The Importance of Proper Fork Usage

The Importance of Proper Fork Usage

It’s been awfully quiet on this blog for the past few days, wouldn’t you say? It’s true that I finally posted my initial list of European dividend growth stocks, but after that nothing. I didn’t even take the time to respond to your much appreciated comments and e-mails. Unlike many other bloggers I’m not bored of maintaining this blog though – not at all! – I just took a couple of days off. Here’s why.

I was tired, run-down, and quite possibly over stressed. I’ve been sleeping six hours at most every night for the past month and all the while I didn’t feel great. First my throat hurt, then I started coughing like an 80-year-old chain smoker, then finally my stomach started playing tricks on me too. It was one thing after another. Needless to say, I wasn’t in any way whatsoever in great physical shape.

The reasons are manifold, but all boil down to one recurring issue: I took on too much. Between full-time work, overtime, blogging, dancing classes, hanging out with friends, and a bunch of other fun activities, there was hardly any time left for me to unwind.  Getting home at midnight, only to leave for work a short six hours later isn’t a healthy lifestyle.

In Dutch there’s an old saying that says “we shouldn’t take too much hay on our fork”. In other words, don’t bite off more than you can chew – see how great these two sayings fit into the same mental space . Of course, the fork in the Dutch saying is not used to gobble up food, but rather to do hard manual labour in the field.

I am definitely guilty of shoveling more hay than I can possibly manage, being the not-so-very-strong person I am. There’s no shame in admitting that as everyone has their limits, but it is important to acknowledge the fact that you’re pushing things too far. Proper fork usage is essential indeed.

That’s why I decided to change things around. I cancelled my job-related appointments and worked from the comfort of my own home, stayed in bed until all lingering symptoms of the flu and my bronchitis were gone, and made sure to get at least 8 hours of sleep every night. The turnaround is staggering as I feel born anew.

Furthermore, some new ground rules had to be implemented. First, no more waffles work-related appointments after six in the evening as they often eat into my time to relax before going to bed. Second, I’ll be cherry picking my activities based on their priorities. No longer will I use my fork to scoop up everything I can get my greedy hands on, but rather I’ll spear those events and occasions that are most important to me.

By doing so I hope to balance my job, writing on this blog, and personal life a bit more, without losing any sleep or forgoing good health. My job is definitely important, both because it’s a job worth doing and because it’s my primary source of income, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of myself.

People often talk about how they’ll use financial independence to get out of the rat race or the race to the corporate top, but I’d argue that it’s important not to forget that you need a couple of pit stops along the way too. I have experienced that first hand the past couple of days. Even though making more money and thus being able to save more is a lofty goal, make sure you don’t overdo it.

I’m currently saving 70% of my income, so why not ease the pressure on the gas pedal a little like I did? Financially speaking I’m doing great, so it doesn’t make any sense to lift the heaviest of forks. There’s just no reason to, especially when considering that I’m doing all of this so I don’t need to lift my fork anymore in the future.

Have you ever experienced anything like what I described above? If you did, feel free to share in the comments how you dealt with it!

Thank you for reading.

37 Comments

  1. Its interesting how each language/culture has its own version of the saying. I agree that its important to sometimes slow down and enjoy life without taking on too much. One way or another you have to take a break – either you realize yourself or you fall sick and your body tells you that its not going to cooperate. Good to hear that you are addressing the issue right away.

    cheers
    R2R

    1. R2R,

      Having studied linguistics I can vouch for that statement! There’s a lot of overlap between English, German and Dutch, but sometimes there’s this one unique saying that nobody else uses.

      Thank you for your kinds words. I had been ignoring some warning signs a couple of weeks ago, but I’m not making that mistake now or ever again. There’s no reason to cram as much into a single day as I’ve been doing, so from now on I’m taking it slower.

