No Time! No Time! No Time!
Date: February 7th, 2011
Blog Post by Denise Montgomery
A few years ago, I had a chat with a friend of mine who was going through what we now euphemistically call “a career transition.” She’d been doing the same kind of work for nearly a decade, working in a creative media field. But demand for the product she made, part and parcel of traditional radio and television, was evaporating with the emergence of the Internet.
Translation: Her employer was going down in flames and she was standing on the wing strapping on a parachute as quickly as she could, getting ready for a last-minute leap into the wild blue yonder.
Her vision of the wild blue yonder was surprisingly broad. “I think I want to be a lawyer,” she said, and then immediately tried to dismiss the notion. “But if I go to law school now, I’ll be 40 by the time I’m done.”
It’s always interesting to me to get a glimpse of other folks’ perceptions of available time. Take, for example, the Crazy Busy Mom who’s so stressed running Buffy and John to soccer practice and gymnastics and band camp and enrichment classes that by the time they all get home in the minivan, she’s a frazzled, hair-trigger wreck who ends up snapping at them over the green bean casserole. Or the guy in the Widgets department who stopped accruing vacation back when Bill Clinton was in office, because he believes he can’t possibly take a day off. Yeah, that guy. The one whose 11 pm and 6 am emails to the rest of the team are legendary.
Mom needs to invest time in meeting her own needs occasionally. If she doesn’t, all the dinner table stress will exact a high emotional toll on the whole family. Likewise, Mr. Live-To-Work’s team resents the fact that he can’t leave his job (or them) behind when he goes home for the day. That’s a setup for workplace tension, conflict, and counterproductive foot-dragging.
When I went through leadership training a few years ago, I was under tight deadlines on other projects. (Then again, when wasn’t I under tight deadlines? Tight deadlines are just a part of writing for a living). The idea that I’d be out of the office Not Working for three whole days? Daunting. But I also knew that if I didn’t take this opportunity to learn and build new skills, I’d be working harder than I needed to, less efficiently, for a lot longer than three days. So I went, and I learned. I invested my most precious resource in myself–time.
Those three days of Not Working happened nearly a decade ago now. I have absolutely no memory of what the pressing writing assignments were, but I remember and use the content of that course. Every day. Those three days would have happened anyway. I just filled them up with something I knew would help me get through other days, and months, and years.
My artist-transitioning-to-something-else friend wanted advice on the Law School idea. I am notoriously loath to give advice (that’s just one skill I learned in three days of leadership training) but I was eager to ask her just one question.
“…Ye-e-ssssss, that’s true. If you go back to school now, you’ll be 40 when you graduate. But…how old will you be if you don’t go to law school?”
There was a moment of silence. Then uproarious laughter.
Today she’s a 41-year-old attorney at law.
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