Make time for what’s important

On a hot July day back in 2005, I in a sweaty hall, garbed in a cloak with mortar board, crammed in with another 250 soon to be graduates and around 1,000 family and well-wishers. In all truth, this was an anti-climax for my university career. We sat like sardines packed into neat rows and listened with boredom as the speeches were read out. Some Dame got an honourary doctorate for something that she did – good for her. Some vice-chancellor said something or other but the main speech was from someone who was described as being a well known figure in the engineering school – someone we all knew (and supposedly liked).

Up stepped some guy I’d never seen before and he started talking at us about how university changed his life and how he was proud of us or some other nonsense. I couldn’t take the guy seriously – maybe because I didn’t know who he was, or because he was slightly camp, or maybe because those who can do and those who can’t teach, who can tell? He had the air of an uncool youth pastor at a suspend your faculties and praise the lord church. Plain, dim and boring.

The next 20 minutes, sat in a humidity induced stupor, dragged on and on. He told a story about how when he was a kid he used to meet with his Granddad every Friday evening to play a game of chess and chat. When he went to university he started to get distracted by dancehalls and line-dancing (or whatever was popular in the 80s) and didn’t get to his Granddad’s for a few weeks his Granddad asked him where he’d been. “I’ve just been busy with…” was the answer and what his Granddad said has stuck with me to this day “well son, you make time for what’s important”.

Cheesy at the time but it’s that phrase “you make time for what’s important” that I’ve tried to keep in my mind when it comes to choices and decisions. All too often I’ve done something which for whatever reason made sense in my head but was time misspent. Like when I worked in sales, I thought that spending a lot of time on the road visiting clients would show my boss that I was fully committed 110% (don’t think it did really)  when my wife is left at home, stuck with kids and struggling.

What’s important to you?

Shoot the messenger at your peril. I left the ceremony laughing at that speech but its stuck with me ever since. In that time, 15 years have passed almost to the day. 15 years is a long time and in that I’ve wasted years doing things that were useless. I’ve blackholes of some years where I can’t really remember what I did at work.  But we all get the chance in every moment to stop and think. What’s important?

So what’s important to me? I am not sure that I’m building something great in my career and the sum total of my life’s work to this date may have not actually either had that much impact or hasn’t made the world a better place. Is that important to me?

So now, I’m feeling like I’m at a crossroads in my life and it’s time to start spending time on what’s important and for me that’s my wife and kids. I’m going to try to cut out what’s negative, toxic, wasteful and unproductive and focus instead on the family.

Thanks, GFF.

6 comments

  1. Sounds like we are both having similar thoughts. Being FI, close to FI or even just having a decent ‘FU’ fund allows you to potentially make some different choices to those who live pay cheque to pay cheque. A couple of days ago I submitted a request for 4 weeks of unpaid parental leave. I initially received some push-back as to why I wasn’t using my accrued annual leave. Luckily I’d already planned for this “discussion” and laid out my need to potentially take leave later in the year due to half term and Christmas holidays. My unpaid leave has now been approved.

    Trying to work, home school a 6 year and try to maintain some semblance of domestic order has left me rather tired. My unpaid leave will allow us to potentially have some decent family time over the summer holidays. It will also give me some time to reflect on whether I actually choose to return to work. Had I not made the conscious decision to invest in myself, budget well and invest for the future I’d have far fewer options. What makes it a tricky decision is that my employer is close to my home ( I normally commute 15 mins on my bike) the hours are relatively flexible and the pay is pretty good.

    I increasingly find it difficult to care about petty work issues and crazy deadlines set by others higher up in the organisation who are chasing their own agendas.

    Part of me is hanging on hoping for a redundancy payout as my employer pays 6 months redundancy.

    Anyway, best of luck with your decisions and I hope you enjoyed entertaining your children whilst your wife studied. I had a year looking after my then 1 year old son whilst my partner travelled abroad for work. It was tiring, the pay was terrible but it was the most rewarding thing I ever did. Note – other people’s experiences may vary. (DYOR).

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    • Thanks David.
      Your position is pretty enviable imo.
      Negotiating for you to have 4 weeks of your own time back in exchange for not being paid is sadly a luxury that many people don’t have.
      I have no idea how working full time and having kids on summer holidays works. 5 weeks holiday a year is not enoigh.
      Then again my parents were teachers so I was spoiled.

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      • The school holidays are usually a tricky balancing act. Last year we used Sainsbury’s Active Kids. My son was able to do sport activities and get a packed lunch for £7.50 a day which was amazing value. It was hosted at his school and many of his friends also went. I took Mon and Fri off and he went for 3 days a week. I have the option to “buy” extra holidays each year from out flexible benefits scheme. That usually gives me about 35 days leave each year. It still requires careful planning though. Most of the parents I know both work and it’s pretty rare that they can all take time off together due to having limited annual leave.

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  2. Odd isn’t it what stays with you? It’s such good advice though – figure out what matters to you & make time for it. It always shows.

    Btw – a bizarre comment – but I love the sea otters tag – one of my favourite creatures. Was lucky enough to see them in the wild once – they are just as cute in real life!

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