Making Time for Self-Discovery

by Andrew Jacob

As a self-employed freelance writer and father of a two-year-old who recently moved, I feel like I’m “busier than thou.” Things have really been snowballing. Today, I had to finish closing a pool, run a business, drive my wife to work because her car is in for repairs, help look after my human child and fur children, hand out Hallowe’en candy, and write a blog post for PWAC Waterloo Region, among other less remarkable duties like cleaning the litter box, taking out the garbage, and washing dishes.

Ever since I read Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You have More Time Than You Think, however, I’ve remained very aware of what I believe Vanderkam refers to as the narrative of ‘time poverty,’ something I understand to be a narrative of helplessness. Based on my reading of Vanderkam, “I don’t have time for x” is of a passive mindset, and in order to feel more in control of your situation, and take greater responsibility for what you do and do not do, you can assert that “x is not a priority for me.” I can’t recommend Vanderkam’s book, recommended to me by PWAC Waterloo Region colleague Helen Lammers Helps, enough.

Despite all the things that have been clamouring for my attention lately, I’m glad I made attending the last PWAC Waterloo Region monthly meeting a priority. We had a guest speaker, John Yost, who has been in “B2B” sales for decades with local radio stations, and it was my understanding that he would be talking to us about cold calling prospects. I’m very fortunate that I don’t need to market my services right now, but to paraphrase a local leadership expert, Jim Clemmer, we need to be prepared to “change, or be changed” when change comes along, so I knew I needed to attend this meeting. Again, I’m really glad I did. In the context of leading discussions about cold calling prospects, John had us engage in a most illuminating exercise, a “Behavioural Buyer Styles” inventory. The categories into which those of us who attended would fall included “Doers and Divers,” “Talker/Relationship Person,” “Steady Plotter,” and “Controller.” I ended up having a pretty dominant category, that being “Controller,” and from what I gathered from the meeting, you need to know what your buyer style is before you go out selling, and perhaps what sorts of buyers you might be trying to interact with and sell to. For instance, I, as a “Controller,” am very analytical, by the book, and factual, and have little interest in sharing personal stories in the business context.  My awareness of that might help me better sell or just relate to a “Talker/Relationship Person.” This was a tremendous moment of what I would call “self-discovery,” tremendous because I spend so many of my hours focusing on the needs of others including clients and family, which is not to say that acts of service do not give me pleasure. However, I spend very little time analyzing me, how I do what I do, and how others might perceive these things.

Going back to Vanderkam, some of her suggestions for spending your time on your “core competencies” (which for this writerly audience would include writing) in order to optimize your time might seem unrealistic at first blush. To me, they amount to outsourcing, like hiring a personal chef to prepare your meals for the week, or hiring a laundry service, or hiring a personal shopper to help you make optimal attire choices. Although one must spend money to make money, I’m not prepared to implement any of those suggestions. Still, I think it’s so very worthwhile to find ways to prioritize “self-discovery,” whatever that means to you. It could mean reading so-called self-help books, reflection, keeping time logs, videoing yourself working on something, asking others for feedback, or joining a professional association.

If you’re a writer in Waterloo Region, the Waterloo Region chapter of the Professional Writers Association of Canada holds its meetings once a month except in December. As Lori mentioned in last month’s post, we’re “a small group, so our members never get lost in the crowd.” I’ve attended larger chapter meetings, and I can definitely see why a smaller group size is advantageous. Still, we’d like to grow our group, so if you’re considering joining PWAC, feel free to email us and drop in on a meeting to get to know us prior to making a decision whether to join.