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There is a very dangerous virus that has been bothering people for as long as I can remember:
Lack of time.
You can easily spot those people who have been infected with symptoms like:
- “I don’t have enough time to do it”
- “I’m too busy”
- “I wish that there was a 25th hour in a day”.
When you think of it, getting infected with this virus is very easy, as it’s very contagious.
Not only might you have a day job and a family that takes most of the hours of your day, you might have a number of other of other activities that consume your time.
For example, you might have numerous hobbies that you are involved with. And even if that wasn’t enough, you could be easily persuaded to do other new activities that add yet another row to your ever growing task list.
Eventually you’ll start to burn out because of the constant busyness. Even your relaxation time (weekends) is not giving you the needed recovery from the weekdays.
Now that you have gotten infected by the virus, you are desperately looking for a vaccine to cure yourself.
Two elements of a stressful life
So many people are chasing themselves into the corner when it comes to time usage. This in turn causes them to feel stressed, overwhelmed and burned out.
But why is it so?
When you dissect the life of a busy person, you see two components that are present in their lives:
- Trying to do too much with too little time
- Too many commitments
When you are trying to do too much with too little time, you are going to hit the wall very fast: you realize very quickly that you are spreading yourself too thin.
What also happens is that you are having difficulties finding down-time for relaxing and recharging – components that you absolutely need to keep your wheels rolling on a daily basis.
One part of the problems relies on the fact that we tend to be too optimistic with our time. We overstuff our schedules thinking, that we are able to get everything done we have thought of – within a day. Unfortunately, this approach tends to fail, as our plans may change and the planned schedules don’t include any flexibility in them.
Finally, it’s the commitments that give us headaches – especially the amount of them.
Very often we want to participate in many things at once, for example by having different hobbies. Unfortunately, no matter how interesting or exciting they are, we have too many things on our plate that eat up our time.
The sad fact is that the more commitments you have, the less focused you are going to be. Compare this to the situation where you select only one or two commitments and master them properly.
Have you set your vision? Goals?
Years ago I was living without a vision and goals. It was like living in a daze and floating around without any idea of what to do with my life. This also meant that my life was disorganized, because I didn’t have any clear path to follow.
Although your personal vision is important, so are your goals, since they should support the vision.
Take goals as a route to your vision – the ultimate picture of what you want to be. So no matter if you know your end goal, you should have at least some kind of idea on how to reach your destination.
Eventually your vision should reflect your daily life too. When you start taking action on matters that take you to the vision, your life is more focused and less involved with various commitments.
The vaccine that kills the virus
To make a profound change in your life, you should start out by defining your vision: where you want to go and what do you really want to do.
Next, define sub-goals that take you closera to your vision. On a daily basis, ask if a certain action is taking your closer or farther away from your end goal.
Then, be ruthless about your commitments (for example your hobbies). If possible, keep the ones that you are really passionate about and just let go of the rest.
I know that this advice takes some time to get used to, but keep this thought alive at the back of your head. What I have noticed from my own personal experience is that times change and so do my interests and passions towards different things.
Finally, you should learn to say “no.” Sometimes this is more difficult, sometimes it’s easier. However, when you do this, you block commitments that do not serve your vision. It also leads you to a simpler life, since you are not overwhelmed with numerous commitments.
Here is to cure the infection
To eliminate the “lack of time” virus, do the following:
1. Figure out your strengths and vision. A couple of years ago I took the DISC test and it changed my life. I was amazed at how well it described me. At the same time, I was able to set the right direction in my life.
Block some time (for example an hour in the Sunday afternoon) and take the test. Then analyze the results very carefully (Please be aware that although you have to give your personal information to get to the test, it’s worth it).
One of the core ideas behind DISC is to tell about your personal strengths. When you are aware of them, it’s easier to define your personal vision – your ultimate goal.
2. Cut down your commitments. Once you have an idea of what you want, it’s time to cut back on commitments. However, it’s not going to be easy.
If you are like me, you have many interests and you have been emotionally tied to those interests. But when you ask yourself “what kind of value is this commitment bringing into my life?” you start to see things differently.
Another thing to note is that you should reflect the commitments to your current life situation. For instance, I decided to stop racing in triathlons and focus on running only.
There were two reasons for this.
First, my wife and I had a baby and I wanted to spend more time at home with my family – instead of spending hours on the bike on the road.
Second, I wanted to focus on a certain passion of mine: running. This simplified my schedules and made my life less stressful.
3. Set the boundaries. By setting your boundaries, you limit the assignments and actions that you might otherwise get involved into.
For instance, I try to set my working hours in a way that I can have as much time with my family as possible. Knowing this helps me to plan my day accordingly and maximizes my available time.
4. Stop saying yes. Train your “no muscle” on a continuous basis. I know, saying “no” is not the easiest thing in the world, but when doing it properly, it can be done.
When we dig deeper behind the scenes of the “lack of time” virus, most likely we are going to find too many commitments that we are involved with.
By taking the simple steps laid out in this post, you can eliminate the virus, make your life less stressful and you’ll find that lost time again.
Over to you: How do you make sure you are not over-committing yourself?
Timo Kiander, a.k.a. Productive Superdad, teaches WAHD superdad productivity for work at home dads. If you want to get more productive in your own life, grab 222 of his best Tips for Becoming a Productivity Superstar.
Photo by kat m research