Unfortunately, that’s not possible. The next best thing we can do is to help you get more done in the time you have. That starts off by asking yourself, “Do you need to be the one that completes everything on your to-do list?”
Let’s come back to that question. First, if we all looked at our lives there are some common tasks that are the same. We need to eat. That means getting groceries, cleaning, and cooking. We need to clean. That means getting cleaning supplies and finding the time to clean.
You need to outsource
Now we all need to eat. The problem is how to get food worth eating. It’s easy to get fast food or food that you can microwave. A lot of times it’s actually delicious. That makes sense because food scientists, yes that is a thing, spend an inordinate time trying to convince your palate that the fast food or junk food you are eating is delicious.
Not so delicious that you don’t want to eat more. Just delicious enough for you to eat it and probably a bit too much of it. Diabolical, I know.
No, I’m talking about good-for-you food that tastes delicious. That takes time. Time I don’t like to spend.
There’s a few options:
1. Find ways to minimize time
2. Have it done for you
How to save time and still eat good food
Let’s break down number 1. Eating good food requires going to the right grocery stores and getting the right high-quality ingredients. That takes time. Not just time spent at the grocery store, but time to get ready, drive, park, pick up the stuff, and wait in line.
Fortunately, there’s an app for that. A few actually. You can have Whole Foods delivered to you from Amazon for free within 1 hour. There’s also the app Instacart. You end up paying a little more for Instacart, but it even goes to Costco for you without you needing to be a member.
Now you can focus on the more fun part, actually cooking. That starts with getting the ingredients ready. Maybe, you don’t like to do that either. I know I don’t.
There are services that will do all the shopping for you and send you the perfect quantity of materials. It even sends you the recipe and you can pick what you want to eat. Services like Blue Apron will let you shop recipes and then send you everything you need to make it.
My brother loves to do this. He’s an ER resident and enjoys cooking, but just doesn’t have the time to research what he wants to eat and buy all the ingredients. He buys the basics and let’s Blue Apron send him the rest of what he needs.
Lastly, if you are like my wife and I you don’t like any part of cooking, but love to eat. There are services for you as well. Meal delivery services like Trifecta will send you ready to cook meals. They are as healthy as can be and you can choose between different types of food. We choose paleo, but there are others as well. You just put it in the microwave, warm it up, and it’s ready to eat.
The food is pretty good and most importantly healthy. It even has calories and nutrients on there, so I can plan out the rest of the food I can eat in that day.
Cleanliness without a time sink
We all like to have a clean place to live. It’s personally hard for me to free up my mind for creative activities if I see a ton of stuff everywhere. Or a bunch of dust mites.
There’re two steps that I’ve done to try and keep my apartment from becoming a den of filth:
1. Spot cleaning
2. One deep clean a month
Have you ever been into a room that you haven’t used in a while? What did you notice? Dust everywhere. How does it even get in there? It’s hard to say. One thing is for sure: dust will find a way.
This typically shows up on the floor. Dust everywhere. Even more so for us with pets. Dust and dog hair. There was no way I could wait till the end of the month to do a deep clean. The dust would take over my small apartment.
I’ve enlisted help. I got a Roomba You can get simple ones that do most of the work. It’ll vacuum around the house/apartment and even come back to charging station when it’s done.
You can even get fancy ones that you can control with Wi-Fi. They work best when there is your place is all one level.
This will only keep your place clean for so long, which is why I invest in one deep clean a month. The key word is invest. It’s either an investment of time or money. There’s only so many hours in a day, and I’d prefer not to clean.
I can recognize the mental health benefits of having a clean place though. And I always thought that hiring someone to clean my place was a needless expense and one that I couldn’t afford. Something for just the uber wealthy.
I even did a quick google search one day when I was really busy and the dust was winning. $100 an hour for a maid? Would have been nice at the time, but I was a resident and that was way more than I could afford.
One day someone told me about Taskrabbit. You can use it to find people who will do common tasks such as helping you move or clean your house. I was able to find someone for $35/hr. My whole place could be cleaned for about $100. Now that was well worth it.
So now, take all that time you saved and do more of what only you can do.
In elementary school, I was always picked last when it came to any sports. Football, basketball, track & field. Sometimes, I’d get picked in the middle in soccer, but part of me wonders if they just needed a goalie.
That changed a year ago when I got into spinning. Spin classes are where you are in an indoor gym and use these stationary bicycles called spin bikes. They are crafted to look and feel like professional bicycles.
The most well-known one is the peloton. Well, a long time before I had my peloton. I was going to spin classes. And I thought I was good.
I’d always be the fastest in the class. One of the few things in life I could do better than my wife. We had a friendly rivalry.
It was fun to race each other.
