How Do You Spend Your Time?
Recently I took a friend to an event that turned out to be of no interest to him. He is an innovator/entrepreneur/venture capitalist kind of guy, i.e., something of an excitement junky. But there was not enough energy or activity in our shared evening to stimulate him. The event was neither focused on him nor replete with the CEOs, VCs, or high network folks who fuel his drive or match his executive caliber. Predictably, the evening turned out to be a disaster.
I considered the focus of the evening to be meaningful. Attending the event gave me an opportunity to show my love and support for another very dear friend at her book launch. But what is meaningful for one may not be meaningful to another, and consequently my friend who accompanied me felt that I did not cherish his time. As a result of our “subdued” evening together, our relationship came to an end. The catalyst for our cataclysm was my definition of “meaningful.”
The situation got me wondering about time and value. You see, for the last two years I’ve been writing a book on value creation in designing life and brands. Throughout this long and interesting journey, I have been privileged to speak to many people from all walks of life about how they value time.
Every day, my work involves designing some kind of product or campaign that empowers people to regain control over how they spend their time. That precious commodity we call time and the infinite ways we may choose to spend it all go into shaping our lives and creating meaning for us.
As we progress professionally, we begin to experience a pronounced lack of time. Our to-do lists grow longer and more demanding, and we find ourselves engulfed in money-making commitments where our only poverty is a poverty of time. Trust me, I have been that creature. The entire health of my business is based on billable hours and how efficient I am in managing and delivering projects. Naturally, the more I bill, the more I make. The more I talk, think about, and work on a project, the more money I see in my bank account. I am extremely conscious about how I spend my time. I have been highly selective of how and with whom I spend it. I felt so squeezed for breathing room that I became critical of who was “deserving of my precious time.” I selectively curated the people and groups I allowed within “my little “circle.” I know many high-achieving individuals who guard their time this way.
Being Mindful — Being Present
Then one day I had my Ah Ha moment. I realized that the only time I felt people or activities weren’t worthy of my time was when I was not fully present to what was happening in the moment. It had nothing to do with who I hung out with, or their wit, intelligence, energy or social status. It had nothing to do with participating in activities that bored me to death. It all came down to whether or not I was fully present and conscious, listening deeply, and open to new ideas, new conversations, and new experiences.
With this new way of thinking and “being,” I have been able to experience people, products, food, cultures, and events in fresh new ways. This way of moving through the world allows me to be a student again. I learn from Uber drivers instead of being irritated at them for my own tardiness. I learn about millennials and their personal struggles living with their parents at the age of 35, instead of judging that they are either too immature or too young. I enjoy my glass of Oban the 100th time, knowing that it is in fact the 100+ time I’ve sipped it. I look at the world as if it is brand new, and this new approach to life has allowed me to really absorb new knowledge, make deep and meaningful connections with people and cherish experiences that I would otherwise have missed.
My time, it turns out, is NOT more important than anyone else’s.
How shortsighted and mistaken I was, rushing down my old path, maintaining my old way of thinking which could be summed up simply as “my time was more important than that of others.” My time, it turns out, is NOT more important than anyone else’s. We all have a limited amount of time to spend in this world. And we spend it most wisely when we can be present in every moment. I best respect my time and that of others when I’m 100% engaged with them. So, once I choose to spend time with my children, I am completely there with them, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, enjoying every aspect of their presence. If I choose to be with friends, I simply choose not to talk about work at all. If I choose to be on a date, I spend my energy listening, getting to really know that person beyond the surface level of social status and achievement. I want to know that person’s fears, aspirations, and sources of happiness, because those insights are more meaningful to me than what kind of car he drives.
I’ve been told recently that who I hang out with is a reflection of who I am. I began charting out my “network” and discovered that WOW, I am one lucky gal. I have a rich tapestry of people in my life, from millionaires to hairstylists, from architects to starving artists, and from doctors, professors and heralded academics to students who barely make minimum wage. The best part is, I will have lunch with any one of them in a blink of an eye. I feel grateful. Not only have they enriched my life beyond measure, but I feel honored that they have allowed me to be part of their journey as well.
Mindful Designer — Purposeful Living
Over the years, my skills as a designer have improved tremendously in many ways. Now when I work, even if the work is tedious and not something I particularly enjoy, I consciously choose to do it to the best of my ability. If I choose not to personally take on the project, I make a conscious effort to delegate the work and not complain about it. While I may not have a passionate interest in taking out the trash, or being trapped in meetings that drag on forever, or, as in my friend’s case, being stuck and bored to death at a party, I know that I have a choice in the matter. I have a choice and a voice to be somewhere and do something. Once I make that choice, I have no one to blame for my unhappiness or dissatisfaction except myself. And of course rather than being unhappy, I choose to find the silver lining and make the most of the situation. However I choose to spend my time in ways that I find meaningful and joyful is up to me. I recommend to everyone that they choose mindfully, be ever-present in the moment, and become a student again. Life may surprise you with other more rewarding experiences along the way if you open up your heart and mind to opportunities inherent in each fresh, new moment.
This original post can be viewed on Medium.