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“Mom, why do you always work so much?” Her four-year-old, angelic voice questioned.

Instantly, my brain began to fire off a very believable defense, a list of…excuses.

“I’m not always working, Lyla, but you kids constantly make a mess that I have to pick up, and Palmer just pooped her pants then pooped the extra on the bathroom floor ‘cause she thought it looked like chocolate mousse, and the puppies just got out, so I have to go chase them, and Luke, the baby, is swinging on top of the kitchen table on the chandelier and….” 

I stopped…fortunately, I stopped before the words left my mouth. As defensive as I wanted to be, and as full of excuses as I knew I was, that’s all they were…excuses. My sweet four-year-old wasn’t asking for excuses; she was asking for my time. What a wake-up call. 

Mind you, this happened tonight, and it’s a Sunday. I don’t work my ‘job’ work on Sundays until well after my kids are in bed, so my daughter wasn’t questioning my ‘work’ work. She was questioning my lack of presence. She was questioning the fact that I was more concerned with chaos control than just being with the family in the midst of it all. 

A man in Mauli once said, “You Americans have all the watches, but we have all the time.”

Understanding your 8-5 or 7-7 is a self-created box…there is no box, but there are a fluid 24 hours in a day. How do you want to spend them? We so frequently hear about time management techniques, but the truth is, we can’t manage time. We can only manage how we use our time, and the day will end regardless. They say that time flies when you’re having fun, but time passes regardless of how we use it, and we don’t always use it in the way that most fulfills our souls. What a waste! Someone told me recently that most employees spend their entire workday just glancing at the clock, counting down to see how long until they get to go home. Do we really think that if that’s the case, everyone at the office, owners, and managers included, are actually completely productive and efficient? Come on, admit it. You’ve spent an hour just clicking between the different folders in your email, too, haven’t you? If we gave ourselves a better work/life balance, we’d be less obsessive with the concept of getting home and far more productive during actual work hours.  

I’m currently working harder on pre-planning my tasks to be at peak productivity…when I need to be. And then, I’m also working at pre-planning my family time, including vacations, to enjoy who and what is truly important to me—my husband and my three beautiful children, my joys. 

What a blessing to be headed into the Holiday season—Thanksgiving, and not even a blink after, Christmas…and then a New Year. 

And what a blessing that we still have a minute to consider our priorities. I know I’m currently re-assessing mine! 

Progress tricked us into trusting it – then it exhausted us. We work day in and day out being busy, sometimes just being busy for the sake of being busy. It burns us out. It steals our joy. It consumes our thoughts and our time. And if we’re being honest, sometimes, our vision is unclear; we are working towards nothing and spending a lot of time doing it. Then we get home and think about all that we still have to do. We can’t put the work and the busy down, even when it’s time for our brains to clock out. 

There is no such thing as work/life balance in America today unless you create it. You create that balance by pre-scheduling what’s truly important to you and by saying no to the rat race of being a constant fireman, putting out fire after fire as the superhero in your business. Sure, it makes us all feel good to be the hero. Give yourself a pat on the back for a second, and acknowledge the fact that, yes, you really are good at solving everyone’s problems. But then quickly stop patting your back as the recognition of time slips through your fingers – when you’re busy putting out other people’s fires in reactionary mode, you’re missing out on what’s truly important to you. And sometimes, you’re pouring gasoline on the fire in the process because you haven’t given those fires proper headspace anyway.  

I recommend using a daily affirmation to begin finding and understanding what’s truly important to you. For example, if you want your business to run by itself so you can enjoy the holidays, then you proclaim it in your affirmations each morning by writing it down in your notebook. Then once you have your affirmation written down, set your priorities and to-dos for the day around that affirmation. If what you are working to accomplish in your day doesn’t get you closer to your affirmation, it probably isn’t the most important thing you could be doing with your time. For example: “My business runs with ease. I enjoy time off with the confidence that my business is running itself. I have a clear dashboard, so I can check in easily to know the health of my business at any time.”  

Now, let’s be honest. The majority of us do not have this super-efficient, easy-as-pie, running itself type of business. But writing the future down in a daily affirmation will help you focus your mind on prioritizing the work items you need to keep front and center so you can begin to establish the pieces to build what you want your future to look like. 

During this holiday season, I can’t help but recognize how many businesses have become what I call “The Machine,” and The Machine of being busy is sucking away our joy and the lifestyle we crave. 

Instead of growing your business for that future exit and Hail Mary payday, why not run your business as a lifestyle business, so you and your family – those important to you – can enjoy your today instead of running in a constant race for tomorrow? Life is a journey…but it is not a race. Do yourself a favor and slow down. 

Our barriers do not lack commitment but over-commitment; we have more commitments than time. And do you know the one commitment that is absolutely true? Your time will run out. Are you making it count?