Seven Myths That Can Ruin Your Life
written by Dr. Peter van Breda
Maybe you play this little game.
Every Monday (or every first of the month or every new year) you say to yourself, “This will be different. I’m finally going to crush my to do list/get to the gym/be home with my family for dinner/not be overwhelmed.” And before you know it, your best intentions vaporize into a puff of smoke. You are just as slammed as you ever were. Maybe more. You’re not further ahead at all. You’re either treading water or even further behind.
If you’ve ever struggled with that, trust me, you’re not alone. When you really drill down on why this happens to so many people, you soon see that at the root of it are lies that need to be abandoned. What you think drives what you do. If your thinking is broken, your doing will be too. There are at least seven widely believed myths that jettison the lives of far too many.
And it’s not just work life that suffers. When you don’t have your time under control, your whole life suffers. The biggest victims? You and your family.
So let’s take a look at these seven things that can rob us of a life.
1. I Just Don’t Have The Time
Actually, yes you do. You do have the time. Every person on planet earth has the same amount of time every day. The only exceptions are the day you’re born and the day you die.
That fortune 50 CEO? They have the same amount of time you do and did not get any more hours than you did today. So we need to make the shift – stop saying that you don’t have the time. Try it for a week. Stop saying you don’t have the time (because you do). Start admitting you didn’t make it. That will force you to have some hard conversations with yourself when you realize the most productive person on planet earth got the same hours you did today.
When you are honest with yourself about not making the time to read bedtime stories to your kids, work out, have a date night with your wife (once lockdown is over), or work on your top priorities, it’s so much easier to change.
OK – now I am going to get real practical – with COVID and being forced to live the way we are – get up in the morning? Establish a regular routine (if you have fallen out of one). Set your alarm and get up the same time as you would have if you were heading out of the house to work. Dress for work, put on your makeup, and etc. Take breaks as if you were on the job and quit (unless there is a deadline) at the time you would normally quit. And of course go to bed at a reasonable hour (but you know all that).
Begin here: Stop saying you don’t have the time. Start admitting you didn’t make it.
2. Better Time Management Will Solve All My Problems
You probably have told yourself that you need to get better at time management. And maybe you do.
Here’s the problem. Time management alone does not scale because you are managing a finite amount of time. Can you get better at time management? Of course. But on its own, time management doesn’t prepare you to handle 10x or 100x your current responsibilities.
You need a better strategy.
3. I Just Need To Be More Efficient
Should you be efficient? Yes, you should be. But like time management, eventually, you hit a wall. I am all for efficiency when it matters, but to go one step further, some activities are by nature not inherently efficient. Many people are just not efficient. Parenting isn’t efficient. Neither is marriage or friendship. Nor are a host of other things as well – but we have to do them because it is a necessary part of living and interacting with others in our lives.
Sometimes you need the gift of space and time. You need uninterrupted, unhurried time to explore whatever you need to explore, relationally or otherwise. In all matters where you can be efficient, do it. An accounting system for your business that cuts the time in half is probably worth whatever it costs. Same with email, routine meetings and so much of what occupies daily life. Those endless Zoom meetings can be a glorious waste of time.
Interestingly, Elon Musk has advice for America’s CEOs: Quit spending so much time in meetings. He said far too many business leaders occupy their days with discussions in conference rooms or over presentations and fail to pay attention to finding ways to make their products better through day-to-day innovations. “Are CEOs in corporate America focused enough on product improvement? I think the answer is no,” Mr. Musk told an online audience during The Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council annual summit. “Spend less time on finance, spend less time in conference rooms, less time on PowerPoint, and more time just trying to make your product as amazing as possible.” By the way – Steve Jobs used to, and Jeff Bezos also hates PowerPoint presentations – in fact, they banned them. The advantages of PowerPoint are to the presenter, while the disadvantages are all to the audience. How many of you have chafed having to watch a PowerPoint – it gets kinda boring does it not?
Stop asking yourself how to be more efficient. Start asking yourself how to be more effective.
Becoming more effective might mean you cut 17 efficient things out of your life. Sure, you may be efficient at a lot of things, but being efficient at things that don’t matter isn’t a win. It’s a loss. Becoming more effective might mean you cut out six meetings so you can have a full day to ponder and think about the future or to handle those difficult inter-personal problems that never go away.
4. Sleep Is For Wimps
Sleep is not for wimps, or for the lazy. It is actually a core habit of many top-performing athletes, leaders, and frankly, human beings. According to medical research, chronic lack of sleep can cause weight gain, age your skin, harm your sex drive, impair memory, and can contribute to illnesses as serious as diabetes, heart attacks, strokes, and even premature death. It is a little shocking, but it’s not actually an exaggeration to say that a chronic lack of sleep can kill you. A rested you is a better you. And a rested you is always a more productive you. So rest.
5. I Just Need To Push Through
Sure, once in a while, you need to push yourself well past your personal reserves. But too many try to do this every day. They show up exhausted. They work exhausted. And they go home exhausted. Your brain doesn’t even work properly when you are exhausted. What took you 3 hours to do at 7 p.m. might actually take you only 30 minutes at 7 a.m. after you wake up from 8 hours of sleep. That problem you could not figure out all day yesterday finally solved itself in your mind when you went on a walk or took that bike ride. The next time you find yourself staring at a blank computer screen, walk away. And come back when you’re fresh.
6. I Can’t Control My Calendar Because I Am Not The Boss
Let’s get honest for a moment – given a forty-hour work week, what percentage of your hours have mandated activities? Nobody can tell me that you have all 40 hours that are mandated. Which means, of course, that you have full control over part of your work week. Now pull the camera back a bit. There are 168 hours in every week – how are you allocating that time?
So let me encourage you to get your time, energy, and priorities working for you with a fixed calendar. “I’m so organized in my use of time, energy, and tasks that I’m actually starting to get ahead instead of constantly playing catch up” – William Zima. Unfortunately, we make excuses for ourselves and focus on what we can’t control not on what we can. Folks who focus on what they can control always outperform leaders who focus on what they can’t control.
7. I Just Can’t Say “No” To This
You can say no. Most of us, however, suffer from a fear of missing out. We are terrified of what we will miss if we say no, or we feel pressured into a yes.
Eventually, though, your desire to do everything kills your ability to do anything well. Saying no actually makes your time more valuable, not less valuable, because scarcity creates value.
Saying yes to a bunch of good things will fill up your life so much that you no longer have the bandwidth to say yes to anything great when it finally comes along. Learning to say no to the right things, and learning to say no nicely is one of the most valuable things you can do.
Folks, we all need time for ourselves – but unless you make it, then it will not happen.