Simplifying Life

I’ve noticed that some of you are very good at maintaining a balance in your lives. You work enough to make a decent living, enjoy a variety of activities and friends, pursue your intellectual interests, etc. I also have an extremely full life. I have great friends and family members, get the gym most days, read and see movies, spend time with ladyfriends, but I work so damned much that I feel a bit ragged most days, like everyone wants a piece of me. Some important things, like time to ponder and study, time to enjoy museums and nature, time to sit in a tea house and do nothing but chat, fall by the wayside.

I’m very fond now of my lifestyle three years ago, when I first returned to Taiwan. I had a simple apartment, low expenses, worked 50 hours a week instead of 80, and had time to get out and play.

How do you guys discipline yourselves to say no to new work? How do you go about quitting the work that makes you busier than you want to be? And what do you do to simplify your daily lives? I sort of think everything comes ot a head at some point, and you do those things you most need to do at that time, whether it’s relax more or work more. What do you think?

Unlike most of you guys, I am not an English Teacher and I don’t make a lot of money. It is an average (or should I say below average) salary. I work more than 40 hours a week and work both Saturday and Sunday which is an hour away from Taipei City.

It is hard for me to save up in TW since I really do make yucky $$. But I do go out and enjoy my life as much as I can since I really don’t know how long I am going to stay in this wonderful place.

I think you should make time to enjoy Taiwan as much as you can because you never know where are you going to be in the future or what might happened to you the next min. Life is too short to be wasting it. Work less, enjoy life more, seems like you have a group of great friends and family which a lot of us don’t have here in TW, take full advantage of it!!

I envy your life!!

Very good topic Tomas.

I am also very busy, though it comes in spurts. For me, I try to spend at least an hour a day by myself. I go hiking Mon, Tues, Thurs, and Fri and this gives me time to clean out my brain. By myself, exercising, and in fresh air. I usually have a drink by myself after work. With people in my face all day, these times spent with Durins Bane is very good for my batteries.

I think it is important to leave work at work. I also like screening my cell phone calls. If you don’t guard your free time, somebody will take it from you.

Aikido gives me personal goals outside of work. RPGs let me go someplace else for a short while. I find these help me a lot.

This may sound cheesy, but don’t work for the money…or at least don’t worry about money. If you do something you enjoy and work hard at it WHILE AT WORK, then the money will come. I would never, ever trade more money for less time (unless it is $100,000,000 for five minutes :smiley: )

I find myself busy in spurts too. Although the spurts are hitting more often these days.

Now, I am trying to makes some changes to a curriculum at a kindy for Jan 2004, this is taking some time as the proposed changes will be revolutionary for the school and the staff.

I also have to get out of here for two weeks from Dec 13 - 27, looking forward to it but know that I have to finish everything before I go away. I would postpone my trip but I haven’t been home for Christmas in over three years, my grandfather won’t live into January and he wants to see my son, and my brother is going blind. (Maybe that is why I am suffering hair loss :wink: )

This little forum is my outlet and sanity. Actually, my boy does that for me, just watching him sleep puts everything into perspective.

Your post reminds me of my dad. Always so busy. The guy has to take “time off” to -plan- his “time off”.

It must be hard to back-out of your routine when you have been doing it for so long.
No advice there.

It’s very possible to work around 25 hours a week and save money in Taiwan and enjoy traveling to other countries twice a year.

Especially if you are with an other foreigner sharing expenses.

So, what is it that you want?

I wouldn’t work 50 hours a week for 2,000NT an hour. That’s just me.

I’m totally with DB on this one. Draw lines in the sand. I want to live a long time, and being overcommitted is the surest way to cut down your lifespan. Make time for yourself, separate work from real life, turn off your phone, and draw up some rules for yourself.

A simple one I have is this: If I’m so tired that I need an alarm clock to wake me up then I’m trying to do too much. When I’m doing everything right I sleep 8 hrs and wake up raring to go.

Basically I look for 4 ingredients, and they’re equally important. If my life doesn’t provide ALL of them then I’m doing something wrong and need to change it.

  1. Improving your material situation is a basic human drive. Ignore it at your peril. Nothing wrong with wanting to make money. It’s not the most important thing in the world, but it’s up there with oxygen.
  2. The other half of the ‘improving’ requirement is to develop the self. If you’re not learning you’re not growing, you’re not alive. Some people recommend setting aside an hour a day to daydream, plan, plot, keep the mind active.
  3. What’s the point being alive if you’re not enjoying it? Fun, good buddy, is essential. Mindless partying is fun for some, others enjoy a challenge. No thrill withou skill for me.
  4. You have to balance the taking with the giving. Do a job you can feel good about, something that has some meaning. Helping, providing, teaching, creating wealth is good. Redistributing wealth - sales, for instance - is bad because you’re not contributing anything.

