Never Enough Time?

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Workbar member Mike Iamele explores the tenuous relationship entrepreneurs have with time-management, and discusses how setting boundaries and understanding priorities can help you design the life you want and accomplish your goals.  This is a re-post from biznik. I’ve been one of those rushing people my whole life. I never seem to have enough time to do all of the things I have to do. Always brushing my teeth while putting on my shoes, always sprinting after a bus, always making up excuses for why I’m late, It just seems like, no matter what I do, I just can’t get it together.

Sound familiar?

Most frenzied entrepreneurs I know are in the same boat. Stressed out, frantic, always more to do and never the time to do it all.

The life of an entrepreneur is stressful, right? Well, I don’t buy it. You don’t get into entrepreneurship if you’re not at least decent at handling uncertainty—and that’s half the battle with stress. In fact, I’d argue that if you put a group of entrepreneurs in an acutely stressful situation, they’d rock it with their resourcefulness and under-pressure thinking.

When you get down to it, we’re talking here about the imaginary cage we all trap ourselves in: time.

Here’s a little something I’ve learned over the years: time is never really about time.

Sounds like one of those meaningless zen maxims, right? But take this example: You’re too busy to catch up on personal e-mails. But then a friend invites you to the PGA tour with VIP tickets. Do you go? If not, you may be worse off than I thought.

But, seriously, when we get down to it, time is really about priorities. It’s a choice to be stressed out and frenzied. It’s a choice to trap yourself with time.

Don’t like time? Let’s call the trap something else: achieving.

You’ll never achieve enough. You can keep going and going and always have more to do. And, by the way, what amount is enough? And who gets to judge what enough is?

You are the only person deciding what is or isn’t enough. You are the person who set the precedent that you’ll be available after 8 on weeknights or by your phone all weekend. You are the one who responds to e-mails within 5 minutes. Nobody ever made you do that. All they’re doing is responding to the way you’ve taught them to treat you.

I promise you that customers and business associates won’t die if you take a night off for yourself.

Now, I’m not telling you to slack off. And I’m not telling you to stop achieving. But I’m just telling you that this world is of your own making. You can choose to always be rushed, or you can choose to glide in with ease.

Believe me, I didn’t believe it either. In fact, I’ve probably made every mistake that anyone has made, but much worse.

The example at the top was me for the majority of my life. Completely frazzled day in and day out. But it wasn’t about time. When I got down to the root of it, it was about importance.

I was always helping people, always going to events I had to be at, always striving to be the best at everything for everyone. Because being stressed out is cool today. It means you’re important and prestigious. It means that you matter. And, to be honest, I didn’t have the self-esteem to matter without constantly over-delivering.

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So I hung up my overstressed lifestyle and chose to be different. And then things started falling into place. I started to get realistic. I didn’t commit to 500 things because I knew that it wasn’t practical. I was honest with myself and realized what I could and couldn’t get done. It didn’t make people think less of me. If anything, people were more impressed with my ability to handle things. And, you know what? I wouldn’t really care either way. Because it’s not people who make me significant. It’s how I feel about myself.

So I chose to take back my time. I chose to give up the stressful life. I chose to be back in control.

The secret I’ve learned is that you’re in way more control and way less control than you think you are. You design your life; you teach people how to treat you. But then shit happens. And you’ve got to react. So leave yourself some room to react. It’s about embracing the uncertainty in the structure.

But, come on, you’re an entrepreneur. You already know that.

About the Author: Mike Iamele is a Senior Associate at healthcare PR firm Torch Communications and is also a Corporate Wellness Coach.  You can learn more about him at www.bostonwellnesscoach.com.