The Importance of Alone Time

I need some space.  I can’t handle people right now.  All I want to do is curl up with a cup of coffee and a nice book.  Just give me an empty room and a few hours, and I’ll be okay… We’ve all been there.

Introverted or extroverted, we all experience a similar struggle of needing time for ourselves.  Let’s face it, people are burdensome and annoying.  After the throes of work, family, and all those other obligations, you don’t want to spend what little spare time you have left being around more people.  By this point their very presence annoys you, even if they’re just sitting quietly beside you.

“‘He hasn’t really ever done anything to me.  It’s more the mere fact that he exists,’ James said thoughtfully.  ‘If you know what I mean…'”

It’s okay to feel this.  You’re not a sardonic jerk.  You’re not really a hateful person – you just wish people would disappear.  This simply proves you’re still human, that you have yet to be turned into another cog in the machine.

We know we need time together with people.  We are, after all, a social species.  Socializing and being around others is very important.  What is as important, though, is time spent away from others.  “Alone time” often invokes the idea of taking a time-out from, or pausing, reality.  In truth, rather than taking away from productivity, time to one’s self enriches that individual as much as time with others does.  In fact, there’s a dynamic effect between the two, with each strengthening the other.  Time with people makes time alone better and more effective, as time alone causes time with others to be all the more sweet.

In a world where we run little risk of being around people too little, it is immensely important that we take time for ourselves, to be alone, to focus on something that isn’t related to the person next to you or on the other end of the phone.  The human body is an incredibly durable specimen, but each has its threshold.  There’s only so much stimulus each of us can take before we start to overflow.

Overstimulation, along with work that doesn’t align with our values, is a major player in both burn-out and general fatigue.  You’re familiar with the process.  Too much is going on at one time, you become overwhelmed, you start to shut down.  By this point your mind and body are both telling you to take some time to yourself. You need time alone to process the world around you, to let it sink in so you can conquer your next tasks.  We need alone time to function.

Additionally, we need time to ourselves for introspection.  After we process the world around us, we need to process our own disheveled minds.  It is, after all, only with inspection that anything can be improved upon.  This might mean trying to understand why it is we do what we do, understanding our personal faith, or gleaning what to add to a bucket list.  It is important to set aside time for introspection to help us combat the challenges of today.  It is as important to continually realign our behaviors with our values and goals.

We also need to take a step back from the daily grind to allow ourselves time for hobbies.  Reading, writing, exercising, coaching, making music, painting, hiking, swimming, hammocking – whatever it is that truly rejuvenates you, you ought to make time for. Whenever we’re overstimulated we begin to shut down, and whenever we partake in what rejuvenates us we reboot, ready to take on the world.

Do yourself a favor and start allocating time each day for you.  Maybe you need to wake up a little earlier, but I guarantee the benefits will more than make up for that little bit of lost shuteye.


Kenneth D. Burke

Why I Quit the Opportunity of A Lifetime

Days before reaching the one year mark for my employment with the nation’s most respected Fortune 500 financial planning firm, I chose to “pursue other avenues.” The hardest part of my career – the first year building a practice from scratch – was already over. Why wouldn’t I continue to hang on, eagerly fishing for larger and larger cases while raking in renewals? I could’ve been a millionaire business owner at twenty-five. My retirement would’ve been clenched by the time I turned thirty. Here’s why I backed out.

Life is worth more than the sum total dollars you bring home while on this earth.

Life is also worth more than the sum of our experiences.

Philosophically, life is equal to the sum of our experiences.  However, its worth – the value of a human life – is far greater than what we experience alone.

But I’m not here to be existential, I’m here to talk about me.  Why did I quit the financial opportunity of a lifetime, a career opportunity others older than I look back on wishing they’d chosen?

Life – the time each of us spends in community on this planet – is more than what I can do for me.  It is more than what I can do for my wife.  It is more than what I can do for my kids.

The value of life – here’s where I want you to pay attention. The value of my life, of your life, is in how we affect others.  It is founded in how we use our strengths to benefit the fallen world around us.

It is not wrong to make a lot of money.  It is not wrong to work our tails off to make a name for ourselves, whatever each of us chooses to do.

What is wrong, what is wasteful, is to put the majority or all of our efforts into something fleeting, that does not utilize our strengths, that does not allow me or you to be fulfilled through service.

I quit the opportunity of a lifetime because, no matter how grand the dollar signs and prestige seem, my career was a hindrance to me using my particular strengths to benefit those around me.

Do people need the planning services I was providing? One hundred times, resounding, “yes!” But my strengths are able to be utilized elsewhere in form and fashion so that I can be fulfilled in doing more for more people, rather than being miserable making more money.

What are your strengths?

What are you passionate about, that your daily grind has worn you out for so long you’ve almost given up on entirely?

What are your priorities?

Where can you be the best fit?

What are you doing to simultaneously fulfill yourself and serve others?

Maybe you’re exactly where you need to be.  But maybe – just maybe – it’s time for reconsideration.


Kenneth D. Burke