18/07/2014 07:31 BST | Updated 17/09/2014 06:59 BST

Letting Grief Re-Define What Time and Success Mean


Getting the right balance has, I've found, always been a challenge. Sometimes it takes an event, or a person, to open your eyes and make you realise what's important. For me, it was both.

I've worked in Public Relations (PR) for more than 20 years and whether I've worked in-house, for agencies or for myself, work has been all encompassing. Customer service has always been my top priority and that has meant working all hours, never being able to say 'no' and sometimes living off a staple diet of coffee and chocolate.

Three years ago I lost a dear friend, and colleague, to Cancer. Every year, as the anniversary of her death comes and goes, it makes me think about her life, her words and how I've taken the memories forward.

A week before she died I remember her saying to me, 'you always think you have more time.' For much of my working life I realise that the focus has always been on time - time it takes to do a task, the time you put into getting results, charging clients by the time you spend, counting time and equating that with value, the time it takes your team to come up with ideas and answers, justifying your time, trying not to over service clients and spend too much time. Even the phrase 'spending time' makes it sound like a currency - trading it for something else that you think has meaning.

But, what about turning that on its ahead - giving time rather than spending it? Over the last three or so years I've thought about that idea of time and what it means to me. I run my own business and have done so now for six years now. When I started the business it was about getting clients, getting results and putting all my efforts into that.

And, while that is still important having a young family forces time to take on a different meaning. Our children, five and three years old, have boundless enthusiasm and take up much physical and mental energy. I work different hours to fit around the children and the type of work I do is not now so time sensitive.

Losing friends or family always makes you contemplate about life. Maybe it's also about being older and having different priorities, understanding that it's not the material things that really make a difference or bring happiness. When I was told the news that my friend had passed away I remember my immediate reaction was 'I thought there was more time.' Thinking about that now it seems a perverse and selfish reaction. I had hoped there would be more time because I hadn't done what I needed to do - to send that book and CD I thought she might like, to offer more supportive words, to say how I felt, to see her again.

At the funeral I remember another friend saying that he was trying to work out what it all meant and what he could take away from what had happened. I didn't understand what he meant then, I do now.

Grief is all around and we all experience it at some point. But, isn't it about what we can 'take away' from it, what we can learn from the person who has passed that adds to our life rather than takes away?

I realise now that my friend's passing has re-defined what success means to me. We never know how much time we, or our friends and family, have. Now, for me the priority isn't about counting my time but making my time count - picking up the phone, sending that note, keeping in touch, telling people I care, taking the time to make those I care about feel just that.

And, it stretches beyond that, it's about valuing everyone I come into contact with, appreciating life for what it has to offer and being the best I can be. It's about turning back to meditation and tuning in to what's important and meaningful and giving back in many more ways than I take.

That sense of 'giving time' rather than 'spending time' now also underpins my business and how I work with clients. While I still offer PR consultancy and coaching, I am now focusing more on very different types of services. For small business owners that want to do their own PR that means researched PR opportunities for them that they can use themselves to promote their businesses - I'm giving my time to save them theirs.

Do you 'spend' time or 'give' it? How do you make time for, and give time to, others, whether that's clients, friends, family, colleagues, acquaintances, neighbours or the passer by that you don't know? How will you 'give' your time today?