Early wake up. Walking the dog. Rushing the kids to school. Answering tons of emails and calls… Back-to-back meetings. Grabbing something to eat on the go. Grocery shopping. Being stuck in traffic while making phone calls
Kate Northrup makes an interesting remark in her article, saying that we've been culturally conditioned to believe we need to do more in order to experience an abundant, happy life. Our lives overflow with the many activities and tasks we perform each day. Navigating a reality where everyone is obsessed with productivity also puts an extra dose of pressure to fill our weeks with to-do lists and raise the "I'm so busy" bar higher.
This constant state of hustling never ends well. All of us will have experienced it at some point, I'm sure. Whether it was studying for an important exam and pulling all-nighters or struggling to finalise a project at work within the deadline - we all know that functioning on continuous "go mode" has an expiration date. The inevitable consequences of crossing the limit can vary from feelings of overwhelm, anxiety, stress, insomnia and potentially burnout.
What can we do to free up time in a day? How can we afford the luxury of time and space?
1. Prioritise, then execute.
Maintaining a singular focus is an underrated skill in the era of glorifying doing hundreds of things simultaneously. "Multitasking isn't the path to greatness; it's the path to below average", says Sander A. Flaum in his article and I couldn't agree more. When we let our effort spread too thinly, not only are we preoccupied with everything except for the present moment, we also don't really make significant progress in any of the activities.
On a bigger scale, being crystal clear on what you are trying to achieve does wonders. Being oriented towards a primary goal (you might call it your mission, soul purpose or intention) helps us to attune our micro-actions in that direction.
Look at your to-do list and put the most important task on top of the list and the least important on the bottom. Then focus on the biggest challenge and execute it thoroughly before going to the next one. Get in the habit of reminding yourself of your mission and your dream.
"Vow to do one thing exquisitely well today" - Sander A. Flaum.
2. Identify unnecessary tasks.
This one is tricky. Many (if not all) of those "I must do it" activities are cluttering our to-do lists each week. We've been conditioned to believe all of the to-dos are crucial simply because ‘this is the way it's always been done' or ‘everyone else does it too’.
Look at each task on your to-do list and ask yourself:
"Do I have to do this task, or can I delegate it to someone else?”
“Does this activity connect me with my greater mission, or distract me from it?”
“ Will this task nourish me, or deplete me?”
Learn to be more selective with what you choose to invest your time and energy into. If you can afford to cut out some tasks, do it! If not, then look for a way to minimise or delegate those responsibilities. The key attitude here is not adding but subtracting. Less is more!
"Life is not about racking up a list of accomplishments" - Kate Northrup.
Give yourself permission to not always be on top of everything. Experience the heavenly spaciousness of free time, the sweet taste of dedicating a special moment to yourself.
3. Stop planning your free time.
"What do you mean? Should I just "go with the flow" and never schedule a meeting with my friends?" you might think. Well, kinda…
The research actually shows that "when a leisure activity is planned rather than spontaneous, we enjoy it less (…) it has a unique dampening effect". When we put our fun time in our calendars, it becomes yet another box to tick off the ever-growing list of chores.
Research suggests a solution named "rough scheduling". Plan a specific time window during the day for a lunch meet-up or an after-work dinner but don't specify the exact hour. This will bring a breeze of fresh air and a bit of flexibility along the way too.
Extra tip: Eliminate the unnecessary decision-making processes by introducing routines and rituals to each day.
4. Prioritise rest to increase your capability.
If you’re looking for a permission slip, this is it. Taking a break during your workday should be treated just like any other to-do.
Taking a break fosters better neural functioning of the brain. It works more or less like this: we function in two modes during the hours we're awake: focused and diffused. The first one is activated while we learn new things or work. Diffused mode occurs when we relax and let our thoughts wander for a moment. This unique state activates many brain regions which in turn boosts productivity.
Not only that, "some studies have shown that the mind solves its stickiest problems while daydreaming", says Courtney Seiter for Fast Company. Only when we stop working and set aside time to wind down, can we free up space for our brain to solve complicated issues.
When we understand that the rest is an important part of actually doing the work or achieving our dreams it can be easier to treat it like we would any other to-do. For those of us with workaholic tendencies, this can be the refreshing permission slip that we need.
"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."
- Dolly Parton.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments down below!