The Joy of Neglecting Stuff

Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time in the day?

I know you do. Because I do, too. All the frigging time. It’s very frustrating, isn’t it?

It’d be one thing if you were just lazy and sat about and didn’t get round to things. Then it’d be obvious why there wasn’t enough time – you’d pissed it all away. But I don’t think that’s you. It’s certainly not me – most days, at least. That’s why I’ve always been more interested in exploring what you’re supposed to do when you’re genuinely busting your hump to try and get as much done with your day as possible and it still feels like there’s no time. What the hell do you do then?

Well, first, as I always recommend, you remind yourself what is and what isn’t under your control. Fact: You can’t change the number of hours in a day. It’s a fixed quantity – it was 24 long before you came along, and it’ll be 24 a long time after you’re gone.

Once you accept that the day is the length that it is, and that all you can change is what you do during those hours, you’re ready to hear about the two basic ways that I’ve tried to approach this problem in my own life.

I like the second one a lot more. But we’ll start with the first: BEING MORE EFFICIENT.

This is where, seeing the solution as cramming as much as you possibly can into each day, you strategise. You get smart. You try to waste as little time as possible.

You batch your tasks. You speed-read. You plan your day right down to 15-minute increments and you contort yourself in an attempt to religiously stick to your schedule. And I’ll bet that – providing you don’t give up – you get a lot done each day with this approach, possibly far more than you ever have before.

Sounds great, right? Wrong. Because although you might think you’ve solved your problem – you’re certainly using your time more efficiently – you haven’t. You might be busier. More productive. More prolific. But I’ll bet you still feel like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Why? YOU’RE NOT LIVING.

For what it’s worth, I’m only slagging this off because I’ve done it. On and off, for years. And whilst I didn’t learn nothing in experiments with efficiency, my main takeaway was that it was wrong for me. I was motivated by a desire to take back control of my life, and I accomplished the opposite – I still felt like there was not enough time, and to top it off, I was exhausted at keeping up with that pace.

What I’ve learnt is that there is a time and a place for efficiency, but that something far more important must come first – the second approach. So what is this thing that, without solving all my problems, at least mad me feel as though were suddenly more hours in the day?

NEGLECT.

It all started with a realisation. People are very quick to bring you back down to Earth when you try and better yourself, or when you try to do anything but meekly accept what you’ve been handed. They’ll talk you off the ledge by reminding you that you can’t just do what you want to all the time, or that sometimes life is hard, or that now and then you just have to put up with things not being the way you’d prefer them to be. They do this because they love you, and they don’t want to see you get hurt.

The most annoying thing is that… they’re right! You can’t just do what you want all the time. Sometimes, life is hard. Now and then, you do just have to put up with things not being the way you’d prefer them to be. Well, after resisting those sorts of beliefs for a long time, I accepted them. I made peace with them. But the more I thought about them, the more I started to wonder… “Maybe there’s some wiggle room here…”

Let’s say, hypothetically, that it’s absolutely impossible to rid your days completely of the things that drag you down. It’s never going to be 0%. No matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, there’s just always going to be that little shit sandwich you’re stuck with. Okay. But let me ask you this: In what way does that prevent you from seeing how small you can make that shit sandwich? Even if you could never get to 0%, and could only get to, say… 20%, wouldn’t it be worth it to try, rather than to just accept your lot at 60%?

Though I’ve gone up and down and taken two steps forward and five steps back a bunch of times – I’ve tried very hard over the past few years to say “no” to things I don’t truly want in my day. Has it made my life a heaven on Earth? No. Has it improved it? Drastically.

What drags you down? What could you start neglecting? Remember: you don’t have to commit – just do it as an experiment. Cut one unwanted thing out of your day for a week. If you really miss it, add it back in. If you don’t, you’ve just freed up some space in your day… for the rest of your life!

If you decide to take my advice, remember Voltaire’s words: “Perfect is the enemy of good.” Getting rid of anything unwanted in your life – even if you can’t get rid of everything – is a move in the right direction, and will make you feel like there are more hours in the day.

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