      Best wishes,
      NMW

  2. It’s an easy enough mistake to make and easy enough to rectify (luckily). There is nothing wrong with overreaching yourself a little occasionally. As they say, “My candle burns at both ends, It will not last the night, But ah my foes and ah my friends, It gives a lovely light.”

    1. DD,

      You’re right. The only difficulty is not to ignore the warning signs that you’re taking on too much or overreaching. I’m happy that I do see that now.

      I know that piece of poetry from my American literature (?) class, but I’ve never actually heard anyone say it! 😀

      Cheers,
      NMW

      1. NMW,

        Exactly. The right balance comes in time.

        Haha, a old family friend of ours always used to quote it. He’s well into his 80s now and still “burning his candle at both ends”. He clearly knows when and how to reenergise though!

        Keep up the good work!

        TD2

  3. This is exactly the sort of thing I would always talk about with my ex-coworkers. They had tons of stress, got little sleep, ate unhealthy, and repeating all week long. It takes a large toll on a persons life and health. It’s all about balance, finding that optimum equilibrium. Glad your finding that sweet spot for yourself.

    Take care,
    HMB

    1. HMB,

      Not sleeping enough, eating unhealthy, and not enjoying a good workout from time to time really takes a toll on your body after a while, possibly with long-lasting effects. I’m trying to rebalance things so that I can rely on at least eight hours of bed time.

      Best wishes,
      NMW

  4. Really glad you’re back and healthy again. It’s so easy when you’re younger to burn energy on many activities like there’s no tomorrow. Just wait ’til you hit 30, or 35, you’d get sick every month if you tried to do that much!

    1. M,

      Spoke to soon, apparently! I have another cold on the way. Everyone seems to be getting sick at work! 🙂

      Thanks for not making me want to grow any older than 25 – I already feel like an old man. At least by the time we turn 40, we’ll be FI and have all the time in the world!

      Cheers,
      NMW

  5. HI NMW,

    Excellent post once more, it inspired me to write about what the company, I work for introduced recently the ¨Flexability¨, which is given more flexibility with our time management, meaning given you time to go to dance classes (in your case), go to gym for me. I am somebody from the morning. I can work late, so prefer to go at 7AM in the office and finish by 5PM, which give me the entire evening to enjoy the company of my wife and friends.

    Hope you will be fully recovered and full of energy for the coming weeks.

    Cheers, RA50

    1. RA50,

      Flexible working hours are an important reason for me to choose working for one employer over another. I’m glad I get to enjoy the same perks as you do, even though it’s sometimes hard to know when to stop working as you don’t have real working hours anymore.

      I’m still kind of in a slump, but we’ll be back in track in a couple of days without a doubt.

      Thank you for dropping by again,
      NMW

  6. Hi NMW,

    Good for you to take a break. Realizing when you’re pushing yourself too hard is an important skill, especially if you’re a workaholic-type of person (which I suspect you are – same here BTW)

    When I was younger I did all kinds of crazy stuff: go without sleep for 52 hours, not eat for 2 days, or only eat chocolate bars for a whole weekend, work non-stop from 09:00 to 04:00 (AM) to deliver software to a client… I did it all.

    But two years ago I came very close to a burnout. That’s a weird thing to experience. Your mind still wants to do stuff, but your body refuses, throws up its hands and says: fuck it, I’m out.

    I’m very lucky with my wife who has been wonderful in reminding me of the proper use of forks (= kicking my butt to give myself a break)

    But old habits die hard. She’s in Paris now, so I’m back to a diet of espresso and Sultana cookies, working through the weekend to launch my 5th income source 😉

    My best advice to you is to incorporate down time into your yearly goals. For example: I’ll go on at least holidays this year, or: I will only work % of the time. I used that trick to switch to a 4-day workweek, which has done wonders for my stress level.

    Take care.

    1. Mark,

      Not sure I’m a workaholic, but it was starting to look like it a couple of weeks ago. I’m glad I’ve been dialing back ever since as I was missing out on too much fun stuff and general life.

