Back to Beirut: Balancing Time and Maintaining Motivation

With approximately eight weeks remaining in my year as a student missionary, I am returning back to Beirut after a week and a half with my friends and family for Easter Break.  With it comes a realization of the need to narrow my focus on the things that are most important, and a deeper interest in optimizing my habits and lifestyles in order to finish out strong.

During the break, I discovered the following:

  1. Finding a balance between tasks and relationships requires intentionality and careful attention
  2. Maintaining structure and motivation without due-dates requires self-discipline and often help from others

Balancing Tasks and Relationships


Seeking a balance between our relationships and our responsibilities is an ever-present balancing act.
Seeking a balance between our relationships and our responsibilities is an ever-present balancing act.

Most personality tests indicate that I am an introvert. It doesn’t mean that I don’t like people, I just don’t like them all at once. Still, my tendency is to retreat to solitude in a quiet dorm room and code, or work home homework and such, neglecting personal relationships. At least, that is the case during the school year.

Now put me in a summer camp or a retreat, and you’ll find me really hamming it up and winning social acclamation. I get such a big thrill that I neglect the things that are on my todo list which need attention.

I tend to swing between these two extremes like a high school physics pendulum experiment. Each side is important, but balance is the key to effective living. To center my focus, I am using time tracking software (Toggl for now) to measure the balance between task and relationships, in addition to focusing on this with my daily reviews.

Maintaining Structure in the Absence of Deadlines


Let's be honest, it's near impossible to be motivated to get stuff done when you've got no deadlines.
Let’s be honest, it’s near impossible to be motivated to get stuff done when you’ve got no deadlines.

I have no problems when it comes to meeting deadlines, but when there are no deadlines, my drive to complete tasks evaporates like an ice-cube in Houston. It’s difficult to sculpt out time to be productive when you are home on holiday for only a few days, for obvious reasons that you have limited time with your loved ones.

This compounds with the fact that there are few reminders that we need to be getting things done. Days pass (just as quickly as they do in busy work weeks), and next thing you know, you’re back in the rush of things, but this time without the advantage of that circadian rhythm you had built up prior to your vacation.

Because I am no longer in this situation, finding a way to improve my performance here is a bit challenging. I won’t have much ability to practice until I am again without deadlines, which may be for a while.  However,  a tool that I have seen work before is to find other people who understand the need to stay on top of things, and associate and work with these folks for a few hours each day.

Goals for this Coming Week

This upcoming week, I want to finish setting up this blog and integrating it with social media. I also need to close a few loops associated with the end of Spring Semester at Andrews University. All this comes along with a growing realization that my time to learn and practice Arabic while still in the country is rapidly running out.

Both of the topics addressed in this post will be important this coming week.

Fine Tuning the Gears

  1. Begin time tracking and focus on balancing time spent on tasks  with time spent on building relationships.
  2. Find opportunities to work with other motivated people in periods of no due-date pressure.

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