It surprises me how often it helped. Solitude. And silence.

In my 30s, productivity is still a dream. I wonder if I’m right, I wonder if others would insist otherwise. Like many things you get wrong about getting past your 20s, the hope that you will naturally grow into a more put-together version of yourself, just doesn’t happen. Not if you weren’t working on it. Those bad work habits you have (or had), in your 20s? They don’t go away just because you hit the 30-mark, or get married, or switch careers. (Or get promoted, or have a kid, and so on.)

I paused when seeing this quote from Yang Berhormat Iswandy Ahmad:

Be consistent. That’s it, there are no magic ways, secret methods or quick fix, just be consistent in what you do. Many have stopped because one cannot maintain the momentum, so we do it within our capabilities.

– Posted by Young Professionals Network (Instagram / Telegram)

This rings true to me because it is so hard for me. Consistence.

I could go into a full-on chronicling of how I tried (and sometimes failed) to get things done in 2021, but I won’t. I will say that many times, whatever systems I devised to “hack” myself, would fall apart when I didn’t maintain it.

Maybe I skipped a step – not just once, because we’re human and we lapse – but one too many times. Or if I just gave in to whatever the mood of the day was, and yes, sometimes it was self-loathing, while sometimes it was more trivial. It was often weeks, or even months, before I could pick up again from where I had last trailed off.

The “picking up” bit? Often, it happened on days when I let myself have a quiet moment alone. Solitude, and silence.

“Silence” is a misnomer, because I don’t mean complete silence. Generally, I don’t think I work in a complete void of sound. I may need one of those ambient sound apps, or a Spotify playlist, or a podcast that is neither too distracting nor too monotonous.

“Silence”, to me, isn’t just an absence of sound. It also means space for wandering thoughts. No multi-tasking, no adorable niblings demanding attention. No simulating conversation with my S.O. or on my WhatsApp group chats, no endless browser tabs.

Solitude isn’t enough, you see. We all know that a mobile phone, or heck an internet connection, keeps you connected, keeps you… notified. Are we ever really alone? But there are ways to make it a little more real. Headphones. A closed door, or a cubicle wall. Switching your phone to silent mode.

Everyday, trying to work better, to be that more put-together version of myself. But when the system break, then: Solitude, and silence. When I allow myself to pull myself together again, it feels like I’m slowly gaining strength. It’s not a quick fix, it doesn’t tick off my to-do list. But it helps.

Surprise! For the last week of January, I decided to try out a daily blogging prompt from WordPress itself.

Bloganuary Prompt, 25 January 2022: “Write about something that makes you feel strong.”