Do you ever catch yourself complaining about something you want but can’t have? Perhaps it’s an activity you would love to try, your ideal body, a holiday you would like to go on, or a new car.
Why is it that you can’t do that activity?
Why is it that you can’t have that product or service?
Why is it that you can’t become the person you want to be?
List your reasons and hopefully by the end of this series you realise that you either don’t want the thing as much as you thought you did or you realise that you can actually have/do/be what you want.
If you say you can’t achieve your goal, and it isn’t because of your lack of desire or your mindset, then perhaps you are simply making excuses.
There are many you could make but using them only holds you back from success. You need to be honest with yourself if you don’t want to hinder your progress. Having a true and accurate picture of your current state and where you want to be are crucial for personal success in life.
Your reason might be linked to fear of something such as failure. Or you might use a lack of resources as an excuse: not enough money, not enough time. You have plenty of time: 24 hours every day to get everything done, and you need to allocate that time to the areas that will help you achieve your goals if you want to make any progress.
Fear of Failure
The topic of fear of failure has been discussed many times in recent years so I won’t go into too much detail. Most people recognise failure as when someone attempts to achieve something then does not succeed. But that’s just the failure of action. Consider for a moment how often you might fail because of inaction. Those times when you wanted something but didn’t attempt to get it. It’s appropriate to feel regret in these circumstances, however you might just convince yourself that it didn’t really matter to you, or it was too unlikely to work out, or you’ll attempt it next time.
Failure because of action is noticeable by those around you, and you might not want people to judge if you don’t succeed. But what matters to you?
If it was a clone of you observing you fail, what would that clone think? That is how you should feel about the consequences of failure. Because the people who don’t react in the way your clone does do not have the same values as you, so their opinion shouldn’t affect you.
For the vast majority of people who know the fear of failure in front of others I bet your clone would think, “Good on you for trying. I respect you for attempting even though you might have failed.” I have a framed poster in my house with a quote by Nora Roberts that sums up this point nicely:
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.
Not having enough time or money is a better excuse, but still an excuse. When it comes to not having enough time, there is a lot you can do and it comes down to two main areas: priorities and efficiency.
You have 24 hours in a day and seven days in a week — how will you choose to use them?
You might want to do really well in school or university, maintain good health, work as many hours as possible to earn some money, play three sports, maintain and grow a relationship with a significant other, have a good social life, spend time with family, spend some time relaxing, learn about a new topic or area of interest, see a cousin for his birthday, keep up a hobby, go on a holiday — the list goes on. There are so many worthwhile things we can do with our time that being bored isn’t even a consideration, the issue is selecting what thing you want to spend your time on more. It’s all relative. Knowing what you want to achieve in life in so important because it means you can plan your time to achieve as many goals as possible.
When I talk about using ‘lack of time’ as an excuse, I mean you find yourself complaining about not having enough time to do the things you want. So, although it’s a legitimate reason for not doing something, it’s the complaining that is the issue because it doesn’t recognise the limited time you have to spend on things.
Let me given you an example. Say you are in your last year at secondary school and you want to do really well. Exceptionally well, and it’s very important to you. You’ll have to leave home at 7:30am each weekday to make it to school on time and, although classes end at 3:30pm, you stay back to study every day and don’t get home until 6:30pm. Additionally, there are assessments to do or study for each month that might take up some weekend time. You also want to earn some money by working part-time and you are lucky enough to get a 8am to 6pm shift every Sunday at your job. To keep yourself healthy and functioning well, you make sure you get an average of 8.5 hours sleep every night which leads to you going to sleep at about 10pm each night.
At this point, taking into account breakfast, dinner and other usual preparations, you have 2 hours spare every weekday and Sunday and you have all of Saturday available. What else do you want to do with your time? Well, you want to maintain a decent social life, and spending time with friends at lunch time isn’t going to cut it — there are parties on most Saturday nights. You also want to maintain some fitness, allow time for relaxation, and what if a significant other pops up in your life and you want to consider a relationship? Well, your sport of choice takes up your 2 hours spare on Tuesdays and Thursdays and a significant portion of your Saturdays, and your dedication to your studying leaves you burnt out by Friday so you spend Friday night and the rest of Saturday relaxing.
But what about the parties? What about a relationship? What about spending time with family? If you complained that you didn’t have enough time to go to the parties, then you are making excuses. If you legitimately wanted to go to the parties more than you wanted a perfect sleep schedule then you would go to the parties on Saturday nights and make up for the sleep in your 2 hours spare on Monday. Perhaps you might limit the amount of time you spend at each party so that the 2 hours on Monday actually is enough to catch you up on sleep and, if it isn’t, then leaving the 2 hours spare on Wednesday as a backup.
If you went to school on the Monday and complained that you didn’t have enough time to sleep over the weekend, you’re just making excuses. You either wanted to party and/or work more than you wanted to maintain good sleeping habits, or you chose to party and/or work even though you didn’t want to, in which case you made a bad decision.
If you didn’t want to go to one of the parties because you wanted to ensure you were well-rested before an upcoming test, then don’t go to it. If the host of the party or your friends going to the party ask you why you aren’t going, tell them that although you do want to go to the party, it’s more important to you to prepare for the upcoming test. I think I have offended friends when I haven’t made it clear why I didn’t go to a particular event. It’s not like I don’t value them as a friend or I don’t want to make the trip to see them, it’s that I wanted to spend my time on other tasks that are more likely to get me to my goals.
Choosing to go after one of your goals despite limited time might not require dropping time spent on another worthy activity. You might be able to free up time elsewhere in your week — time spent on the things you don’t particularly like.
