When we started our small contracting business, time is something that we invested heavily. Funds and experience and equipment may have been minimal, but time is something we all get an equal allotment of. If working for ourself is a priority, we will spend as much time as needed to get it off the ground.
The danger is that we stay stuck in departure mode. Imagine being on a long journey aboard a jetliner that was in lift-off mode for the entire 12 hour trans-atlantic flight. How stressful! Take off is exciting, but everyone's happy to sit back, take a deep breath and order a drink once everything is under control...
So as the 13th year of running my own painting business begins, my main objective is to find some balance and win back a lot more of my time. The time has come. I have to do it. If I cannot course-correct this year, I will not be able to continue down the same path that I have been on for more than a decade now. The cost is too high. The toll on my health, relationships and happiness is too great for the modest finaincial returns (not that you can put a price on any of those things anyway). Painting is an honest living and running a business is a great experience but i need to break through and start making room for other priorities in my life. I need to leverage my small business now to realize the successes I need in my life or seriously consider the alternatives, before another decade goes by. I need a life well lived. I have the raw ingredients, I just need to measure out according to my recipe - my personal definition of success.
So in line with that I have already made some significant changes during the first quarter of 2017. I have gone from 4 of us painting and drywalling, down to just myself. I may hire a helper soon for the busy season, but for now it's just me. I needed a mental break after a very busy 2016. While crunching the numbers at tax time, it confirmed that I was shouldering the stress of 4 workers, but getting paid as only one. There was no financial incentive to continue that arrangement. Second, I let go of my second largest customer last year because his projects were generating a lot of stress. Then I created a method of filtering out potential projects that may add too much stress to my life. Third, I decided to focus on smaller projects that I can handle with less labour and that I can turn around quicker. Fourth, I decided that I needed to reduce my average commute of 3 hours/day to less than half of that time, saying No to jobs outside my preferred territory. Fifth, I decided to not take on multiple projects simultaneously whenever possible. These were all made with the objective of reducing stress and freeing up more time, and so far it has made a positive difference in my life.
The good news is that we are free agents and that how we spend our time is a choice. We have options. That fact is empowering - if we act. If we don't act, we allow others to dictate our days and our priorities, and we only have oursleves to blame. Only we are accountable to set the priorities and boundaries in our lives. As Laura Vanderkam suggests, we need to to treat our pre-determined priorites as urgent and critical - scheduling them first.
Been reading and listening to different voices on this topic recently. Here are 3 excellent TedTalks that you may find interesting to listen to as you work or commute:
How To Gain Control Of Your Time - Laura Vanderkam
What Makes A Good Life - Lessons From The Longest Study On Happiness - Robert Waldinger
How To Make Work Life Balance Work - Nigel Marsh