Why is it that I can never keep up with all the things I need to do, let alone find time for the things I actually want to do?
If you've found yourself asking that question again and again... repeatedly trying different techniques to free yourself from this constant feeling of too muchness... it turns out there are a lot of reasons why…
The book “Four Thousand Weeks: Time Management for Mortals” by Oliver Burkeman has helped me reimagine my relatively warped relationship with time to open up more space for the things that matter most.
This change begins by “dispelling the illusion that the path to peace of mind lies in mastering or dominating time, when in fact the answer is to step more fully and wholeheartedly into our non-negotiable human limitations.”
Oliver goes on to say that “efficiency is never going to be the answer, simply because the supply of incoming things to do is infinite. So refining ways of fitting more of it in, will never get you to the end of it.”
Like the old saying goes, the reward for good time management is more work.
This is not to say that you should not look to add more efficiency into your life where the opportunity presents itself, but that efficiency alone can never be the answer.
The other huge dimension to this is not the quantity of tasks completed, but the quality.
More often than not, we tell ourselves that we'll have time for the important things, just as soon as we "clear the decks" of the unimportant things.
Unfortunately, this leaves us in a perpetual state of crossing relatively unimportant tasks off our to do lists.
I know this trap all too well. And have actually made some headway on prioritizing the most important (and engaging) aspects of my job. For example I do creative work in the mornings now, when I'm most fresh, but I never recognized the true roots of this productivity trap.
There will always be too much to do, simply because “we are finite creatures swimming in oceans of infinite possibility." So efficiency and automation can never be the core answer to feeling less overwhelmed.
The really important skill, Oliver goes on to say, is more like an anti-skill. It's the willingness to not clear the decks… to be okay with the fact that there will be always too many things on your list... and with that recognition, to cultivate the ability to turn your attention for some hours each day to something that genuinely matters to you.
He goes on to provide many practical techniques towards cultivating this "anti-skill" and I'll leave you to dig deeper into those if this resonates with you.
When we inhabit a deeper understanding of our limitations, we are freed to relax into the fullness of our lives, because the pressure that we should be doing something is provided a release valve.
We give ourselves permission to slow down and counterintuitively, we actually begin to accomplish way more than we ever previously thought possible. Simply because we are more aligned with the things that matter most in our lives.
We start to zig zag our way to our fullest life, instead of driving ourselves so relentlessly along the straight line of A to B.