How I Found Time for Me
When I was 34, I had a heart attack. I’d just finished an 18-hour stint in front of my computer, trying desperately to satisfy my most vexatious client. He was a real piece of work, this guy.
I remember laying in bed; too tired to think straight, too alert to sleep. My mind was a mess of conflicting thoughts and worries. Financial pressures were mounting and my hard work just didn’t seem to be making a difference.
As I tried to calm myself, I was struck by a sudden pain running down my left arm which extended up to my chest. Within seconds, breathing became a struggle.
Stupid as it sounds, my greatest fear was waking the rest of the family. We had two little girls back then — a newborn and an 18-month-old. So I dragged myself out of bed and staggered into the lounge room, clutching my chest as I went. What followed was a terrifying realisation that everything I’d done to this point might soon amount to nought.
This might be my last night, I thought. My kids will grow up without a father.
I was shit scared.
As luck would have it, I didn’t die that night. The pain went away and I was grateful for my near miss. That day, I checked into a clinic where they performed a battery of tests. Yes, it was a heart attack. Not enough to kill me, but a dire warning to make some changes in my life.
When I returned home, I emailed my client and told him I wouldn’t work for him any longer. He threatened to sue me, but in a meeting soon after with him and his colleagues, I showed him up for the callous arsehole he was and his plan was quickly dismissed.
As luck would have it, he later became the subject of a sweeping class action and he lost everything — his mansion in Brighton, his luxury pad on Hamilton Island, and his wife and kids. As my dad always said, every dog has its day.
No one Wishes they Spent More Time in the Office
Within a week of this lesson, I vowed to change my life. I worked less. I took more breaks, and I didn’t measure my success by how little sleep I took. I made time for me.
Over time, I worked less on weekends. And I took heed of the warning signs when things started heading south. Sometimes I’d turn off my computer and head into the countryside to work — just a pen, a notebook and my thoughts. Some of my best work came out of this practice, and it’s something I still do to this day.
I also made it a habit to get at least seven hours sleep a night. Today, I’m usually in bed by 10:00 pm so I can rise before the dawn. This is a special time to be up. The brain is clear, creativity is at its peak, and magic tends to happen. There’s also a beautiful psychological benefit to starting your day when the rest of the neighbourhood is asleep. It feels like you have an advantage no one else has. I do my best work at this time.
If you’re running a side-gig like I always have, working on it first thing in the morning also takes the pressure off the rest of your day. You’ve already worked on something you care about, so your mindset is much more relaxed about the tasks you need to tackle in your day job.
Sometimes, when pressure builds, I down tools and head out for a walk. The benefits of this are three-fold.
- First, it gets the body moving, which means more circulation to the heart and the brain.
- Second, it provides a change of scenery. This alone reminds you that your life doesn’t exist inside a computer screen, but out there in the real world.
- And third, it brings you back to nature, where all of us really belong. The breeze in your face and the sun on the back of your neck nourish the body and lift the spirits. You get out of your head and back into your body — a key element of meditation. Problems get solved in ways that can’t be achieved by dwelling on them, and your subconscious takes over to deliver solutions as if by magic.
Take Care of You First
When you’re on a plane and they perform the safety demonstration routine, they always tell you to grab an oxygen mask for yourself before assisting anyone else. Your life — as a parent, as a partner, as somebody’s son or daughter — is just the same.
If you don’t make time for yourself, you’ll be no good to anyone.
And any client who emails you at three in the morning and blasts you for not responding doesn’t deserve your time. Make time for yourself. You only have one life, and the last thing you want to die with is the regret that you didn’t live it to the fullest.
*I’ve written a book about killing off your debts, called The Midlife Debt Cure. In it, I explain exactly how I got myself out of debt and how you can do it, too. Fully illustrated and only 40-pages long, you’ll knock it over in less than 45 minutes. Download your copy now.
Originally published at Blaze Your Own.