Friday, May 11, 2018

Be a Quitter to Get More Done

I've read A LOT of productivity articles in the past month to find the best ones out there, and there are many different tips, tricks, and opinions to help you get more done.

Advice ranging from how to multitask to get more done to the dangers of multitasking. What should be on your To Do list, and how to prioritize your to do list? Should that list be a mile long "Dump" list or should it only have one thing, the most important thing, on it? What is the perfect planning system for keeping track of your progress (or lack thereof).

Also, what is the proper order to tackle your list?  Should you eat the figurative frog first (your most dreaded task), or knock out some easy wins to gain momentum? Not to mention tons of advice on how to prioritize your list (categories, urgency, etc.) What is the perfect planner and what's the best way to use it.

Then there is advice on how to best get you ready to be productive. Is coffee, exercise, and a clean desk essential to get started? Should you use the Batch system, Pomodora technique or the Time Block system? All of this to help you work smarter, not harder so that you can even get more done.

I kind of take offense to this notion. I am smart, and I do work hard. Could a little productivity hack here and there help? Could I stand to spend less time on my phone? Would avoiding people help me get more done? Sure. Does the answer to all my problems lie in re-organizing, re-categorizing, re-prioritizing, multitasking or throwing away my task lis? Should I clean my shower while I am in the shower to save time (actual suggestion)? I don't think so.

The truth is, you can do whatever you want, but you can't do everything you want.  No matter what these systems are selling, you cannot make more time, and you can't predict when it will run out.

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it."  
 - Henry David Thoreau 

You are exchanging your life, giving a bit of your soul away if you will, for time spent doing whatever it is you fill your minutes up with.

Life is full of tradeoffs. There is a price to be paid for what you choose to do, and you can't make an informed decision on that cost until you embrace this notion of limited time.

But we don't. Instead we are bound and determined to fit it all in.  I will be ├╝ber successful at work. I will be Supermom and be there for everything my child does. I will be a great spouse. I will volunteer in my community. I will pursue my secret dream of writing the great American novel (or whatever it is you dream of doing). I will take care of my aging parents all by myself because I am the perfect daughter.  I will exercise, eat right, and get regular facials, and have "me time". I will do it all.

Honestly, I am stressed just writing all of this. My shoulders are tense, and I feel a little anxious. Anxious because I know deep down inside, this is an impossible scenario to maintain, so I end up faking it. Stressing about being found out that I am not a Mom with her shit all together (spoiler alert, I'm not), and EVERYONE gets short changed. My family, my friends, my career, my volunteer work, ME,........everyone.

There is an economic term called Opportunity Cost. Opportunity cost describes the relationship between scarcity and choice. It refers to the benefit you could have received, but gave up to take another course of action.  No choice is still a choice.  Often we spread ourselves so thin that we don't reap the benefits of any of your choices. So what's the answer?

Be a quitter.

That's right. Quit.

Don't double down, reach down, or show more grit.


The answer isn't add more items to your list. The answer is to get rid of items on your list.

Quit unproductive things so you don't miss opportunities to do more of what matters to you. Maybe you don't know what is important to you right now. Well, you damn sure know what doesn't work, so quit those things, so you can start finding what might work.

We regret more of what we miss out on than what we stuck it out on.

The relationship we knew in our heart wasn't for us, but we stuck it out waay too long anyway. The job that wasn't a fit for us, but we stayed because we were afraid to go out and find a better job (by the way, people who change jobs a lot and early in their career end up making more money than their counterparts that stayed with the same company).

We tell ourselves that "it isn't that bad" DO you want to settle for "not that bad"? That stinks of future regret.

Quit trying to achieve unattainable goals, whether it be jobs, obligations or people.

Yeah, I get you can't just dump everything. You can't walk out on your job. Well, make it a priority on your 'To Do' list to find your dream job. How much of your sacred time are you spending on that?

I get you want to exercise more so you can improve your health, and have the energy to pursue your goals.  What are you sacrificing to make it a priority?

When you stay late at work to finish that project to impress your boss or clients or find a cure for cancer, then you are not spending time with your kids.  That's not a judgment call. That's reality.

Things get sticky when we assign value or more accurately what we believe other people will value to our choices. I'm a terrible mother if I make this choice. I'm a terrible employee if I don't. My parents dreamed of me becoming a lawyer so I'll stick it out, so we try to do it all.

Before you can be more productive, you need to decide where your values or needs lie right now, so you can make intelligent proactive choices for your situation.

Maybe your it's your career, writing that book and self-publishing, becoming a yoga teacher, or starting your own business, or your family, or redecorating your house that's important to you, or a combination of two or three things, so design your days to do those things.  Make sure that most of what you do supports achieving those goals.

If you are really giving your all to those two things because you say those two things are the most important to you, then you won't have time to bake, volunteer, clean, take care of other people's emergencies, etc., all by yourself.  Not to say that stuff isn't important, but again...Time + Scarcity = Choices.  Remember, choices will be made with or without you, so you might as make them.

Where do you start / How Do you Decide? 

Steve Jobs said, "If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what your doing?" 

If he answered "no" more than a few days in a row, then he changed what he was doing.  

There will be times when you choose to do something else.  There will be needs that need to be met that exist outside of your wants and needs because you don't live in your own little universe.  

There are trade-offs to every decision. Some you will manage, and some you just have to live with because that is the price of your dreams or values or your situation right now.

I chose to quit my job when my youngest started kindergarten. I left a promising and mostly fulfilling career with a killer commute to do so. I traded putting my graduate degree to work, and moving up in my career because I couldn't manage to that and be the Mom I wanted to be the way I wanted to.  

Yet, when I find myself cleaning, and then yelling about them messing things up, and checking off my never ending list of household chores, then I am not "being" with my kids. I am trading unimportant stuff for what I said was important.  Now there will be moments when I will need to do laundry and clean the house, and I will not be able to answer Steve Job's question in the affirmative, because the need for clean underwear and all, and that's okay as long as it doesn't become my choice day in and day out.  

Some people pick their top one or two goals in life and go all out. Michale Phelps gave up a lot of other stuff to become the champion that he became. He gave up partying with friends for 5 AM practices as a teen. Sheryl Sandberg put in a lot of time and effort to get where she is. She had to quit and delegate a whole hell of a lot in her personal domain to make it where she is today. They both made choices.  

I choose to strive for balance in my life right now. Some might even go so far as to say mediocrity, and that is okay. Maybe that isn't for them, but I define success as peaceful, low stress, enjoyable, simple balance between my children, my family, my friends, and my hobbies. That is where I am right now. 

So I won't be VP of HR at a Fortune 500 Company like I once thought I would (maybe later), and I do sometimes look enviously at those sharp dressed working moms getting it done like a boss. 

On the other hand, I started a new career that I can build at my own pace. I have built friendships with some awesome moms I wouldn't have even have met had I still been working, and let go of some treasured work ones I just couldn't keep up. Trade-offs. One day my choices will change again, but won't change, is that I will choose what those priorities are rather than letting others have more say than they should or by default.

Really successful people quit most other things. You need to decide how you define success for you and your lifestyle right now, then quit the other things.  

Once you do that, you can apply all the tips, tools and tricks that work for you, and you will find much more success with them.

Other articles you might like:

Is Comparing Yourself to Others Always a Bad Thing?

Redefining Failure

The Power of Living Intentionally

Join the 85% Club

I've Had Enough

How to Live a Life with No Regrets

Three Types of Happiness

How to Get Shit Done

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