Over the next few months, I’m going to answer specific reader questions on the blog. If you have questions or topics you need help with, please email me or leave a comment at the bottom of this post. I don't know if I can respond to all your questions, but I'll do my best. Enjoy!
I read some about your career evolution in "You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap)" but am interested in reading more or a follow up. I am in the process of rethinking my own time and career. I have slowed down this past month and am interested in hearing a longer term perspective on slowing down and working less hours.
In my high school and college days, I had a long career as a cashier at multiple Chevron stations and I worked at non-profits and investment houses as an intern too. It was a busy time in my life. And, the busyness continued when I started college. I worked full-time and had a packed course schedule during my undergraduate and graduate programs.
When I graduated with my first masters degree in 2003, I started a career in the investment management industry and discovered that it wasn’t a good fit. By 2005, I left the investment management industry, went back to graduate school, and started working in the social service sector. I loved the work. However, I’d been dreaming of pursing a writing career for years and in January of 2010 I left my day job and took the leap into self-employment.
My step-dad, Mahlon, inspired me to start my business. For over four decades, Mahlon worked for Chevron. He started out as an attendant washing windows and by the end of his career he owned a service station. When Mahlon entered my life, he was still working hard. However, he always made time for me. He came to ski meets, volleyball games, and a variety of other school events.
I learned so many valuable life lessons from Mahlon, especially when it came to my work life. He taught me:
- to work hard,
- to focus on long-term goals,
- to ask questions during the good and bad times,
- and to make time for play.
Over the years, I’ve gotten better about slowing down and trying to balance all facets of my life. Mahlon isn’t around anymore, but I know he would encourage me to continue working hard and to make time for interests that aren’t related to my business.
I’ve tried to follow Mahlon’s advice over the years, however I still struggle. My life is a constant work in progress and sometimes I feel like I have to relearn the same lessons over and over again.
As you rethink work, and slow down, consider these tips:
1. Track your time.
In "You Can Buy Happiness (and It's Cheap)" and in my e-courses, I encourage folks to track their time. Print out a calendar and record how you spend your days in 30 minute increments. Try to record your days without judgment and at the end of the week, review how you’ve spent your time. I love this exercise because it shows you how you truly spend your time, not how you think you spend your time. From there you can make appropriate changes to your work days.
2. Question yourself.
The option to rethink our careers is a privilege. I also believe you have to ask yourself hard questions if you want to make empowered career choices. Here are a few to consider:
- How do you want to spend your work days?
- What type of work lights you up?
- What would your ideal work day look like?
- How much money do you need to cover your bills?
3. Be grateful.
I can’t image my life without writing and photography. Even if I don’t make another cent from my art, I will keep practicing because I’m in this for the long haul. And, I have an enormous sense of gratitude that I get to engage in both activities. Practicing gratitude helps me stay centered when work is difficult or unsure of what step to take next.