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Bill told me his New Year’s resolution was to take Fridays off.
But then he told me that he woke up early on Friday morning three weeks ago and went into the office. Somewhere on the drive over, it dawned on him that something that required him to work had come up every Friday since the beginning of the year.
What’s worse, he told me that since New Year’s Day, he dreads going to his office on Mondays. Why? Because he had already been working on Saturday and Sunday, and so he had no time off; just work, work, work.
When I asked Bill why he went into the office on Fridays after promising not to, he answered quietly.
“I only have myself to blame. When my client asked if I could meet on Friday, I said ‘Yes.’” Bill didn’t understand about setting boundaries.
Finally, Bill had enough. And after we talked, he said he was done. No more Friday appointments and no more coming into the office on weekends.
Since then, his life has been different.
When I started my design firm some years ago, the ad agency we aspired to emulate was Chiat Day. They had a reputation for doing breakthrough work. They also had a reputation for working through evenings and weekends.
When people were hired, they were given a company t-shirt printed with a legend that read, “If you don’t come in on Saturday, don’t bother coming in on Sunday.”
Another one said, “Chiat Day. 24/7/365.”
Was that trade-off, surrendering all your free time to impress big clients and win advertising awards, worth it?
Chiat Day thought so. And back then, I thought so too.
In his book, The Five Love Languages, author Gary Chapman lists the five priorities his studies show most people look for in their relationships:
- Words of Affirmation
- Quality Time
- Acts of Service, and
- Physical Touch.
Chapman writes that we can discover people’s unique love language by delving into the recurrent themes of their complaints about their romances.
This may be true in other areas of our lives as well.
Take the issue of Bill’s feeling overworked, for example. Bill never complained about the accolades he received from his clients (Words of Affirmation), his remuneration (Gifts), the purpose of his work (Acts of Service), nor his relationships with his clients (granted, I might be stretching here because Physical Touch has no place in most professional relationships).
Bill complained about his lack of Quality Time. And that’s what he needed to set boundaries to protect.
But as the old saying goes, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, chances are it’s a duck.”
What could you eliminate from your life that would make you happier?