andres marrugo

Doing Nice Things

I wrote this roughly over a month ago, but by now it kind of feels like ages; don’t know why. I’ve tried–without much success–to catch up on old episodes of the back to work podcast1, this is something inspired by one of these episodes.

The Tale

Today I was listening to an old episode of the Back to work podcast called “Vocational Wheel”. In it Merlin Mann said something like the following

I can’t do everything if I want to do nice things.

I’m not absolutely sure, word for word, that was what he said, but you get the idea. It might not appear so obvious for a number of reasons. First of all, everything is a different number of things for different people. For some people, everything might not be a large number of things, and most importantly for many people choosing not to do something might not be as easy (if it is possible) as it seems.

It’s true that for many people it is simply impossible to do everything, even if they wanted to. He put an example like, what would happen if he would say thank you to everyone that wrote to him, then he wouldn’t do anything at all. I bet he gets a lot of email–ergo the inbox zero idea.

In my case the “not doing everything” most of the times translates to not getting enough sleep. If I want “to do nice things” I normally stay up late after I put my kid to bed. I do sometimes regret not getting enough sleep, but when I manage to do something nice, I simply don’t regret a thing.

So, what kind of nice things do you do?

You’d be amazed about the things I consider to be nice2. For example I like having little projects like making a cool video about my son. I would normally spend several weeks working on this project, shooting pictures, recording video clips, doing the editing, getting the music and all the effects right. Ok that’s great, but I’m actually doing all of this while writing my PhD thesis.3

Many would argue that I could use that time for working on the thesis, or just for sleeping. The thing is, I’m never going to have another chance to do these things, so I really don’t complain about it. One thing I’ve learned since becoming a father: I’m more cautious of how I spend my time and, it might not seem this way, but I’m more focused and productive on my thesis. When I had all the time in the world I would not normally make good use of my time.

Other nice things I do: I write. I write for my blog, I write on my day one journal, I write–sometimes incredible–notes to my future self, I write scientific papers, I read (listen) amazing stories and re-tell it a thousand times to everyone I know, I follow awesome people on the Internet and I spread out their word, I help my peers, I play with my son, I (try to) cook exquisite food for my family, I try to spend as much time as possible with my family, and many other things. These are just some of the things I normally do. Most of them don’t actually stop me from doing everything, but all of them require a certain sacrifice, more often than not in sleep time. But I don’t complain. How can I?

  1. It now appears that Merlin is going through all of the episodes and writing something about them.

  2. Yes, I am a geek, but aside from that I’m quite a regular guy.

  3. Which is a big deal.