Are You More Than Your Job?

time management work life balance“So, what do you do?”

That’s one of the first questions we’re asked when meeting someone for the first time. The answer usually entails some sort of job or profession. Basically, whatever brings in money and pays the bills. However, this week I thought a lot about why it’s our job that defines who we are – the snapshot of a person’s life we choose to ask about. I don’t have answers, but I do have ideas. Read on.

My Vacation Epiphany

I spent the past week in Costa Rica (which I would highly recommend by the way, but that’s an entire novel unto itself.) The people there are very friendly and I answered the “where are you from and what do you do” question frequently. After a while though, I didn’t enjoy answering it. I love my job and wouldn’t trade it for anything, but I was trying to escape work this week, not think about it.

Why do we ask what people do? My first thought is it’s because that’s how we spend a significant portion of our time every day. It also gives clues to our personalities and interests. “Oh you’re an engineer. Cool, you must like math.” “Nursing, how interesting, you must like helping people.” But I also feel a little weird about making someone’s occupation the number one thing I care about in a brief, “let’s get acquainted” conversation.

What Makes You Happy?

What if instead our first question was “What makes you happy?” or “Tell me about what’s most important to you?” Perhaps these seem a little too personal to share with a stranger and our occupations are a less intrusive way to search for common ground to talk about.

Regardless, I am committed to feeling like more than my job. I am a speaker and an educator, but I’m first a wife, a sister, a daughter, a dog lover, a travel enthusiast, and creative thinker. I feel fortunate to be able to earn money doing work I enjoy, but work is what I do, it’s not all of who I am.

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Time Management Outside of 9 to 5

When we think about “time management,” it’s easy to associate the concept solely with work. After all, we often seek out time management advice as we’re searching for strategies to complete our work more efficiently, or achieve a more productive workday. However, looking at work in a vacuum, divorced from the rest of our lives, only paints half the picture of what it takes to achieve not only good time management skills, but life management skills as well.

Work Life and Personal Life

I’ve found that when I summon the self-discipline and planning skills to complete my work efficiently, other areas of my life benefit as well. I start eating better. I exercise more. I make more time for my friends and am more likely to dry the dishes on the counter than let them sit there for another day. It’s as though the progress I’ve made in my work life seeps into my personal life as well.

It begs the question: Does this concept work both ways?

If my work life feels scattered, but I manage to regain control of a messy house and a fast food habit, will those personal achievements translate into work achievements too?  I believe that, to a certain point, the answer is “yes.”

Self-Discipline

I believe that self-discipline is addicting and builds confidence. I believe that once you achieve a new “healthy” routine in one area of your life, it’s easier to achieve a similar routine in another area. Of course, this doesn’t mean you should expect to be a productivity fiend at work after one week of making it to the gym every morning. However, I think we too often ignore the relationship between the two.

This is what The Time Diet is all about and it’s why I never give a time management lecture or workshop without addressing the importance of a balanced life both in and outside of work.

Control?

Self-discipline is different than control. We can never control every aspect of our day. What we can do is have the self-discipline to plan in advance, stick to that plan the best we can, and utilize the resources available to us. Self-discipline is about staying on a path toward your goals, even when Time Killers viciously try to distract you.

What area of your life can you work to improve this week? The results may astound you.

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Photo Credit: Stuart Miles