We live in a non-stop 24/7 culture and no matter what you do, you can never stop the endless onslaught of things to do.
It doesn’t matter if we are talking about your personal life, or your professional life. There is always more to do.
My wife for instance is a stay-at-home mom. And not only does she have a huge list of things that she does to take care of our kids, coordinate their activities, but she is also kind enough to have volunteered to be Room Mom for not just one, but both of our kids’ classrooms.
This has resulted in an endless list of activities that she is helping out with at the school. From coordinating holiday parties to raising money for teacher gifts, and from running around like a chicken with her head cut off for teacher appreciation week to putting together year-end gifts! It’s nuts!
Now, don’t get me wrong. Teachers deserve and need our help. And my wife volunteered for this and she knew mostly what she was getting into.
And even if you do manage to extricate yourself to do in the short-term, it is very likely that you will get sucked back in some form or another.
Just think of all of the things in our modern day life that require doing of more things:
- Parenting (buying clothes, coordinating activities, stopping your kids from killing each other, etc.)
- Being employed (aka your job)
- Getting a job if you don’t have one
- Helping family members in need
- Helping non-family members in need
- Running a business
- Investing your money
- Taking care of your health
- Planning activities with friends and family
- Planning vacations and time off
There is an endless supply of things to do!
Seriously folks – it is endless!
Just Like Investing -> Life Compounds
It is pretty clear that adding things to your life in the form of, well, anything is going to cause the amount of things you need to do to multiply.
Let’s take a look at how this works:
The more you take on, the more you accumulate things to do.
And it’s not just my wife. This happens to me, you, and well everyone.
During my mini-retirement life was grand. It was quiet. There were so few things to do, outside of parenting, family, and friends.
Removing work had truly freed me up to unwind and relax. I would read during the middle of the day, or play with my kids.
For a parent, it was about as far to the left hand side of that above graph as you can get.
But before I knew it I was picking up more things to do. I decided to fire my financial advisor, start AR, and then eventually invested in a website that I now run!
I started to move from the left side of the things to do graph to the middle real quick!
Slowing Down The Madness
So how do we stop this madness? How do you stop the ultimate compounding of life and its responsibilities?
Perhaps the best thing you can do, is to simply be aware of where you are on the Things to Do path to destruction.
If you aren’t aware of where you are on the path, then it is pretty easy to get carried away:
Zone 1 – let’s face it…unless you are a baby you aren’t going to be hanging out there.
Zone 2 is pretty tame. And if you are hanging out there, you’ll probably be a bit bored and quickly find more things to do.
Zone 3 is a healthy balance between having just enough responsibility, but not too much to be overwhelmed by it all.
Zone 4 means you are on the the cusp. This is where you begin to take on some stress. But not all stress is bad stress. This is where you can push your limits and see what you are made of.
Zone 5 Beware. Zone 5 is where you go from being slightly stressed to being overwhelmed. So whether retired or not we should all be doing our best to stay out of Zone 5.
No matter what Zone you are in, the key is knowing you are in that Zone.
Once you know where exactly you are, you can begin to put constraints on your life to help protect you from overload:
- You can start to say “no” to any activities that aren’t a “hell yeah!”
- And you can take that one step further and create a list of automatic no’s
- Learn to be OK taking a step back and being unproductive
- Focus on doing less, personally and professionally
- Track your time and see where you can improve it
- Get more sleep: make sure you are sleeping at least 7-8 hours a day
- Use lists to help manage the load
- Delegate: Move things off your to-do list and onto your employees’ lists
- Sometimes the best way to get some things off of your list, is to take more vacation and let the things take care of themselves
- Track your happiness and focus on the activities that make you the most happy.
I find that all of those things help me on a daily basis.
And if it all just seems like work, try to simply let some things go.
I bet you’ll find that sometimes if you don’t do the things, someone else will pick up the slack OR a solution will present itself.
In our busy world, there are a million and one things to keep us busy:
More people to see.
More places to visit.
More work to get done.
But you simply cannot get it all done. There is always more to do.
Focus on keeping yourself in a safe zone, and the rest will take care of itself. I promise you.
So…what zone are you in?
This spoke to me. Yesterday and today I was blitzed with a hundred pages of testimony to analyse before submitting my expert witness content. Plus the economic development volunteer project I’m doing for my billionaire friend had two meetings. Plus a college board committee meeting and getting some affidavits notarized and scanned and emailed. Plus doing some maintenance on my fishing boat so I could go fishing tomorrow. Plus a dozen phone calls and texts and dozens of emails regarding the testimony, and the college and my foundation. I literally did not have five minutes to myself in two days until right now when its almost 5PM. And I consider myself fully retired, yet the last two days rivaled my busiest work days from the past. But I will get to fish tomorrow, a Thursday, cause the case is filed and I have nobody needing me. And the fish are really biting well. So its all good. But on days like today I ask myself, “why am I doing paid work when I don’t need money and nonpaid work when I’m already so busy?” I have no answer. I think I’m usually in zone 3 so I guess its OK.
That is a good question. Why are you doing paid work? But if like you say you are normally in Zone 3, then that is a healthy Zone to be in. Still during those times when sh*t is hitting the fan and there is too much to do, it’s important to question the zone you are operating in and ponder if there is something you can change to move back to a healthy zone!