C.S. Lewis, author of the Narnia Chronicles and resident of Oxford once said: “The future is something which everyone reaches at the rate of 60 minutes an hour”. While we are on this earth, we all get the same finite resource: time. We don’t know when it will come to an end, but it’s up to each of us what we do with it.
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about time. Morbid though it is, as I get closer to forty, events going on around me have made me think about my own mortality and what I am going to achieve before my time is up.
We all talk about work-life balance. In Japan, many of us work long days and then go home to our families — not getting much quality time with the people we love. It’s not unusual to spend more time with your manager or customers than with your spouse or children. I mean c’mon… I like my colleagues, but I don’t love them!
Just over three years ago, I made a commitment to study for an MBA. This added another element to the mix: work-life-study balance. I found myself not only going to school after work and on weekends, but also devoting much of my time to study when I was at home.
Being absent or unavailable puts a strain on any relationship. My wife and daughter saw less of me and made it known to me that they were not happy. So I then realized that it was not a work-life-study balance that I was seeking, but a work-life-family-study balance. The simple two-sided equation was now starting to get more complex.
As time went by, I started to think about my physical well being (I told you this was morbid!) Having not exercised consistently for more than ten years, I had a beer belly that any thirty-something can be proud of: and all bought and paid for, to boot! So I foolishly stood up in a classroom of thirty peers and proclaimed that I would run thirty minutes every weekday morning from now on. Idiot!
Now it’s a work-family-life-study-running balance and the belly has long gone.
Hold on a minute… Work-family-life… So what is this elusive “life” bit about? It used to be that whenever I was not at work, I was living my life. Life included family and doing all the other fun things. But as life got more complicated, it seems to me that I had to make specific time for family and so now it gets its own category separate to life. Life for me has now become what I focus on in amongst all the other really important stuff — family, personal and spiritual growth, physical exercise, and even alas, work. It’s the bits that now go on in between. Life now means my ultimate goal, where I want to end up, what I want people to say about me at my funeral. This is still an unfinished journey, and I don’t plan on dying for a very long time. If you promise to come back from time to time, I promise to let you in for a front row seat on how I plan to minimize the less critical ‘work’ to make the most of what is really important…