As you may know by now, I spend most of my waking hours here working on the English plantation. This gives me very little time to get things done unless I wake up early (no problem there; it was my habit back home in the States), but most places, especially the sacred temple known as the gym, are closed before ten in the morning here in Guangzhou. Although this is a grave inconvenience, life must still go on.
In order to make the most out of my life and my time, I try to do as many little things as I can in my downtime. Recently, I have been using a program called Anki to study Mandarin flashcards and improve my vocabulary. I try to make time every morning before going to work, as well as in between classes to get quick study sessions in. Although my Mandarin is far from perfect, I have found the usage of this program, along with talking to my girlfriend using as many words and phrases as I can remember to be the best methods for learning the language that I have used to date. Study sessions are typically quick, but they might become longer once I add more words and phrases to my study plan.
I also try to get writing done on my lunch break and during my downtime in lesson planning hours. I am not at the point where I am working for myself and making my own hours yet, but putting in as much work as possible for myself is a reminder that my life is still my own, and I have not completely yielded to being a slave, forever living for the weekend while wasting away. There is not much that I can do under the watchful eyes of my supervisors (and a particularly nosy co-worker), but with writing at least, ‘alt-tab’ has been my friend. Reading would probably be much harder, but I might be able to put some books about ESL on my tablet and try to spoof them.
Whenever we have spare time and little things to get done, we should work on knocking out these small tasks in order to make our lives easier. Something that seems small might actually become the straw that breaks the camel’s back when we are really crunched for time, so getting these things accomplished when we can makes our life more efficient in the long run.
The Thirty Second Rule
When I was a child and needed to tidy my room, my Mom would often tell me to start on the small things but by bit, and gradually, my room would be clean. She called this the “Thirty Second Rule,” which meant that if something could be done in thirty seconds then it should be done at the soonest opportunity to save time in the long run. This rule applies to many things in life as I am re-learning here in China.
While thirty seconds is not a long time, a lot can actually be done within such a small time frame that will pay dividends in the long run. For example, taking the time to wipe out the sink after using it reduced the work that I will have to do later since I do not have to worry about rings of scum that would take more time to scrub out. With the advent of modern technology, it is easy to do little things to build one’s business, such as quick searches for things that we may need, or a quick text message to people that we need to get in touch with.
We may not have all of the time that we want in our lives, but squeezing utility out of every second that we can spare for ourselves can work wonders in the long run. Let’s remind ourselves that our lives and our time belong to us, not our supervisors, bosses, or whomever or whatever we have to deal with just to skate by in life. Second by second, we will attempt to earn our freedom and build our own empires.