Local nonprofit directors dedicate their lives to the common good. photos by Keith Borgmeyer Cheryl Howard, Nora Stewart Early Learning Center As a former graduate...
How to work hard the right way.
Many of us start the new year with great expectation: “This is the year!” Then, a month into it, we find ourselves in nearly the same place we were before the new year began. Thinking we have too many demands, too little time, feeling tired, hungover, flabby. The list goes on.
In my work, I see a couple reasons for this. I notice people who are either trying to stuff as much into their day as they can, which leads to exhaustion, arrogance, being overwhelmed, fear, compulsion, and sacrifice, or they put things off until the last minute, which leads to sloth, disappointment, over-indulgence, resistance, and settling.
If we’re suffering or “ just surviving” in one area of our life, we are apt to be self-indulgent in another. Often, people have painted themselves into a corner where they can’t possibly put in any more hours at work, or can’t control their eating, or watch too much Netflix, and simply can’t feel any more shame. There are all these negative feelings and behaviors, and people in this place become maxed out. These are all artificial, inauthentic behaviors and activities that are — to say the least — not the key ingredients to success. In fact, these are ingredients to a life of sacrificing.
And sacrificing doesn’t work. If we played a sport like this, we would eventually injure ourselves. It’s called overtraining. It is the unintended consequence of pushing one’s personal limits. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There really is another option, but people often don’t like it. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It’s fundamental, but it’s not sexy.
Here’s the bottom line: the fundamentals will get it done. The fundamentals are: go to bed early, get up early, plan your day, go live into your plan, eat healthy food, rest when you’re tired, and drink water. These are activities that are known to be foundations for success, yet people want to ignore them and try to be successful anyway. What actually works is balanced high performance over time.
Is today the day you interrupt your self-defeating cycle by going to bed earlier and waking up earlier? Is today the day you book a date at the gym with your friend so you actually show up? Is today the day you get some accountability with yourself? Is today the day you eat one serving instead of three? Is this the day you decide to not get drunk, not get high, not inhale sugar? Is this the day you decide you don’t need coffee to get out of bed?
Rather than being a victim to time, approach time like an Olympic athlete. Olympic athletes never over train. Olympians do as much as they can, in an excellent way, as efficiently as they can. What would that look like in your life?
So can we ease back, can we slow down? Can we take some things out, put some other things in?
Write down your commitments from last year. Which ones should you carry over and which ones should stop? Also, make a list of your personal daily fundamentals. Put these fundamentals in your calendar — and set alerts to drink water. Set reminders to get up from your desk and move your body. Be creative with your personal fundamentals. I know, not sexy. But proven to work.
Try on this new way of approaching the fundamentals and time. Be Olympic! How much excellent work can you do in how little time? Now that you have settled into this supportive routine, what will you do with your newfound time and freedom?
1. Set a timer.
2. Stay focused on the task.
3. Do the most important thing first.
Do it excellently
and as quickly as you can!