I really love the idea of “missing out” being a joy, and not a fear. I’ve recently come to realize how much I’ve been distracting myself and procrastinating with busy-ness, in order to avoid doing the things I find difficult or unpleasant. I recently reduced my hours at my day-job so that I would have more time available to build my coaching business, yet week after week I found myself using the “I ran out of time” excuse for why I didn’t finish everything on my list. I’d filled my schedule with so many things (all of which I was legitimately excited about) that I was not able to be effective at any of them.
Despite the illusion of feeling productive because I was obsessively multi-tasking 24/7, I realized that I was increasingly feeling stressed and anxious. It felt like my precious time was slipping away from me, and even though I couldn’t possibly fit one more thing into my schedule, I was actually accomplishing very little.
Once I recognized what was happening, I began clearing space in my weekly calendar. By taking the least impactful things off my schedule and intentionally leaving blank spaces, I created flex-time that I could use as I chose in the moment. Sometimes I decide to work on something that needs my attention, but sometimes I choose to do something that has no purpose other than fun and relaxation. Despite the voice in my head that’s screaming “we don’t have time for this!!!”, I recognized that my stressed-out brain and body desperately need down-time if I want to be effective when I apply myself to business-related tasks.
The benefits of scheduling down-time into my life were clearly illustrated to me just last weekend. For the last year, Saturdays have been my primary focus time when I can work on business-related projects. I’d lock myself away from the world and busily tap away at my keyboard from dawn to dusk. But last weekend, I went kayaking all day with a group of local paddlers. Even as I was enjoying the peaceful activity and the gorgeous weather, I was wrestling with the inner voice that kept freaking out about how far behind I would be because of all the time I was “wasting”. And yet, by the end of the weekend I found that I’d actually accomplished more than I usually would if I’d stayed home. By giving myself the gift of down-time, I actually increased my efficiency and productivity when I was working. Less time working = getting more done!
We Americans live in a culture that celebrates being overworked and over-stressed. We wear our exhaustion like a badge of honor, and we talk about our overwhelming responsibilities with a sense of pride. We forget that our minds and bodies need down-time in order to function at peak efficiency, and “down-time” doesn’t just mean sleep… it means relaxation and fun too.
You may have heard of the “80-20 Rule”, which states that 20% of your efforts will produce 80% of your results. So if you can identify and prioritize the 20% of your efforts that are having the greatest impact, and reduce or eliminate the 80% that just keeps you busy but doesn’t contribute that much, you just might find that you spend less time working at being busy while accomplishing more and enjoying more.
So, I’m happy to “miss out” now. I’m cultivating the skill of saying no when opportunities come along that sound interesting, but won’t have a real impact on my goals. I’m learning to refocus my efforts onto the things that will be productive, not the things that will keep me busy. To me, this is the joy of missing out.
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