You Have Exactly Enough Time

There is a piece of artwork from the very fun and amazing collection at Storypeople that says:

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

We’re crazy busy in both our professional and personal lives. We rush from place to place, project to project, checking our smart phones in between meetings (yes, even while driving) just to make sure we don’t miss anything. And God forbid we don’t respond to someone’s/everyone’s urgent request within milliseconds in our completely electronically-tethered world. So we type our thumbs to the bone, we make special trips to Staples to look for a bigger inbox, and we’re late for dinner because, well, we have WORK to do.

Then there’s little Timmy’s soccer, baseball, football, lacrosse, swimming, violin, trumpet, piano, karate, dance, gymnastics, art, and advanced nuclear physics classes. All between school and bedtime.
And, don’t forget: you’ve got to volunteer for the food pantry, the homeless shelter, Habitat for Humanity, Church, the old folks home, the latest disaster relief, the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and the International Society For Crazy Busy People. Yes, I made that last one up, although I’m thinking of starting a local chapter anyway.

Finally, don’t forget to update your Facebook and twitter status at least 7.3 times per day or you’ll look like a total loser who simply doesn’t have much going on in his life. Because it’s not enough to be busy, it’s critical to let the world know just how busy we are.

Why do we do all of this????????

Because it’s all IMPORTANT, right? After all, if it wasn’t all important, we wouldn’t do it, right? RIGHT???
Admit it, you smiled at those lists up there because your lists ‘aint all that different. And you do it all because it’s all important, right? (Another smile, perhaps?)

“Everything changed the day she figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in her life.”

Confucius said it another way: “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

Excellence at work (or home) does not come from being busy, it is the direct result of spending our time on the truly important things. To be amazing at what we do, we have to break free of the unimportant things. That’s counter-culture, counter-intuitive, and just plain hard…at first.

Busy rarely equals productive or effective.

Can you be busy being productive? Absolutely, but only after you’ve stopped being busy with all the unimportant things. You’ve had days where you were just rockin’, haven’t you? On those days you produce more in that single day than you normally do in an entire week. On those days, you drop all that stuff you normally label “important” and you focus relentlessly on being excellent, producing quality, and getting things done. That leaves pretty much zero time to do anything else. What happened to all that other “important” stuff? Hmmmm, maybe not so important after all, huh?

To practice what I preach, in order to write this article I’ve eliminated several “important” things I was going to do today. Because writing this article is more helpful, productive, and important than pretty much everything else on my list. The funny thing is, when I get back to my list I’ll end up eliminating half of it because I won’t have time to do it all. And the world will keep spinning anyway.  

If you haven’t done so already, start evaluating all the things that fill up your time and take up your energy. Interrogate each item as if it was a potential life-threatening enemy: “Are you truly important, or am I just pretending that you are? If you’re not, you’re gone, amigo!”

Try it at work today. The next time you catch yourself doing something that’s busy but really not important, drop it. Trash it. Completely black it out on your to-do list with a Sharpie.

Because you (only) have exactly enough time for the important things in your life.

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