Two months into 2013, I would say I’ve had moderate success. My life is certainly more balanced than it was the past few years, but it’s only been moderately more spacious. It’s been very easy for me to fill up my time, as I predicted it would. Overall, I’ve been good about filling that time with life as opposed to “work,” but “work” has crept in a bit more than I would like. For example:
- My friends at Code for America reached out to me at the beginning of the year to see if I could work with its 2013 Fellows on team dynamics. I’m on its advisory board, and I love the work it does. How could I resist?
- I finished my obligations for the Delta Dialogues, but then agreed to participate in two additional meetings to share what we learned, both of which required prep.
- In early February, I had a two-day board meeting for the Leadership Learning Community. I always enjoy these meetings, because I love spending time with the other board members, but it requires a lot of brain cycles.
I could have said no to some of these things, but they haven’t been the main reason for my lack of spaciousness. The main reason has been poor boundary management with my remaining client obligations. Ironically, I’ve been missing a lot of the structures from Groupaya that enabled me to maintain those boundaries. I left the company to create more space for myself, but that also meant losing some structures that enabled me to maintain that space. In particular:
- I no longer have a team and operational infrastructure supporting my work. A lot of this stuff is mundane (like invoicing and scheduling), but time-consuming. I’m also missing some of our team accountability practices, which helped keep me disciplined in my obligations.
- I stopped maintaining a regular work schedule, which made it all too easy for obligations to pile up rather than distribute evenly. I’ve also missed some of our team’s practices that helped me maintain a strong rhythm throughout the week, like our weekly checkins and our virtual water cooler.
- I eliminated my Wednesday Play Days. I figured that all of my time right now is supposed to be play time, so I didn’t need to carve out a formal day for this. I was wrong.
- I stopped time-tracking. I have historically avoided time-tracking like the plague. But at Groupaya, I actually became one of the strongest advocates and enforcers of the practice, because it enabled us to quantify our progress in many areas. We learned a ton from the practice, and it helped us improve many of our processes. But when I left, I immediately reverted. One of the reasons you leave an organization is so that you don’t have to do stuff like this. This was a mistake. As it turned out, tracking time is a wonderful way to keep you focused and to help you maintain your boundaries.
The good news is, I don’t need to be part of an organization to implement any of these structures. Now that I’ve felt their absence, I’m slowly bringing these structures back into my life, tweaking how I implement them to better fit my current circumstances.
The better news is, I’ve managed to retain other structures from my time at Groupaya that have enabled me to create more space in my life. (I’ll share these structures in another blog post.)
The best news is, I’m much more relaxed these days, my life feels much more balanced, and I’m learning a lot from unexpected places. (Again, more details to come in a future blog post.) Highlights have included:
- My work! (I know, I know, I’ve got problems.) I’m excited about a workshop I’m co-organizing with Rebecca Petzel next week on how consulting can have a more transformational impact on the nonprofit sector. And I’m super excited by the culture change work I’m doing with the Hawaii Community Foundation. I’ve been able to do these projects slowly and spaciously, which makes them all the more fulfilling. And I’m being disciplined about not taking on any more client work as I finish up these projects.
- I spent a week with my older sister and her family (including my two awesome nephews) in Cincinnati.
- I’m seeing and reconnecting with lots of friends. I’ve been negligent about this the past few years, and it’s felt really good to make time for people I care about.
- I’m cooking more.
- I’m reading a ton, including two novels, which has been great, because I almost never read fiction anymore. I love to read, and I know my life is appropriately spacious when I’m doing a lot of it.
- I’m running and hiking more, and I’m starting to play basketball again regularly.
- I’ve started to get more serious about photography.
- I’m taking care of a lot of real-life stuff. I’m examining and implementing systems for everything from financials to information management. This will require several more months to complete, which makes me wonder how anyone manages to do this stuff without taking extended time away from work.
- I’m learning and re-learning a lot about myself. I’m still trying to make sense of what I’ve learned over the past ten years, and I don’t have clarity yet on what I want to do in the future, but I see the fog starting to dissipate.
I’m having to tweak things here and there, and I miss my old team a lot, but beyond that, life is great.