Making more time for living Featured

9:45am EDT July 22, 2002

With today’s fast paced lifestyles, it’s easy to feel like George Jetson caught on the treadmill — even beyond the traditional 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. routine.

Lindy and Bill O’Brien know all about that. They are the epitome of the energetic entrepreneurs striving to find time for themselves amid the onslaught of ever-changing business demands.

Bill, 50, runs Indian Springs, a 4-year-old food distribution business just south of downtown Columbus. Lindy, 49, is a partner in O’Brien & Roof Co., an 8-year-old executive search firm. As if their separate careers weren’t enough, together they own The Chicken Store & More, a fresh chicken, pork and cooked foods retailer on Hard Road, which celebrated its first anniversary last October.

Although Lindy says she loves serving as a headhunter for O’Brien & Roof and finding rare executive gems for major corporations such as Nationwide, she rarely has idle time on her hands due to the accounting and payroll work she does for Indian Springs and The Chicken Store.

In fact, until last summer, the soft-spoken, ambitious Lindy was finishing coursework to earn her bachelor of arts degree in psychology from Otterbein College — on top of everything else.

With days that start at 6 a.m. and usually don’t end until after 7:30 p.m., neither O’Brien counts on much of a breather, yet both realize they need to take one now and then. So they hired someone in December to work three nights a week at The Chicken Store, and although Lindy still fills in behind the counter two to three nights per week and Bill works at least one other night there, both make it a point to take Sundays off.

“We started off [in 1998] opening on Sunday and I really resented it,” Lindy says. “It wasn’t worth it. Everybody needs a break.”

Along with needing the mental replenishment a day off provides, Lindy and her husband weren’t doing enough business on Sundays to justify opening up the counter and doing all the preparation, cooking and cleaning that goes with it. They abandoned Sunday hours after the first month.

Having four children through two marriages has also conditioned the O’Briens to be on their toes. Now that all the kids are either married or in college, however, this fast-track couple may start to savor their success.

“It’s busy, but we’ve taken some long weekends where we’ve gotten some time off,” Lindy says, noting that she and her husband make a conscious effort to take a vacation once a year.

In addition, Lindy plans to free up more time for herself by buying a laptop computer with special software to consolidate the accounting processes for the three businesses they collectively run.

Constantly keeping their noses to the grindstone is a condition too many business owners can’t cure.

“When we feel like we’re getting too much that way, you just get a sense you want it to stop and you make some changes,” Lindy admits. “We try to make it a point to find time not to talk business.”

That can mean a brisk walk at Highbanks Metro Park or just playing cards with neighbors, she says.

“It’s so easy to get in that routine of work, work, work ... go home and crash.”

It doesn’t have to be that way. Lindy knows how much time people can inadvertently waste — especially after taking a statistics class at Otterbein, where, out of curiosity, she kept track for a week of how her time was allocated.

“There was more extra time there than I thought there was,” she says. “When it really comes down to it, there’s a lot of time spent sitting around. I don’t think people pay enough attention to their down time and appreciate it.”

Forrest Clarke (fclarke@hotmail.com) is a Columbus-based free-lance writer.