Most of my clients and friends around midlife express the wish that they had more time. Time for the things they want to do. Time to exercise. Time for hobbies. Time for family and friends.
This constant feeling of a lack of time causes ongoing stress. It can leave us feeling dissatisfied with our lives. After all, it is not unreasonable to expect time for these activities; it is imperative for our health and well-being.
Somehow, we now believe that our work should take priority over every other aspect of our lives. We live to work instead of working to live.
The irony is that we all know we cannot create more time. So, it means we need to use our finite hours better. For those in midlife, it is especially important to figure out how to reshape their lives so they can work on their health and well-being, which can even help us extend our careers more enjoyably and set the foundation for a healthier old age.
I developed my own way of thinking about work-life integration after reading Stephen Covey’s book, First Things First, on time management years ago. It starts with acknowledging that you need to schedule what’s important. For example, relationships with your parents or children are important. There’s a limited time frame on this priority. Yet, people don’t prioritise it because it doesn’t feel urgent. But it’s not something you can put off indefinitely, the prioritising of relationships. Your parents die, and your children leave the nest.
The same applies to your health, and unfortunately, some damage due to neglect can never be repaired.
Work-life integration is about weaving all the aspects of a healthy life together into the minutes, hours, days, and months of each year that you have. It means that you must schedule, in advance, what’s important. Carve out time for those activities that increase joy or help you manage stress, like hobbies. Doing this often improves your productivity and job satisfaction.
Recently I carved out a mid-week early morning hike. I start work an hour later on that morning, but I feel so productive for that day, that I probably gain time. I always feel invigorated and joyful. It gives me a boost for the rest of the week.
Not everyone has this freedom. However, not everyone who feels stuck lacks options. It is often our own choices that stand in our way to a richer life. I have for many years deliberately chosen to work in a way that gives me this freedom. For example, I have chosen to have fewer clients than most of my peers. We have outsourced many aspects of our business. Over the years, all these decisions have contributed to our team's flexibility. We don’t always get it right and there are times when work takes priority but it’s not our normal.
This ability to arrange our time is one of the most empowering and important aspects for people in midlife. How can you gain that ability? What must you outsource to carve out time? What must become non-negotiable for you? How can you bring back joy to your work?
You may have financial wealth or may be working hard towards it, but without the time to enjoy it now or in the future, it is useless. How can you win with your time?