The following is adapted from Life Profitability.
Does it ever feel like you’re trying to cram 36 hours of work into a 24-hour day? As an entrepreneur, it may feel like your business is bursting at the seams with a constant barrage of meetings to attend, tasks to complete, and fires to be extinguished.
All the while, you do require some rest and most likely, your family would like to see you occasionally. That’s how I felt at one time in my life. Then, I realized I needed space. Additionally, I realized that to create that space, I needed to stop the preponderance of automation in my day. I needed flexibility.
That flexibility would then allow me to do some things I was neglecting, but were important to me, as a person. I could eat and sleep better, meditate, go on dates with my wife, spend time with the kids, take up a hobby—the possibilities for profits in life are limitless...as long as you have the space for them. Creating that space starts with a mindset of flexibility.
Anyone who has gone on a trip with children or has been on a family trip as a child knows that the schedule needs to have flexibility and elasticity built in. The quickest way to be late and have a stressful journey is to plan to run your trip with the second-by-second agenda of a NASA launch.
When you travel with children, you’re apt to have to stop to do something that was unaccounted for, like clean up the results of someone’s motion sickness. Children will plead for bathroom stops, sometimes just after you’ve gotten back on the road.
Likewise, they will groan with hunger, as if their last meal was days ago. Traveling with children means accepting real life in real time and making space in your schedule to accommodate it. It cannot and will not be a mechanized exercise in efficiency.
Entrepreneurs need some sense of structure and organization to create and run a successful business. However, when automation completely takes over, there is no space leftover to adjust to changing trends or simply get more out of life.
Space paves the way for liberation, which feels great whether you’re an entrepreneur or anyone else. To embrace that feeling, sometimes you might only need to create a little space If you, say, cook a thirty-minute meal every night instead of an elaborate meal (assuming they’re equally enjoyable), you’re going to create time every day for yourself to read, meditate, exercise or play with your children. What a wonderful way to live!
Incorporating larger or more significant life pursuits will require more room. Barack Obama secluded himself on a beach in Bali for a couple of weeks—a mere six weeks after getting married—to finish the manuscript of his book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. Obviously, Obama’s exploration of identity was important enough for him to clear out all else to express his experiences and share his journey.
What’s truly important to you? Become aware of the things you want to prioritize despite being time-starved. These may be things you actually can’t fully enjoy because you can’t help thinking that you “should” be doing something else. Or maybe you only spend time on what’s truly important in your mind, habitually longing to read or travel or spend time with friends.
If you double down on the things that are important to you and spend more time on them, you’ll likely find that some less important things just drop off your radar immediately.
The next step is to just do less of everything—less work, fewer social commitments, and less exercise. Don’t neglect anything truly important to you. Continue to work, see friends, and exercise, just do a little less of each.
This is a bit of an experiment, and it will probably feel somewhat artificial. But once you create that extra space by just doing less, one of two things is going to happen: you’re either just going to have more space and time or you’re going to experience a sort of boomerang effect as the most important things demand your time and attention. They might even create a rebound effect, coming back stronger.
Just doing less of everything everywhere, forcing yourself to try, even if it doesn’t necessarily create space, will reveal a lot, since you’ll become more conscious of where you’re spending yourself across your life and business. It makes you practice moderation, and that alone can start to balance and center you. In doing this practice, you have an opportunity to experiment with what may bring you into better alignment with yourself. You have the opportunity to ask yourself about some of your expenditures: Why am I doing this at all?
Creating space by redistributing it is an exercise in compromise and fair trade according to value evaluation. In effect, you’re re-budgeting, spending less or nothing on some things and more on others. The same goes with where you spend your attention, emotions, and physical energy.
But you can also create space by better life practices. Releasing sources of stress frees up energy. More sleep, better food, exercise, and mindfulness let you do more and do it better. If you sacrificed such things to your business, it’s time to take them back. They sustain you—and your business.
To make the changes you’re about to implement, you’ll need to focus on space in your day-to-day life. Most likely, you won’t be able to take two weeks in Bali, but you don’t need to. A bit of elbow room will let you make consistent incremental adjustments that add up over time. Eventually, the sum of the parts will be a more profitable life.