Stella is the mother of a 4 and 7 year old, and she and her husband have free-lance careers. After a particularly profitable year, Stella decided to take some time off to spend with her children. She really enjoyed having more time to be with her kids and to take care of the household in ways she couldn't while working full-time.
However, she realized two things after filling out the Good Life Assessment Flower: 1) she felt a lack of freedom because she didn't know how long she could continue her reduced work schedule without negatively impacting their finances, and 2) even with this new arrangement she felt time deprived and did not have time for pursuing personal interests she found fulfilling.
Despite being financially savvy, Stella did not know what her monthly household budget was. She and her husband had always had enough, and when they had more, they spent more. She owned, and had even read, Your Money or Your Life, but she hadn't taken the time to do the book's exercises which offer a step by step process for analyzing how we value money versus our time.
We then asked Stella to create some metrics that would indicate to her when she had enough time. She came up with three.
1) Time to get involved with creative projects.
2) Time to connect with friends more often.
3) Time to visit her favorite local coffee shop once a week.
We wondered if she could find the resources to read the book again, and this time to do the exercises. In that way she would have a solid understanding of her household's fixed and discretionary budgets as well as the corresponding life energy required for those expenses. Stella said that she had an offer of free childcare for when she worked. We all agreed that going through the exercises in the book would offer a similar, if not better, result to her regular free-lance work: she would be supporting her family's well-being and would likely find ways to improve the work-life balance to everyone's benefit.
Then there was an inspired flash. She could do the exercises in her favorite coffee shop and by so doing feed two birds with one seed. With this piece in place, Stella moved from feeling overwhelmed and frustrated by the situation to feeling hopeful and excited. Every week for 2-3 hours she would go to a place she enjoyed and work through the structured exercises in the book to clarify her family's finances and goals. She would immediately get to experience one of her time goals while preparing for future positive changes.
To include the rest of her family in prioritizing how to spend their time and life energy, we agreed that the question, "What was your favorite part of the day?" was a good start to find out what each of them found enjoyable and fulfilling. Stella said, "This is a perfect dinner time question for us to make the transition from the busyness of the day to being together."
And with that, Stella's simple plan was born.
To create your simple plan, consider the following:
Once you have a plan, it is important to make a commitment of time and attention to doing it. You may need to make some course corrections along the way, and it is always helpful to monitor what works and doesn't. Having measurable mileposts can help keep you motivated and inspired. And of course, there should be some sort of acknowledgement or celebration of your success. (Create The Good Life merit badges, anyone?)
Beth and Eric
This monthly slow essay is from Beth Meredith & Eric Storm of Create The Good Life.
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