“Want to make big life changes? Look at the small picture.”
Getting your shit together is organizing what you have left (in the form of time, energy, and money) and deploying those resources wisely—not only on things you need to do, but on those extra bonus-level things you want to do and just can’t seem to afford or get around to. Big change, small change, whatever. It doesn’t start with cleaning out the garage. Change starts with cleaning out your mind.
THEODORE: Relatively hopeless
ALVIN: Cruises along just fine, but is unable to kick it into high gear
SIMON: Keeps up appearances while dying from a thousand self-inflicted cuts
- Just because you are doing a ton of shit all day, every day, does NOT mean you have your shit together.
- Getting your shit together does not mean packing your calendar to the brim just for the sake of packing your calendar to the brim.
- It does not mean sucking it up, doing everything on your to-do list, then doing everything on someone else’s to-do list, and doing it yesterday.
“• And it does not mean sacrificing your mental and physical health to the cause.
What it does mean—is managing your calendar and to-do list in such a way that the shit that needs doing gets done, and it doesn’t drive you crazy along the way.
Winning is getting what you want out of your time on planet Earth, whatever that entails. It could be the house, job, car, partner, or hairstyle of your dreams. Winning happens when you translate dreams into action and your actions change your reality.
Getting it together takes three steps.
1. Strategize: Set a goal and make a plan to achieve that goal in a series of small, manageable chunks.
2. Focus: Set aside time to complete each chunk.
3. Commit: Do what you need to do to check off your chunks.
mini-goals : small, manageable chunks,
“life is like an adult coloring book. You simply work your way through each little section until the big picture materializes before you.“
Keys, Phone and Wallet
- Your keys are the ability to strategize—they unlock the next steps.
- Your phone is the ability to focus—make those calls, mark that calendar.
- Your wallet represents commitment—this is when you put your real or metaphorical money where your mouth is, to follow through on your plan.
The Power of Negative Thinking
This is when, instead of daydreaming about a theoretical future of being richer, thinner, or tidier, you focus on NOT being broke, fat, and messy in the here and now. Turns out goal-setting doesn’t have to be about aspiring to what you want to be, so much as putting an end to what you don’t want to be. Channeling rage at the things that annoy you is a great motivational tool for getting your shit together! Well, maybe not “rage,” per se, but displeasure. Discomfort. Unhappiness.
The secret to time management isn’t speeding up or slowing down. It’s about strategy and focus. (Strategy: Y = how much time does X take? Focus: if X is a necessary task, schedule Y minutes/hours to get it done; and/or undertake X task only when you have Y minutes/hours available.) In other words, don’t try to shove a square phone call with your mother into a round five minutes.
Once you understand how time applies to your life, you’ll be able to use it as a force for good instead of a force for missing flights or pissing off your dinner date. Meanwhile, perhaps invest in a sundial, which is a perfect visual reminder to keep working on your time management skills. And they’re quite pretty.
Your best friend and worst enemy
Time is the mother ship from which two competing forces—prioritization and procrastination—descend to create order or wreak chaos on your life.
These mental houseguests rear their heads around every corner, especially in the top three problem areas revealed by my survey: Work (i.e., email/correspondence/project management), Finances (i.e., time as it relates to saving $), and Health (i.e., scheduling fitness and/or relaxation so you can win at life without also losing your mind).
Giving too many fucks—without enough time, energy, or money to devote to them—keeps you overbooked, overwhelmed, and overdrawn. This leads straight to Fuck Overload™, a state of anxiety, panic, and despair. Possibly tears. Despair, for sure. Why? Because even if you really need to give all of those fucks, you cannot give them all at once. That’s where prioritizing comes in handy. And if you don’t really need to give all of those fucks, well, I know a book that can help.
If focus is akin to the phone on which you schedule your life, distraction is like losing said phone.
Impulse control should not be confused with distraction, which comes at you from all sides, when you least expect it, and in many forms. It’s hard to fight distraction, because you can’t control all of the scenarios in which it exists. That shit is sneaky. But impulses—to snack, to eat ice cream for breakfast, to stay. snuggled in bed rather than sweating it out on the elliptical machine—those are all noted, processed, and acted upon (or not) by a single entity: you.
You haven’t been “distracted” by a piece of cake. You’ve acted on an impulse to slather gooey buttercream frosting on your tongue that, in the moment, was stronger than your desire to weigh less or be more fit. And there is nothing inherently wrong with that. But if acting on that impulse contributes to your feelings of anger, sadness, or frustration—to falling short of your goals—then you may need to admit you have a problem employee at the impulse control station, get your shit together, and confront him head-on.
Email Overload: Great, thanks!
If you’re a compulsive responder, you could save yourself a lot of time on those pernicious “Great, thanks!” emails that many people hate to receive anyway, because they crowd up the inbox. At five seconds per reply, to, say fifty emails a day, your time saved looks like this:
4 minutes/day ⇒ 5 days/week = 20 minutes/week ⇒ 18 HOURS/YEAR”
That’s two and a quarter eight-hour workdays you could be using to get other shit done, or call in sick with “food poisoning” and take a long weekend at your friends’ lake house in New Jersey. Not that I would ever do such a thing, mind you.
“Your job is to get your shit together, not worry about everyone else’s. Letting go of things you can’t control is a huge part of the mental decluttering process. And you definitely cannot control whether somebody else decides to do a certain part of their job one day while you’re on vacation, and discovers that they need you for it.”
Hobbies are not only an integral part of maintaining your happiness, they can go a long way toward balancing the annoyance of the more arduous, less exciting must-do tasks on your list. You can think of time spent on a hobby as a reward for completing annoying, time-and-energy-sucking shit.
“You have to lobby for your hobby”
Whether your diversion of choice is reading, fly-fishing, or ripping a massive bong hit and then trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube, you need to treat it like a lobbyist treats his or her cause, advocating for and influencing the government’s decision favorably toward it. Fortunately, you are both the lobbyist and the legislator in this scenario, so you have a real inside track. You give a fuck about books, backcasting, and Blue Lightning Kush? Great, now ensure that these activities are well represented on your calendar. Schedule them in.
Selfish is not a four-letter word
I firmly believe that being selfish—in pursuit of your health and well-being—can be a good thing for you AND everyone in your life. If you’re happy and fulfilled, that automatically makes you a better person to be around. A more relaxed parent. A kinder partner. A more patient boss and a more energetic employee. You can’t give of yourself to others if there’s nothing left of yourself to give, can you?
“Strategize, focus, commit. Prioritize and delegate. When in doubt, hire a pro. And try to do it all without losing my mind.”
Becoming more confident or less of a perfectionist might sound like a tall order, but if you let the perceived enormity of a change keep you from even starting, you won’t get anywhere. Proven fact: You cannot finish something you never start. Relationships flourish one gesture at a time. Addictions are curbed one day at a time. And unicorns are just horses if you never color in their horns.
Your goal—the big picture—will reveal itself even if you scribble outside the lines a bit, or use an unconventional shade. The overall effect might be a little different for you than it would be for your cousin Paul, but you’re out to win your life, not his.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.