Success Looks Like…

One of the things that my wife and I have been talking about recently are our boundaries between the work that I do and the time that I spend with my family. Most people, couples, and even teams/organizations set schedules to help provide clarity about roles, responsibilities, and the time allotted to each but that’s never worked for us.

Boundaries, on the other hand, are incredible. It might seem like there’s just a small difference between a schedule and a boundary but it’s significant when my wife and I have examined it and it’s made all the difference, especially in terms of how both of us are made and the personalities that we have (I’m a 5151 Creative Designer and she’s a 4333 Charger).

We both don’t work exceptionally well with scheduling, especially me as my schedule changes up constantly. In fact, I purposely create different schedules so as to keep my attention as well as motivate me to complete projects and work best in my flow. As strange as this may sound, my strategy is somewhat centered around loosely organized chaos, and it has worked for me as long as I can remember.

Ultimately Sue and I land on the question of time – and the right time boundary and limit for the success that I want to see in my marriage, in my relationships, and in my two startups, 8BIT and Action & Influence. Naturally, we discussed a number of different models and I started to jot them down, as you can see in the above taken my from Action Journal.

1. More Time = More Success

The first model of success suggests that the more time you invest in a project or business (i.e. long hours) the greater success you will achieve. This is a creation of modern society and the outcause of moving from the industrial age and maintaining certain laws of productivity that we once thought were immutable.

This, we know, has been challenged and proven to be a false construct – but many of us still believe it and more than that we live and breathe it.

2. Same Time = Same Success

This model suggests that the same amount of time will generate the same amount of success. It’s kind of like the distant cousin to the first in that it’s no longer about trading time for dollars and success but that you need to systematize productivity and “raise” the standard via tools and technology.

All outcomes are the same in the end but on various fields of play. The more successful are just at a scale higher. It’s also a false construct and the holes in this model are numerous.

3. Less Time = More Success

This is like the new-age-ish concept a’la the 4hr work week type mentality that’s been created via technology and newer thoughts on communication and productivity. It’s a hyper-construct of “work smarter, not harder” and yet it fails so badly on so many different levels. It’s far too contextual to tools, systems, and personality to hold much water for most people.

In fact, just ask yourself (especially if you’ve read Tim Ferris‘ book, who I respect and admire greatly, by the way) if you’ve ever met someone who was able to successfully digest, execute, and succeed in his (and many others) model? That’s right, not many – although you’ve probably talked to a ton of people who have read it and praise it for being super-awesome.

Funny how that works, right?

The Alternative

What my spouse and I have discovered is that instead of calculating hours per week to an exact figure we simply prioritize the things that are the most important to us – and we have daily conversations about how we’re doing. We trust to God the success that I may achieve and trust Him for the results, giving him the good work of my hands.

I work hard, just like you do, but I don’t exhaust myself. I focus my efforts and waste little time on the things that I’m not naturally gifted in – things like Action & Influence are crucial for understanding these things (and even my startup teams). And I talk with my spouse and my partners about my priorities, time commitments, and efforts daily. I review, iterate, improve, and execute.

My wife and I have been doing this for so long now that it’s like breathing but a starting point for us was Andy Stanley’s book When Work and Family Collide, where he shares that he and his wife committed to building an organization on 45 hours per week – and that being the “success” that they were ok with achieving, giving them margin to invest in each other and for him to be an incredible husband and spouse.

My wife and I have done a very similar thing and we have an internal clock that we share that works – we know when we’ve both worked too much and we’re hyper-sensitive too it, mostly because I’ve tended to ignore that clock historically (I really love what I do and love to work).

There is no model of time and success that’s going to work flawlessly for you. You have to figure it out on your own and work with great people to help it make sense. Besides, success was never about the amount of time you spend doing something anyways, right?

[This is part of the Escaping the 9-5: My Road to ProBlogging series.]