Updated: May 4
Get that work done, do that workout, read that book, write that blog, do that online course I signed up for, learn how to use that app I bought, update my social profiles... there's just not enough time to do it all!
Spend quality time with my family every day, contacts my parents weekly, connect with my brothers fortnightly... and friends... I'm not doing it enough. I know I need to do more.
Do my spiritual quiet time, spend time in mindful calm, stretch for flexibility... this is needed and I want to do it more.
Set up the new system, connect the tech, update my website... soon, soon.
Oh, and clean the house, donate those books and those clothes, clear out the storeroom, add those shelves above the curtains (over a year on my Too-Due list)... I'll get to it.
It's just that life's too busy.
Is it possible to do it all anyway?
Well... yes and no. It's definitely possible. But how? Outsource? Nope. All of the above items need to be done by me. So if I need to do it, then how?
1. Increase productivity. Easier said than done (but here are some fun ideas to do that).
2. Increase self-discipline. Okay let's skip this one because that's what you've been meaning to do all this time. And you haven't, because you've likely overloaded yourself. So instead of beating yourself up in a negative way (here's the positive way of beating yourself up), you need to...
3. Simplify. Remove the overload so you have margin.
Remember those lined exercise books at school where there was this red vertical line down the left-hand side? You could write anywhere on the right, but not in the margin. Our lives need that margin too. A space, a buffer, a time for nothing. It means we need some boundaries, but it also means we need some deliberate emptiness. To start that, let's declutter. And I don't just mean reducing the physical clutter in our homes, although that's important. I also mean reducing the empty workload and the clutter in your mind. That "Too Due" list that is weighing you down. Let's eliminate stuff that really should not be there. And once we eliminate it, we must be determined that we don't bring it back again.
GONNA GET IT DONE WITH A GUN TO YOUR HEAD
Eliminate. If you had a gun to your head and you were told to choose, what would you keep, consolidate, or kill? Remember: just like stuffing fills the space in a turkey, our stuff fills the time and physical space in our lives. Yet we need that space for Margin. So we need to get rid of stuff.
For this one, I'm thinking about social media profiles and websites. I could easily do it with books, clothes, work projects, opportunities... but let's go with social media for this example.
For me, it seems that I have multiple profiles per platform and multiple platforms. Using aggregators like Hootsuite I can see multiple platforms on a single screen and post to multiple profiles at once. Great. But the formatting doesn't always work for all sites. Easy. Simplify the format.
Done is better than perfect.
People are time-poor. Make it simple for them to consume what you have. Outsource design if you need to, not your voice.
Don't try to be the celebrity with fingers in many pies. They have hundreds of people doing all the work. You might not. Chose one or two pies and put all your fingers in them.
Let's explore this a bit deeper. Think: who are you modelling that are involved in tonnes of different projects and you want to emulate that? A celebrity? A famous CEO? Now consider their entourage of implementers. Some of them have hundreds of people getting stuff done for them. If you don't YET have those hundreds of people, then either: partner with others, outsource to others, or shelve the tonnes of different projects and work on only those that produce the result for you to: have something that partners might want to leverage, or have funds to pay people to do it. Simple.
I know that I really need to get rid of some social profiles and dead websites too. I had intended to do X, Y or Z but if I'm not doing it, or I haven't done it for months, or no-one is following anyway, or I'm really not going to do it in the foreseeable future, then it's time to delete that duplicate account. Just delete it. Heck, I had dozens and dozens of great domain names I had intended to do something with. Enough of paying for them every year. I cancelled auto-subscribe and put them up for sale. If they sold before they cancelled then great but otherwise at least I now stop wasting money on them.
As for social, most of that needs to be handled by you. You need to write your own post, and you need to reply to people when they chat. You can't hire someone to be you. They can alert you, but they're not you. It's better you show up less frequently but be you when you do, then someone else pretend to be you for some prescribed number of times someone said would generate more traffic. People want to hear your voice when they connect with you.
Websites are the same. I got someone to make some of my websites. Lots of them. Then I only spent any real time on one. That's where my voice needs to be. If the others are working in autopilot, fine. If they need my attention and I don't have the bandwidth, then I back them up and then delete the live version. So I have the website design saved somewhere if I panic and need it back again, but more often than not, I never look at it again.
All of these things aren't worth the share of your mind. It's cognitive clutter that needs to be cleared too. Deleting the stuff in the external world frees you in the internal.
- Websites: pick an action area such as websites. Imagine you have a gun to your head and you have to choose only one. Which one per area will you choose? Then consolidate what you need to, and kill the deadwood. Cancel unused domains and put them up for sale between now and when they cancel. Done. Give yourself one hour to focus on this. Get clearing. Then it's done for at least a year. And you'll save money, time, and you'll save yourself from frustration. Plus it'll do better for traffic. Outsource design if you need to, not your voice. You don't have to think about these anymore.
