinners or nights out with friends. Currently I have 2 half marathons coming up in the next few months, and this forces me to train no matter how busy I get. The key is that you plan whatever is going to excite YOU.
I'm not trying to say that the best way to get through the grind is to always be daydreaming about things that you would rather be doing. The key is to plan something specific, something you can really look forward to, and then go out and earn it through the work. You brain actually produces dopamine in anticipation of a reward. In the Treatise of Human Nature, David Hume says “Anticipation of pleasure is, in itself, a very considerable pleasure.”
And here is the best part, when you make it through the grind, you can then see what was impossible to see during the grind - it was worth it. To quote Rolf Potts, the author of Vagabonding, “Work is where you earn your travels. It makes travel better because it gives you something to compare it too. That's why trust fund kids who travel the world never find what they are looking for.” So the next time you feel like you are in the grind, stack your calendar with something exciting in the future, and then just keep grinding it out until then.