      Holy hell, if I did any of those things on a regular basis you could probably toss me out with the garbage! Now I know why everyone says IT guys are a bit off… No human being should be able to withstand such a beating. 🙂

      Good to hear you have someone else to remind you of the balance we so desperately need in our lives – even though she’s for a couple of days! My mother had been warning me to, but hey, who listens to their parents? I’m glad some friends pointed out the obvious too, so it worked out alright in the end.

      Maybe I should start a four-day workweek too… I’ve got about 46 vacation days at work now anyway! 😉

      By the way, I still owe you an apology for not showing up at the FukkUp night. I completely forgot to let you know that I was under the weather and not being able to make it. Hope I can make it up to you some other time!

      Best wishes,
      NMW

  7. Had that issue once long ago when I was still working – solved it by creating a 4 day week made up of 2 mini weeks – Monday, Tuesday and Thursday, Friday – that way I was either coming off some time off or going to some time off on any given day – wonderful stress reliever and you never have a ‘hump’ day aka Wednesday. in fact to note the days off my wife and I always had cafe au lait or espresso on those days rather than regular coffee – a habit which has carried on in no-work life – also helps to remind us what day it is 🙂

    1. fbgcai,

      Mark suggested the same thing one comment above yours! Having two mini-weeks sounds great, actually. There’s not enought time to build up stress and you’ll be able to relax every three days.

      Haha, that’s a great tradition to keep up! 😀

      Cheers!
      NMW

  8. I have suffered from the same issue and I look forward to be able to write for a living without worrying about putting food on my table. I want it so bad that I have started dreaming about writing. This post does remind me that its gonna take time to get to that point and I need to take care of myself while I build my freelance career and keep my full time job. Glad you paused to take care of yourself, and I hope things work out for the best.

    1. Petrish,

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve experience the same thing. You seem to have found a balance though, which is great! Dreaming about what you want most in life must be a lot of fun! 🙂

      There is no doubt in my mind that you’re going to get to that freelance career, even though it might take a while. It sucks that you still need your full-time job, but on the other hand it could also provide you with the springboard to get to your freelance career.

      Looking forward to read one day you’ve quit your job and are a full-time freelancer!

      Good luck,
      NMW

  9. This post got me thinking. Balancing our jobs, personal life and personal finance is definitely no easy feat. I tend to fall victim to ‘shoveling too much hay on my fork’ too. However, with that being said, the rewards are just too hard to ignore.

    1. Josh,

      The rewards are hard to ignore, but make sure you don’t ignore the drawbacks too! That’s what I had been doing without realizing it. Making an extra buck here and there is not worth it if your overall health is suffering.

      Cheers,
      NMW

  10. NMW,

    I definitely have been down this road before. At one time I was playing on like 5 different sports teams at the same time (2 ice hockey, soccer, ultimate frisbee, and something else). I had no time to myself or to relax a little. Its something you need after working all day, or just to be able to do something else. Either way, being sick on top of that will be the back breaker. Nothing like having a 4 week long cold – flu combo to keep you feeling great (that’s where I’m at)!

    Getting better,
    Gremlin

    1. DG,

      Haha, and here I thought I was having a busy life! Five sports teams must have been insane. How did your body handle all the exercise?

      Man, a four week cold is nothing to sneeze – geddit – at either. Sometimes it’s just better to be really sick for a couple of days rather than being in and out of it for weeks on end. Hope you feel better soon!

      Cheers,
      NMW

  11. Sorry you haven’t been feeling well. Work life balance is important. I took my trip to Puerto Rico, I knew we would do a lot of activities. That’s why when I come back, I have 4 days to recoup from my vacation. A vacation from a vacation, that is what I had planned. It might sound weird to people that I turned down more 80F tempt to come back to snow condition but our body need to adjust, and resting at home is great and can be reenergizng too.

    Hopefully you get better, take care!

