I had a guest in town last week – one of my absolute favorite people in the world came out to Maui to live 'aloha' for a few days – and so for the first time since settling into my little ohana on Lower Hanoapiilani Road here in Napili, I rented a car and headed out across the island in search of beaches and other fine things to explore. My guest left on Sunday, and Monday morning I settled into my normal routine. Imagine my surprise when I discovered I had a normal routine.
Here I had travelled all the way to a tiny island in the Pacific, to live alone and get out of all the routines and habits and patterns I'd formed in Portland, only to find myself right back where I started – knowing what the day would bring and what my tasks were and so forth. I had assumed I'd left all routine behind and was living each day 'off the cuff', but after spending a week doing something completely different, I suddenly realized just how scheduled my new life was. I suppose you can't discover a routine until you first discover a break from that routine, in the same way something can't be 'tall' unless it's beside something 'short' and something is only 'warm' in comparison to something 'cool'. A routine is hard to recognize until you get outside of it and can compare it to something else.
To be fair, my new routine is actually pretty spectacular, and as the title of this blog is "Modern Workweek", I suppose I might spend a few paragraphs describing what it's like. First off, I generally work every day of the week - although for those who don't know me, I should clarify that I run my own web development company, and so I work for myself, currently from my living room (although I still do rent office space in Portland). During the football season, I'd rarely work on Sunday, as the games started early in the morning here in Hawaii, and so I'd typically find myself at a tiki-sports-bar a few pints in by the early afternoon. With Football season over, all the days pretty much blend into one here and so maintaining a standard Monday-Friday routine made little sense. While I will have the occasional phone conference once or twice a month, for the most part all my communication with my clients happens via email. I would guess that 85% of them have no idea I'm even in Maui at the moment.
I generally get up around 6:30am most days, primarily because it gets dark so early on Maui, and so by 10pm I'm typically in bed and asleep not much later than that. I like to lay in bed and enjoy those few first moments of the day, but usually by 7am at the latest, I'm in front of my computer, checking emails and responding to small client requests. I host/manage over 40 websites, and so a lot of my day is spent providing support and updates for my existing clients. The first interaction of my day is typically with my business partner Jessica, who runs her own company. Even though we're technically separate businesses, we share a number of clients and many of the same challenges and frustrations that come with owning your own small business. This is also the part of the morning where I make my first of three espressos.
Once the morning's email and gossip has been taken care of, I cook myself some breakfast. In Portland I usually ignored the first meal of the day, but in Maui I've made sure to cook myself a solid, delicious breakfast each morning. I'm talking eggs, hashbrowns, fresh fruit, bacon, OJ... totally the breakfast in the background of all those nasty cereal commercials I'd watch as a kid, in which the announcer would remark "part of this complete breakfast", a testimony that if thought about means nothing, similar to stating a doorknob is "part of this complete building".
After breakfast I begin the focused part of my work day, taking on whatever actual projects I'm working on at the moment. This consists of either building new sites for new clients, or working on improvements or bugs with existing sites for existing clients. I have a pretty intense system of "To-Do" lists which work in conjunction with my equally mind-numbing system of organizing emails (I get a ton as you might imagine) to constantly make sure I have a list of things I could be working on during any day. Certain requests get different priorities, but in general, I'm very much like a line-cook in a restaurant, taking orders, and managing several hot pans at once.
I try to work non-stop till noon, at which point I break for lunch. One of my favorite things about living on Maui and in a ground-floor ohana, is that I can BBQ regularly. So most days at lunch I grill up some chicken or steak and have a small salad. It's a nice change from nearly daily trips to the foodcarts in Portland, and certainly a lot healthier. If I'm busy that day, I'll work at my desk while responding to emails, but typically I try to sit down at the table and just enjoy the meal.
After lunch I get back into work and often try to dedicate that session to a single project. At 2pm, I call it a day. I switch into my bathing suit, spray on some SPF110 (yes, they make it that high) and walk five minutes along the coast to Napili Bay, my favorite beach on West Maui. There I spend the next two hours or so swimming in those perfectly clear waters and reading upon the beach, and occasionally watching tourists. While I have quite a reading list here on Maui, I often read philosophy during the afternoon, as I like to ponder some fascinating thought, then reflect upon it while floating in the warm ocean waters. It's a wonderful way to spend the best part of the day.
Around 4pm I pack-up my things and walk back up to my apartment, feeling wildly refreshed from the invigorating salt water. I don't have a car here on Maui, so typically after a shower and some fresh clothes, I walk to the market just down the street to pick-up supplies for dinner and the next day's lunch. I then return home, prepare what I need for dinner, and then while it cooks either read some blogs, or write one of my own as I'm doing right now.
I carve out time to enjoy my dinner - not by the television light or in front of my computer, but at the table. It sometimes seems odd to set a table for one, but if you're going to spend time preparing a meal, you should spend time enjoying it I figure. In Portland I often cooked for myself but shoveled it down between television shows or before rushing out to meet friends – I was the gracious host with a preoccupied guest, with scarcely the time to savor the meal, let alone show appreciation.
After dinner, I will sometimes put in some more work hours, but generally I either read, watch a little television (I have a strange addiction to History Channel "reality" shows) or surf the web. By 10pm the electronics are all off, and then I typically read before going to sleep. Before Maui, I'd often work or scour the internet until my eyes gave out, and then surrendered almost immediately to sleep often early into the following day. Carving out time to relax and reflect at the end of the day has provided for a deeper sleep with more focused dreams.
So that's pretty much the current work week. Now that I realize I've created such patterns I might try to alter them some, but obviously I can't complain. Waking up to a beautiful sunny morning, birds chirping in the distance, knowing you'll be swimming at the most pristine beach imaginable and eating freshly prepared meals (and delicious I might add), all while doing work you actually love performing – life is good. I remark to friends that in Portland I felt I had nothing to do, but was constantly running late for it. A subtle anxiety permeated everything I did – always looking to the next thing and only occasionally enjoying the present task. On Maui, it's the moments in which I'm not doing anything that seem to bring the most pleasure, and the time I carve out of each day to enjoy this wonderful, infinite, present moment. January was my highest grossing month in my seven years of running the business, so I can only assume this lifestyle is helping the business – although clearly that's a secondary concern.
A friend's parent once told me, 'the question in life is not what you want to be. It's how you want to be.' This is how I want to be, and I couldn't be happier.
Thirty spokes converge upon a single hub;
It is on the hole in the center that the use of the cart hinges;
We make a vessel from a lump of clay;
It is the empty space within the vessel that makes it useful;
We make doors and windows for a room;
But it is the empty spaces that make the room livable;
Thus, while the tangible has advantages;
It is the intangible that makes it useful.
- Tao Te Ching