You can focus on, or do without, some aspect for a while but you have to strike a balance. I think of it as some kind of perpetual motion machine oscillating around four points, and drawing energy from all of them. It’s OK if it swings around or favours one corner for a while. If your machine goes into orbit around one point you need to give it a nudge, and if you don’t it will grind to a halt.

Whenever I find myself getting tired, demotivated, or stressed, I take a step back and re-assess my life to make sure that I have all the necessary ingredients. What am I missing? How do I get the machine running again?

Having done that I’m very hard-headed and ruthless in enforcing the rules I’ve set for myself. I have to be, because otherwise everyone else’s needs will take precedence over mine. The most important lesson I ever learned is that most of the time people will rely on/blame others instead of taking responsibility for their own lives. You have to separate your real needs from what other people think they need from you, and make the changes necessary to regain your equilibrium.

If your problem seems to be that you’re working too much then ask yourself if it’s worth it to you. What do you get back?

If your work is something you enjoy, you’re learning from it, and you feel good about it, then you’re not really doing it for the money. It’s probably not doing any you any harm. Building the life you have now has been a fun, learning experience that you can feel good about, and no doubt you’ve made some money too.

But if you’re no longer enjoying it as much, or it’s getting to be hard work, then you’ve probably stopped growing. Repetition gets to be tedious. You need to reduce your working time to give yourself chance to get what you need from some other source. Or you can change your working life so that it provides all the ingredients again.

Look at it in very simple terms:

Everything comes to a head because you’re not in control any more. You make poor decisions because your options are created by others, things go badly for you, and what you need to do is dictated by your circumstances rather than by your will. You crash and burn because you don’t have your hands on the wheel any more. You’ll lose money, friends, self-respect and it’s hard as hell to pick yourself up.

It’s all about control. Take the wheel, take the initiative, and let other people solve their own problems. You’re no good to anyone if you burn out, and true friends will understand that. There are other teachers out there to take your classes, other drinking buddies this night, other people to take the opportunity. If you are fit, healthy, motivated, and happy then you will be ready to take the next opportunity. There’s always another one, if you care to have enough time to spot it.

Remember, the real opportunities are not the ones that someone else offers you. You make your own opportunities in this life, and meanwhile a few extra thousand nt is small beer. Hey! I know you can’t say no to one more small beer, but maybe that’s your problem.

I’ll turn down the last small beer, in favour of waking up in a fit condition to welcome the new day and all it’s myriad oppoortunities - without an alarm clock! And who cares if some psycho alcoholic wants to spend tomorrow sleeping off a hangover? That’s his problem. I’ve got a life to lead. Somebody wants you to teach another class? That’s his business and you don’t sacrifice your health so someone else can make money.

Again, if these people care about you they will understand and respect your needs. Just announce that you’re burning out and need to reduce your commitments or else you will be no good for anything or anyone. “It’s non-negotiable, either we work something out or one day I won’t be here. I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything about it.”

Hope this helps.
SB, the man with all the answers. Yeah, right.

Best advice yet from SB - YOU DA MAN

Yea, good topic tomas.

I agree with those who talk about balance and not working too much, but it all depends on where you are in life. Although I went to university for a long time and accumulated a lot of degrees, I then slacked off for ten years, hangin’ out, riding my bike, going to the beach, traveling, climbing mountains, relaxing in the sun, hangin’ with friends and smoking lots of dope.

It was all a lot of fun, but since coming to Taiwan I’ve realized that I’m getting older, life passes quickly and I’m going to want/need money to live in a nice house, take care of my wife and child/ren, travel as I’d like, buy nice toys and retire comfortably before I get too old. Consequently, I’ve come to realize that I need to work hard now to make up for past goofing off and pave the way for a decent future.

I too work long hours Tomas and bring home work from the office most weekends. But I’m fortunate because I find my work very interesting and enjoy it. If your job sucks then it would really be pathetic to work long hours. But if you enjoy it and you’re making good money then it’s not so bad. I do make a point to turn off the cell phone as soon as I get home and try to exercise as much as possible – riding my bike at least a couple of days before work and on the weekends. Only a few minutes of TV each day before bed cuz its such a waste of precious time. My wife feels that this forum is also a waste of time but I tell her this is necessary too.

One should enjoy life every day because you never know when you might get run over by a truck and it’ll all be over. But work isn’t inherently bad. If you enjoy your work, long hours can be perfectly satisfying so long as you sqeeze in just enough of the other good stuff, whatever that might be for you.

Well said, SB. Excellent points.

Your post made me look at some of things in my life.

