Time to Thrive when you want too many things.

Getting More Life for Your Time

Time to Thrive, Part 1

By Andrea Jacques

In our scramble to trade our time for money, we forget something: it’s not money that’s your most precious non-renewable resource. It’s time itself. You can save money to use in the future, you can invest it and it will grow, and you can get a second job or start a side business to increase the amount of money you have.

But time is the great equalizer. We all have a finite amount of time. We can’t increase it. We are all required to spend it at the same rate, and it can’t be saved for a rainy day. The degree of stress and dissatisfaction or joy and fulfillment you experience in your life is directly related to whether you’ve used your time in ways that feel worthwhile.

In business terms, you’re always evaluating the ROI you’re getting on your time. If you’re like most people, you’re probably not thrilled with the dividends you’re getting. If you don’t have enough time to do everything you want to do, you constantly fall short of your goals, and you live in a constant state of stress trying to cram it all in. You can read all the books on how to do it all, have it all and get things done, you always feel behind. You find yourself wondering what is wrong with you. Is it laziness? Chronic procrastination? A lack of intelligence or a faulty willpower gene?

In more than three decades of working with individuals, leaders and entrepreneurs to help them leverage their time to increase the ability of themselves and their businesses to thrive, I’ve found three reasons people struggle to maximize the ROI on their time.

  • You want too many things.
  • You don’t have a plan.
  • You don’t have the right tools, support and resources to stay on track.

I’ll cover the need for a plan and the correct tools in later instalments. For now, let’s look at the first reason in more detail.

You want too many things.

Facing the reality that you want too many things isn’t easy. It can cause one of two reactions: resistance or depression. The resistance comes from the belief that you can – and hence want to – have it all. The depression comes from the sneaking suspicion that you can’t. I have good news and bad news.

First the bad news. You can’t have it all — at least not the way that you are currently defining “all” in your mind. Life is full of trade-offs. A big part of the disappointment you constantly feel with yourself and your life comes down to unrealistic expectations and untenable timelines. Underlying your dissatisfaction is not just that you want it all, but that you want it all now.

We live in an instant gratification society. We don’t have to grow or hunt our own food, build our own homes, or even make our own entertainment. We’ve become accustomed to having all our basic needs met with relative ease. When something takes time to create, we get frustrated and start looking for a faster or easier way.

Unfortunately by keeping all options open and constantly switching between projects to try to get to where you want to go faster, you guarantee it will take much longer to get there — and be so exhausting you’ll give up almost as soon as you start.

Here’s why. We all have the same 24 hours in a day. If you sleep for eight hours and need another eight for eating, socializing, exercising etc., you have eight hours left to work towards your goals. If you’re working on eight goals and you know each goal takes at least 365 hours to achieve, it will take one year to achieve all eight if you spend an hour/day on each goal. Now ask yourself this: How likely are you to invest one hour each day on all eight goals for a whole year? Not very likely.

Now the good news. If you pick just one of those goals to focus on for your eight hours each day, you would complete it in less than 46 days. The energy, confidence and learning gained from achieving this goal would fuel you, making it easier to persist in achieving the next one. The question is – would you rather have one completed goal or eight incomplete ones?

The bottom line is this: You can have everything that is truly important to you in the long run if you cultivate your ability to prioritize and focus on them one at a time until they are complete.

How do you pick just one thing?

To determine which goal to focus on first, ask yourself these questions:

  • Which goal do I feel most energized and excited to work on?
  • Which goal will eliminate the most frustration in my life or work?
  • Which goal, if achieved, would have the biggest positive impact on my life or work?

The answers to these questions should help you to answer this final question: If you could only complete one of your many goals in the next year, which would you choose?

Take this month to find your focus and check back next month to learn more about the planning pitfalls that can prevent you from effectively using your time to thrive.

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