Nothing But The Ruth
A More Purposeful Life: Rethinking Time
How did we decide our days would be broken up into “weekdays” and “weekends” and “business hours” and “personal time?” If you are someone’s employee, these concepts make sense. But not necessarily if you’re an entrepreneur or in an eat-what-you-kill environment.
I have long said that there’s no division between my professional and personal lives. I’m one person all the time. The same idea should apply to my time. I don’t have to divide my life into work hours and personal time. It’s all time.
Commitment to Happiness
When I decided to change careers and go to law school, I made the decision that I wanted to be happy. I was unhappy in my previous career — and I didn’t spend three years and more than $60,000 on an education to continue to be unhappy. In accordance with that plan, I’m trying to forego the traditional Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. work schedule in lieu of something that makes more sense for who I am.
Sometimes that means I work odd hours — including weekends. That also means I can leave the office in the middle of the day to run errands or do something fun. My brain tends to drop off around 3:30 p.m. and wake up again around 6 p.m., so I don’t feel guilty when I leave the office in the middle of the afternoon. No one cares when I work or where I work as long as it gets done.
Not Becoming a Playboy
Giving up the idea of work time and giving myself permission to leave the office early to play with my dog may give the impression I’m inflicted with Peter Pan Syndrome.
On the contrary, I’m an existentialist. More and more, I’m striving to live a more purposeful life — personally and professionally. It matters that I produce quality work for my clients, and I love what I do. Equally so, my health and my relationships have become more important, too. If there’s an opportunity to connect with a valued friend or to participate in a meaningful activity, it’s important to me to choose those things rather than sit in my office simply because it’s “work hours.”
Additionally, I thrive in structure. I get up before sunrise every day because I want to make every minute count. I use to-do lists to make sure everything gets done — and I look at my lists as things I get to do, instead of things I have to do:
- I get to work with awesome clients.
- I get to be part of a community.
- I get to spend time with people I love.
I’m always working on something — professionally and personally. But as Marc Anthony said, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
Time Is Precious
Sometimes it takes a tragedy to remind us that life is short. We may not get to decide how long we live, but we can decide how well we will live. If anything, I’ve become more selfish with my time this year — focusing on the people, projects and causes that matter.
My friend and colleague Ari Kaplan told me about a site called YouCanBook.Me. I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, but I love it. The site interfaces with your calendar (Google, iCloud or both) so people can easily add themselves to your schedule. Now, whenever a client or contact wants to set up a phone call or consult, I send them the link to my You Can Book Me profile. They can see my availability and select a time slot for our appointment. It’s a useful timesaver. (Standard accounts are free, paid accounts offer extra services and customization options.)
No matter what I’m doing, I try to be present and mindful of what’s important to me in the bigger picture. As I go through my day, even when I’m hustling my face off, I try to keep one thought always present in my mind: “What’s the most important thing for me to be doing right now?”
What about you? Are you running your life or is your life running you?
Ruth Carter is a lawyer, writer and speaker. She is Of Counsel with Venjuris, focusing her practice on intellectual property, social media, First Amendment and flash mob law. Named an ABA Journal 2012 Legal Rebel, Ruth is author of the ABA book “The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers,” as well as “Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans.” In “Nothing But the Ruth,” she writes about the lessons she’s learning while building her practice. She blogs at UndeniableRuth.com. Follow her on Twitter @rbcarter.
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