It took cooking and a jigsaw puzzle for me to see the damage I've been doing to myself for the last couple of years, mentally, emotionally and physically.
About a month ago, my wife was on an educational in eastern Europe for a week, and like any other time she's away I took that opportunity to burn the candle from both ends and put in some extra work at elevio to "catch up" (another lesson there for another day, you'll never "catch up" so don't bust your ass trying to).
In the first 6 days she was away, I had around 70 hours of screen time according to RescueTime, plus 10 hours of commute, plus the usual meetings & ad-hoc product discussion. I got to the office early, and left late, often too late to bother eating.
I was so concerned about trying to make some magic leap in a short period of time while I wouldn't feel the guilt of being absent at home, that I couldn't even let my mind rest, so my sleeping also suffered.
It wasn't a totally uncommon situation and I know there's people reading that have probably worked longer and harder, I have too. But this time I pushed a bit too hard, and I didn't take care of myself, and it broke me.
I was totally burnt out. I had nothing left in the tank, I looked and felt like shit, and I struggled to care about anything. At home, at work, I was a zombie hiding poorly behind a facade, and going through the motions.
I could see it happening and I hated it, but I kept telling myself the light and turning point was just around the corner. I couldn't see that I was on a never ending loop.
Enter, cooking. We'd heard of a company called Marley Spoon, a pretty simple concept where ingredients and a recipe show up at your door each week, all you need to do is follow the steps and voila, a delicious home cooked meal (we previously mostly ate microwave meals).
Now, I can't cook for shit, so I was hesitant when my wife suggested we give it a go. Boy, did I underestimate the effect it would have.
Now because I know I need to get home to help cook, I leave the office a little earlier. When I get home, my laptop stays away. My mood and my self worth, is less influenced by the current situations and swings of running a startup, that too stays in my laptop bag.
For that moment in time I'm not a startup founder, I'm a sous chef.
I still primarly think about the future of elevio in my "down time", I can't help it. I love what I do so my work is also my hobby, but being able to get a relief from it periodically allows for left-field thoughts to creep in for a different perspective. Letting the pieces fit together in a different way.
So when my wife took off for a month long journey through Spain and Portugal last week, I decided that I'd try and continue with essentially forcing myself to decrease screen time while I'm at home, and not make the destructive mistake of 80 hour weeks without eating dinner.
To help with that, I went to the shops and bought a jigsaw puzzle to obsess over, and I've taken to Twitter to give daily progress reports to keep myself accountable. I mean, I doubt anybody is going to give a shit if I don't post an update, but I will. I'll break the chain.
My routine has now been to head home, pick a single band / artist to put on Spotify as the nights theme (todays is Bon Iver), cook (or heat up last nights leftovers), and do a section of the jigsaw. All things that will fill, occupy, or at least distract my mind.
Day 1 of 26 home alone. Cooked Korean grilled chicken for dinner. Now: 🎶 Paul Kelly, and this. 👌 pic.twitter.com/dMMUpRZZ5T— Chris Duell 🏳️🌈 (@duellsy) September 11, 2017
This weekend, I've been out of the house rather than working the full weekend which would normally have be the case, and I've had my sisters down for dinner, drinks and breakfast the following morning.
There's still a long way to go to feel I'm back to who I used to be, and there's a still lot I want to do to look after myself better like getting back to the gym, but after a single week of cooking and jigsaw solving, I already feel a weight and a haze lifting.
I'm thinking clearer. I'm more optimistic. I'm more driven. I'm more motivated. I'm more present.
I'm more me.