What's the freedom/time paradox? Find out in this post.

The freedom/time paradox – Freedom Road #3

This post was originally posted on WFA.Life. The Freedom Road series documents my transition to a more freelance, less corporate working life.

When I first agreed to write for WFA.Life, I was very excited. I was chuffed to be asked by Andy to document my journey and share it with y’all. After all, what better way to be accountable than to be public in my declarations of moving forward? If I said it here, in this space, in this forum, I had to do it, right?

I admit that I’m a little bit stuck.

In my last post, I berated myself (hyperbole for effect!) for making a number of mistakes that have held up my journey to freedom. I had a plan, and trying to rectify my working situation was taking up huge amounts of energy that I could have expended on Freedom Road. I had neither the energy or inclination to work on my plan. I’m single and have to have money coming in. Not working is not an option for me. I didn’t have the luxury of saying to my partner: Tag. You’re it. I’m taking a year or so off to focus on this alternative income thing, and you’re going to have to cover things for me.  It will be your turn in a year or so when I am a gazillionaire. To be fair, I don’t think anyone really has this luxury any more!

My plan, like any good plan, needs time to come to fruition. Certain things have to happen for other things to follow. I had intended on doing a whole bunch of Udemy courses (which, incidentally I had purchased in the New Year when they had their sale) to position myself with more up-to-date, in demand skills: SEO, social media, Google Adwords. That sort of thing. I even have an Udemy course on Affiliate Marketing. I’ve got to maybe two of them, and it’s been in a very ad hoc, slap dash way. So ad hoc and slap dash, in fact, that I’m going to have to got back over material because I haven’t retained anything, let alone put it into practice.

I’ve been to workshops and seminars and thought: Yep! I can do that. Hell, I need to do that. But I haven’t.

Not having the energy and the inclination because I am worried about my work situation means that I don’t have time.

I need time

But I need time.

I need time to write my business plan. And my marketing communications plan. I need time to build my websites (I have four) and increase the traffic to each of them. All four have very different target audiences, and content, and so require a different traffic acquisition strategy. I need time to organically build my social media followers and my email subscribers, because organic is best. It takes time to work out which platform I should be focusing my blog republishing efforts. And my guest blogging efforts. It takes time to republish. And to comment… and engage… and interact. To produce content—good quality content irrespective of whether it’s written, visual or auditory—and disseminate it into various channels, takes time.

It breaks my heart (again with the hyperbole!) to realise that I am only one person and I don’t have a lot of time to focus on the things I need to focus on to make the next chapter of my life play out.

I don’t have a lot of time, because I don’t have a lot of energy.

I don’t have a lot of energy because I am having to direct my efforts into making sure that my life right now is ok and do-able and workable. That I actually have a life. That I don’t spend all my time like a hamster on a wheel, nose to the grindstone, just churning out stuff.

And this is the paradox in which I find myself.

I need freedom

In order to have freedom, I need time. But I don’t have the time unless I have freedom.

So maybe I need to redefine and unpack the concepts of freedom and time, what they mean to me and why.

I always thought freedom meant being able to work on awesome projects with awesome people and get paid really, really well to do it. Location isn’t important; it’s more about being able to work wherever I want, even if it’s close to home or in my own city. It’s more the idea of being able to be geographically nimble—if I so choose—that’s important. It’s about being free to work on my own creative projects too, as well as with others on theirs.

I’m aware that I need to scrutinise how I use my time. We all have 24 hours in a day. Of course, some of that is taken up with rest and sleep and down time, as it should. My health is important to me, so I factor exercise in to my day. I usually work on my own projects on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays. And then there’s my paid work, and the amount of time that consumes.

And that’s where the energy thing comes in. After a full day at work, battling (and it is a battle!) with politics and personal agendas and just trying to survive, I don’t want to do anything when I get home, although I know I need to. I’m exhausted!

So I think I can be forgiven for coming home from work and putting on my PJs and cuddling up with the cat and drinking wine and watching all the TV instead of taking more steps down Freedom Road.

And I don’t think it’s going to let up any time soon, because I’m still sorting through an uncertain work situation.

Permission granted

All I can do, in the circumstances, is lots of little, non-time consuming things that add up to big things, instead of trying to do it all. I can focus on one Udemy course and watch a few lectures at a time, instead of looking at all my Udemy courses and being overwhelmed with how much material I have to get through.  I can post to Instagram and Twitter every day, which builds up my profile and increases my followers over the long term. I can do bits and pieces of my business and marketing plans whenever I get a few spare moments. I don’t have to republish content every week. Once a month is enough. I just need to do one print run of one book. That’s ok.

It is in these little things that we find our power. The power of persistence, the power of perseverance, the power of permission.

Because more than anything, there is power in permission. Permission to not do. Permission to choose. Permission to just be. Permission to park things until another day. Permission to say: You are doing a good job in difficult circumstances. 

And sometimes that is more than enough.

Photo by Heather Zabriskie. Used with permission.

Did this post resonate with you?

Collection 4: Working It Out of the Love & Other Brave Acts (Essays on Courage for Fearless and Fabulous Living) series is all about work, workplaces and organisational culture.If you liked this post, then you’ll love my collection of essays about work.

Part memoir, part analysis of workplace culture, I consider the world of work and the definition of career success. And anyone who has found themselves disillusioned about the progress of their career—and that’s a lot of us!—will relate to this book.

Grab your copy of Collection 4: Working is Out  from the Amazon Kindle Store for .99c.

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