The instincts of the typical entrepreneur say to work 60-80 hours a week and sacrifice our personal lives for the betterment of the business. But that’s a painful experience, and what’s the point of it anyway? Sure, our bank account might be growing, but we don’t have the freedom in life to be able to enjoy any of it. We’re a slave to our business, which we’ve come to hate.
Adii Pienaar, author of the new book Life Profitability, got to a point in his entrepreneurial journey where he realized his life was suffering because he constantly chose to spend too much time on the business. Chances are, some of you reading this are feeling the same way.
We all know that money can’t buy love or happiness. But it can bring you support to have better control of your time—and it’s what you do with that time that truly matters. Do you reinvest all or most of your time back into your entrepreneurial endeavors, creating a vicious cycle of: make money to buy time to make more money? Or, do you allocate part of that time to create happiness in your life? If you suspect the former, Adii wants to help you reexamine the value of time, money, and happiness.
Finding the Time Overlap in Business and Life
Time is precious because it provides the space for us to enjoy our favorite things that create meaning and memories. These things could be as simple, but wonderful, as time with family, watching the sunrise or sunset, or getting a good night’s sleep.
How do you devote time to life outside work? So far, you’ve probably “bought back” time with takeout and hiring someone else to do various tasks. But you’ve likely sunk that time back into your business instead of your life because you need to keep producing the money to buy that time. In this cycle, you haven’t changed anything. As soon as you stop working, you suddenly lose the time as well. This keeps business at the center of everything, when your life is what should be at the center.
Unfortunately, most of us have an unquestioned binary and simplistic approach to time: there’s work time and there’s life time, and we believe that we must work harder and longer for success. By segregating time this way, we shrink life and even exclude it.
Instead, we must find the overlap in our lives, allowing an interplay with everything in them, including business. For instance, if it’s been a harder week, Adii tends to have slower Fridays, where his mornings might start with him being largely unproductive, dabbling—at best—through his work. Come five o’clock, he finds energy to do something really productive. He doesn’t force himself into a time straitjacket where he ramrods productivity in the early part of those Fridays.
If he did that, the work would suffer and so would he. Instead, Adii lets himself flow naturally, and in that state, he’s happier and does better work in the productive hours. During the less productive hours, he may be coasting, but he’s still moving ahead, conserving and building energy. He also might do some work on the weekends when the house is quiet. His business isn’t burning down around him when that happens, but he chooses to work for various reasons and based on a whole-life perspective.
The lesson here is not to default to work with every spare moment. Instead, look at time as a contextual space and ask yourself what’s most appropriate for you in that time setting.
Money for Nothing
In our Western world, we glorify the pursuit of wealth and its endless accumulation. We deitize money so much that many of us measure our self-worth by our net worth. Similarly, we measure ourselves against others by what they own. This puts us in an escalating “arms race” for material goods as we try to keep up with the Joneses. This is how we fall into that measurement-based focus trap that keeps us yoked to our businesses.
When we exchange time for money to simply engorge our bank accounts, we surrender our universe of possibility. In a way, this could be described as “Money for Nothing.” This keeps us stuck in the measurement world. Money used in this way is largely unproductive. It doesn’t get us a lifetime of memories created by going on a family vacation. It doesn’t provide a meaningful conversation at the dinner table. Money for Nothing is also enacted when we miss key moments—graduations, anniversaries, concerts, games—because we were too busy adding to our financial life.
In reality, money is at its most functional when it serves as an efficient middleman that lets us exchange the product of our labors with that of another’s. Money is a tool and should be treated as no more and no less than that. It lets us quickly get what we need with one trade instead of a chain of them. After we trade it to meet our needs, the rest of our spending is on wants at best; covetousness at worst.
In the measurement world, money makes us spend a lot of time counting it and exchanging additional time for it. We do this because we think that more money lets us purchase more happiness.
Choose Happiness with Intention
Is there happiness in keeping up with the Joneses when you never find peace and an end to the arms race? Seeing someone in a less expensive car than yours and fleetingly feeling proud of your own—that’s not happiness. And you definitely won’t find happiness at the grander home of an acquaintance where you feel like an underperformer who ought to be earning more.
As an entrepreneur, you’re in the lucky position of not being forced to trade life and its possibilities for a paycheck. You do have the control and can decide to take some of it back. Or, you can change the way you work so that it’s not so burdensome that it causes unhappiness. You can also stop shortchanging yourself by rejecting opportunities for happiness right now in return for more money later.
Instead of defaulting to a “more money is good” assumption, begin choosing intentionally when it is really worth it to pursue money instead of happiness in each moment of your life. That can be an extremely challenging change in mindset for an entrepreneur.
To choose happiness with intention requires a strict focus on the moment of now. Meditation through mindfulness training can be an excellent way for anyone to learn to live in the now. With that ability to be fully present in the moment, one can easily choose whether it’s more important to work on that time-sensitive document or to get home in time to say good night to the kids.
Our lives are filled with choices like those. Sometimes, it just won’t be possible to miss bedtime with the kids and avoid working late. Other times, you’ll be able to figure out how to get the job done without being there. On still other occasions, you’ll decide that the document will just have to wait.
A Reallocation of Resources
By reconsidering the value of things like time, money, and happiness, you should be well-equipped to reject the entrepreneurial archetype that tells you to constantly reinvest time to make more money. Hopefully by thinking a little differently about those three resources, you’ve opened up the idea of reallocating them appropriately
Allocating more resources acquired from your time and money to create happiness isn’t going to happen in a single day, hour, or minute. Rather, it happens one moment at a time. Find the time overlap where business and life aren’t so exclusive. Don’t work just to enhance your position in the measurement world. And choose happiness when the moment is right.
Even if you’ve gone way off course in your entrepreneurial journey and have allocated nearly 100 percent of your time to your business, it’s never too late to reallocate. Start now; the lifetime rewards could be amazing.