Am I busy, productive, both or neither?
Updated: Sep 21
Depending on how I look at it, I'm either 3 or 6 months into my 3rd career. My Dad asked me yesterday how it was going and I found myself describing its successes not only in financial terms but also in terms of how many hours a week I'm putting in.
I realised that I still have a mindset that allocates 'working time' based when I'm logged on doing tasks or calls; just as my other careers have been so far. In summary, my career history and working pattern looked like this:
Career 1: Hospitality - working in bars and restaurants, initially as a bar tender, then bar manager then part of an operations team that opened all the new ones all over the country. Did that for just over 10 years and averaged roughly 80 hours / week.
Career 2: Market Research Sales - about 18 years between 2 employers on a standard full time contract of 40 hours per week. Very rarely did 40 hours, often 50 - 60 per week if you take travel to clients meetings, industry events and generally never finishing on the dot of 5:30 into account. Started as part of the sales team, ended up leading sales teams with all the extra internal meetings and conversations that entails.
Career 3 (where I am today): Mental Health speaker & Performance Coach. I'm self employed, still learning about who I am post Burnout, still getting it right just as much as I'm getting it wrong and get paid only for the amount of paid hours I can generate.
If I add up how many paid hours I did in the last 4 weeks, the answer is: 12. That's not 12 per week, that's 12 in the last 4 weeks.
I spend many more hours per week thinking about the paid ones. Planning, preparing, having speculative calls and follow ups with people that may or may not end up becoming clients or lead to a paid speaking engagement.
I also actively spend time making sure I have what I need to be able to perform for the paid hours as well as the unpaid ones. If I don't prioritise my own physical and mental needs, I risk forgetting to meet them at all and that's what led to burning out in the first place.
In hindsight, my previous 50-60 hour working week was almost entirely filled with being busy, had hardly any time for essential maintenance of the machine of me and as a result in broke down.
These days, I try to remember that every hour spent making sure I have what I need to perform to the standard I want to, is just as important as the time spent actually performing - one can't sustainably exist without the other.
I also try to remember the value of my thinking time which often happens when I'm nowhere near a laptop. In fact, my best thinking time definitely doesn't happen in a traditional work setting. The above happened on a boat on the the Thames yesterday followed by in my allotment this morning. If I don't attribute importance and priority to creating the space for my best thinking, it doesn't happen and because it doesn't look like 'work' it's all too easy to fill those valuable diary gaps with calls and meetings.
Adam Peaty's Olympic Gold yesterday didn't only come from 57.37 seconds of Breaststroke, it came from hours and hours of practice, preparation, diet, hydration and recovery and a whole load of other factors but by my previous reckoning, he only worked for less than a minute. Does any one say I didn't put in the work? I doubt it.
p.s. I'm not comparing myself to an Olympian.