When I begin this it was 11:47 PM Friday night and a hot cup of coffee sat in front of me. I made the mistake of leaning back and dozed away close to ninety minutes. Later, despite my best efforts, about halfway through writing this (I’ve update this intro,) I closed my eyes again and woke up to four AM. It is now Tuesday… As you can see the juggling act of my recent routine has been challenging. My social life is picking up, many exciting plans have been made, and a number of friends from the past are resurfacing in my life. On top of that, when I *do* get time at home to work on my (recently resurfaced) photography, play some video games, clean, or write… a log overdue blog post, my body immediately decides to instead use that time to shut down the moment I relax (as it did once again the last few nights…)
Generally speaking this is not a complaint. The things that are occupying my time are all blessings, and very few professional situations in my recent past have been as respectful of my time as the one I have now. However, this instantly falling asleep business is troublesome. I have to watch my willpower, especially on days I run or work out (I’ve returned to consistency there as well) or reclining for a moment will lead to waking up several hours later with nothing to be done beyond returning to bed. This and my extremely heavy calendar have had me thinking a lot about time.
You’re fortunate, actually, that I ended up passing out, because what I had originally written here was a bunch of sleepy, semi-scientific and philosophical muttering about how time doesn’t actually exist and blah blah blah… Instead I’m going to focus on the point: No matter who you are, or where you come from, time is one of the most important concepts in your life. Young or old, rich or poor, there is nothing we take for granted more than the ever-fleeting instrument we use to measure change, and we often forget that sometimes change doesn’t follow the routine, and your time might be up at any… time.
With that in mind, and as an Executive / Personal Assistant, the importance of prioritizing and managing my professional and personal time is absolutely key. Professionally, I can compartmentalize and prioritize the large chunk of that time over my personal time. That’s the easy part. But it’s not that simple either, because if I do that consistently as I have in the past, I will lose the balance that is kept in check by my social life and pursuing my own interests. If said balance is lost, discontentment and eventual misery follow. Fortunately in my my current position, my Executive is pretty respectful of my time and the stress level is relatively low. This allows me the freedom to maintain that balance and pursue my interests… even if it’s a little slow and I have to fight to stay awake. Admittedly my current (grown-up) priority of sleep probably isn’t helping, but I like to think I’m healthier and happier overall as a result.
Enough about my slow-progressing interests though, that’s only one important aspect of where my important time is spent and for the majority of my readers it probably doesn’t apply. What should, and does apply for all of us though is in regards to our social time. As I fight to maintain the balance I’ve elaborated above, I find that literally minutes of my time can be the difference between accomplishing something I wanted today, or not. The easiest way to be most efficient with that would be to lock myself up in my cave of an apartment and just spend days or weeks (when not working) getting shit done. Writing, processing photos, cleaning house, gym / running, and taking breaks to get into my sorely neglected MMO would all fall directly into place. I have done that, and I like doing that, but no man is an island (as they say) and I admit that I get a greater sense of personal satisfaction from my interactions with friends, new and old.
Friendship and social life are complicated though. For one, they can (certainly not always) get financially expensive. But more importantly different levels of friendship require different levels of time investment. Key here is that we all have to remember that this is a two-way street. You know how invaluable your time is to you, so you have to assume it is just as invaluable to whomever is with you. And they are choosing to spend that time with you. That’s the core of what that phrase means; to spend time, because that time cannot be repaid. Ideally, time spent should be an investment from which both parties receive something greater than the time invested. But sometimes (often) we suck at that because we don’t think about the value of everyone’s time. It takes a level of awareness to think “Hey, this super busy person who could be doing any number of things right now is choosing to engage me instead.”
With all that said, it’s exhausting to even think about being aware of every waking moment of your life. It is also not reasonable or even healthy to do so. Relaxation is also time well spent, and if your brain is completely engaged at all times, you are not going to be able to relax. As with all things there has to be a balance and I think with a few guidelines you can find that balance:
1. Recognize and appreciate time spent on/with you. Don’t question whether or not you are “worth it” to them, that is their decision. As long as you want it, accept it and appreciate it. I think people can subconsciously tell when they are appreciated and you’ll find that your interactions are generally more positive as a result.
2. Only spend personal time on people when you want to. Ideally the people you spend time with should help, relax, or somehow enrich your life while you do the same for them. This isn’t just about romantic situations either, I’ve had a couple cups of coffee with old friends recently that were extremely worthwhile. If you walk away from the interaction with a good memory, a revelation, feeling rejuvenated, or wearing a smile, I say that’s time well spent.
The flip-side of that is spending time with people because they tried to make you feel guilty, or you feel some level of obligation to them… and that should be avoided. Perhaps if they have done you important favors in the past, you owe it to them to show up and repay the favor, but consolidate that to whatever is needed to appropriately repay them and then get out. Beyond repayment of a personal debt, don’t let the issues of others cause you to spend time you don’t have or don’t want to give on them. Doing so will only make you resent them and damage your existing relationship. Just as people can sense when they are appreciated, often they can sense when they are not wanted. Do yourself and them a favor, and be strong enough to say no when you don’t want to spend your valuable time.
3. Minimize your professional time spent on someplace that tears you down or makes you feel “stuck”. I realize (and have first-hand experience) that sometimes we have to do whatever we can to get by. But that needs to be as temporary as possible. My recent stint as an Uber driver was actually really fun at times, but on a deeper level it was having a profound effect on my general state of mind, my confidence, and my attitude. The only thing that kept me hopeful was the search and development of new opportunities. So, if you’re doing what you have to do, don’t quit the search for something better, even if takes months or years.
As far as the people go, work is obviously a little different, you’re investing time for money and sometimes people come with it, but you can minimize the time spent with them to whatever is absolutely necessary.
4. When planning your time, be certain to allow “me time”. I said above that no person is an island. Well the opposite is true too. Even the most extroverted person needs time to themselves. Hopefully you have people with whom you can pursue your mutual interests, but even if that’s the case, you will want time to yourself to think about how it benefits you in the long-term. Your plan, your goals, your dreams. Take time to put everything you are doing and want to do in perspective and make them happen. Even those who are married or in a serious long-term relationship need time to themselves to process and figure everything out as individuals. Once that’s in perspective, it’s much easier to share those things with our friends and family.
The point of all this is, nothing in this world is more valuable than the moments we are given. It is up to us to make the most of those moments… actually it’s up to us to simply make those moments. But it doesn’t need to be a constant labor, it’s more a matter of reminding yourself periodically to appreciate the time that others spend on you, and in turn make sure the people you’re spending your time on are worth it (including, of course, yourself!) By doing this you can moderate/filter your busy life and make the most your moments.