We're all used to hearing it from people... or maybe even saying it ourselves. It's one of the best excuses for not accomplishing the things we want to do in life, or for not having the things we want. How many times have you heard someone say, "Oh, I wish I could, but I already have too much on my plate"? How many times have you said it?
Well, to be fair, maybe it's an American thing — we have an endless number of sayings related to food — but even if you don't know this saying, you know one like it. Maybe one of the following will sound familiar:
- I've already got so much going on.
- I just don't have the time.
- There aren't enough hours in the day.
- Where do you find the time?
- I've got a full load.
- I don't want to get burned out.
Sound familiar? Are you guilty of saying one (or some? or all?) of those things?
You're not the first person to have this problem. You're not even the one-millionth person. And there are an endless supply of time-management experts and productivity gurus willing to sell you their magical solution to "make your plate bigger" so you can "fit more on it." The promise to help you make you get more done, to be more productive.
The array of methods is vast, ranging from the blatantly obvious to the ingenious, from the ridiculously obvious to the obviously ridiculous.
There are those who tell you to stop using the computer, or to stop using your cell phone. There are people who say get up early and "get a head start", and people who say work later, when all the interruptions are done.
Some of these experts want you to assign numerical priorities to every activity you do. Some recommend that you outsource part of your day to a personal assistant. Some ask you to use a kitchen timer to break up your day into blocks of time. And some actually suggest installing software on your computer that locks you out after a set period of time, forcing you to take a break! What???!!
So what works?
I'm going to share with you the real secret to being more productive. It's actually not much of a secret, because this advice is out there — it's everywhere. The problem is, people aren't looking for it. And when they see this answer, they ignore it, because it's not what they wanted to find.
The real secret to being more productive is... do less. Yes, you read that right. The key to getting more done is doing less!
If you're complaining that your plate is too full, and you're out looking for a way to get more done, you're overlooking something obvious! You don't need a bigger plate, you just need to stop putting so much on it.
The problem isn't that there aren't enough hours in the day, the problem is that you're trying to do too much. It's time to throw something out. (Personally, I suggest you sell your television, but your priorities may not be the same as mine.)
Cramming more into your day isn't going to make you happier. Being über-productive is only going to add to your stress. And micro-managing every activity of your day is a good way to guarantee that you are less-effective at those activities.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is just slow down, smell the roses, and remind yourself that it's pretty cool just to be alive. Take your time. Enjoy life. Stop trying to fit more in! I'll write more about how you can clear your schedule, and some of the things that I do, at a later date.
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I listed them here.