Look at the past week or month and measure how you have spent your time. Were there chores? Commuting? Study? Did you meet up with three friends on three separate occasions? Efficiency means getting the same outcome out of fewer resources, such as finishing your chores in 20 minutes instead of 45 minutes. The keys to greater efficiency are elimination, automation, delegation, and batching.
What do you spend your time on that doesn’t help you with any goals?
Perhaps the time does help towards one of your goals but you currently have more time allocated to that goal than desired compared to the others things you could be using that time for. For example, those chores that you do — do you have to do them? I used to spend time making my bed look really neat when all I had to do was make it presentable, and I used to iron every single item of clothing (except under-clothes) even though I could have gotten away without it most of the time.
Be honest with yourself and point out what you can eliminate. Perhaps you spend two hours a night watching TV, playing video games or staring at a computer or mobile screen doing nothing productive. Could you shave some of that time off and put it to better use? Can you rearrange you schedule to fit in relaxing time in some other part of your week? Do you receive emails for things you have no interest in? My partner and I do our weekly food shopping online, saving us trips to the store and back. Checking your emails and reading boring ones waste your time — unsubscribe from Facebook notification emails and the weekly promotion emails from stores you have shopped at.
Now that you’re left with things you can’t eliminate, could you automate any of them? For example, in Victoria, Australia, we have a Myki card that holds funds for use on public transport. If you spend time topping it up manually whenever you run out, sometimes causing yourself to miss your train, then consider setting up an automatic top-up. You can register you Myki, link a credit card to it and have it add around $10 to your card whenever the balance drops below $10. Now no more wasted time in front of the top-up machine or missing your train. Perhaps you make regular payments manually online or you receive paper statements for things. In that case, consider direct debit, auto payments, and online only communication.
Can you get someone else to do the task for you? Those chores you are left with after the elimination phase — is there a sibling that is willing to do the work for you if you pay them? Perhaps you could trade them an hour of their time cleaning for 30 minutes of your time dedicated tutoring (if your sibling is younger and wants your help). The food shopping that needs to be done every week: by doing our shopping online, our previous shopping lists are saved and can be edited for the current week instead of starting from scratch, and the Woolworths employees pick, pack and deliver the shopping to our door. All we have to do is put it away — unless we can get one of our siblings over to help out with the cleaning and putting the shopping away.
If you think this is lazy, don’t think I’m just sitting on the couch watching TV. Paying someone to do work costs money but saves me time which allows me to work more and produce more content for this blog. Put another way, why do people drive cars? Because it’s not worth walking 1 hour to work when they can drive there in 15 minutes. Their time is worth more than that. How much is yours worth?
Inevitably, there will be some task or tasks that (a) need to get done to help achieve a particular goal; (b) you don’t enjoy completely; and, (c) can’t be eliminated, automated or delegated. These boring tasks are left for you to do, but perhaps you can complete them more efficiently. This is where batching comes in.
Batching works in your favour when doing a task once 10 times takes longer than it takes to do the task 10 times once. For example, reading email. How long does it take to read one email? It’s the time it takes to unlock your phone (or turn on your computer), open the email application, wait for the emails to refresh, read the email, close the program, and lock your phone again. Perhaps one minute if it’s a 45 second-long email. If you get one email every day and you check it every day, it will take 7 minutes1 of your time. If you read all of them once every Sunday, it would only take 5.5 minutes2, more than a 20% savings in time. Notice that the savings in time is equal to the reduction in the number of times required to set up, saving you the usual 15 seconds six times.
When it’s a small amount of time like 7 minutes, improving your efficiency by 20% isn’t much. However, this concept can be applied to much bigger tasks. How long does it take you to drive to work? Let’s say it takes 45 minutes there and back, and you earn A$20 an hour. A 3-hour shift takes up 3.75 hours of your time, so your effective hourly rate is not $20, it’s $163. However, if you do a 10-hour shift (ignoring breaks) your rate is $18.604. That’s like getting a 14% pay rise!
This concept can be applied to anything where the marginal cost (the resources, like time, spent completing one extra unit, like one more email) is less than the cost of a single unit.
You could try seeing five friends at once instead of seeing them individually, you could study for two 4-hour blocks instead of four 2-hour blocks, or you could fit all of your university subjects into two days instead of three. Whenever the chance to batch your tasks comes up, take it. Just remember to eliminate, automate or delegate them first if you can.
Lastly, if your reason for why you can’t achieve your goal is that you don’t have enough money, ask yourself if it’s worth it. Sure, you might want that shiny new Audi but is it worth the A$80,000 it’s going to cost you? I like to convert the cost of products and services into the amount of time I’d have to work to pay for it. As my rate increases over time, the number of hours required to work for the same item will drop.
For example, if you are on $20/hr, work 37.5 hours a week and want the $80,000 Audi, it would take you 2 years and 4 months (factoring in Australian income tax) to save up for it. Even if your time was worth $50/hr, it would still take you a bit over 13 months. Until you can find a way to build wealth faster than that, is it really worth trading 1-2 years of your working life for the car?
If the answer is no, then you have two options: (1) stop complaining that you can’t get the car because you don’t have enough money — you’ve just realised that you wouldn’t want to trade 1-2 years of your working life for a car; or (2) figure out how to earn money at a higher rate than $50/hr.
If the answer is yes then I suggest you still look at increasing your hourly rate, however, another viable option is to use the time-saving tips mentioned above to free up some time which you can use to make more money. Time is money in this case, and if you can work more, save more and invest your savings, you can buy that car that you wanted. If it’s not a car, but something else that you want, then still work out how much of your time it is going to cost you and ask if it’s worth it. If your friend asks if you want to go to the movies, keep in mind that it’s not just $20 — it’s 4.25 hours of your time ([$20 ticket + $5 snacks] / $20/hr + 2hr movie + 1hr travel and waiting).