    1. Vivianne,

      I could use some Puerto Rico myself right now! 🙂 A vacation from a vacation doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. My parents always take an extra two to three days off after they return from a holiday abroad, so I’ve seen the benefits of doing so first hand.

      Best wishes,
      NMW

  12. When you have a little one, having 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep is wonder. 😉

    Work life balance is very important. You certainly need to enjoy your time outside of work and enjoy things you love. Great to hear that you’re healthy again.

    1. Tawcan,

      Thank you for reminding me never to have children then! 😉 However, I feel like the quality of my sleep hasn’t been up to snuff, which is probably much worse than it only being six hours every night.

      Cheers, pal!
      NMW

  13. I thought you were going to tell the story about the spy who used his fork wrong. He was having dinner with the enemy. They noticed he was using his fork in an odd way. This led them to believe he was a spy – he was – they killed him.

    I agree that if you take on so much that you’re miserable, what’s the point of even reaching FI earlier than anyone else? You’ve got to enjoy the entirety of life, IMO.

    My new thing is not staying very long when I do go do something. If whatever I’m doing is only ‘okay’ I leave. I think it was Sigmund Freud who said, ‘Be generous with your money but frugal with your time.’ You can always make more money, you can never create more time.

    1. Will,

      Haha, that would have made for an awesome post indeed! 🙂

      You’re absolutely right that it’s not just FI we should enjoy, but everything leading up to that moment too! Maybe I’ll try your tactic and leave sooner if it’s not really my thing anyway.

      Cheers,
      NMW

  14. I’ve been struggling with forks since I was in school. I work best with very little on my fork. That’s why I’ve been cutting useless stuff out of my life for a while. Focus on what’s actually important to you.

    1. Emily,

      You nailed what I was trying to say with this post. It’s best to have only the most important things on your fork at any given time. I’m glad you’ve been cutting out more and more of the useless stuff!

      Cheers,
      NMW

    1. Thomas,

      Absolutely! What’s the point in getting to FI one year sooner when my health suffers? Better to enjoy life a bit more now than to rush getting to FI!

      CHeers,
      NMW

  15. Hey Waffles,
    I’m glad you were able to pull back and take time for yourself. I struggle with taking on too many commitments, though I’ve gotten way better. I may try the Dutch version of the metaphor next time I want to express that sentiment. I expect to get a few funny looks! “Hay? What do you mean hay? You work in an office!”
    All the best, Kate

    1. Kate,

      I seem to have missed your comment entirely, sorry.

      Glad to hear you’ve gotten better at saying no and not taking on too many commitments. Since publishing this post I’ve been actively trying to avoid extra commitments and have succeeded in doing so. I sleep way longer and have more time to relax in the evenings.

      Ha, I can already see the puzzlement on your friends’ faces! 🙂

      Cheers,
      NMW

  16. This is so true!

    Most people I know are always biting off more than they can chew, myself included.

    Have you ever seen “The Yes Man” movie (or read the book?). It’s about a guy who decides that he will just say yes to every singled thing anyone asks of him. I think we are a nation/world of yes men and it would often do to start saying no to more things so we have time to relax, unwind and meditate. I think that some people don’t need to do this to relax and always prefer to be on the go, (I guess this is the intovert/extravert dichotomy) but if you do then you must be mindful to schedule in downtime without feeling bad about it.

    1. Firestarter,

      I’ve heard of the movie, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it. And if I have, I don’t remember it at all. I can already imagine what a disaster always saying yes must turn into though.

      Even though I should say no more often, the thing is that I mostly enjoy doing all of the things that life throws at me. I really want to give it my everything at the office, I want to participate in all social events, etc. However, there’s not enough time in the world to do everything so I’ll have to make choices.

      Best wishes,
      NMW

      1. I feel the same although it has to be said it becomes a lot easier to say no as you get older and realise missing out on one little thing won’t ruin your life!

        At least it sounds like the things you are saying yes to don’t cost all that much money eh 😉

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