Here’s the thing.
I can’t possibly be the only person who’s spent entirely too many years trying and failing to organise my time and my life? It went something like this: In regular intervals, I’d resolve that the slacking was to end, and came up with some amazing schedule for my life. It was based on whatever time management guru’s book I had read last.
Then I’d get to work, and boy did I get productive for a few days or weeks. Then inevitably I’d slide back into inertia. I just couldn’t stay motivated and felt guilty, especially because I seemed to be surrounded by superhumans who somehow got everything done, from demanding jobs to social activities, exercise, and family life. Only I seemed to fail at time management.
It took me altogether too long to realise that most of those “superhumans” were just as lost as I was, and never got everything done they wanted to do. Then I became a coach and magiacally learned how to get my shit together! -Err, no. But I did learn a few things, and these days I’m fairly happy with how I handle the “time of my life”.
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Letting go of guilt
I’m mentioning this first, because it’s the hardest thing. You need to let go of the “I suck” feeling! Even clients I’ve coached for weeks or months, still fall into this trap. It shocks me every time, because after working in personal development for going on 20 years, 15 of which as a coach, I’m simply no longer used to the harsh negativity that we’re surrounded with.
People see the world as bad. And since they’re part of the world, they judge themselves harshly, too.
Short of dragging every last person who reads this into one of my coaching programs, I’m a little helpless. Should I beg: “Please stop beating yourself up. You’re not a failure”?
Perhaps it’s more helpful to show you how this negative self-image is created. If you get angry about it, maybe that’ll give you energy to fight it.
- The news and media you consume are heavily biased towards negativity. That’s what sells, because it feeds into our own genetic negativity bias.
- Advertising is literally built on the message: Here’s what’s wrong with you, now buy my product/service and it’ll fix you. This goes for everything from clothes to cosmetics to, yes, Coaching. It hurts me to say this, but my own industry is very guilty of this. Ugh.
- Through the internet, especially social media, we are connected to more people than ever. And since everyone shows themselves from their best side online, we’re bombarded by images of perfection that give us the impression that lots of people have perfect lives.
Do you see? The deck is stacked against us. We try to keep up, but we’ve been set up for failure.
Why you fail at time management
To recap: You’ve been force-fed the worst of humanity through media. At the same time, you have been shown all the best achievements of your fellow humans, creating the impression that you could – and should – do it all and be happy about it.
Now you set out on this doomed quest, over-schedule yourself and read about a new time management system that’ll allow you to cram even more into your schedule.
Is it any wonder you fail and fall off the wagon? There’s something in you – call it your Higher Self, God, the Universe – that’ll protect you by making you fail at time management. You, with your above-mentioned negativity conditioning, respond by feeling terrible.
Please understand this, it’s important! You fail because you cannot succeed. Yes, there are a few people who seem to get everything done. Unfortunately, they also often have major health problems, don’t sleep, are on medication, or are deeply unhappy. That’s because humans are simply not meant to live this way.
How to set yourself up for success
To stop oscillating between super-organised and a near-vegetative state, you need to drop your unrealistic expectations. This also involves giving society the middle finger, so to speak.
Here’s how you can achieve this:
For at least a week, monitor the way you think and speak about yourself. Interrupt any negativity or self-criticism by apologising to yourself and then immediately thinking of something positive about yourself.
Get a calendar, but forget about scheduling every minute of every day.
Instead, get into the habit of opening your calendar ever morning to look at your day and decide on 1 or 2 priorities for this day. You can probably think of 10 more things you “must” do, but remember what happened when you tried to schedule it all? Exactly. So schedule 2 to focus on. Everything else is icing.
Schedule downtime. You heard me. I know it’s weird to schedule something that isn’t an activity, but it’s important. Make room for not doing anything productive.
Schedule your passions. Remember what I said about scheduling every minute of every day? Don’t squeeze in your passions between other things. Leave plenty of space around them.
I will almost guarantee that you’ll feel a lot more motivated within a week or two. If you’re still struggling, cut down on your activities even more. Let go of things, say “no”. As you normalise your new, much more realistic expectations, you’ll feel content, even happy – and it’ll get ever easier to do the things you really want to do.