I’m not a master of life. But at least I’m a hard learning apprentice.
Here are some things I found along the way. I’m sure you’ve thought about them too. The hard part is getting to do them.
This is a crash course on managing your life and bringing it closer to where you want. Call it effectiveness or simply productivity.
1. Figure out where you want to go
The most important question in life is “What do you want to do with your life?”. You’re usually being asked this on and on until you turn 4 or 5 and go to school. Then people seem to forget about it.
You realize it again during your quarterlife crisis, when you start wondering if that college you just graduated will serve you any purpose or it’s just another diploma to be hung on the wall. And you ask yourself if that 9-to-5 job is really what you want to do. And if it makes you happy.
This is usually where young people start to roam around the world, looking for a higher purpose.
Few find it.
Personally, I believe it’s harder to find your purpose within yourself, than looking for it outside.
Sure, a trip around the world, meeting new people, understanding other cultures, will help. But unless you find your life mentor along the way, and live the sequel of the “Celestine Prophecies”, you’re likely to find yourself more lost than before.
What do you want to do with your life?
Is there a higher purpose you want to serve? What does it look like?
Many people I talk to say they want to leave a legacy and help others. I find it extraordinary how we started to look at the Globe as one large community, and how we’re interconnected. But this just the beginning. We each have a part to play. What’s yours?
2. What are you waiting for to get happy?
Dani is a great example that I admire. She’s a girl who, like many of us, used to complain about life. And at a certain point she simply decided she wanted to be happy. That’s when she founded this website and started to write brilliant articles on how to enjoy the simple beauties of life.
Dani’s blog is additional proof that you don’t need money, goods or branded clothes to make you happy. You shouldn’t wait for later, “when I have that house”, “when I have that job”, “when I have that car”, “when I’ll be with X”.
Happiness is here, now. You only need to open your eyes and look for it.
“We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars”. (Oscar Wilde)
3. How to change habits
I believe you need at least 3 weeks (a complete cycle of 21 days) to change a habit. But most times, you need more time than that, to avoid the relapse.
I wrote here about how learning can be internalized. The moment I changed my life, about 6 months ago, I started becoming more and more aware. I started making connections and being amazed at the personal development trend going on around me. I joined the wave, and started a deep process of change.
But let’s be realistic. You can’t change all at once. Each journey begins with a small first step. Leo Babauta of Zen Habits says he started by quitting smoking. Then he started to live healthier. Then he started to pay attention to the unnecessary things in his life, and eliminate them. But it all started with changing one single habit.
What’s the habit you want to change? And what are you willing to give up for this change?
4. Daily Time Management. Having an agenda. Booking time intervals
Once you go from looking at your life “helicopter view” to weekly or daily view, you become cluttered. It’s easy to get lost in the day by day race.
GTD – “Getting Things Done” is just another system of time management I found about. But it has one idea – one simple idea! – that can turn your productivity around. This idea is called
“What’s the next action?”
Focusing on the next action in every project you have at hand can greatly simplify your life. We’re usually confused because we don’t know what step to take next, or the thing we committed to is just too big. This question can help immensely.
The second thing I’ve found greatly helpful is the good old agenda. You need to have one place where to put your ideas in. Your commitments.
I have a little notebook where I write down every – and I mean every! – to do item on my work list. Every day I cross from there the completed items and tear the page out. For items that take longer than 5-10 minutes, I book time in my calendar.
Additionally, I use Outlook calendar for booking appointments at work and a little black Moleskine for jotting down ideas. Then I have a Mind Map application on my phone where I plan my projects.
4 systems is a lot and I’m even trying to minimize time spent in all of them. But I know whenever I need to gather my thoughts, where to go.
Mark Mc Guinness has a great Ebookwhere he describes a similar system called “buckets”. He advises to use 1-5 buckets to gather your information. Then, on a weekly basis, empty these buckets and sort through your to do list. This idea is also GTD-inspired, and very effective. I highly recommend downloading his ebook.
5. Getting organized in your life
The final idea that I found very useful is not putting too much on your plate.
There’s a concept for this too – it’s called “5 roles” and means not having more than 5 active roles you’re currently responsible for.
We all have roles: Mother, Father, Sister, Friend, Coworker, Coach, Trainer, Girlfriend etc. If you count yours, you’ll probably get to around 10 -15.
Here’s the catch: you won’t be able to enjoy life if you have more than 5 active roles.
That’s cause roles mean responsibility. You can’t have requests coming at you from all directions. You can’t do everything.
Most times we feel that the world is out to get us, and we just want to crawl in bed and see no one. When I get this feeling, I count my roles. Usually I get to about 7-8. And then I cut. I simply say I can’t do this. I back out.
It’s ok to cut roles. Just make sure you communicate this to the people around you. Most roles are on your head because you allowed expectations to form. You might have the same expectations from others as well.
We’re all only human and there’s just 24 hours in a day. Why waste time trying to do everything? Why not be effective and focus on what’s important to you?
These are some things I found are useful to me.
But please, share your own.
What are your life management tips?