I had a realization this past week, well, it wasn’t a realization as much as it was a simple reminder. It was this: I can do anything with my life, but I can’t do it all at once. If you read my most recent blog, you’ll see that I promised a 30 day series of what the meaning of work is for various Americans. I started that story with the expectation I could edit one video and write one blog post per day while also traveling a thousand miles per week, working different hourly jobs, balancing several other projects, and also spending time with my wife.
But I couldn’t. My eyes were to big for my stomach and I put more on my plate than I could actually handle.
The result? The past couple weeks I’ve stressed myself out and really missed out on some beautiful country and experiences that I could have had. Last weekend Alyssa and I spent three days in the white mountains in northern New Hampshire and I sat inside all day, every day working away. I allowed myself to be so overcome with worry about what would happen in the future that I had briefly forgotten to enjoy the journey.
This is the biggest struggle I have in my life- to learn how to balance working my butt off towards my dreams while also taking time to appreciate the life I was blessed with and the people whom I share it with.
I always tell myself if I’m going to fall on either side of the fence, it’s going to be the side of working too hard. I just don’t want to be a person who lived a lackadaisical life and accepted face value what my future would be. I won’t have it. But on the side of the fence that features success, I also find stress, anxiety, and missed opportunities with my wife.
So how do I fix it? How do the people who want to be great and successful, also find the time to raise a family, be a good husband or wife, or just enjoy a day off?
First off, I want you to know I’m still figuring it out. But here’s what I’ve learned about how I can still work really hard and yet find the time to do what I love.
1. Plan your days by the hour and task.
I’ve spent so much of my life not planning my days in advance. I may have had a vague idea of what I wanted to get done that day, but something as actionable as a to-do list has vastly helped me prioritize the hours during my day. Without a clear list of action items I’m lost and can spend hours on LinkedIn or Twitter with zero productivity.
2. Create dedicated work times to crank.
I’m currently working with an author on his upcoming book launch and I’m giving him a few hours per day in order to work on his projects. I’ve decided that during those three hours I’m going to take has few breaks as possible and just crank. When I’m finished, I’m finished and can be proud of my work. It gives me clarity for what time is work and what time is play. In today’s online culture it’s so easy to mix in a little of Facebook here and call all of that time “work”. No, it’s either work or it’s not. Anything in between is a waste of time.
3. Don’t waste your time reading dumb articles.
Facebook is the worst about this. Do you think when your old and about to leave this earth, you’re going to have wished you read more articles on celebrities? Maybe you’re the kind of person who finds joy and fulfillment through this, but I doubt it. Every second you spend reading some meaningless article, is a second longer you could have spent with someone you love. What’s more important?
4. Journal before your day begins.
Journaling is proven to bring clarity to jumbled thoughts. It helps to write them down and look at all you have to do, this is different than a to-do list but equally effective and just as important. A journal helps you to realize what’s most important to your life and will enable you to create a more efficient to-do list. If you just create a to-do list without thinking about the big picture, you might end up doing work that isn’t as important.
5. Learn how to say no to more people.
People constantly talk about when to say yes and no. However, when it comes to saving time nothing is more effective than saying no to opportunities that don’t line up with your life mission. Why do something if it’s out of mission? Wouldn’t it be weird if Apple computers started making RV’s? Maybe that’s a bad analogy because I would probably buy one, but the point is stick to what is important to you. People care more about their own goals than your goals, so when someone asks you to help out- make sure it also fits your life calling.
6. Disconnect from technology all together.
One of the biggest ways I’ve found to enjoy the moment more with Alyssa is to never have our phone or computer on the table during any meal. I will throw it on the couch or away from where we’re sitting. It’s distracting and I want those moments to be ours, not everyone we know online who may or may not send us a message.
7. Create days where you do nothing but fun stuff.
I’m not good at this, because no matter what happens I wake up in the morning and write. I don’t consider it my work though, I love it too much. However, taking intentional time to go out and play helps us to enjoy the process of any journey. We as Americans have this stigma that says, “When I achieve my goal or get to this place financially, then I will be happy”. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, we’re built as people who feel the most happiness during a quest or project. It’s often you hear people talk about how unfulfilling the actual achievement was, it’s because we love the journey too much.
It’s hard to implement all of these into your life if you haven’t had an inciting incident. Most of the time it’s an anxiety attack, meltdown, or something worse that causes us to re-evaluate how we are spending our time and our life. Let’s consider ourselves lucky if we’re the kind of person who can strive towards a more intentional schedule on our own, without help from a disastrous occasion.
What are some unique ways you go out of your way to spend time with the people you love, doing what you love?