I’m sure you have had those times when it feels like you have too much to do and not enough time.
We want to do all the things. Have a great job. An amazing partner. Hang out with friends. Learn new things. Get fit. Cook healthy and delicious food. Renovate or decorate your home. Tend a garden. It is all too much sometimes.
And to make it worse, we see people who are doing and accomplishing amazing things. There has to be a way that we can do it too.
I agree. But there is a little groundwork we need to do first.
- Understanding why we often expect too much (this article)
- Figuring out what “it all” is
- Putting it into a schedule
- Finding a balance
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How to do it all – A big promise
You should be skeptical of a promise that I can show you how to do everything you want to do. It’s a big promise. And yet, that’s what we want. We want to find a way to do all the things, be all the things, have all the things.
If you stick with me here, there is a way to think about things that can get us to a place where we can accomplish big things. We can make big changes in our life. We can do it all.
There are 4 main reasons why we often expect too much.
- We don’t understand time
- We feel guilty about doing one thing instead of another
- We think we can multi-task
- We are impatient
- We don’t draw the line between what we want and what other people want
We don’t actually understand time
We underestimate what we can do in a short time.
If you’re anything like me, you underestimate what you can do in 15 or 30 minutes. I talk myself out of doing dishes, raking the yard, doing some yoga… Simply because I think there’s no way that it’s worth it if I only have 15 minutes or so. And yet…
When I set a timer for 15 minutes and get started, I’m always glad I did. While I rarely finish all the dishes or rake the whole yard, I can do a meaningful amount. It feels good to do something productive instead of scrolling through social media yet again.
We overestimate what we can do in a medium amount of time.
I overestimate what I can do in a day or a few hours. I think it only takes 3 hours to do a thorough clean of the house – I’m talking sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, dishes, cleaning the bathrooms, making beds (which includes setting up and inflating an air mattress), doing a spring clean in the kitchen – wiping down cupboard doors, washing the garbage can and washing the shelves in the fridge – and vacuuming under the couch cushions…. whew! Just writing it out I’m tired. And yet, at the time, it seemed perfectly reasonable. 1
We underestimate what we can do in a week, month, or year.
And I underestimate what I can accomplish over a week, month, or year. There’s no way I could write 50,000 words a month (did that for NaNoWriMo in 2016). No way I could write 40 articles, each averaging about 1500 words in a year while taking several weeks off. Or so I thought.
I know I don’t understand time. And in speaking to people about their habits, it seems that no one does.
Physics is a bitch
We can’t be in two places at once. The physics just don’t allow it. We can’t have a shower, plant a garden, go for a run, bake homemade bread, trim the dog’s nails, and file our taxes in the exact same moment.
That seems obvious when I spell it out, but we somehow feel like we should. We feel guilty for doing one thing because there is another thing that needs doing. We distract ourselves from what we are doing because we are thinking about something else. We let ourselves be sidetracked all the time.
We think that we can multi-task.
We think we can do more than one thing at a time, and do them well. We scroll social media and socialize in real life. We eat dinner while watching TV. We answer emails in meetings. It is the same logic that leads people to text and drive.
We think we can do more than one thing at a time and do each of them well. But we can’t. We can try, but we can only actively focus on one thing at a time.
When we watch TV (or play on our phones) while eating, the eating goes on autopilot. We have been eating our entire lives. So it is easy for our body to put the hand-to-mouth motion on autopilot. The next thing we know, we are reaching for another chip and the bag is empty.
When we scroll on social media while visiting with friends, we miss things. We don’t hear what the friend is saying. We don’t pick up on the body language or tone of voice. And we can’t connect person-to-person.
Now, if you don’t care about one of the things that you’re doing, or it doesn’t need your full attention, it is possible to multi-task. You can listen to a podcast or audiobook while doing dishes. The worst-case scenario would be that a dish doesn’t get squeaky clean and you have to re-clean it later. (Although it might be a good idea to pay more attention when handling a sharp knife!)
We get in our own way
We are so impatient when it comes to the things we want to finish that we never start. We over-think to the point that we get so overwhelmed that we don’t even know what to do next. This is why they say that starting is half the battle. We get in the way of the beginning. We get so angsty about it that we never do the thing.
And then once we start, once we get to the half-way point of our project, we become frustrated by how long it is taking. We start wondering if it is worth all the work. We aren’t seeing any benefits yet, but we have done all this work. This lull happens with any big project. Whether you are cleaning a whole house, training to run a marathon, trying to share your ideas, or recover from an injury.
You start to feel like you should be further along than you are. You feel like it should be easier. You feel like you should be reaping the benefits already. And you feel like there is so much more to do.
It’s easy to give up at this point. And making it more difficult to push through is the fact that sometimes you should stop. If you are trying to train for a marathon but you hate jogging. If you are trying to build a business or a side hustle and you realize that it is a bad fit. There are situations where you realize you are doing the wrong thing. But…
Then there are the times you need to push a little further. Dig deep and fall in love with the boredom of your routine. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Find support from other people trying to do the same thing you are. Become re-energized by realizing you do want this enough to put in the effort.
Do you really want it?
It is hard sometimes to know what we want. It’s hard to separate out what you want from what other people want for you. There is often a lot of overlap, which just makes it harder.
What you want is often a product of how you grew up, and there is nothing wrong with that. Our childhood shapes much of who we are. But what you want is different from what your parents would want for you. It might be a large difference, or it might be very subtle. But there is a difference.
We’re doing to dig deep into this question next time. We’ll focus on your values, dreams, and priorities.
My first attempt at answering the question, “How can I do it all?” was to look at your schedule. But there is a much bigger answer to be found. This is my second attempt to answer the question, and I’m sure I’ll barely scratch the surface again. But this is the work of life; to figure out what you want to do and how to make it real.
There are many reasons why we struggle to do everything we want to do. We don’t understand time or physics. We think multi-tasking is better than doing things one at a time. We get in our own way by being impatient or overthinking to the point where we never start.
Next week, we’ll dig into how we can figure out we want, as an individual.
Until next time, be good.2
You are reading this because you are interested in improving your life. That means we have something in common. I’m still working on what the Foundations for the Good Life is all about, and I’d love for you to join me in this journey. I’d love to build a community with you. With people who are trying to figure out what “the good life” means, and how to set up their life to make it possible for them.
If this interests you, join the newsletter to be the first to know about updates, new articles, and to try out tools as they are developed and improved. I hope to connect with you soon.
- I did not write it in my journal… There is another argument for writing things down!.
- I was a teenager when I first remember my mom saying, “Be good,” when I left the house. When I left for university, and to this day, she ends most of our conversations in the same way.
Yes, she meant, ‘I love you’ and ‘stay out of trouble.’ But she also meant, ‘do what’s right.’ Follow what you know to be true for you. Learn from life and how to do things better.
Now that I’m trying to understand and evolve my philosophy of life; Now that I’m trying to help other people strive toward living the good life; I want to share that phrase, “Be good,” with you. Be good. Live the good life in whatever way you define that for yourself.