What do you think the key is to changing your life?
Notwithstanding the spiritual dimension, what is the one thing that you can do that will enable you to change your life for the better?
The answer is your schedule. You have to get it under control first. If you don’t, then everything else will be much more difficult.
If you want to change your diet, or start exercising, or make improvements to your business, or do anything else in your life, you first have to figure out how you’re going to fit it in.
Here’s what happens.
Let’s say that you’ve decided to eat better. You have to find some recipes that are more nutritious and that you like. Then you have to alter your shopping habits and, if that wasn’t enough, then you have to learn how to cook the new dishes. All of these things take more time than your old habits. In fact, that’s a contributing factor to bad eating patterns. It’s easier and quicker to pick up something at the drive-thru than it is to plan, shop and then cook at home.
So you can see right away that you must figure out how to accomplish all of your activities in less time than they take now, before you try to add anything else to the mix.
Time or money
You may have heard that when people first start out in an online business, for example, that they have a lot of time and no money, but that those with a successful business have a lot of money, but no time. You and I both know what is meant by this statement; but the truth is that no one has enough time anymore, rich or poor.
No matter what you’re doing to earn a living, you probably don’t have the leisure time that you would like.
The word “leisure” is an interesting one.
In the UK, it rhymes with “pleasure”. In the US, it rhymes with “seizure”.
That’s not to say that people are any less busy in the UK. It’s more of a humorous way of thinking about the lives that we lead.
We’re too busy.
Even those who are retired will tell you that they wonder how they had the time to work when they did have a job.
Myth of multi-tasking
A friend of mine who is retired says that the reason that people like him have less time is because they don’t multi-task anymore. Instead of drinking their coffee while they work at their desks, for example, they drink it while reading the newspaper or surfing the ‘Net, or having a leisurely breakfast.
(By the way. How did you pronounce “leisurely” just now when you read it? Did it sound like “seizurely”? For many, it might as well have been. We talk about how some inhale or wolf-down their food.)
Multi-tasking is actually a myth. Even computers don’t do it, though that’s where the terminology came from. Computers alternate between tasks so quickly that they give the impression that they are doing more than one thing at a time; but the truth is that they aren’t. Just like us, they can do one thing, and then they can do another one; and then another, and then another.
Does that mean that we shouldn’t even try to do more than one thing at a time?
But it doesn’t end there. What we should do is to look for those things that have enough in common that they could be grouped together.
Let’s go back to the idea of drinking coffee in the morning. I use this example because so many people can’t seem to get going without it and, that being the case, I suspect that you are able to relate to it.
The ubiquity of cup holders in cars and people-carriers attests to the fact that the person who designed the interior of these vehicles was already thinking along these lines. He / she reasoned that you would be trying to drink your coffee and drive at the same time, and that if you could put your cup somewhere when you weren’t taking a sip, then you’d be a safer driver.
The same thing is true if you’re in the habit of working at the breakfast table. It would be perfectly natural to have some coffee, or tea, or anything else there. It doesn’t mean that you need to stop working unless, of course, you have a propensity for spilling liquid.
What I’m saying is that if you’re going to be at a particular place anyway where you might have your coffee, then there’s no reason not to have it while you do other things. Just recognize that when you do, you’ll be alternating between the activities; not doing them simultaneously.
It’s when we focus so much on the coffee, perhaps because it’s too hot, that we don’t see the brake lights of the car in front of us; or we’re concentrating so hard on our iPad screen that we knock over the mug when we reach for it without looking.
When I’m working, I hate stopping for meals. All the diet folks will tell you that this is anathema for getting your weight under control. They say that you need to savor every morsel by focusing on just it.
I say that these people need to join our world.
We don’t have time to stop, and they need to recognize that fact; don’t you think?
Back to the point
Let me get back to the point of this post.
In order to change your life for the better, you must get a handle on your time as it stands right now.
You must think about what it is that fills your day.
Get it out on paper where you can see it.
When you do that, then you’ll be ready to try a new method.
So what’s the new method?
You have to start by identifying the problem.
That may sound patently obvious. I can hear you already. “Duh. I’m too busy. There aren’t enough hours in the day!”
But you, see, that’s not the problem. That’s the result; the conclusion, if you prefer.
You have to identify the problem before you can look for the solution.
You have to be able to spell out the “what” before you can determine the “how”.
You have to understand what the problem is before you can ask how to solve it.