- Clothes? Tough one. Very personal. Mainly because of perceived value. Just because it's a Versace and cost $600 in 2007, it still doesn't fit and never will. Let it go to someone who will give it life. And remember: you make clothes look good, not the other way round. The rest in mind clutter. Release it. Free your wardrobe. More space means less ironing.
- Books: How many books do you read in a year? Double that number and multiply by 10. So if you double you resolve and do that for ten years, that's how many books you need in your house right now. More will be written during that time for the years after that so don't worry. For those that you can't bear not having, buy them on your Kindle. For the others: be kind. Let the book finally be read by someone who will read it by donating it away. Get them off your shelves. Make space for clarity, not for more unused stuff.
- Stuff: take photos, create an online album, and donate it away if it means nothing or if it won't mean anything in 10 years from now. For example, over my years of speaking at conferences, where I get presented with trophies and thank you gifts, I've amassed a lot of these things. Some are wonderful pieces of art. Others are trophies, plaques or awards. They were all on my shelves for a while, but once I decided that displaying them at home was a bit wanky, I took photos of each of them and put them in boxes in the storeroom. I can use the photos on my website or for marketing purposes, but there's no need to have them at home. Home is where the heart is, not the hubris.
- Online photos: At last count, I had over 200,000 photos online. Some of them are wonderful. They're hard to find in all the crap. When I die my daughter might be overwhelmed by it all and keep 7 photos and delete the rest. It's my job to get rid of the crap. Not hers. Once a month my wife and I have a goal to get rid of 1000 photos from our Google Photos account where they all are. They used to be all over the place until we put them all in the one repository. We turn off auto-uploads so we decide what gets backed up first (the Gemini app is great for this, as it helps you remove blurred and duplicate photos before they go to Google Photos). And once in there, we try to label photos or put them in folders. Google's facial recognition software makes it easy to batch-search by person, but other labels help you find them again. It takes time, but it just needs to be done. And if done together, it can be a fun trip down memory lane. Since we're each working on different computers we simply flick a photo up to the big TV to share the story, have a laugh and get back to it. And we reward ourselves with a nice evening of nothingness to celebrate.
The point is: simplify. There is a great sense of accomplishment and mental relief as you do it and after each session is done. It's like the mental garbage has finally been collected and the place has much more clarity as a result.
If you get one high-value contribution completed each day, just one, then every day will be a success. I like the idea of getting up at 5am and winning before 8am. Except that I'm asleep during that entire time. So I need a plan B. What's most important today? When can I get it done today? Do it.
During Covid-19 isolation we had forced simplification for a time. Businesses that were not essential were closed. Let's use that same strategy with our... stuff. There is power in enacting that same rigour in parts of our home, our work, and our workload management. Simplify. And unless you're a medical professional, remember that done is better than perfect.
NEW NORMAL DAILY ESSENTIALS
For me, there are things that I believe are most important but I hadn't been doing all of them regularly. I want my essentials to be Faith, Fitness, Family, Impact and Growth. I think if I boil everything down, get rid of the distractions, and focus on the core, that's them.
And in case you're wondering about finances, I see them as a measure and means of Impact, and not the goal itself, even though finances starts with an F and would have been nice to include. What I will add is that it is all underpinned by Fun; I aim to enjoy it, even the hard stuff, like reading Numbers. Cultivating curiosity and challenging yourself to find solutions are good mindsets for finding Fun in the mundane, because the aha-moment is actually quite delightful. Reinforce the delight and you'll reinforce the activity.
So right now you and I have a wonderful opportunity to define what our new normal is going to look like. Use this time. Define your New Normal Daily Essentials (other than sleep, meals and hygiene unless some of them need your special attention - I too could prioritise more sleep). To give you an idea, some of mine are:
- Faith: daily prayer, scripture reading and quiet time (minimum 30 minutes)
- Fitness: daily exercise time (minimum 15 mins intense circuit, or 30 minutes on the bike, or 60 mins walking) averaging 40 minutes a day across a 7-day period. Minimum 7 hours sleep.
- Family: daily family time (minimum 60 minutes fully present, preferably 3 hours of combined family activities)
- Impact: daily valuable connection time: post, reply, read, respond time on social and email (minimum 30 minutes, maximum 2 hours - preferably combined with exercise bike)
- Growth: daily book reading (minimum 30 minutes of anything in a book or Kindle)
And in between that there's margin and some time to create something cool. But I need regularly remind myself to deliberately keep some margin. Because I can otherwise fill every second with fake essentials. And because it's in this margin time where a special part of our creative thinking comes alive.
P.S. What are your New Normal Daily Essentials? Let me know in the comments.