We all have 24 hours in a day. That’s a lot of hours to get things done. OK, we sleep some of them, but there’s still plenty of time to make something worthwhile.
How do you manage those hours? What are your priorities? At the end of the day, do you feel content with what you have accomplished?
Lately, I’ve found myself becoming a bit frustrated that there are things that I didn’t get done during the day. That things take too long time and that my to-do list just keeps on growing. I need to do something about this or I’ll go crazy.
So I decided to sit myself down and think about these things. Really think about them. I share my thoughts in this blog post in hope that it can help others who are struggling with feelings of inadequacy. Perhaps my ideas can get your head above water and maybe you can even start swimming for the shore.
First of all, you need to figure out why you feel as if you didn’t get anything done, when in fact you’ve been running around doing things all day. Is it because you focused on completing lower priority tasks rather than working on the top priorities? Is it because you overestimated how much you could get done? Is it because some unforeseen exterior event that you couldn’t control changed everything?
In reality, though, it’s usually a mix of all those reasons. The top priority projects might sometimes feel a bit daunting at first, so we put them off for a while and do other things. I don’t know about you, but I tend to be overly optimistic as to how much I can achieve in a day. Especially with kids, there is always some unexpected turn of events and you have to instantly switch focus.
A constant feeling of inadequacy leads to irritation and you might end up taking it out on the rest of your family. Instead, try to accept things for what they are and you’re more likely to keep a good atmosphere at home. Here are some steps that might get you on the right path.
Get your priorities straight
If you were to pick one thing that you got to do today. What would it be? What’s most important that you do?
Use Tim Ferriss’s question: “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?”
This is something that we need to consider constantly, especially since things might change and perhaps your biggest priority is degraded to not as important, while other tasks become the highest priority. Don’t lie to yourself when assigning priority, just because something seems difficult and daunting doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t get top priority.
If the task looks intimidating to you, try to break it down into smaller parts. What’s the first small step that you need to take in order to achieve this? Or ask someone to help you, maybe do it together with your partner, it’s much more fun when you’re doing things together.
Have a to-do list every day
Every day, have a to-do list. Even if it might just be one thing on the list, write it anyway. There’s something about putting down words on paper that makes it more tangible, more real. Writing it down helps you visualize the task at hand and sets you in the right mood.
Manage your time
This is becoming increasingly important as we are constantly bombarded by social media updates. I suggest you seriously consider how much time you think it’s worth spending on social media platforms during a day. Then make an inventory of how much time you do spend on those platforms. If there’s a discrepancy between the two, try to adjust that.
Also, be more diligent about your time on Facebook, Instagram etc. Perhaps it might help to set a specific time during the day when you check your social media updates and your emails? Or set several times during the day if you need to. The point is to take charge of when you check your phone, don’t let it become the little dictator that runs your life.
This means turning off all or at least most notifications. That way you don’t get interrupted in what you’re doing simply because someone liked your latest post on Instagram.
When circumstances change, you have to change with them. Let go of things that you cannot control. Accept the new situation and move on. This is especially important if you have other people to consider, particularly with kids. Children have a hard time waiting for things to happen. The other day my daughter couldn’t find the poles for her play tent. I helped her look a bit, but we couldn’t find it in any of the given places. I told her I needed to shower after my run and then prepare lunch, but after eating we could look for those poles again. That didn’t fly with her, she needed those poles immediately as kids usually do. So I asked my son to prepare lunch, while I helped her look for the poles. After we found them, she was a happy camper the rest of the day.
I’m not saying that you should constantly accommodate your schedule to please your kids, they also have to learn to wait, but there’s no point in letting them wait just for the sake of it. When you have a ton of things to do and your child wants to show you a drawing she made, it’s easy to dismiss her, saying you don’t have the time. That automatic response, which seems like the easy way out, is actually the opposite. By saying no, you’ve taken the fun out of drawing for her and now she doesn’t want to do it anymore. Instead, go to her and look at her drawing. It’ll take a minute of your time and she will be encouraged to continue drawing while you go about your business.
Stop aiming for perfection
You have to let go of perfection. It’s just as simple as that. A few minutes after you’ve vacuumed the hallway, there will be dirt in it again. A few weeks after you’ve put up new wallpaper, the first marks will be there. That’s just the way it is. If you’re constantly running around trying to keep everything spotless, you’re in for a never-ending marathon that will leave you utterly exhausted. You have to stop running, for your own sake.
Doing things 80% is usually good enough. Trying to achieve those last 20% is probably not worth the effort since that usually requires the same time and effort as the 80%. This doesn’t mean that you should be sloppy, but it doesn’t have to be perfect all the time. If you’re preparing a talk, making a video or something else creative, the audience will of course notice if you did a lousy job, but if you achieved 80% they will probably think that it’s good enough. Also, if you keep on making videos, you’ll get better at it, meaning that you’ll raise the bar for your 80%. It’s better to ship good enough often, than shipping perfect rarely or not at all.
Stop picking up after your kids
Let your kids clean up their own mess. Of course, when they are younger you need to help them out, but if you let them, they will pretty soon get the hang of it. If they leave their dirty socks on the living room floor, don’t move them to the wash basket on your evening stroll through the house. Simply just leave them there and then gently remind them the next day. And while you’re at it, stop cleaning their rooms as well.
Get enough sleep
You need to become diligent about your sleep time. Sleep should be a number one priority for your health. How many hours to sleep? Difficult to say, some sleep less, some sleep more, but around 6-9 hours should do the trick. You simply have to try it out for yourself. The problem is usually that people get too little sleep.
Also try to maintain the same sleeping hours, meaning that you have to decide on a fixed bedtime and try to stick to that schedule. Don’t sleep in late just because it’s your day off. Get up at the same time anyway. Of course, there will always be exceptions to your bedtime, for example, if you’re having a late dinner with friends. But try to stick to your bedtime as much as possible.
Exercise a little every day
Another top priority for your health and well being is of course exercise. Try to get that body moving every day. That doesn’t necessarily mean going to the gym, but try to get some cardio and strength activity into your daily routine. Even if you’re strapped for time, you can go for a short brisk walk or run, do some push ups and sit ups, or a few yoga poses. And for you ladies, who have given birth, remember your kegel exercises!
Try to work exercise into your daily life. When you’re picking up toys from the floor, try doing squats at the same time. It’s better to do something little every day than doing a lot only once a week.
Make it a family activity
Include your whole family in things that need to get done around the house. Both cooking, cleaning, renovating and gardening can be turned into a family activity. This way you get to spend more time with the people who are most important to you.
Or try to include them in your daily exercise. If your kids learn at a young age that exercise is fun and good for you, they are much more likely to keep it up when they are older.
Remember to also ask your kids what projects they have planned and help them out as well. You cannot expect them to take part in your activities if you never take part in theirs. This is where your flexibility skills also come into play, you have to be agile to live with kids.
Try it out. Try to tweak your everyday life to get it moving in the direction that you want. Don’t wait for a day when you’ll have more time. This is it. This is what you get. There’s no secret sauce. It’s deliberate planning and conscious decisions.
This is your one life. Make the most of it.
It’s your turn.