And that’s totally OK
“You need to learn how to start saying no to things you do want to do, with the recognition that you have only one life.” Elizabeth Gilbert
I’m reading 4000 Weeks – Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman for the second time. The first time I read it on my eReader, but then I had to buy the physical book because there were just too many passages that I wanted to underline, star, and highlight. The core teaching of this book is that life is finite. We have, on average, 4000 weeks to live, which means we have to make tough choices about how to spend our time. We cannot DO all the things – all the laundry, all the exercise, read all the books, paint all the amazing landscapes, spend time with all our friends, pursue all the potential careers that tickle our fancy, etc. As Elizabeth Gilbert so aptly said, not only do we need to say NO to those tasks that we don’t really want to do, but we also have to say no to tasks that we DO want to do, that are aligned with our values, and that are important.
The author also notes that maybe the purpose of our lives, is not to be as productive as possible, but to experience more of the wonder of being alive. Hmmm….
When we think that by some magic combination of calendaring, To-Do lists, and self-discipline we will be able to get EVERYTHING done (and then we can finally let ourselves relax), we are fighting against reality. And we all know that that is a futile battle. We are setting ourselves up to fail from the get-go. Here are a few reasons why we will never get everything done:
- Hofstadter’s law: Any task you are planning to tackle will always take longer than you expect.
- Parkinson’s law: Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. If we clear the decks, more work will come down the conveyer belt to fill the void.
- Eigenzeit – A German word that means the time inherent to a process itself (p. 33). Things take the amount of time they take.
What can we do about this situation?
- Make tough choices. Ask ourselves – what really matters? Am I doing the RIGHT things? “You have to choose a few things, sacrifice everything else, and deal with the inevitable sense of loss that results” (p. 55).
- Tune in to gratitude – we have been gifted a life to live, and we get to (not have to) make choices about how we spend this precious, finite time, which is life. If we could do EVERYTHING, there would be less value in it. When we CHOOSE to do something, it’s meaningful because we are making a commitment to do THIS vs. THAT (p. 69).
- Pay yourself first – Work on the most important project the first hour of every day.
- Limit Work in Process – (Heather, Ahem, pay attention!!) – Limit the number of projects you are working on concurrently to 3. Otherwise, when you get to a difficult part of your current project, you will switch to another project, etc. – never actually getting any project completed.
- Ask yourself – might the demands on us be unreasonable? Will we ever succeed in being efficient and disciplined enough to get everything done that we are asked to do either by ourselves or by others? If the answer is no, then you know the Ask is impossible, and you don’t need to berate yourself for failing at something that is impossible.
- Teach ourselves to stay with the anxiety, discomfort, and guilt of not getting it all done (because it’s impossible to do so). “Most of us invest a lot of energy, one way or another, in trying to avoid fully experiencing the reality in our which we find ourselves” (p. 29). If we could just let ourselves BE uncomfortable for a while, instead of frantically wishing that things were different and striving to make them so, what would happen?
There is so much more in this book that is blowing my mind and giving me food for thought about how I live my life. But for now, I’m going to sign off and go experience a little wonder and magic, or at least try to sit with the uncomfortableness of not getting my house vacuumed this weekend. 😛
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