Handling expectational debt and falling behind.
Why are we all given the same 24 hours? A lot of people seem to get more done than I can, and yet no one has more time during the day than others. Even since I started working 6 years ago, I have not earned any extra time in my life. Why do I feel more exhausted than my earlier self? I believe it has to do with the amount of expectational debt that I have found myself in.
Time is a commodity. It is both finite and infinite. We only have 24 hours to use and it does not replenish until the following day. We have to protect our use of that time just as much as we protect the use of our money. When we say yes and commit to things, we are spending some of the expectations held for that day. So when you overspend your time on those expectations, it is akin to blowing apart your spending budget. You get into debt from your expectations. You have to be mindful about the areas you choose to spend your hours. So if you don’t have enough time, it’s because you already spent that time on something else.
How I found myself falling behind
I carry a lot of responsibility. I am a father, I am a lover, and I am the main provider of my household. My time is spent trying to improve the quality of my family’s life and our relationships. And by working on that, my time has been spread pretty thin.
I love my family more than anything in the world. They are a big factor in why I do what I do. So it is no surprise that I am willing to do what I can for us to make a living. I had to say no to a lot of things over the past year. That meant putting my skateboard on the shelf, my music on hold, and I put drawing on the back–burner. I spent my sole focus on working at the bank for 40 hours a week and in my business another 15. But with all of that effort were still falling behind financially. So I decided it was time to pursue a different path.
After realizing halfway through the previous year that we were going south financially every month, I chose to start pursuing a different career. I’m developing myself as a designer. I haven’t designed anything since 2009, so I had to go get some education on the subject. This meant fitting in education into a schedule that I was already working 55 hours a week in and trying to maintain my family life. Let me run my schedule by you.
- I wake up at 4:50 AM to take care of hygiene.
- I work on designing things for a portfolio until 7:30 AM
- I go to work at the bank from 8:30 AM to 6 PM
- Come home to spend time with family
- ~ 10 PM to 12 AM I alternate days doing business or homework.
Every day. (except Sunday and Tuesday: that is my family time)
It seems manageable. It looks like all of the steps are there. So why is it I feel exhausted? Why is it I keep falling behind?
You have to put the big rocks in first, say no to some fine sand.
That schedule is manageable if I don’t do anything outside of that list. But somewhere in there is my family’s time, driving to and from work, building my personal brand, keeping my portfolio projects going, keeping up on my public and personal commitments, eating — It is an exhaustive list that keeps me exhausted too. The spare change (or the fine sand) has to be put towards the things that matter.
Is what you’re doing right now going to impact where you’ll be 3 – 5 years from now? I heard this question a little while ago, only recently have I started to act on it. Because I started putting small things in front of the big ones, I have started to fall behind on my commitment to building my personal brand. I caught myself watching unnecessary amounts of YouTube videos and reading unnecessary articles that aren’t really getting me anywhere towards my goals. It can feel like having fourteen dollars left and choosing it to spend on cheeseburgers instead of gasoline for your car. So I had to redefine what it is I want to be, and how it was I was going to get there.
I started taking charge of the time I spend, cutting those unnecessary things out and re-purposing that time towards building my family’s quality of life. I choose my commitments carefully now.
When you catch yourself falling behind, you have to define a successful day as showing up and doing good work. Did you stay true to the commitments that you have? For me, showing up is posting a piece that helps define my personal brand every day. It’s a tall commitment, but it’s necessary. It is going to work and meeting that damn quota every day. It’s about coming home and spending that much needed quality time that I get with Sara and Atlas. I show up and I do good work towards the big things in my life.
I am designing my life to be fulfilling and productive at the same time. I started taking inventory of my time and found that about 5 hours of my time was being used up by the unnecessary things in life. So I nixed a lot of the areas in my life where time seemed to vanish. I started to say no to a bunch of those things. My current routine is designed to build up my brand as a designer until that can replace my main source of income. Until more breathing room in my day comes available, my time will be spent on the things that matter; on the things that will help my family 3–5 years down the road.
How will your life improve by cutting out the unnecessary and unproductive things?
Want to follow my work? Come visit me at darianrosebrook.com
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Brand Consultant at @itssomagnetic, running designer network at @compassofdesign I ate a whole large dominos pizza by myself once. 🍕
Compass of Design
Curated design articles for self-starting designers.