I don’t know if this applies but I once read it some where: You can have or do anything you want, but you can’t have or do everything.

Thanks for the post and to everyone else who is contributing to this interesting thread.

SB is right on target. Wise words.

I have found that it is important to keep Energy Vampires out of my life. These are the folks who suck out your life by constantly whining about Taiwan, expect you to mother them, party too much, etc. I have a couple at work and though I must deal with them on a professional level there isn’t a chance in hell that I would spend one minute of my down time with them. Stay away from Energy Vampires!

Tomas, I take it you are the boss? If so, I would suggest that you make Friday a half day or just take the whole friggin’ day off. Spend that time in a park or hiking. Leave your cell phone at home and don’t think about any aspect of work. Let your mind wander…I enjoy “building” my dream house when I am hiking. When you finish go to a sauna or get a professional massage (none of those rub and tug places :wink: ). You work hard so make sure you treat yourself right.

Try it tomorrow and let us know how it goes.


I went through a phase a few years back where I was working too hard.
It was not good for me or the job I was doing.

I determined at the time to do 2 things :

  1. Not to take my job so seriously . To treat it as a game ie You try hard , you want to win (but dont expect to win everytime) & you have fun .
  2. Delegate. To do this you need to recruit & train good people (+ make a few tough people decisions) , then let go where you can.

It sounds very simple , but it has made a big difference to me. I have enough free time now (though still go through phases of being very busy) + strangely my career progression improved significantly.

One trap to fall into if you’re working hard is to come home tired and just watch TV or surf the net because you’re too stuffed to do anything else, and spend the whole weekend sleeping and watching DVDs. You think you should get out and do some exercise, but you’re just too tired. If you make the effort to go out and have a swim or something, you actually feel muchg better (especially in the long run) afterwards, despite the extra effort it takes.


I’ve fallen into that trap as well. Basically, you have to prioritize your life. Work to develop yourself professionally and live comfortably. Short term greediness is a recipe for long term unhealthiness. Be firm with work colleagues and the powers that be. They wil respect you for it. And in your spare time, make people come to you, dont always do the searching. Too many people search rather than make others seek.


In order to get free stress free, relaxing time I do a couple things.

  1. Prioritize everything and get it done, my PDA is invaluable for this

  2. Take a break from my woman. Tomas, do you think you might need
    12 step program for this? :smiley:

  3. Plan short day trips, or meet friends who are not energy vampires or
    stress machines.

I stay away from TV and internet as these are the 2 things that can get me to veg out in a matter of seconds. I actually no longer have internet at home anymore and I won’t buy a TV for obvious reasons. I read a lot and I’m now starting my plan for returning to the US in 6 years. I’m going to try to start exercising and take up a martial art when I get the chance, but I have a lot of reading to do and a gf.

I know you buddy and I would suggest day trips and laying off the women. You, yourself, have said that you need to do so. Before any A-holes decide to chipe in, Tomas is a classy guy with a lot going for him. He isn’t a slut or a whore. I’ve seen this man go above and beyond what he needed to do for people.


[quote=“Bu Lai En”]One trap to fall into if you’re working hard is to come home tired and just watch TV or surf the net because you’re too stuffed to do anything else, and spend the whole weekend sleeping and watching DVDs. You think you should get out and do some exercise, but you’re just too tired. If you make the effort to go out and have a swim or something, you actually feel muchg better (especially in the long run) afterwards, despite the extra effort it takes.


I agree. I go to the gym for an hour or two most every day, and go hiking on Sundays. Without it, I wouldn’t survive this schedule.

Ah, you’ll be back in a day.

Thanks for the kind words, buddy. One thing about me, I always figure out a way to be fine.

DB, I actually get facials monthly and professional massages every few weeks. I’ll go in for a full deal tomorrow (feet, face, hair, body) after a good gym workout.

Thanks for everyone’s comments and advice.

Good massage? Where? I had a Taiwan foot massage once and could barely walk for a week afterwards.

Those foot massages are scary! They get easier over time (or so I’m told), but the first one can bring a person to tears (usually the person on the receiving end but sometimes the massager, depending on how clean the massagee’s feet are, he he). Combine it with some neck-cracking and you’ll have a nice simple life recovering your hospital bed…

Those foot massages are scary! They get easier over time (or so I’m told), but the first one can bring a person to tears (usually the person on the receiving end but sometimes the massager, depending on how clean the massagee’s feet are, he he). Combine it with some neck-cracking and you’ll have a nice simple life recovering your hospital bed…[/quote]

You girls are a couple of weenies :stuck_out_tongue: .

I was amazed at how much the foot massager could tell about its client. When I went, he knew exactly how many times I had sex with my GF the previous day. He knew what ailments I currently had. Scary!