You know that thing where you’re not really a rush-rush-rush “A-type” person and you have a job and kids and you should do SOMETHING to keep fit but then you also want to chase a dream or just make something cool? You know, that thing? So just how are you supposed to find the time and energy to fit it all in? Well, here’s how I do it even though I am totally a chillaxed B-type.
I get quite a few people asking me how do I get so much cool stuff done (like two bands, this blog, writing books, exercise) even though I have kids and run a business.
The first thing to say is that I am not an A-type person. I know it kind of looks like it in the book cover to Monkey Mind, which you can download for free by the way, but that is supposed to be a characterisation of the Monkey Mind, not the chilled dude-arino that I like to think I am!
I am actually pretty chilled out. I don’t like to be doing, doing, doing all the time. I DO like to get stuff done but I also like to spend time meditating, sleeping in slightly too late, goofing off with the kids, watching a little bit of TV or just kind of staring at a bug on the wall or something. I think that non-stop busy-ness is just an excuse not to face your own demons and I like to look mine square in the eye; it disempowers them (but that’s another blog post).
Yet while I am not an A-type freak who never stops running hither and thither getting everything done or else, I do manage to get a bit done. Here’s how:
1 – I Eliminate As Much As Possible (Especially What I Just Don’t Want To Do)
Now, I obviously do stuff I would rather not do, like the dishes or tweaking a website for hours on end to solve a problem that only exists in the client’s mind, but I also blatantly avoid a lot of crap.
If I can put it off, palm it off or just never do it at all, I don’t do it. Obviously you have to use your judgement. I would rather not clean up the dog poo in my garden twice a week, but for the sake of ten minute’s work it sure makes the garden a lot nicer to hang out in!
But, speaking of gardens, I hate mowing and trimming the edges and I am just no good at it. I have an anti-talent for 2-stroke engines. They just won’t start or work properly for me and I get very irritated, very quickly. A few years ago when I found myself jumping up and down on my whipper-snipper while teaching the neighbourhood kids some colourful new words, I decided it was better that I outsource that!
2 – I Am Ok With Chaos
I used to be bonkers about my inbox being clean, but then I realised I was spending so much time sorting and deleting email that it was just a waste of time, especially when gmail has such good search, so I just stopped it, to see what would happen.
The only thing that happened was that I saved umpteen precious minutes not spent piss-farting around with emails.
There’s a lot of noise, and most of it just doesn’t matter. So I just decided a while back to stop worrying about having the perfect filing system or the cleanest desk. Yes, it is nice to have a clean desk, and I do find that occasionally I need to tidy my office because it helps me think better, but for the most part I just try to focus on the things that matter and hang the rest.
I barely ever reply to LinkedIn requests or Facebook event invites. People walk into my office and insist that I do such and such and I smile, and make a show of putting it on my list even though I know I will never get around to it. 99 times out of one hundred it just disappears and is never mentioned again. Gee – guess it wasn’t that important after all.
Ignore the noise. Embrace the chaos. Focus on the signal.
3 – I Don’t Get Precious About Conditions Being Perfect
I hear too many musicians and other creative types moan that they can’t get anything done because “they don’t have the right space” or “they need more time to get in the zone”.
I am writing this now in the kitchen 2 minutes after putting the kids to bed and in a hurry because my wife wants me to resume watching series four of Louie already (love the CK). She is hovering behind me rattling paper or a wrestling a cat or something noisy. I am pretty sure she is doing it to put me off – but I am still writing, dammit!
Since I’ve had kids I may not have become some world-famous success story but I have made 2 eps, a single, two video clips, a full length album, three books and built a blog with an email list of 6000 people. I did this while raising two kids and building a freelance consulting business to pay the bills.
But here’s the thing, like I said it’s not because I am an A-type psycho, it’s because I know two things.
One, if I start working on creative work, even when I don’t feel like it, the Muse will respect that and (usually) arrive to pour her creative gifts through me.
4 – I Do What Gives Me Energy When I Do It
This is Oprah’s secret apparently. And I am down with the Oprah factor. She is wise, wise woman.
When I do music, writing, meditating, or any other kind of work that I am genuinely passionate about, that is serving my true purpose in this life, it GIVES me energy. It doesn’t cost me energy at all. I might be buggered after a long day at work followed by putting the kids to bed and all that goes with that (you know, like cheese-grating your own face because it feels better than repeating the same sentence about socks so. many. times.) but I know that if I start doing what I love, then I will soon be buzzing with energy again.
