The 2002 film, “About a Boy,” (pictured left; source) begins with the idea of “units of time” (watch the clip). The concept is that every day is made up of tiny increments of time that can be used. Sure, the main character is in an unrelate-able place of incredible privilege–having no need to work or make money. All of that aside, I like the concept. Time is currency. In small or big units alike, time can be used to invest in activities, exploration, and relationships.
Back when he was a staff member on my marcom team and in one of our one-one-one check-in meetings, Ryan Fallgren (pictured right), dropped this idea: There’s no such thing as being “busy.” Our time is spent on what is important to us–our priorities, values and commitments. Basically, “There’s no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you’ll make time for it.” (Source; read musings on the topic here.) Side note: Ryan is an incredible human being, visionary, and educator. He’s now a Collegiate Marketing Manager for KIND, and I can’t wait to see where he ends up down the road.
Ryan challenged me to eliminate the word “busy” from my vocabulary. Instead of saying in response to a friend’s “How have things been going?” with the generic “Really good; really busy!” I say instead: “Really good. Life’s been really full lately.” (Ok, and yes–I am not a fan of that generic answer. It doesn’t communicate much to someone asking how you’re doing. I’m learning to be more honest and open in my answers to the “How are you / How are things going” questions that crop up, and use more descriptive responses. But, the reality is, we can all relate to that commonly exchanged question and answer.)
Life isn’t busy. My time is full of things I’ve chosen to invest in.
Greg introduced me to Tim Ferriss and the “Four Hour Work Week.” Ferriss boldly proposes that we spend too much time supposedly working, while truthfully being unproductive or inefficient. We don’t like to think about how many hours of our week are spent in our cubicle or office building. Ferriss paints a picture of a world where work was done efficiently and succinctly in less time, so things like our health, families and relationships, and passions could be attended to throughout the week.
Yes, most of us don’t have the power to change the way our company or organization structures the work day or work week. We all have limited capacity to influence or shift our daily and weekly routines.
However, what would happen if we spent time more honestly? Instead of spending our weeks being “present” at work, but letting the minutes slide carelessly from time to time–what would happen if we worked in a focused and efficient way? How could we use the time we don’t need to complete work (because we’ve become more focused, efficient and effective), and reallocate it elsewhere? What would happen if we gave ourselves the freedom to invest time in what really matters to us?
Important: I don’t 100% buy-in (no pun intended!) to this concept. I do recognize that some of us in society are more privileged than others, and that privilege dramatically impacts our time. For example: for hundreds of years in America, African-Americans were not given the ability to live their lives in freedom. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel Wilkerson does an incredible job telling the story of how post-slavery, African-Americans began “The Great Migration” to live where they wanted to live and be the people they had it in them to be. Check out her book, “The Warmth of Other Suns,” here. Today, racial and ethnic minorities as well as marginalized people groups like the world’s refugees and immigrants are not afforded equal opportunity or access. Slavery and institutional racism are realities of our world where individuals and entire people groups are pushed-out from opportunities that should be theirs. Their time is spent struggling to get by, instead of having equal access to work, transportation, housing and other elements of life. Similarly, women are caught between the hard place of their socialized gender role in society, and their hopes and dreams. These realities are important for us to hold, and should not be ignored. We can actively work for equity and access on behalf of underrepresented people groups in our workplaces and personal lives.
I appreciate time spent with one of my marcom colleagues, Laura Paskin (pictured left). She is several decades my senior, and I appreciate hearing her perspectives on our shared workplace, as well as life and relationships. By the way, if it’s not your regular practice, there are many reasons why investing in friendships with individuals older (or younger) than you might be worthwhile. This past week, while having lunch at Seattle’s incredible Byrek & Baguette–owned by a dear Albanian family, our conversation drifted into the idea of “life stage.” Our age affects how we spend our time. Different ages or “life stages” inspire distinct needs or impulses (read about Erikson’s theory, here).
My friend Katie (pictured right) talks about “the traditions of youth”–how people in their late teens and twenties engage that life stage’s traditions of exploring their identities, social groups, relationships, and corners of the world that they may not see again throughout their life. The same type of commentary could be said for other life stages’ unique traits and traditions. I took an incredible “Adulthood and Aging” psychology class some ten+ years ago. I haven’t read this book, but it’s highly rated and might be a good primer on the topic if you’re interested.
In the book “The Three Marriages,” David Whyte presents the idea that life isn’t about balance or wearing many “hats” or roles. Life is about having three lifelong commitments or “marriages” to yourself, your work, and relationships. In another blog post, I shared Dr. David Schnarch’s definition of “differentiation”–becoming more yourself in the context of relationships. David Whyte says that just as in a marriage relationship with another person, where there are different stages of intimacy, growth and knowing / becoming–so the same is true for your relationship or marriage with yourself and your work. He also uses the concept of being married in relationship more broadly–that you’re in a lifelong commitment to all of the relationships that you have in your life (family, friends, partner, coworkers, acquaintences).
How is this landing on you today–this topic of “units of time”?
What do you want to spend less time on? What do you want to spend more time on? How can you shift your time to make that happen?
How can you be an ally and advocate for people in your life and work that have less privilege when it comes to access and opportunity, time and work? How can you support them in their dreams and pursuing their gifts and talents, while honoring their families and relationships?