“The future of work is managing a portfolio of limited assets – like time and attention – far more wisely than most of us do today.” – The Simplicity Survival Handbook, p. 59
In today’s multitasking-ridden, busy, scheduled lifestyle of the typical professional, this statement extends way beyond career. In fact, it’s the basic issue of work meets life that so many of us struggle with on a day to day basis.
It’s a constant, present reality in our lives. But it hits home sometimes more than others. For me, right now is one of those times. I’m getting married in a month, and the list of wedding to dos, along with life to dos, is impossibly long.
So, it’s appropriate that a friend challenged a group of us to fast something for 40 days – we started a little late for Lent, but the fast will end just days before my wedding, so it’s a nice way to have a purposeful last month as a single gal. I wracked my brain to think of something worth fasting, decided that fasting caffeine would be a disaster and help no one, and got stuck. Then one overwhelming day of wedding planning, it hit me clearly: I needed to fast stress.
That’s right. I’m fasting stress. I know that’s not the most conventional of fasts, and I don’t have a clear answer for people when they asked exactly what that means, but let me just say, it’s working so far. When my mom calls to freak out about chair covers, I just say, “you know what, mom, I’m fasting stress, so I’ll go ahead and let you worry about that, because at this point, the wedding’s happening whether or not we have anything to cover the chairs with, and I’m abundantly happy about that.” And then I laugh about it, refuse to internalize the issue, and move on, stress-free.
Know what? It works. Attitude really is an amazingly strong force.
The stress-fast has also helped me clearly focus on my priorities in a way I haven’t experienced in a long time.
One thing that’s meant is spending more time with my fiancé talking and planning and just enjoying each other’s time. And spending less time reading and researching and blogging and creating killer content. For a while, that’s had a surprising amount of guilt and remorse attached to it. I have such grand plans for this place, so many content ideas, so much to say. I can’t believe that since I launched this blog, I’ve only averaged a post a week. That puts my former norm of 3-5 posts a week utterly to shame.
But guess what? That hasn’t really hurt me. In fact, in the short time I’ve been blogging here – once a week, no less – I’ve grown to a healthy readership of over 300 subscribers, developed some valuable and engaging conversations, and started to establish a very insightful, supportive community. From where I stand, that’s about the best a non- problogger can ask for. Like a rising number of young professional-topic bloggers who work full time in other jobs, I’m not doing this for money, in case you haven’t noticed the obvious lack of ads or “hire me” buttons here.
So why am I telling you this, offering an uncharacteristically tip-less post about my personal life, priorities, and blogging habits of late?
What I’ve learned in the past few months, and especially in the past few days since my stress-fast began, is that it’s critical for your personal and career health to prioritize for your relationships from the top-down. That means first prioritizing for relationships above all other aspects of your personal and professional life. Then it means prioritizing within your relationships to invest your time and attention – those truly limited resources that only you can provide – starting with the most important ones first.
The reason this is important is because when you have a healthy relationship-life, the rest of your life improves too. You are happier. Easier to work with. More satisfied with life. More stable in your sense of self. Able to find balance. People start to notice the difference. Opportunities arise.
So, look at where you invest your time. It will paint a clear picture for you of your priorities. Then be real with yourself: Do you have the strength of character it takes to invest your time into your relationships – instead of somewhere else? To build real connections with real people. To stop doing whatever it is that distracts you so you can instead pour yourself into the real time world that surrounds you?
Because the future of you depends on where you invest your time now.
Be daring. Be bold. Put relationships first. There’s time for the rest. Just make it second.