Do many of your days end with you wishing you had gotten around to more things? It happens to me too often. Sometimes the things I didn’t get to will be small, such as cleaning the kitchen counter or reading a chapter of a book. Other days it will be activities that I claim to care more about, such as stretching, drafting a blog post, or meditating. But if I care so much about doing those things, how come I’m not getting to them?
As I wrote recently, you can organize your days to prioritize what’s most important to you. But you can’t prioritize everything, so unless there are only a few things you want to do on a given day—not a bad thing to aim for, really!—you might not get around to some of the other things. If that bothers you, first ask yourself whether your expectations are realistic. Is it simply matter of wanting to get around to fewer things to avoid being disappointed when you don’t get around to everything?
I asked myself that question and decided that this line of thinking rubs me the wrong way. Lowering expectations seems like a partial answer. Some things that can make you happy are easy to accomplish with little time or effort, such as enjoying a sunset. Other things that can make you happy, though, do require time and effort. I don’t want low expectations to prevent me from putting in the time or effort that some long-term goals require.
For instance, if I set a goal to write two brilliant blog posts every day, I’m likely to disappoint myself. My creative muse just doesn’t strike that often and even when she does, the odds of writing a post that’s brilliant are slim. Then again, if I truly wanted to write two brilliant blog posts every day, I should at least allot some time to trying. I might not succeed, but how will I ever find out whether I’ll succeed if I don’t sit down in front of my computer twice a day and start typing?
Put differently, there is a fine line between setting your expectations too high on the one hand and not getting your priorities straight on the other. If you’re always postponing what you claim to want to do, take a moment to consider whether you really want to do those things. What’s the number one thing you wish you got around to more often? Go ahead, think about it now—I’ll wait here.
Do you actually want to do this number one thing you don’t seem to get around to? Maybe you don’t really want to do it, but think that you should do it. Or, worse, maybe you think you should want to do it, but you know deep down that you don’t want to. In that case, you’re lying to yourself! For instance, if you’ve been putting off scheduling lunch with a particular person for a few months now, odds are you don’t really want to have lunch with them.
To stop wishing you had gotten around to this thing, you only need to do one of two things. If you don’t want to do it, figure out how you can get away with not doing it! There’s always a way. If you do want to do it, change something about your life so you can do this thing consistently. It really is that simple. Try it on the number one thing you’re not getting around to and then on the number two things. If you keep going, eventually you’ll spend more of your time doing things you want to do and less time on things you don’t.
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Every day, I write about the tools and mindset that can help you work smarter, not harder. Because being productive shouldn’t require 60-hour work weeks.
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