Updated: Nov 29, 2019
My idea of success is not having to wake up to an alarm clock.
In my twenties I worked in corporate America and I hated having to be awakened by an alarm clock. In those days, I was a true night owl and rarely made it to bed before midnight. So when six am rolled around the snooze button and I became intimately acquainted. I commuted by train from the suburbs to work in downtown Chicago for most of my corporate career and there were three train options that would get me to work on time, and about 80% of the time I barely made that third option. Many mornings I’d be running down the actual train tracks, which ran behind my studio apartment, trying to get to the station before the train arrived. Sometimes, I cut it so close that I could see the lights of the train coming towards me from the opposite direction.
When the weekend rolled around and I could wake up whenever I wanted, it was bliss. My time was my own to do what I pleased. I loved the work I was doing, for the most part, I just couldn’t stand having to get up early in the morning. Over the course of the fifteen years that I worked a ‘day’ job I longed to be at a place in my life where I was in control of my own time.
In 1998, I was pretty fed up with working my very good full-time job because for all of the 15 years that I work my day jobs, I was also pursuing a music career. Something had to give. So I quite impulsively decided I was relocating to Florida to live in the warmth of the sunshine state and leaving the cold windy city of Chicago behind me. I made this decision in December of 1998 and by May of 1999 I was living in Orlando. Because I hadn’t really planned on this move, I didn’t have much money saved so a month after moving to Orlando, I had to get a job. I did get a job, and this job was the beginning of my working a schedule that was more conducive to how my body naturally functioned. I didn’t have to be at work until 3pm for this job. OMG, this was fabulous and there was no need for an alarm clock! The sunshine became my alarm clock, because most mornings I awakened to sunshine streaming into my bedroom. Every morning I thought to myself, why hadn’t I moved to Florida years ago. I loved it!
Now, because I run my own business I have full control of my schedule and I try not to do any work before 11 am. I leisurely wake up, have some coffee, do a bit of writing and spend an hour or so doing yoga and meditation. Then, I’m ready to face my day. For the 10 years I’ve lived in the UK, I’ve had the freedom to do what I want with my time. For me, this is success!
But lately, I have noticed a bit of anxiety around time. Maybe it’s due to getting older that I feel this mad rush to get things done. There’s so much I still want to do and sometimes it feels like time has sped up. Birthdays seem to be rolling around faster. Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for the birthdays. The anxiety around time, though, was something I knew I needed to get a handle on. I’d be working on a task and would feel knots in my stomach thinking about all the other tasks I needed to get to. Because of this, very little was actually getting done. And then the universe started sending me the answer. Take Your Time. This message was coming from everywhere … Take Your Time. Take ownership of your time.
So I starting slowing down. I no longer multi-task. I work on one thing until it’s finished and then move on to the next, and if while doing that task I start thinking about something else I need to do, I add it to my to do list and then I get to it when I get to it. I’m taking more time with my songwriting. I am also saying ‘no’ a bit more … limiting my ‘yes’s’ to the things I really want to do. I like how Derek Sivers puts it, it should either be ‘hell yeah, or no.’ Another nugget I picked up from Derek is to ‘use the future.’ Not everything has to be done right now. Focus 100% on the task or project at hand and get to the others in the future.
I did an experiment last week and only checked social media first thing in the morning. Each day I sent one post and then scheduled a couple posts for later in the day. Doing this freed up my time so that I could take my time on the things that mattered. Instead of watching TV in the evenings, I caught on my reading, and I’m sure this is why I have slept so soundly and felt incredibly rested. Based on the results of this experiment, I’m going to stick to adding some limits on the time I spend on these things, not eliminating them completely, but not letting them gobble up my precious time.
By removing things that I don’t have to do that can waste my time, I am left with plenty of time to do the things I need to and want to do, and all without having to wake up to a bloody alarm clock!