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.
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.
This is something that I’ve been battling for a while. My laptop has been showing signs of its age. It used to get me through the day. Now I have to charge it every few hours. Opening up more than a few tabs causes it to need to think for minutes and everything takes a lot longer than it used to.
Not to say it’s all the computer’s fault, I’ve been asking much more of it than I used to as well. These days I do some basic video and image editing. I also use it for work. It’s on and doing something all day. Still, it’s been working well since I bought it in mid-2015, much longer than the typical 3 years I had laptops before it.
You would think that it’d be a simple and rational decision to go and look for a new laptop. Almost all my work is done on it whether in medicine, the blog, or my other businesses, but it’s been hard to let go. It still works. It’s a little slow but doesn’t have any major problems.
A couple of new versions of it came out through the past few years. Before this one, I would replace my laptop every 3-4 years due to necessity. Something would break and it would be cheaper to buy a new laptop than fix it. It seems like such a large expense. And my laptop still works.
Well, my amazing wife got me a new laptop. She knew I was being stubborn and not buying one even though I needed it. Or she was sick of me complaining about my current laptop. And you know what? I should have replaced it years ago. I lost countless hours of productivity throughout the years due to being stubborn.
I can see now all the patches I had put in my day to work around a slow laptop. I had bought that laptop as an intern and had to skimp to afford it. It had minimal specs. All that I could afford. There were some good times. I had to get creative and outsource stuff that I couldn’t do on my computer. Or it would take too long.
There were other times I suffered through and did things myself. And it took a lot longer than it should have. I know now that I was limiting myself. Trying to cut a tree with a dull ax. My laptop was my tool of the trade and because it got the job done. Well, eventually. It doesn’t mean it was right for the job.
What are the tools of your trade? Do you keep an eye out when it’s time to upgrade them?
Wake up. Wash face and brush teeth. Try to resist and fail. Grab phone.
I start most of my days like I assume most of you guys do. With my phone. Of course with a bunch of red notifications. Emails, news, text messages and of course a bunch of spam calls.
Picking up my laptop is worse. I’ll see notifications from my email or my RSS Feed. For some reason, it’s harder to resist replying to an email on my laptop.
My RSS feed is a black hole of procrastination. It is a updated list of all the podcasts I listen to, blogs I read, and YouTube channels I watch. And there are always updates.
Sometimes, I’ll pick up my phone or laptop, look at a notification and put it down. Completely forgetting why I picked it up in the first place.
It starts innocently enough. Let me respond to this email. Let me read this blog post. Let’s see if there’s anything happening on the news. Suddenly hours have passed by. And I haven’t done a single thing.
This happens every day, many times a day. I sometimes envy our younger less connected days. Forsaking technology and the internet wasn’t an option, so I’ve had to find a few workarounds. Otherwise, I’d get nothing done. And many days I still don’t.
Be mindful of what is able to send you a notification. When you first download an app, it’ll ask you it can send notifications. Think will you need it? Your attention is precious. Don’t give it away
Try and only use the amount of technology you need to get the job done. The internet is vast. Do you need access to it all to get this project done? I’ll open up a new browser window and only use that window while I’m working. My normal browser has countless tabs for articles that I’d like to read or need my attention at some point.
Mimic airplane mode. Turn off wifi. Hit airplane mode on your phone. Try to do that for 20-25 minutes and then give yourself a few minutes of relaxation. Then repeat.
What does a typical day look like for you? You wake up, then coffee. More than likely you grab your phone, respond to some texts or emails. Go to work. Come home, some family time. Dinner, TV, and then sleep.
If you’re like me, then between all those times you try to fit in as much as you can. Read articles or blog posts. Listen to podcasts. Try to get a workout in if there’s time. You squeeze out every minute of free time. out. All in the name of productivity.
There’s not a bit of free time. Free time. Do we even need it?
Well, think back. When was the last time you had an epiphany? What were you doing? All a sudden an answer comes to you despite not thinking about the problem at all. Your mind was idle for a bit so it had the brainpower to work on your problems in the background.
Or it was something you told yourself you have to remember, but somehow you forgot. Just letting your mind sit idle for a bit was able to bring it back.
We often run our brain at top speed and wonder why we still feel tired after a good night’s sleep. Our brain is mentally exhausted because it’s been working non-stop. It would be like going to the gym for 8-12 hours a day and expecting not to be sore the next day. Then beat myself up when I can’t come up with any creative solutions for my big problems.
To combat this, I try to insert a bit of free time throughout the day. So that my brain can run free. It can relax if it wants, or go and attack whatever it wants in the background.
Small stuff here and there. I stopped taking out my phone as soon as I got in the elevator. I sit there and stare at the door. A few seconds of blissful free time. I’ll listen to music or even commute in a silent car. Instead of turning on a podcast as soon as I step in the car. I’ll wash the dishes and resist the need to play a video or podcast.
Try to think of where you can insert a little free time into your life. Your brain will surprise you with how much more productive it can be with a little rest and free time.
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