We are raised from birth not to have much say over how we spend our days. From scheduled mealtimes and sleep to play dates, our parents learned that routine is key to raising children. Then we head to school and a loud, shrill bell controls most of our day, warning us when we need to rush from class to class, go to recess, come back from recess, and finally get to go home. To make matters worse, we are screamed at, scolded, and sometimes punished around time. “Come over here.” “Get in the car.” “Hurry or else we will arrive late.” “I’m counting to five.” or as my grandmother used to say “Quit dawdling.” This sounds sadly familiar if you hang around enough families or remember it from your own childhood.
Being raised this way with little to no autonomy conditions us to be followers. We are used to being slaves to the clock. We become like sheep. So were our parents and our parent's parents. It’s a vicious cycle. And over time, the demands just got worse and worse until we became stretched very thin. Overwhelm, burnout, and mental and physical health issues ensued. Time control is so ingrained in our lives that we don’t even realize it.
The way it works as an adult may look something like this:
- The alarm clock tells you when you get up. You reluctantly do it.
- Your partner probably gives you a bunch of To-Dos either first thing in the morning or during the day, such as “Don’t forget to pick up Josh for soccer practice.” or “I need you to get new lightbulbs at the store.” Heck, you may even have a type-A partner who hands you a list! Or maybe YOU are an A-type so you fill your days with long task lists that never seem to end.
- You check your email and are bombarded with work To-Dos.
- You rush through your day being told when and where to be at most hours with meetings and deadlines and people trying to get your attention.
- You come home and the second shift begins with home/personal To-Dos.
- You finally have some peace and quiet, so you binge-watch TV or surf the Internet until you fall asleep. Your day is so hectic you may even develop insomnia. You may also end up stress eat late at night or drinking alcohol to unwind then feeling it is even harder to fall asleep. Plus, the next morning you feel terrible.
- The next day, you repeat the same grind, waiting for the rare moment you finally have some vacation saved up. Even your vacation dates and limits are decided on by your employer, your kids’ school schedules, or your spouse’s work schedule, all too often.
Your entire day, week, year, life, give or take an hour or two, is out of your control. You are victim to the demands of those around you, those counting on you, and hardly have a moment to yourself or for yourself. You check your calendar, email, boss, and spouse to know what you need to do next. There is no point in thinking since your entire life is organized for you by others.
Except something has now (finally) changed everything.
With the technology revolution, we have become mobile. Fast and cheap computers, affordable high-speed Internet, smartphones, and software enable us to work anytime from anywhere. It has opened up a brand-new world and started a new era of the digital nomad. You no longer need to limit yourself to local job candidates — you can hire people across the world, and it is as simple as sending a few emails. Globalization is real and here to stay.
Then COVID-19 happened and work was further disrupted. Employees were forced to work from home. Everyone scrambled to figure it out and make it work under less-than-ideal circumstances. But it did work. While some employees dreamed of returning to the office, others started to enjoy remote work. Many companies announced updated work from home policies that enable employees to choose flexible schedules. Other companies tried to reinforce a stricter back-to-office policy and tensions arose. One thing is certain: in the post-COVID work culture, remote work is now a permanent factor. It's about time we disrupted the workplace anyway.
Lastly, the importance of the Internet has created many new business opportunities that previously didn’t exist. Today, anyone with a computer and Wi-Fi can start an online business in a matter of hours with little to no startup capital. It is a revolution.
Are you going to continue to work the old way, letting others’ rule your every waking hour, or will you free yourself by taking advantage of these three factors?
Let’s look at an example of how your daily routine could be:
- No alarm clock since you have trained your body to wake up when you are well-rested.
- No personal errands unless you want to since you order everything online. Spending time with your kids is a pleasure, not a chore, since you aren’t stressed out by having too much else to do.
- You don’t check email in the morning before you’ve gone through your personal a.m. routine. You have a scheduled daily time for email, and you don’t let them rule your day nor spend hours in your Inbox. In fact, you only check email twice, not all day long.
- You reduce meetings to the very minimum and only ones with a clear agenda where you have an active role. You block your calendar so that you only accept meetings in the afternoons, never mornings, and only on certain days. You delegate, decline, and do when you are working so that you are never overwhelmed by tasks.
- You delegate, decline, and do at home too so that you have less on your plate and share responsibilities with other family members.
- You spend quality time with your loved ones. You don’t have a tv or if you do, it is a rare indulgence. In the evenings, you read books with your kids, take a walk with your spouse or the whole tribe, cook and eat great food together, and finish the day by catching up on books. You unplug all devices early and never check email in the evenings (exception: you have something huge the next day once every so often).
- The next day, you wake up well-rested and invigorated to perform your a.m. routine. Your day always begins with gratitude and intention. You can’t wait to enjoy every moment of the day.
What is the secret? It’s simple: you stop allowing your day to be run by other people. In fact, you start saying ‘no’ a lot. You start planning your life according to how you actually want to live vs. how it fits into your current employment, spouse’s preferences, or kids’ schedules. Trust me — it all works itself out, but it begins first with a conscious decision to take back your life. Yes, this also means ditching perfectionism and people-pleasing. Not only can you do it, but you will love the new freedom you can achieve once you decide to own your day.
In a recent episode of my podcast, Take Back Mondays, I talk about my work time freedom philosophy and especially the importance of making time for self-care and personal development. It is so false to think sitting at a desk for 12 hours per day will get you results. The truth is that we aren’t designed to sit for longer periods of time. Our bodies need movement. How can one come up with creative ideas? Leave the office and go outside to think!
We have quite a messed-up work culture, but I am optimistic that it is changing. People want out. It’s not the work itself usually the problem. It is all the surrounding crap: unnecessary meetings, sitting in front of a computer for too many hours, and company culture that seems to encourage people to stay in the office as long as possible. Parents especially crave flexibility and just can’t work in such an environment.
You can take back ownership of your time. It will require re-conditioning yourself from your old ways of thinking based on your education and employee days. But once you commit to designing your life and craft your perfect day, anything is possible. We only live once so let’s make every day count. After all, life really is short. How are you going to choose to live it?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
Let’s take back Mondays and love our work! Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter. It is an honor to be able to serve tips to amazing people like you. For questions, please reach out to me via Linkedin or Instagram DMs.