“Time is an illusion. Lunchtime doubly so.” – Douglas Adams
You’d think that with us well into the holiday season, life would have slowed to a more leisurely pace. If anything, it’s gotten more frantic. Instead of driving to the office like maniacs, capriciously changing lanes at the slightest sign of delay, it’s off to the malls to fill up on junk. And soon it’ll be back to another year of working insane hours in jobs we don’t want simply to afford and maintain lifestyles we don’t need. What’s up with that?
After reading The 4-Hour Workweek (also available in South Africa) I’ve decided that enough is enough. No more, I say! Don’t get me wrong; I always love this time of year. But instead of getting sucked into the frenzy, I’d like to try a new approach. More specifically, I’ve decided to use this time to figure out how to tone things down permanently so all this scurrying about doesn’t feature again. I propose the following:
Slow down. This may seem obvious, but the first step in dealing with stress in your life is to stop being so rushed. When on earth did juggling a million things at once become a sign of the capable and adept? I’ve seen people eat, drink, smoke, apply makeup, and even send text messages all while trying to drive. I even saw a guy trying to read a newspaper while riding his bike! This just in…multitasking doesn’t work! And no, you’re not the exception to the rule. The facts of life show no favour.
Prioritise. What would you do if you just had a heart attack and could only work for two hours a day? What about two hours a week? After coming across this question in the book, I knew the answer was simple. It’s about eliminating everything you don’t need and filling your life with what you do. Since then, I’ve stopped watching TV (except for my favourite shows), stopped listening to annoying DJs on the radio, stopped watching the news bulletins several times a day, cut back my online subscriptions from nine to two, and cut back my print subscriptions from five to one. It may be hard to let go of all the data, but do you honestly need to check your email and other messages several times a day? Besides, if anything that important happens, you’ll know. Why not spend some time discovering the likes of Tolstoy and Twain, something I recently decided to do? I’m up for the challenge and can’t wait to get started!
Relax. One of the biggest problems facing our culture is a newfound belief that we can and should be all things to all people all the time. It’s the reason so many of us find ourselves with more and more responsibilities sooner rather than later. Why not just say no? There’s no shame in admitting you’re not superhuman simply because none of us are. And there’s no shame in admitting you can’t handle the pressure. Earlier this year I naively thought I was capable of simultaneously writing an honours thesis in finance and preparing for a solo piano recital. After a few weeks of waking up at 04:30, I chose to cancel the concert and stop pushing so hard. In the end, the focus let me excel in both fields (and keep myself from going insane).
Ultimately, life is not meant to be about working ourselves to the bone with a few weeks a year as our only break. It’s meant to be about enjoying time with our loved ones instead of using other work and other “commitments” as an excuse to lose touch. That’s what really matters. And don’t you forget it!
“The happiness of too many days is often destroyed by trying to accomplish too much in one day. We would do well to follow a common rule for our daily lives – do less and do it better.” – Dale E. Turner