It was a Saturday night and I was heading to my mate’s house for a few drinks. I’d stopped by the bottle shop underneath her apartment building and grabbed my standard bottle of $15 cab sav. I placed it on the counter and reached into my bag for my wallet.
The shop assistant laughed and tapping the bottle he said ‘The same one every time!’. This shop assistant is always there no matter what time of day or night so I guess he’d know that I always bought the same thing. I laughed and said ‘Yep!’, tapped my card and headed upstairs.
I opened my friend’s door, catching her cat in the doorway as he tried to escape and handed her the brown paper bag wrapped bottle. She poured two very healthy serves in her favourite enormous wine glasses and we headed outside to sit on the balcony. I sipped the wine. It was good. Very drinkable.
‘I’d love to know more about wine… I should do a class or something’. I said.
My friend just shrugged her shoulders and said ‘Why?’. She pointed out that I have tried all the wines. Several times over. I’ve been drinking wine for over a decade and with my incredibly unsophisticated palette I know I like big, bold, peppery red wines. Cab sav or Shiraz. I’ll certainly drink other things, particularly if it’s hot but I really am a red wine gal.
My friend’s advice thrilled me. I’m an information seeker and I love learning stuff so my natural instinct was to try to become an expert in wine. I don’t want to be an expert in wine, I just want to be able to pick a good wine and my current system of telling the bottle shop owner I want a cab sav that’s like a spicy punch in the face is serving me quite well, so I’m going to stick to it. Also, there are people out there who love wine and they love being asked about it. In fact just this morning I sent a message to my friend Nicole from Champagne and Chips asking for a recommendation for a fancy bottle of plonk for my parent’s wedding anniversary and she responded almost immediately with the perfect recommendation. So much quicker to just ask someone who gives a shit rather than me spending hours researching it myself.
This got me thinking about giving ourselves permission to do less stuff so that we can do more stuff. We all have enormous lists of things we want to do. Meditate, cook, read, study a foreign language, sing, draw, exercise. We have a limited amount of time and our desires often exceed that limitation.
As a person who does a lot stuff, here are my thoughts on doing more stuff by doing less stuff…
1. Categorise your goals into daily, weekly and monthly piles
There’s often a lot of guilt associated with setting task goals and not completing them. Have you ever been to the shops and bought a whole lot expensive ingredients to make a gourmet dinner and then never actually got around to making the dinner? $20 worth of slimy herbs is a gross trophy of failure that most of us have been awarded many times. The trick to staying on top of your goals is to categorise them into time piles. Here’s what my goals look like in time piles.
Listen to a ‘for fun’ podcast while I tidy the house
Watch a TV show with Mr Smaggle and not do something else at the same time
Have a quality catch up with a friend
Paint my nails
Get my inbox to zero
Reconcile the financial month in Xero
Have a proper date day with Mr Smaggle (no working)
Mr Smaggle and I both work from home and we’re both business owners so spending more time together not working is an ongoing goal for us. We are both in big hustle times in our careers so it’s just unrealistic of us to expect to be able to have a full date day once a week. Our schedules are too unpredictable so if we set that as a weekly goal, we’d fail at it most of time. If you have a goal that you’re persistently failing at, you may want to change which time pile you’ve put it in.
2. Recognise that you have ‘seasons’ of ability
Do you ever notice how in some weeks you’re a superhuman and you can slam through days of work in just a few hours and other weeks it takes a whole day to do something that usually takes 20 minutes? Yeah. That’s because you’re a human, not a robot and sometimes you’re just better at life for no real reason. This is super frustrating if you’re a particularly productive person and you’re having an off day but just remember, your levels of ability are seasonal. It’s why you can sometimes stick perfectly to a diet and other times you really struggle. It’s why sometimes you have the energy to keep your house super tidy and other times it looks like a tip. The trick to getting through your ‘off-season’ is to do less stuff, not more. Your off-season is no time to spring clean, do your taxes, hand sew couch cushions or start a foreign language course. For me, off-seasons only last a few days and then I’m back on track so if I’m really struggling to concentrate and get things done I move my ‘someday’ items to the following week. The trick with making this work is to really go hard when you’re having your on-season. If you’re really motivated and have lots of energy – use it! Don’t let it go to waste. This is why I never skip the gym when I’m feeling well because the second I do, sure enough, I get sick and I have to skip the gym and I wasted that opportunity to go when I was well. Make good use of your off and on seasons.
3. Pinpoint your non-negotiables
My two non-negotiables every day are exercise and crochet. If I don’t do both of those every day I go a bit batty. My exercise class takes up 1 hour and 15 minutes including commuting time and crochet takes a minimum of 20 minutes (usually much more than that if I’m honest!). So that’s roughly an hour and half a day I dedicate to the things that keep me sane. If cooking is important to you, carve out the time to do that. If yoga floats your boat, put it on your non-negotiable list. If reading is your bag, put aside 20 minutes of reading time, even if you have to leave the house to do it. The only way to achieve your goals is to work on them.
4. Schedule your downtime
Since the internet became a thing, we’re all so ‘on’ all the time. Instagramming, Facebooking, Pinning… it can be really hard to take time away from all that particularly when we view ‘down time’ as scrolling on our phones. Unless I have something particularly important happening, I put my phone on airplane mode at 9 pm at night and don’t touch again until the next morning. I find if I try to work at 9 pm at night just end up clicking around the internet and wasting time. So I might as well embrace this, turn off my damn computer, put my phone away and do something I actually enjoy like crocheting while watching an awesome TV show or going for dinner and a few drinks with a friend. If you don’t schedule your downtime, most of it will be spent mindlessly eating cereal as an afternoon snack while you scroll through your phone in an exhausted heap on the couch. Make your downtime count and stop wasting it.
5. Let go of those things you never end up doing
If you’ve been wanting to take singing lessons, learn a foreign language, volunteer at a shelter or start playing a team sport but you’ve never got around to doing it, despite talking about it for a decade, it might be time to kill that goal or at least bench it for a while. I’m not being a dream killer here, I promise, this is all about finding time to do the things you want to do… and if you haven’t done a thing despite talking about it for ten years, chances are you don’t actually want to do it that badly. I’m like this with singing lessons, I’ve been wanting to do singing lessons for years but I actually really hate singing lessons which is why I don’t do them. I’m shelving that idea for the moment just to clear it from my brain. My wanting to sing desires take up a lot of space and I either have to learn to sing or tuck that thought away until I can deal with it properly.
What’s one thing you’ve always wanted to do? And how are you going to make space for it in your life?