We went up to a few times a week. So I thought I was good. Getting stronger, faster, and able to endure more.
Then COVID happened. I, like many others, got a peloton.
Life gets interesting when you measure it
I was excited to get the peloton. Of course, I was happy to start exercising again. But the Peloton offered me something that the bikes at my spin studio didn’t: tracking metrics.
Now let’s take a quick step back to how spin studios work. You go in and there’s an instructor in the middle. There’s music and you usually try to cycle your feet to the rhythm.
The instructor will tell you to either decrease or increase the resistance. That makes it easier or harder to pedal.
I always thought I was at the upper limits of what the instructor was saying. Would always try to pedal the fastest and use the most resistance I could.
But I had no idea how I was doing. That’s where the Peloton came in. It measured how fast I pedaled and how much resistance I used.
It even had a leader board. You could see how you were doing against people that were spinning at the same time as you. You could also see the all-time leader board.
Time to eat my Humble-pie
Now I think a little competitiveness is good. As long as you’re detached from the outcome. I’m happy when my wife is better at something than me (this happens often), and it pushes me to be a bit better.
I’m always also competing versus the old me.
So what did I see when I looked at the leaderboard on the Peloton? The person who was the fastest in class in a small spin studio on a Wednesday evening in Downtown Los Angeles?
Disappointment. I was humbled.
I was nowhere near the top, let alone even the middle. I was closer to the last percentile.
The benefit of tracking your performance
Had I not started tracking my numbers I would have had no idea where I was compared to other people. Not only that, I realized that my own performance varied tremendously between sessions.
I found that I was weak on fast pedaling at low resistance. I was able to pinpoint exactly where I needed to improve. The rest of my spin game was fine and working on that specific area improved the quality of my spin session overall.
Where have you wanted to improve? Have you been keeping track of any performance measures?
Maybe you already are performing well on that aspect or that you need to work on something else. The numbers that the Peloton gave me where direct feedback. I’d be able to take a look at each session and see where I could improve.
What kind of feedback have you sought out?
I keep scrolling away. Sometimes, I finally hit the “You’re All Caught Up” sign on Instagram. No worries. I can just click on the explore tab. That’ll show me random pictures from random people. Hard to run out of those.
The scrolling continues. All of a sudden it’s been an hour. Or has it been two? I got lost in all the funny comics and puppies. There’s never enough puppies.
That’s the issue, isn’t it? There’s so much to do and an endless amount of distractions. The goal of companies like Instagram is to keep your attention. There is always more to see. More to scroll.
Now I know that I shouldn’t be just mindlessly scrolling Instagram, but it got me wondering. Are there other parts of my life that I just scroll away?
I saw the endless scroll in a few different places. The todo task that never had an end. Let me look up this. Or let me read the news.
There wasn’t an endpoint. It just kept going and going. There was always more to read. Better research that could be done. The endless scroll was still there. However, instead of guilt, I felt some satisfaction knowing that I was working.
But the endless scroll sucked out the productivity. I was productive for those first few scrolls, sure. After a while, I hit diminishing returns.
How I Tamed Endless Scroll
I’m a disorganized man who wished he lived in an ordered world. I love being organized. I hate organizing. It’s hard to say which I care for more. I go through fits of organizing everything. Unfortunately, it never lasts. Entropy always wins.
It always started simple enough. The diminishing returns wouldn’t be hit right away. All that scrolling was for a purpose. Find more articles. Do more reading. There wasn’t a way to stop it while I was still being productive.
So I had to find another way. I’ve had to create some rules to tame my disordered half. This worked just as well against the endless scroll.
I had to give myself a time limit. I would only be able to work on this project for a certain amount of time. Or the research could drag on forever.
One of my favorite reasoning for procrastination was research. It’s easy to keep looking up more information. It’s much harder to get started. Start that blog post. Record that video.
An hour for this. 30 minutes for that. The limits jumpstarted my creativity. Forced me to actually work instead of taking time to warm up. Reading the news really quickly. Or answering a few emails.
Just as important to the time limit was accountability. When the timer went off, I had to stop. Unless I was in a flow state that happens once in a blue moon. I had to stop working and switch to something else.
The Constraints Helped My Creativity
I’ve always found a certain surge of creativity on the last day of a deadline. That inspiration that had escaped me for weeks all came in as a rush.
That last-minute rush didn’t give me much time to edit. Or proofread.
I would barely have the time to finish my papers before I had to hand it in. Even now, I’d often get blog posts done right before the need to publish.
The dedicated time for my project gave me a new deadline. Instead of the one right before it was due. I only had an hour to work on it.
After that, I would have to switch to a new project. There are always other projects to work on. I know it was an artificial deadline, but it worked. Somehow I’d squeeze out some creativity.
