How many times have you thought, “wouldn’t it be great to [insert monumentally complicated project]. I think my life’s ambition would be fulfilled if I could do [monumentally complicated project]. Why can’t I find the time for this?”
I’ve noticed recently that I have a list of potential projects and ideas that I would like to develop that seems far longer than is possible to complete in a single, human lifetime: Book ideas, screenplays, new business ventures, an additional academic degree, speaking tour, a daily video-blog. Oh, and of course, I want to spend time with my kids, my wife, see friends, exercise, host dinner parties, attend functions, travel, stay out late and, occasionally, lay on the beach and do nothing.
At a certain point in recent years, I have filled my schedule and priorities to the point that I don’t really have open time anymore. I’m scheduled, calculated, prioritized and responsible for items that leave little extra room for much of anything. When I was younger, I had lots of time. I spent the time in a certain, anxious wandering. I watched TV, drank too often, and spent a lot of time in coffee shops. I created ridiculous public art projects that now make me cringe when looking back on it. I thought up impractical business projects that I strangely couldn’t find funding for. I was searching for a direction.
Eventually, I found one. I started my first, real business after grad school. I married my girlfriend, and we had our first daughter, and then a second. I created a second business, then a third. In a ridiculously short time, I went from the anxious feeling of “when will my life really get going” to the crazy, wonderful life I have now.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my crazy, wonderful life. But, now I realize that I can’t just add in another project or responsibility. Outside of something that might take a few hours on a randomly free Sunday, I really don’t have time for a new project or life pursuit, unless I re-prioritize. In order to do something new, I actively choose to stop doing something else.
And there is the rub. There isn’t a lot of wasted space in my calendar anymore, as I doubt there is with you. How much time do you sleep? How much time do you give yourself to relax? Is it more important to watch a movie with your family in the evening or try to write a movie script? Should you work on that project during the weekend or mow the lawn? I don’t really have “extra” time anymore. I don’t sit around twiddling my thumbs on Thursdays or spend every evening staring out the window.
There is one of those schmalzy quotes that I think about occasionally:
“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different, because I was important in the life of a child.”
- Forest Witcraft
Really? Is it that easy? I don’t think so. We all want to have a full life, and to make the right decisions for ourselves, our families and our careers. But, even taking the long view, it’s not always easy to know what is the better priority.