Most people, myself included, try to solve a multi-faceted problem with a single solution.
We make a sweeping general statement about the problem, and then expect to find an easy solution to apply to the whole thing.
No wonder we’re frustrated.
What do I mean by this?
Let’s think about an example.
Suppose that there are four main activities that you want to do regularly each week. Let’s call them Activites A, B, C, and D.
Let’s assume that you would like to spend two hours each day on Activities A and B, two hours on Activity C three times per week, and one to one and a half hours on Activity D three to four times per week. (Remember that you have a job to go to as well, not to mention shopping, laundry, cleaning, and errands.
Every week, for about as long as you can remember, you’ve only been able to fit in, at most, three of them; and to date you’ve never been able to figure out why or what to do about it.
Where do you start?
What usually happens?
The first thing is to acknowledge what usually happens.
We all tend to assume that our average days or our bad days are the exception, rather than the rule.
For some reason we seem to remember our best days, no matter how few, as the norm.
It’s why we can’t understand why things don’t get better.
We think that what we’re experiencing is a one-off.
And you need to be able to express it that way.
A qualifying statement
What would that look like?
You could write a qualifying statement; something like this: “There is only enough time to do one thing in the evening.”
When you spell it out like that, it stops you in your tracks. You’re no longer thinking about how to fit two or three things in. That’s because you’ve just admitted that there’s only room for one.
See how that clarifies the issue?
Let’s make another qualifying statement.
“When you get up at six AM, there’s only enough time for two things in the morning.”
This statement is a bit more precise. That’s because what you’re able to accomplish depends on the time you start your day.
You know right away that if you get up later, then you’ll be shortchanging the time you had allotted for one of those activities.
What have you learned so far?
What have you learned so far?
You’ve learned that by making just two qualifying statements, you can discover why you can’t fit four activities into your days. It’s because there’s only enough time for three of them.
This is huge.
Now you’re ready to start thinking about how to fit in those four things.
Wait a minute. Didn’t I just say that there was only enough time to do three of them?
Yes. In their present form, you could only do three. But if you modified the three a little bit, then you could fit in the fourth.
It’s no different than cutting a pie into four pieces instead of three. It simply means that each piece is a different shape.
That’s how you have to look at your week.
What does this look like in practice?
Let’s think of an example.
Suppose that Activity C is exercise. You have allotted two hours, three times per week for this. It takes you 15 minutes to drive each way, 10 minutes to change and shower, and an hour and ten minutes to do your workout. So that’s a half hour of driving, 20 minutes to change into / out of your clothing and shower, and 70 minutes to do your workout.
How could you cut that back to an hour and a half?
You might be able to wear some or all of your workout clothes under your ordinary work clothes; but that may not be practical for everyone.
The most effective way would be to decrease the length of the workout time.
How could you do this without losing out on a quality workout?
By varying the intensity.
Studies have shown that alternating between what amounts to sprints and brief rests is more effective than working out at a constant pace non-stop for an hour.
If you’re a cyclist, for example, then brief periods of climbing a hill, followed by a couple of minutes of coasting is one of the most effective cardiovascular exercises you can do. That’s why they recommend “rolling hills”. The pattern is maximum effort, relax, max effort, relax. A half hour of that will do more to boost your stamina than pounding your feet at a steady speed on the treadmill for an hour. It’s also an excellent fat-burner.
Where I live, the weather is generally so bad that it’s not possible to ride outside as much as I would like; so I’ve bought a power turbo – a device that lets me simulate rolling hills indoors.
Maybe cycling isn’t your favorite. Maybe you prefer jogging or walking.
Go to the gym and use a program on the treadmill that has you going uphill some of the time and then downhill. Up and down. Up and down.
Aim for short bursts – a couple of minutes of effort, followed by a couple of minutes of relative ease. It’s the on / off that makes such a difference.
What the point?
My point is not to tell you how to have a good workout.
I can talk about that another time.
The point here is to show you how to accomplish more in your day.
The key is to spend a little less time on each activity so that you have extra time to spend on something you ordinarily wouldn’t have time to do at all.
I recognize that such an approach is far from ideal; but it’s better than nothing.
You’ll find, as I have, that if you insist on spending the same amount of time on some things as you did before, that you’ll never be able to get to the other things that you want to do.
Instead you’ll go on being frustrated because you’re too busy.
This method will help you to fit the things that matter to you the most into the time you have available to do them.
Give it a try and then let me know how you get on.