I’d have plenty of time leftover to edit. Editing is the easy part. It takes effort to come up with something new. To fill up an empty page.
It was hard to breathe. All I could hear was my thumping. Lub-dub, lub-dub. It was hot. I shouldn’t have worn a suit. I was about to go on stage for the first time that morning. Too late to back out now.
This occurred on the morning of October 23, 2019. My business partner and I were hosting our very first conference. I started off the morning on a panel with a few friends. It was simple: I was asked a question and I answered it. I thought I had this public speaking thing in the bag.
Then it came a little later in the morning, and now it was my time to lead the panel and ask the questions. That’s when the nerves hit. Has talking always been this hard? It’s hot. Were the lights this bright earlier?
Every ounce of me was wishing I hadn’t signed up to do the panel. I was on stage interviewing people with more real estate experience than me. Somehow I was the one that was supposed to hold the order and keep the audience entertained.
I felt sick. I remembered this feeling. I had it right before one time. Back when I was in med school, and I went to talk to my first real patient. A real patient? I wasn’t ready. No, I would have never been. My school didn’t wait for me to be ready. They threw me in, and I survived. I remembered that feeling of survival too. I knew I if I had my own medical students that I would try to give them some tools to help them get over that feeling.
Eventually, I did get my own students. On our very first day together, I thought them box breathing. Something so simple. But is often used by Navy Seals before their missions.
You breathe out completely for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, breathe in for 4 seconds, and finally hold for 4 seconds. That completes a cycle. Do as many cycles as you need. I usually do somewhere from 3-5.
There’s a couple of benefits in box breathing:
1. It puts your mind back under your control. When you’re nervous, Like I was before I got on stage, your mind can run wild with all the potential things that can go wrong. You are giving your mind specific instructions and racking up a small win
2. It can slow down your heart rate by stimulating your vagal nerve (the rest and digest nerve)
3. Only takes about 16 seconds and can be done at anytime
The idea of box breathing flashed in my mind in time. I was able to get a few cycles before getting on stage. The rest of the panel was a blur. I managed. It went well and was one of the highlights of the conference for many.
How long can you sit alone with your thoughts? Imagine you are sitting in a room. There’s a chair you’re sitting on and a table. And a button. No phone, no paper, nothing else.
Just you and your thoughts. Oh, and the button. The button when pressed will send you an electric shock. Yes, it will hurt. You’ll be in that room for 15 minutes. What do you do? Do you press the button? Sit there in silence?
This was an experiment done in a bunch of college students. A surprising 67% of the men and 25% of the women decided to shock themselves instead of sitting there with their thoughts. We’ve talked before about how we could be our harshest critic. So these students could have been in a room alone with their worst enemies.
It’s no wonder that some of them would rather be shocked.
Our own worst enemy
When we are alone with our thoughts, we will often focus on what is going wrong in our lives or what we are anxious about. This focus on our negatives served us well as a survival mechanism in the past. If we tried something new and survived, we were lucky. We shouldn’t push our luck.
Now the stakes are lower. That fear before a speech serves us only briefly. It reminds us to prepare, but after that just acts as a hindrance. The feeling before it is still the same. Our body screams to not do it. We regret signing up to do it. This is despite how well we know it can help our career.
Or during the preparation, we sabotage ourselves. Not work on it to the best of our ability. We do this because even practicing for it, our brain tells us that it’s not safe. We should have taken the easier path.
Focusing on failures
Focusing on our failures is similar. It is on the front of our minds because of how harmful failure could have been in the past. Imagine trying a new trail or hunting technique and almost starving. Better to stick to a tried and true method. Even if it isn’t that great.
Any type of incremental improvement was not worth it. A 10% improvement in the food you got would rarely be worth it even if there was a 5% risk of getting eaten. However, now the stakes are much lower. Yes, you can totally bomb your presentation and feel bad for a few days. But if it went well? You could get a new promotion or even more.
Retrain your brain
It’s hard to get over this fear of silence. Of being left alone with your brain. One technique that has helped me is consciously focusing on whatever was negative or went wrong. Instead of avoiding it, try to hone in on what went wrong.
Try to glean anything you can and adapt. Know that you’ll be better next time. It’ll be painful at first. The difference between that and what you did before is the intention. Before it was like a papercut, you’d avoid it and then check on it again. Yep, still embarrassing. Still feel bad about it.
Instead, you’re intentionally thinking about what happened. What went wrong. From beginning to end. What went well? What went poorly? How will I improve next time? By the time you are done, you’ll have thought so much about it that your brain will give you a break. You’ll be able to sit in silence. Satisfied. Knowing you’ll do better next time.