When you feel like you don’t have enough time and your to-do list somehow keeps getting longer and not shorter, trying to be as efficient as possible seems like a very logical, reasonable approach to help solve your problem.
Here’s why I was wrong, and why you probably are too.
I was always running around with my hair on fire. My list kept getting longer, never shorter, or even staying the same.
I had big dreams and goals for myself and my family, but despite doing a million things and never sitting still, it always seemed like I was still just treading water, not actually getting anywhere.
I was already getting up early, staying up later, trying to outsource what I could, getting help from my husband… I was running out of ideas of how I could possibly do more.
I knew doing more could not possibly be the answer. There was just no way.
I had the same 24 hours each day as everyone else. Some people accomplished much less than I did in their 24 hours, but plenty of people accomplished way more than I did. Or perhaps, they accomplished way more in the direction they wanted to. They were making real progress on their goals and dreams while I was treading water.
I was making some progress, but it was very slow and painful and not fun at all and tedious and plenty of other words that feel like garbage. Of course, life is not all rainbows and unicorns and sometimes it’s not fun, but I also knew there was a better way. I’d seen evidence of it. I knew other people who’d figured it out.
The only thing it seemed I hadn’t tried yet was working on my relationship with time.
So that’s what I did. I realized I was the Mayor of Time Scarcity-Ville. I spent a very large portion of 2021 focusing on resigning from that post.
Stay with me here. It’s worth it, I promise.
Time scarcity looks like:
- Never having enough time
- Always running around with your hair on fire
- Trying to solve your problems by DOING MORE
- Not resting or having downtime (or not enough)
- Not taking care of yourself
- Your list routinely gets longer, rarely shorter or even staying the same
- You’re sure that when you “just get this one thing knocked out” you’ll feel better
- You keep telling yourself you just need to power through
- I’ll get easier when: your kids are older/work slows down/this season is over/you finish this project
- You keep moving the goal post on yourself. Aka: you accomplish that “one thing” that was supposedly going to solve all the problems, but now there’s just one more thing you need to do to actually get there
The list goes on and on. See what I’m getting at here??
I learned many things about myself and my overall relationship with time in the last year, just one of them being that the desire to be efficient in order to save me time was actually costing me an alarming amount of productivity.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve always tried to be efficient.
Running errands, cleaning, putting things away (trips up and down the stairs), batching work, trying to multi-task, the order in which I do things. The list goes on.
For well over a decade I’ve been vaguely aware of this tendency but thought it was serving me. Thought it was helping me get more done in less time and with less energy. I was an efficiency ninja!
Sometimes, this is helpful. For example, if I have to go to the grocery store, drop something off at UPS, and pick up my kids from school, the timing and location of each stop need to be taken into account.
I’m not going to drive way out of my way or go to the grocery store first because then everything cold/frozen will no longer be by the time I get home.
BUT, I realized this obsession with doing things in the most efficient way was stopping me from actually getting things done when I’d skip the grocery store for a day or two because I couldn’t get there without making a “special trip”. (What does that even mean?? How is the grocery store not important enough on its own?? Thanks, brain…)
Or things would pile up in the family room instead of being put away upstairs because I was waiting until I went upstairs anyway. Then forgot to grab the stuff… seven different times… Guess what that resulted in? A freaking overwhelming mess of a family room for daysssss that would have taken about ten minutes to fix.
Or I didn’t have two straight hours to sit down and batch write a few weeks’ worth of Instagram posts all at once (you know, bc it is more efficient when I’m “in the flow” or whatever), so instead of grabbing 10-15min here and there to post and share, they just didn’t happen at all.
Ok. I have dozens and dozens of examples from my everyday life, but I think you get the picture.
I was creating a vortex of doom for myself.
In my head, because of all the things I needed to do that I kept not doing.
On my to-do list as I watched it get longer and longer, wondering how the hell I was ever going to get it all done.
In my home and environment, as clutter got out of control, I was stressed and overwhelmed having stuff everywhere. I didn’t take the time to put things away properly so I tripped over them instead AND could never find what I needed when I needed it. Which took me WAY more time, energy, and precious brainpower trying to figure out where things were at the very last minute.
Talk about the opposite of efficiency…
I finally saw it. I saw how wanting to do things in the most efficient manner to SAVE time and energy and get MORE done was actually hamstringing me into getting NOTHING done.
My efforts to make my life easier were actually making it SO MUCH HARDER.
When I finally saw this I decided to stop the madness.
I promised myself I’d start doing things messy. I’d just get it done, even if it was wildly inefficient. Even if it was unplanned. Even if I did B- work instead of A+ (which turns out is actually a superpower, but more on that later).
I realized my desire for efficiency was actually just a mask for perfectionism.
I didn’t think I was a perfectionist.
I’d learned years ago that done is better than perfect, and an 80% solution now is WAY better than a 100% solution tomorrow.
Or so I thought.
But really, my perfectionism and fear of “failure” was parading as a “desire for efficiency”, you know, to make life easier.
Now, I’m a recovering efficiency-ist (or whatever that word is).
I still catch myself falling back into old habits. I had been on auto-pilot for a few decades after all. But, as always, the awareness is half the battle. Now, I see it happening so much faster and can break the cycle.
I’m truly embracing “done is better than perfect”, probably for the first time in my life.
And guess what.
No one has died. The house hasn’t burned down. The world did not end.
In fact, I’m actually getting things done, for real. I’m working my way through my master to-do list that’s been running for years. The one that I swear doubles in size every time we move again.
The best part: I FEEL BETTER.
I’m less stressed. I’m less frustrated. I’m less overwhelmed.
Why? Because now I can truly trust myself that I’ll get done what needs to get done, and not at my own expense. Being miserable not required. No burnout, overworking, insanely early mornings or late nights necessary.
All of that translates to less yelling at my kids. Minimal snapping at my husband. Waking up in the morning without a massive cloud of dread hanging over my head.
Isn’t that the goal anyway?
Isn’t that the reason we want to get everything done and get to to-do list zero and inbox zero and all those fancy things? So we can feel better?
I’ve learned that I can feel better now, on the journey, and still get shit done. And still work towards my big goals and dreams. For me and my family and the world.
It’s not perfect. Because that’s not a thing. But it is glorious.
When you’re ready to stop spinning in “efficiency” and start making real progress, come join me. Schedule a free consult here.
You’ve had a great day. No, not really as your efficiency is dropping. Not when you’ve finished up all the tasks that you had on your to-do list.
Your brain was in overdrive — and the more it worked the faster time passed from now until tomorrow so your productivity and focus got pushed back by 10 hours!
Now that I’ve let the cat out of the bag I’d like to challenge you to be the judge — just think about how many things I could get done if productivity was constant instead of being variable over the course of an entire week!
The solution? Create better habits that lead me toward greater efficiency throughout my workday. And perhaps when you do this, just for a day it will help your brain get into a place where the next hours work more smoothly and you can make more progress throughout every day!
I used to write daily. The amount of text was endless, sometimes I would type 30 words per minute or so! But after years of trying to break the habit I was barely hitting even 60% efficiency at an overall daily goal I set myself — so where did this extra time went? Time for another blog article on how I use some of these new habits…
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