I love knowing that one blog post I write or a song I sing will help someone to reconnect with their Higher Power, find their True Purpose in life or just make their day better in some small way. That doesn’t tire me out – I have to STOP myself at 11pm or midnight otherwise I get too tired the next day just from staying up too late.
5 – I Stay Hungry
I mean that literally.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying I starve myself nor that you should either, but what I mean is I eat in such a way that I very often (not always) avoid eating too much (white) carbohydrates or sugar because I find these just make me feel all satiated, lazy and unmotivated.
Conversely, if, like tonight, I just have a bunch of roast chicken, a lot of green vegies and a couple of small pieces of brown carbohydrates – and then STOP – then I really feel, not ACTUALLY hungry, but I sort of crave some sugar or something. And I don’t feel heavy. I feel light and restless, and like I need to get to work.
No beer or soft drinks with the meal, no sugary desert after the meal. Just a medium serve, wholefood meal. Sugar (and so-called “bad” or excessive carbs), yummy as they are, just makes me lazy and too satisfied. By staying hungry I just work harder because it takes my mind off food.
NOTE: I am not a dietician or anything so make sure you consult a doctor before you change your diet radically. And yes I do understand that if food is your Achilles Heel then this advice might be like telling a depressed person to “just cheer up”. Not always as simple as all that!
6 – I Make It Easy In My Mind
This is something that has been working really well for me lately. I used to really look at the whole “self-discipline” thing as a set-your-jaw and push on tough guy challenge. But now I don’t. The truth is, for me anyway, this attitude is too exhausting. I found I was getting things done but then I was burning out.
Going deep inside and being mindful I realised I was viewing the whole “achievement thing” as a steep, difficult climb up a mountain. I had this idea that I had to claw my way upwards no matter what.
But in fact this is just an idea in our minds.
We don’t need to view it that way at all! Doing so just makes it FEEL harder because we are telling ourselves it IS harder when this is not an objective truth in most circumstances.
It reminds me of when I am doing a difficult exercise when working out (yes, I do work out, although no doubt with all the grace of an under-weight walrus doing sit-ups on a particularly uncomfortable rock. Thankfully I enjoy it). As I get to the end of a set of 20 reps, the last two or three are always really stupidly hard compared to the rest. But once when I upped the amount from 20 to 26, I noticed that the last two or three were really stupidly hard – but not 18, 19 and 20 – the reps which were so hard previously!
I realised it was very much a matter of mind over matter in reverse, and if I shined my awareness on this glitch of the mind/body and smiled at how dumb-ass it was, the last few reps were not nearly so bad at all.
Turns out it is the same for any big goal or task we set ourselves. So I changed how I was looking at things. Now instead of seeing writing a book, for example (which I am doing again now), as a tough uphill battle, a rock-climbing nightmare, I decided to visual myself sitting on a bike, uphill from the goal (finished book) just cruising down a gentle slope towards the goal.
That just changed everything, made the work (especially starting the work) so much easier, so much less of an unnecessary strain on my mind and body.
Actually there’s a book that you could read which kind-of states things the same way, The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz.
Fritz was a sausage variety when I was at school in South Australia but it’s still a good book, give it a go. It’s a bit dry – the book not the sausage – but is definitely amazing. In that book he also talks about Choosing…
7 – I Choose What I Want to Create
Whether you’re creating a work of art or just a good week, the thing is to consciously choose to make it. When you choose, consciously and specifically, a thing that you are going to do, you start to naturally gravitate towards making it happen.
The thing I find though is that this only works when you choose the right things, the things that your Higher Power (however you understand that) wants you to create.
When I choose things that make sense on paper, but that my heart isn’t really into, I just don’t get past the 1% inspiration and onto the 99% perspiration part. But when I choose to create things that are congruous with my Higher Purpose, then I just keep the vision in my mind and keep taking the next step.
When I am tired, I rest. When I am rested, I get to work – because I want to.
Anyway, I could write all night, but my good lady would like to click ‘play’ now, so better tootle off, hope this has been helpful.
How do you find ways to motive yourself to get more done? Or what challenges do you have in getting things done? Tell us about it in the comments and I will be sure to reply.