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Controlling Your Own Schedule

Sometimes people use their job as their blanket excuse for not being in control of their schedule. “Oh… I can’t because I have a job,” is the main reason people give for not being able to do 30-day trials, experience extended travel, and do immersive deep dives.


by Steve Pavlina from

However, during periods without a job, these same people often switch to a different excuse. Oh… I can’t because I’m unemployed right now.

Self-employed people do this too. Oh… I can’t because I have to work.

Work will come and go. Your finances may fluctuate over time. But no matter what, time is passing. You have the same number of days this month that anyone else has. You’re free to decide how you’ll use these days. If you want to spend this time on work, you can do that. If you want to spend the time on other growth and lifestyle activities, you can do that too.

You Have More Control Than You Think

Many people have a hard time accepting the responsibility of being in control, so they yield this control to someone else. Unless you’re being forcibly enslaved, giving someone else control of your schedule is only a temporary assignment. The truth is that you’re still in control all along because you can make a different decision whenever you desire.

If you give control of your schedule to a boss, a company, a client, a spouse, or anyone else, that’s a temporary choice. These people don’t actually have control over your time without your consent. You can always change your mind and start saying “No, thanks” to their requests.

Not having control over your schedule can be stressful. But the lack of control is an illusion. You chose to put yourself in that situation, and you didn’t have to. You could have made different decisions, and you still can. If you don’t like the stress, you can take back control and make different decisions.

I’m not suggesting that you can control other people’s reactions, and fortunately you don’t need to. I’m just suggesting you can start using your time differently and thereby get different results.

Shortly after I started my first business developing computer games, I made the mistake of giving control over my schedule to other people, mostly publishers I worked with. That created a lot of stress. Several years later when I realized I didn’t have to do that, I stopped and reclaimed control over my schedule. The stress went way down, and I enjoyed my life and my work so much more.

Even when I was deep in debt, I realized I didn’t have to waste my time answering creditors’ phone calls or reading their computer generated letters. During a time when it seemed entirely unreasonable to control my own schedule, I took back control and let everyone else lay the consequences upon me. I worked on the projects that appealed to me. I exercised a lot. I put more energy into my overall enjoyment of life. I let the most demanding people spin their wheels while I focused on my own goals.

Is this completely selfish? I don’t think so, especially since contribution was a big part of my goals. By taking back control, I learned to make better decisions than others had been making on my behalf.

The people I know who enjoy the greatest lifestyle freedom (and usually the greatest all-around happiness) wield a lot of control over their schedules. They decide what they want to do and when they’ll do it. They don’t always get it right, but they figure out what works for them through trial and error. They like seeing each year as a canvas upon which they consciously paint the unfolding story of their lives.

We all have this freedom. We just have to step up and claim it, which means we have to start consciously rejecting unreasonable claims to our time.

Even if someone else seems to control some of your schedule, this is happening with your consent. You didn’t have to consent to this, and you still don’t. No one else actually controls how you spend your time. People can offer you tasks to do, and you can accept or decline those at will. Either way there are consequences.

You control your schedule. You can pretend that you don’t, but yielding control to someone else is only a mind-game you play with yourself.

The Real Consequences

What are the consequences of not following orders? You may get chastised. You may get fired or rejected. What keeps you in line is the fear and resistance regarding those consequences. The real consequences are usually no big deal though.

The consequences that many people fear are the same consequences that other people accept and enjoy as their daily reality. I get chastised now and then. And I’ve lived without a job for 24 years so far. These aren’t scary consequences to be avoided. This is just normal, everyday life.

Look at the flip side. Have you thought about the consequences of obedience and passivity? What are the consequences of following too many orders? You may not be able to travel much. You may not have time to explore a rich and rewarding social life with quality friends. You may not be able to consciously work on your personal growth. You may not have time to set and achieve your own goals. You may miss out on life itself.

There are consequences on both sides. The question I like to ask is this: Which path will yield the most growth in the long run?

The main reason I don’t give someone else control over my schedule is that I trust that I’ll make smarter, more growth-oriented decisions than they will. I don’t have to make brilliant decisions every day, and I wouldn’t find that realistic anyway. I just have to outperform a would-be boss, which isn’t difficult.

The Growth Challenge of Freedom

Having lots of control over your schedule is a major growth challenge unto itself. What will you do with all that time? There are so many possibilities to consider! How can you even chose from such an endless sea of possibilities?

People often let someone else make these choices for them because they don’t understand the real challenge. The challenge is simply to make a better use of your time than someone else would choose for you.

You can hire someone to control your time for you, but they’ll generally take a significant cut of the value of your labor for the privilege (typically 60-70%). Hiring a manager (i.e. a boss) is expensive, so if you go this route, be sure to hire a quality manager who will listen to your feedback and help you grow and improve over time. Having a mentor boss for a while can be a valuable part of your journey.

When you’re in control of your own schedule, your personal weaknesses are fully exposed. If you aren’t very focused or disciplined, you’ll soon find yourself drifting and flailing. Then you have a growth challenge. How can you make reasonably intelligent decisions and focus and discipline your mind to get things done? Can you do this on your own?

These are tough challenges to be sure. That’s why the self-determination route appeals to me so much. These challenges really push me to grow. I find myself dropped into a sea of possibilities, and I must learn to swim.

This challenge is there for all of us. Just because we pretend it isn’t there doesn’t make it recede. You can give someone else control over your schedule, but the personal challenge remains intact. The invitation to greater growth is always present. You can embrace this challenge by consciously wielding control over your own schedule, acknowledging that you can never truly assign this responsibility to someone else. Or you can go dark and pretend you aren’t in control.

Oh… I can’t because I have a job, isn’t a valid excuse for not tackling other growth challenges. You can tackle whatever challenges appeal to you, so don’t pretend to be helpless and out of control. Just say, “I choose not to tackle these growth challenges because I’m currently exploring and enjoying other growth challenges right now.” Even when you’re choosing to follow orders for a while, stay conscious by acknowledging that you’re always in control over your decisions and your schedule.

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