“It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.”
— Wendell Berry
The number one issue I see for busy people is that they don’t set rules on time and instead let their inboxes, phones, social media, other people’s agendas and expectations and endless to-do lists trip them up. So often I’m saddened to hear of missed family dinners, missed kids’ events and even the skipping of big family milestones, just because work or business needs them more. Of course there are always good and valid reasons because no one plans to miss out on such events.
If you have kids, how many times have you told them that Mom or Dad still have some work to finish, an email to answer or a call to make? Ever wonder what their abiding memory of Mom or Dad will be? Friends are also often pushed back because we have work to finish or are plain exhausted.
Waking Up to the Cost
Accepting that the other parts of your life also need you can be a tough lesson. I find the reason we get into this mess is that in the past there were actual physical boundaries around our lives. Go to office, work from 9 to 5, leave office. Nobody contacted anyone outside of hours so work ended at 5. As vividly experienced during the Covid pandemic we no longer have those physical boundaries. Who hasn’t replied to work emails late in the evening or on weekends? In fact, do you check your email when on holidays? A lot of people do.
This lack of boundaries can lead to a sense of overwhelm and our days being filled up with endless tasks. The first step is thus taking a step back from the busyness. This allows you to look at all parts of your life and set goals for each. What is it I want to accomplish as a parent? As a spouse? At work? For myself? These goals then need to be made real and given their fair share of time and energy on a daily and weekly basis.
Help is at Hand!
You’re not alone and you can do something about it.
Jim is a wonderful example of this. He is a business owner with a young family and lots going on outside work. When we first met, Jim was working long hours and finding it very hard to carve out time at home. His business model and practices almost made this inevitable. In our early calls, Jim quickly realized his reasons for starting his business and the reasons why his family were so excited for him to do it really were not taken into account in his day-to-day life. In fact, it was often the exact opposite motivation, i.e. work more, make more, instead of earn well and live free.
Jim immediately sprung into action and we worked together planning out his schedule, making the business his servant and ringfencing his life to allow for only a 4 day week. Initially, Jim found this hard, as he imagined he wouldn’t have enough time to do everything that “needed to be done”. However, as he got better at identifying what was important, his workload started to lighten. He felt great pride as he realized he could actually make more money in 4 focused days than in 6 overly long days letting his inbox dictate his priorities.
Today Jim works a highly productive 4-day week as the business sees higher revenues. At home, he has time to take care of his son while creating more special moments with family and friends. Indeed, he and his wife felt in such a good position that they decided to grow their family as well as the business. What price can you put on that? And all this came from understanding the cost of not setting clear time boundaries.
Transformation requires commitment but the pay-off can be substantial for those who are willing to put the work in. As in the case of Jim, he was able to step back, paint a picture of the life he wanted to live and then make the business work for him and the family.
He is now truly his own boss who gets to decide how he is going to use his time in ways that benefit him and his family while also growing the business.
You Can Do This Too
You may well have tried all sorts of things and learnt it it isn’t simply about prioritising, setting mini goals, becoming more productive, charging more if you’re in business for yourself, learning to say no or indeed just slowing down to create space to STOP (Sit, Think, Observe, Plan). All that is important but not enough.
The crucial component that is most often missing is delving into your relationship with time. This involves building aspirations of who you would like to become in each and every aspect of your life while also becoming aware of how your environments are affecting your time. That goes hand-in-hand with balancing your needs today with preparing for the future you would like to create.
What Do I Do Now?
I am going to suggest three ways you might do this and you’ll know which one (if any) is right for you.
- Join my mailing list to get some great FREE content on how to think about time and accomplish more with less effort. Use the form to your right or at the bottom if you’re on a mobile device. This includes a guide to help you Start Your Own Time Journey.
If you have any queries around this or anything else just email me at hello @ tomoleary.ie
- Explore the FREE content on this site.
If you are looking for some guidance on your journey the Start Your Own Time Journey guide might be for you. It offers a whole series of free content to speed up the process. For its part, the Time Academy Podcast offers a series of reflections on our relationship with time.
- Arrange a chat with me.
My goal is to guide as many people as possible on their journeys to making peace with time. Just book a free call if that might be helpful for you!
The best of luck on your journey!