Do you feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day? You’re too busy for the important things in life: friends, family, hobbies, passions?
Funny how, even though we all get the same 24 hours a week, we can end up feeling like there’s no time!
Busyness can often be a trap – as we fill our schedules to the breaking point in order to avoid the truth that we haven’t found something meaningful to invest our time in. Overwhelm seems like a better alternative to facing reality.
But what if I told you that your lack of time – the thing that, right now, you may feel is suffocating you, is actually one of the greatest opportunities you’ll ever have to achieve more than you imagines was possible.
Sounds crazy right?
It’s not. It’s all about the adversity advantage – one of the mindsets I’ve used to learn languages, write a fast-growing advice blog, find my dream job despite no job experience, run a no-training marathon, and achieve the improbable.
Not having enough time is one of the primary excuses we cite for not getting our big goals done and achieve those full HD, technicolor dreams we have.
And it is an excuse, pure and simple.
Starting with the fact that it’s ultimately up to us whether or not we take on a whole host of obligations that take away time from our goals.
It’s also up to us whether or not we let that stop us.
Lately, I’ve taken on way more than I can reasonably chew. My past self might have crumbled under the pressure. My present self sees it as one more opportunity to thrive and do the impossible.
I’m looking at 4 hours a day in university, studying Russian, another 8 hours working for an online company that makes more in a day than I have in my life doing search engine optimization and marketing strategization. This, for someone who, just over a year ago had trouble holding objects with his hands, let alone hours of potential repetitive-strain madness.
To top of the list, my commutes are north of 1 hour.
So I’m starting from a point of using 14 hours of my day, and that’s not including minutiae such as eating and washing – forget grocery shopping or laundry.
And I’m still finding a way to spend time with the two most important ladies in my life – Katia, my #1 gal – and this website.
I could find myself exhausted at the end of the day, completely unable to function or without the wherewithal to work on my own projects. I would be justified in doing so. People would understand.
They’d sympathize with my dilemma, “I just don’t have time for anything else!” I’d say, to responses of, “woah yeah you’re sooo busy.”
But I don’t, because that’s not going to get me where I want to go.
In fact, I find the time crunch invigorating.
It means I have to be fully engaged for as much of my day as possible if I want any chance of doing my writing.
I have to have impeccable posture and body mechanics at work, lest I end up back in the world of hurt that cost me 7-8 years the last time I had a repetitive strain injury.
I have to be incredibly focused with my Russian, as I don’t have extra study time and need to retain as much as possible. I also need to be fearless using it with the people I meet, instead of defaulting to English because it’s easy.
I have to use the commute to either totally unplug and recharge my mind, or to be fully engaged with some sort of language practice.
And then, when I finally get the chance to work on my website, I have to crush it, and only focus on the 1 or 2 tasks that will have an inordinate amount of impact.
There’s no time to procrastinate, check my traffic stats, make lists, organize, dawdle on email, or anything else.
I may have only 30 minutes in which to make my mark for the day, and in that place, only relentless execution counts.
Heck, even with my girlfriend I have to be more positive, upbeat, supportive, loving, romantic, thoughtful, because if we aren’t going to have a long time together, I’m sure as heck going to ensure it’s a glorious time. There’s no time to waste on petty bullshit that couples often get trapped in.
That’s why I call it the adversity advantage. Not adversity equality. Not “adversity sucks.” Not “how to overcome adversity.”
It’s an advantage. I’m able to get more done. And I’m able to do everything I do better. All because I have no time to waste.
How often in life are we put in a position where we have to absolutely thrive or be crushed by the pressure?
Possibly every day, if you’re like most hard-working folk.
But most of us don’t see this as an opportunity. It’s too much. It’s overload.
It all depends on how we look at the situation – and respond to it.
It’s like an Olympic sprinter: the key to going faster isn’t to tense up, as we tend to do naturally. It’s actually to relax, and to be more fluid and elegant with every movement, every act.
Slow, careful, deliberate action – spurred on by the power of strict deadlines, desire, and just possibly the thrill of making what for most people is impossible, easy.
Like Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson said:
“You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.
<<What mood is that?>>
The question then, is “How?”
How can we take our 60, 30, 15 minutes to spare when we wake or before bed, and turn it into something worthwhile?
In my mind, the key is isolating the single, most important thing we can do each day, and that’s it.
There’s simply no time for more.
But if we do the most important thing, and we do it every day, then in 1 year we’ve done 365 really important things, where most people – our past selves included – have done none, made victims by a lack of time.
Let me be clear, if we’re overwhelmingly busy, that’s a lifestyle choice. And probably one that we need to change before we burnout.
It’s generally not a great long-term, sustainable plan.
But if that’s where we are, we may as well get as much as possible out of the situation until we can or choose to change it.
So in addition to knocking off our most important task, I think the most important thing we can do is practice the skill of mindfulness, to be fully engaged in what we’re doing.
This, for whatever reason, takes the pressure off.
Things may be urgent, and they may move quickly, but by having this presence of mind we can feel like we’re riding a strong current with control and direction instead of just being slammed into the rocks by unforgiving torrents of roiling water.
Mindfulness – it doesn’t require any special trick or technique. Like a ton of people across time and culture have found, I like paying attention to my breathing, possibly taking deeper breaths and expanding my ribcage in all directions.
Another technique I like is to look myself straight in the eye in my mirror, and just focus.
5 minutes – when we wake, and before bed. 2 minutes: when we take a coffee break, bathroom break, are stopped in traffic or on the metro, or waiting in line.
That’s all it takes. That makes us the master instead of the victim of our business.
And in some ways, it’s exactly what we need to achieve more.