Time is such a fascinating concept; it doesn't exist purely in and of itself. Sure, the seasons change, and you can mark your calendar by the rotation of the Earth around the Sun, but you cannot touch, hold, or feel time. Time is a concept we use to make sense of the changing seasons and the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. It cannot, however, be swiped across a Square reader, exchanged for goods, or equal its own weight in gold. Yet, it is one of the most valuable commodities on this planet.
As a small business owner, I am gradually becoming a more skilled and advanced time manager. With no one but myself to hold me accountable, I must be in charge of my own proverbial punching-of-the-time-clock. Working for yourself affords a great amount of freedom, but as with anything in life, with great freedom comes great responsibility.
I went to a small networking event a little over a month ago, and one of the best nuggets of information I left with came from Chris Harris of Refuse Ordinary. He told each of us to write down what we have to do everyday for an entire week. He then wanted us to prioritize our list by taking care of our top three IPA's (and no, IPA does not stand for beer for all you craft beer aficionados) first each day. IPA's = Income Producing Activities. I have spoken with Chris a few times since this event and he has noticed a pattern. He informed me that a significant number of the people he has spoken with realized they were spending more time on Administrative activities than Income Producing Activities (IPA's) each day. Administrative activities are important and even necessary for a sustainable business, but business growth and development are the lifeline of any small business and of which Income and Profit are vital sign indicators. This is where IPA's come in, because without them, businesses would be on life support. So once again, time is used to make sense of our ever-changing circumstances, demands, and activities each day.
This leads me to my point. Tonight, after quite a long week, I was headed to meet with my kids at Youth Life, and I found myself with an internal conflict. I didn't feel good all day, and I had a lot of IPA stuff I needed to take care of. In my mind I thought I could make little difference in their lives for the mere hour I was going to be there. In the car ride on the way there I felt, well, downright gloomy (if you live anywhere near here you know the Sun has decided to go on sabbatical for the last two weeks-popping out only here and there). But something kept pushing me to go, to not let these kids down. I made a promise to these kids, and they've already had enough people break promises in their life.
I was walking toward the building, head pounding, thinking, "Maybe I'll just tell them how bad I feel, hopefully they will understand." I rang the doorbell a couple of times, and on the second ring, here came one of my girls with a big smile on her face bouncing around the corner. She was so happy to see me and excited for class. We then walked down the hall as the kids played hide-and-go-seek with one another. It was good to see them. I thought, "Maybe I can push through for just a little bit." As we were headed into the kitchen, a girl I haven't seen since last term walked up to me. She is one of my favorite girls and she happened to be in our class tonight. She stopped me as we were walking in, and with that soft-spoken voice of hers said, "Miss Maggie, I've missed you." I was a goner. By the end of the 1.5 hours I was there, it was like someone had breathed new life into my dry bones. I enjoyed my time with them tonight and I got as much out of it as those kids. I am finally starting to understand why it "tis better to give than receive." The world will tell you to only give to those who give back. Yet from my experience, when you give to those who can't give back, giving becomes like the purse in Mary Poppins. Somehow, it keeps going. Giving adds meaning to life. Giving adds meaning to time.
There are 365 days in a year to be productive, 24 hours in a day to focus on IPA's, and 60 minutes in a hour to manage our time. Yet, we only have one life to give and in the end, when all is said and done, this is what really matters; the moments that we gave of ourselves. Even when we thought we had nothing left to give.