Capturing Your Time

Last week, I had a fun podcast interview with Karen Mangia, fellow author, remote work thinker, and endorser of our upcoming book, Remote Works. (Will share on LinkedIn when live.)

At the end of the interview, Karen introduced a fun segment called the water cooler, where she asked a few quirky questions to get my immediate gut reaction.

I've been mulling over two of her questions and my reaction over the weekend:

  1. If we had 25 hours in a day, what would you do with the extra hour?

  2. If you could have any other profession, what would it be?

Both of these questions are right in my wheelhouse. I've been known to re-share this Brain Picking's blog on The Shortness of Life: Seneca on Busyness and the Art of Living Wide Rather Than Living Long and this Alan Watt's video on What If Money Was No Object?

Photo by Aron Visuals on Unsplash

Both questions ladder up to my worldview: that time is a finite resource that should be valued, the same or above, material resources. We will all die, unless you're hoping for techno singularity and life extension.

If you've read this far into this blog post, you're a minute closer to your death than you were when you clicked on this blog post. (Think of it as a Memento Mori.) While everyone has varying levels of material resources, we all share in the constraints of time. It's a part of the human condition.

But before I leave you too depressed. and wondering why you clicked on this blog post in the first place, let me shed a light of hope...

The reason why I found the questions compelling was because my answer today is vastly different than it was five-years ago, or fifteen-years-ago.

Like many busy professionals, I was living in a world that was cash-rich but time-poor. I had disposable income and a benefits package, as long as I committed the majority of my waking hours to a corporation. There's a lot of benefits that came from this financial arrangement, but I was severely missing "free time."

At age 25, all I wanted was more time to myself, especially when regularly clocking 70-80 hour weeks in management consulting and private equity. I could dream of a million ways to use an extra hour in my day, or how a personal projects might evolve into a different profession.

I thought about "little Tamara" and how she dressed up as an artist and a lifeguard for "what do you want to be when you grow up" day at school. Likewise, I've seen my niece and nephews answer the same questions on their first day of school. We have an animal photographer, a veterinarian, and a trash-man in the Sanderson clan.

As we grow up, however, we often trade these childhood dreams for something more realistic and practical—with job titles that contain jargon our six-year-old self never knew existed (what is an operations manager, or a strategy associate).

That's where a "Remote State of Mind" comes into the equation.

In our book, we discuss how the tools for remote work have been around for decades, but it's the behavior change piece that's been missing. We encourage readers to start questioning the status quo of their work life, using the journalistic framework (5Ws and 1H: who, what, when, where, why, and how.)

I've been asking myself these questions since I joined the workforce in 2006. With each job shift and career change, I have gotten closer to my personal goals. It doesn't happen all at once. It requires a lot of trial and error, frustration, and set-backs. But ultimately, I found myself having more autonomy over my work and control over my time and schedule.

This manifested in small ways, like declining meetings while at Google that could be resolved in a quick email exchange. Or in bigger ways, like when I joined an all-remote company, Automattic, and took off as a digital nomad, so I could marry my needs for professional achievement while also traveling the world.

Each of these moves have helped me align my time to my innate goals, to the point that at age 38, I can honestly answer Karen's questions with: I'm not sure I'd do anything different with an extra hour in the day or a magical switch of professions. I've finally unlocked my time so that I can organically pursue leisure and career changes, like writing a book and an upcoming fellowship in psychoanalysis, without magical thinking.

How can you unlock an hour or two of your time each week to pursue a personal project or goal (even if that's simply rest!)? How can you tap into some of your childhood dreams as an adult?

(Photos of children at play from Unsplash.)