photo by: grufnik
We’re very good at preparing to live, but when it comes to actually living, we tend to struggle. We’re willing to sacrifice years in school to get a degree, or 12 hour days in position we’re not happy with to get a promotion. What is really important is realizing the abundance of happiness and joy we have available to us right now, within ourselves.
For a long time I’ve struggled with what it means to be fulfilled. I often associated how much I got done, or how much I accomplished with my personal fulfillment. However, no matter how much I got done, no matter how much external success I achieved, I was left feeling empty. That’s how I realized no matter how much external success I achieved, it was never going to bring me fulfillment. I also realized, the more I did things that were important to me, the more I nurtured my soul and took time to do the things I truly desired, the happier I became. Not only did I become happier, but I also had more energy and more motivation to get things done and make achievements. I started to learn how I could incorporate these two as well and instead of compartmentalizing my life, I began developing congruency. Here are some simple ways you can create more time for the important things in your life.
- Realize the difference between efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency is being able to do things really well, in a timely manner, with as little resources as possible. Or with only the necessary means, it’s clean, and speedy. But you can be clean, fast and always on time while going nowhere. That is, if you’re really efficient at creating a 100 folders and rules for all your email and having them all sorted properly and compiled into a nice spreadsheet, that’s great. But is that moving you closer to your goals? Just because you do something efficiently, doesn’t make it important. Effectiveness however has to do with results. How capable your are of achieving a desired result. Realize the difference between being effective and being efficient and you will start to realize what matters and what doesn’t.
- Eliminate as much as possible. Take an inventory of everything that you do in a given day. Anything that isn’t necessary to achieve your goals, eliminate it. A good rule to go by when eliminating is the 80/20 rule. The 80/20 rule states that 80% of your results come from 20% (or less) or your efforts. If you don’t believe me, test it out for yourself. Take a look and see where most of your results are coming from. It’s likely that they’re coming from a relatively small amount of your actions. After you’ve identified where the most results are coming from, focus on and multiply your efforts in those areas and eliminate any effort in the others.
- Limit your time. Parkinson’s law states the longer amount of time we’re given to complete a task, the bigger we’ll make it out to be. If we have 3 months, we need 3 months. If we have 2 weeks, we need every day in that 2 weeks. However, if we need it done the next day, somehow we miraculously are able to accomplish what we wouldn’t have thought possible had we been given more time. This is because no matter how much time we have to do something, we’ll always find a way to fill that time up, mostly with doing things that aren’t important. Give yourself time limits to tasks your results will improve dramatically.
- Establish limits to repeated tasks. They’re a lot of things we do that need to be repeated on some basis. Checking and responding to email is a great example. Email should take up only a small portion of your day, maybe 30 minutes at most. But we get so absorbed in this “need to know” mindset that we develop a mammoth time wasting habit. The same goes for filing, checking voice mail, updating our calendars, checking our calendars, checking stats on stocks or web traffic, all of these tasks can and should be batched. We waste a lot of time simply switching from the mindset of one task to another, so it’s useful to set times for when we’ll do certain tasks. Now we can stop worrying about what our email status or shipping status is and focus on what is really important to us.
- Fix the cause of the problem, don’t just put a band-aid on it. If there’s a problem that keeps coming up in your life, take the time to find out the root of the problem. This might require journaling about it, meditating, or talking to a close friend. It might take some research online or reading a book. Whatever it is, find the source of the problem and fix it, instead of just treating the symptom. A good example for this could be that you have a problem keeping sustained levels of energy throughout the day. So what do you do? Have another cup of coffee, maybe a rockstar, or redbull. But what’s really causing your lack of energy, is it not getting enough sleep at night? Is your diet out of balance? Whatever the cause is, treat it from the source. This might require some maintenance, but when we find permanent answers to our problems instead of quick fixes, we spend less time worrying about them and free up a lot of wasted energy.
Tools for staying focused on the important and enriching your life.
- Be mindful, this will enable you to be aware of when you are spinning your wheels, when you are spending too much time on unimportant things. Create a mantra that you will repeat at the beginning of each day, “what is important to me today?”.
- Always do your best. Remember, to always do your best. Your best will also vary depending on your circumstances. In the morning when you are fully rested your best will be better than after you have worked a full day. Always doing your best is about taking action, and when you put these steps into action you will get results.
- Stop trying to be a perfectionist. Perfection is an illusion. We strive for perfection because we have an image in our minds of what we should be, but what we are not. Realize that perfection and imperfection are a result of a conflict in your mind, they don’t exist in reality. You have to make mistakes in order to grow, don’t let perfectionism paralyze you. If you’re not failing, chances are you’re not trying hard enough.
- Get organized. Write your goals and your aspirations down. Write your to-do list, project lists down somewhere you can see them often. Then write a desire and intention list. Cross-reference these lists and see if your to-do actions line up with your desires and intention, the things that are important to you. Ask yourself if there is anything that you need to do that isn’t truly important, that doesn’t align with your desires, if so delete it. Often we know where we want to go in our hearts, but the ambiguity of what actions need to be taken is what stifles and keeps us frustrated the most. Once our desires and dreams are defined, they can be achieved.
- Ask yourself questions. How often do we talk to ourselves, yet we are not really listening. We go on and on conversing in our own minds aka thinking. But in order to really communicate with ourselves we need to ask questions. Asking ourselves questions helps us to define our intentions and desires and realize the actions needed to make them a reality. Here are a few questions to get your started:
- If I could be the best at anything what would it be?
- If I knew I could do anything without failing, what would I do?
- What strengths do I have that could be best used to make a meaningful contribution to the world?
- If today were the last day of day of my life, would I want to be doing what I’m doing today?
Remember what you created more time for. We didn’t eliminate all those unnecessary tasks and wheel spinning so we could sit idly and do nothing (unless of course you want to become a monk). We did it so we could have more time to follow our passions, to realize our dreams, to fulfill our deepest desires and longings. What we are really seeking is the experience of being alive. Not the fulfillment of to-do lists and completion of projects. When we realize this, that’s when we wake up and start living.
The miracle is not to walk on water. The miracle is to walk on the green earth, dwelling deeply in the present moment and feeling truly alive.
-Thich Nhat Hanh