Get A Life!

All work and no play? Bad idea.
This story appears in the August 1998 issue of Startups. Subscribe »
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Consultants, independent professionals and entrepreneurs look up from their spreadsheets at the end of the day, too often finding themselves alone. They've put their personal lives on hold to chase clients or customers and beat the clock.

But because life has no "reset" button, it's a survival strategy to look at your personal and professional priorities and decide now how you want things to balance out.

Keeping cash coming in is crucial for those of us who have no predictable salary to help us budget our resources. Money is what keeps the doors open, the phone ringing and the lights on. But if you sacrifice friendships, recreation and intimacy for deadlines, and replace playfulness and humor with workaholism, you're cheating yourself and those around you.

There is another way. Starting today, add personal satisfaction to your definition of "profit." Ask yourself these questions:

  • How much quality time can you easily spend with family and friends, or by yourself?
  • Are you surfing the Net for hours, browsing for information that may never become useful knowledge? You may be "wired," but are you really connected?
  • Have you given yourself permission to occasionally turn down a project or client that would require you to work with people you may not like or whose ethics are murky?
  • Are you spending as much money on looking successful as on being a success? Are you digging a hole of debt while telling yourself you're independent and don't have to follow anyone else's rules?
  • Are you keeping score only in dollars? Do you have a sense of how much money will be enough to give you a genuine sense of accomplishment?

If the sky's the limit, you'll never get there, and you'll confuse dissatisfaction and restlessness with drive and ambition--a fast track to burnout. Balancing making a life with making a living simply requires adjusting your personal sense of time. Go ahead and rush to make a plane or a project deadline. But slow down and appreciate life with a full awareness of the riches around you. Then crank it up again and adopt your client or customer's urgency.

Corte Madera, California, wedding and portrait photographer Vera Topinka has practiced her art for nearly 20 years. She works steadily for three weeks in a row and then regularly takes a seven-day break to go camping, hiking or just to curl up with good books. "If Life magazine called," she says, "I still wouldn't interrupt my free time."

Just working hard won't make you a success. Working consistently, patiently and joyously will. And the way to be really rich is to manage your resources for the long run. Time--at work or at play--is your most valuable resource. Learn to blend your time at both.

Home office workshop leader and author Jeff Berner can be reached at jeffberner@jeffberner.comContact Sources

Vera Topinka, (415) 927-3691.

Edition: November 2016

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