As a person who always has multiple things on the go, I am ruthless with how and where I spend my time.
Time is a finite resource, but we use it (or abuse it) as though it is not.
Once you start seeing each day as the valuable, irreplaceable entity it really is, you will start to drastically change how you spend your time.
You will realize that spending a day binge-watching a subpar Netflix series is actually extremely detrimental.
You will realize that putting off exercise for one more day is not as harmless as you used to perceive it to be.
You will realize that ignoring that phone call from a loved one is actually much more selfish than you may have previously felt it was.
Imagine if your time ran out tonight, would you be happy with how you spent your last day?
I by no means am an advocate of spending all of your waking hours trying to become successful. I believe becoming successful, in a specific area of your life, comes from creating a harmonious relationship within all areas of importance in your life and making the appropriate time for all of them.
The first step to reclaiming your relationship with success is to start giving yourself less time than you are comfortable with.
The first step to empowering yourself is by making yourself uncomfortable. Many times, especially when a goal is very large and cumbersome, we instill weak timelines, which makes it easier to ignore what can be done today.
When you give yourself a year to lose ten pounds, what is the inherent rush to start changing your diet today? There is always the start of a forthcoming new week to hold off until.
When you say that you will start searching for your dream job, once your current professional responsibilities slow down, you are basically telling yourself that it is okay to stay exactly where you are forever.
When you say that you will start spending more time with the kids after work, once the weather changes and you feel less lethargic, you are robbing yourself of making beautiful memories today.
If our lives were over today, would we be grateful that we avoided our families, professional responsibilities and personal goals in the pursuit of procrastination and watching one more shitty episode of some show?
When you give yourself a ruthless timeline to complete a goal, the goal will become a primary part of each day, thereby increasing the chances of reaching success.
When you are not ridding yourself of interruptions, distractions and unnecessary breaks, your tasks will always take three to four times the amount of time needed.
When I was completing courses for my Master’s program, colleagues and I would always compare marks on the papers we submitted. We always had similar marks, something ranging from eighty to ninety percent, but what varied greatly was the amount of time each of us was spending writing the papers.
Whenever I received an assignment, I would gauge how long I would spend on it based on the percentage of the total mark it was worth. For example, if a paper was worth fifteen percent of my final mark, I would allow myself seven hours to complete said paper. Those seven hours were utilized very strictly too, so that I ensured that I was not wasting a single minute of the time.
What surprised me is that colleagues of mine were spending two, three to even four times the amount of hours I was spending on my paper and we were receiving parallel marks on the final assignments. It upset my colleagues how little time they felt I was spending, but what I realized was that our perception of the paper was what impacting our ability to execute.
When you allow yourself ‘as much time as it takes’ to complete a task, you are not going into working on the task with the zeal someone like me is. Perhaps you start your day by researching articles for your paper, while surfing the net, answering text messages and calls as they come in, regardless of their level of importance and grazing through Instagram.
At the end of the day, when you meet your partner for a much-deserved dinner out, you will tell them that you spent the last twelve hours researching articles for your paper, but in reality, you probably spent half that time or even (much) less. When you are not ridding yourself of interruptions, distractions and unnecessary breaks, your tasks will always take three to four times the amount of time needed.
When you tell yourself that you only have one hour to research all the articles needed for your paper, you are going to zero in on the task with such focus that any texts coming through to your phone will all be deemed interruptions and you will probably put your phone on silent.
You will start to realize that we really prevent ourselves from reaching true greatness by not putting time allocations on progress points.
Let us say that your problem is a lack of organization. You want to clean your house and create a rigid structure to ensure that you never again miss a deadline, are late for a meeting and are in control of your day. When we sit and think about this task, it seems so large and cumbersome, almost impossible to overcome right? The first thing to do is to break it up.
Break up the task into smaller goals and put timelines on each of them. In order to make your life more organized, perhaps you break up your goals into something smaller like: clean the house, declutter the house, find an accountability buddy, buy an agenda and start preparing for each day the night before.
Now that the giant goal has been broken down into smaller, more manageable goals, you can now assign them strict timelines. Give yourself four hours to clean your house, from top to bottom. You might argue that four hours is not enough, but if you pop in some headphones, put on your favourite soundtrack and get to work, you will be amazed at what you can accomplish with four hours.
Start chipping away at each goal in this manner. Think about how much time you think you need, for example, ‘I need the entire weekend to clean my house,’ and ruthlessly pair down how much time you think you need. Give yourself a time constraint which makes you feel uncomfortable and watch your focus and determination grow. You will be amazed at how amazing your house can look after three hours of uninterrupted cleanup.
By making ourselves uncomfortable with being comfortable we will achieve goals we never thought were attainable.
Once you complete a goal, congratulate yourself. Perhaps you go out for a coffee, watch a thirty-minute television show or simply take a nap, but acknowledge how hard you worked and that you deserve a break. Once your break is over, get started on the next task.
When you start pairing down the time associated with tasks you will realize that the biggest limitation to goal completion is ourselves. We tell ourselves that it is impossible to read for thirty minutes each night, but for some odd reason, we have no issue keeping up with our favourite television program. We say we have no time to eat healthily, but for some reason we have no issue spending massive amounts of money on takeout, which forces us to take on extra shifts to pay for such an extravagance.
When I had the idea to write this article I gave myself three hours to write it out. I went to a local coffee shop, treated myself to a cup of java and got to work. Even when I wanted to scroll through Instagram, call a friend or respond to a text, I did not because I simply could not afford to waste one of the precious minutes assigned to the task.
My theory is not fail-proof, sometimes a project or goal takes much longer than originally anticipated, but the simple act of starting the task, with a strict timeline is what afforded me the opportunity to reassess how much time I actually needed. This tactic simply gets you moving and movement keeps you moving, so the very act of starting is the true claim to fame.
Instead of reading one more article today, lazing on the couch for another hour or saying you will start tomorrow, give yourself a tight deadline for today. Tell yourself that you are going to spend the next sixty minutes carving your own mini-goals, which will get you closer to that larger goal you have been dreaming about. Make yourself uncomfortable by starting today and watch your completion rate begin to soar. You will be amazed at what you can do with sixty minutes of precious time.
Instead of feeling guilty for one more second about not walking the dog enough, spending enough time with your partner, taking care of your house or improving yourself, spend that time completing an action that will make you feel better immediately. Take that pup for a stroll, go and give your partner a hug and ask them how they are doing, quit avoiding the dishwasher and simply load it up and turn it on or start that blog today and watch how the very act of doing versus thinking changes how you feel about the task, yourself and your outlook on life in general.