I have many times experienced that there just isn’t enough time to do all the things I want and to achieve all the things I want. Then I realize I don’t have less time than Bill Gates, Barack Obama, Peter Thiel or any other high achievers. Do I have a more stressful environment than most people? Not really. Then what is the problem? I have come up with some valid points which are probably true for most people with some exceptions of course.
Research says that the average American spends about 3-4 hours in front of the TV every day. Wow, that’s 1100-1500 hours a year! Imagine what someone could do with all those hours. For some it’s not TV but random surfing the web, Youtube, Facebook or other distracting things that steal our time. I’m not sure how much time I spend just wasting time but it’s not insignificant. Why do we do this then? I think one reason is that we lack energy. When we get home from work we just want to lay down in the sofa and rest. There are some simple steps to get more energy.
The first is to sleep well. Years back I just felt that if I slept I lost a lot of valuable time. The truth is with enough sleep I get more focus and can achieve more. So the time gets better in use and I actually achieve more by spending that extra hour in bed.
The second is to eat well. Have you ever felt that sudden urge to sleep after lunch or dinner? In Sweden we call it food coma. Those times it usually makes me quite ineffective at work for about two hours. Our bodies need a good blend of vitamines and minerals and slow carbs that keep our blood sugar levels stable for a longer time. With fast carbs like in sugar or wheat meal we get a rush of energy but very soon the body gets even lower on energy than before. I have also realized that meat seem to have a negative effect on this as well.
The third is exercise. With cardio training we exercise our heart. With a strong heart we can better absorb the oxygen in the air and will not get tired as easily. With strong muscles we can be doing hard work without getting as tired, will have less pain such as back pain, neck pain and so on.
Sometimes we have all the energy we need but just lack the motivation to do it. For me now and then I find myself just wasting an entire weekend just because I don’t want to do anything. Some keys to get motivated is to have a goal in the first place. Think of your values and where you really want to be in life in say five or ten years. Then take small steps that will take you in the direction of your desire and values. If you follow this it’s easier to find motivation.
As I have said previously in my blog post “Multitasking Utopia and the Art of Focus” many people think that being able to multitask makes us more effective. However research on this subject shows that no one is good at multitasking regardless what they say. It takes a certain time before we really get into what we are doing. It’s not until then we can be truly effective. So if you change tasks all the time, you will never be able to reach that state of focus. So try to do one thing at a time and leave all the others until you’re done with your task.
Last but not least. This may also be one of the hardest and it is to get your priorities right. Should I cook or practise my instrument? Should I read or finish this blog post? Since we only have a limited amount of time, when we have done all the other things to become effective this is the last thing to work on. Did you know that Steve Jobs almost always looked the same regarding his choice of clothes? His wardrobe was filled with black polo shirts and jeans. This was to free up valuable time and minimize the amount of choices he had to make everyday to be better at his work. Now this may seem a little bit extreme but it has its point. Choosing clothes was less important for him than to have that extra ten or fifteen minutes every day for what he really wanted to do. Also our brain can only handle a certain amount of choices everyday before it gets tired and we start making bad decisions. So by using the same type of clothes every day he got a couple of more good decisions out of the day. One of my big role models Tim Ferris usualy says “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”. That is what you should ask yourself when prioritizing. Then start with the tasks where your answer is yes.