Your time and your energy are like strawberry jam – the farther you spread them, the thinner they get. And if you’re anything like me, a thin, barely visible skim of jam on your toast just won’t cut it.
One of the most pervasive challenges I see among so many people who are would like to rid themselves of anxiety is the tendency to spread themselves too thin.
Work begins the second you check your smart phone in the morning and ends… well, it never actually ends. The kids demand your attention, you feel obliged to stay informed with the news, your social media accounts need attention, the grass needs cutting, you wanted to volunteer more this year… Oh, and when are you going to get around to meeting with that financial planner who’s going to solve all your problems with a mutual fund?
Anxiety can creep in when you feel you’ve lost control of your life. So if it seems that you’re only barely managing to stay a step ahead of the freight train that’s bearing down on you, it might be worthwhile to rethink your approach. Operating in reactive mode all the time gives you no opportunity to reflect on where you’ve been or are heading and then to prepare and carry out the plans that will take you there.
Is the solution to have more jam or less toast?
Do you know what you have in common with Oprah, Richard Branson and Elon Musk? You’re all given 24 hours in each day. Not a second more, nor a second less no matter who you are.
As for energy, have you noticed how some people seem to barely drag their butts around through the day while others have so much vitality you want to smack ‘em?
We’re all given a finite supply of time and energy. The difference is how we each make use of them. I like to watch and learn from those who have been more successful (however I choose to define that) than me. When it comes to using time and energy more effectively, I see successful people leveraging and increasing the effectiveness of the supply they’ve got. Here are some strategies I’ve found useful:
Negativity will sap your energy faster than an ironman triathlon. It takes practice to make positivity and optimism your default thoughts, but it pays huge dividends in the amount of energy you have to fuel your days. Focus on the things that are working, the things that are going well, the things you’ve done right. Make a list of all the things that have worked out for you and remind yourself that there’s far more ‘up’ in your life than ‘down.’
Take a look at the list of goals you’ve set for yourself. (You have a goals list, right?) Then ask yourself, “What’s the ONE THING I could be spending my time on that will take me to those objectives the fastest?” When you’ve identified it, set aside at least 50% of your time to devote to this task. Everything else is secondary and can wait. If you don’t have a list of goals, I suggest that preparing one is your ONE THING.
We often spend more time switching between tasks than we do working on the tasks themselves. Instead of losing 20 pounds, earning another degree, coaching little league and starting a Facebook group, pick just one. A really good job done on just one of those efforts will bring you far more benefit than a poor or half-finished job on all four. The other three will wait patiently for when you’re ready. Plus, the success you enjoy in one area will fuel you for the effort in the next.
Ask! Ask! Ask!
Too many of us try to do everything on our own. But there is information, assistance, support, money and time available, if only we would ask. The most successful people are constantly asking others for all of these. The rest of us, though, hold back from asking because we’re afraid to look needy, foolish or stupid. We’ve also convinced ourselves that we’re likely to be rejected, so why bother asking in the first place? We say ‘no’ to ourselves before anyone else has a chance to say ‘yes.’
Surround yourself with successful people
There are people in your life who can simply walk into the room and you’re completely drained of energy. They bring the tension, the stress and the anxiety with them and they love to share it around. But there are others in your life, too. They’re the ones who always leave you feeling better than you did before they came. They bring the energy, the enthusiasm, the optimism and the encouragement. All emotions are contagious. Run from the toxic ones and seek out and breathe deeply from the uplifting ones.
Jim Rohn, one of the original success teachers and Tony Robbins’ mentor, liked to say that “success leaves clues.” In other words, if you hang around and observe successful people you can see what it is they do differently than the rest of us. When it comes to maximizing your finite supply of time and energy, each of these tactics will make your jam go a little farther while still retaining that sweet strawberry taste.