You can do anything you want to do, but you can’t do it all.
The idea that “you can do it all” is the sole robber of our time and productivity. For years I fed into the idea that I could do anything and everything under the sun, and while that might be true, I slowly realized that by doing everything I excelled in nothing.
It really is a simple concept that many have overlooked because the statement that, “you can do it all” is so deceptively empowering we forget that quality will always be placed a couple tiers above quantity.
For example, think about what your biggest goal is at the moment? Is it to complete your undergrad, get a raise, carve out more time for family and friends? Whatever it may be write it down.
Now, think of all of the things that you are involved in. Write them all down. These are the things that you do every day, the things that consume your to do list, that you enjoy, hate, write them all down.
As you skim through your list of involvements count up how many of them help you achieve the goal that you wrote at the top of your page. It might be surprising that very few of them do. Actually, many of them hinder you from reaching your goal.
A few weeks ago I read a book called Essentialism: The disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown and it touched heavily on this topic. Too often we think that everything is important. We must do it all because nothing can wait. But in reality, there are very few things that are essential and that move us in the direction to our goal(s). Everything else could be considered nonessential and can be cut from your to-do-list at any time.
Well, that last part isn’t exactly true. Not all things can be cut from your to-do-list. We have responsibilities that go beyond our control from time to time, but by doing the exercise explained above, it helps us realize what is essential and what is not as we strive to reach our goal(s).
Some things can be cut out of our daily lives. For me, one of my goals is to attain a certain GPA by the end of this fall semester; therefore, school is my first priority. That means clubs are nonessential and surprisingly, that is where most of my time goes.
This is not to say that I will quit every club that I am a part of, this simply means that on any given night, I grant myself the freedom to miss a meeting or opt out of an activity if it interferes with my ultimate goal, completing my academic work in such a way that I will achieve my desired GPA at the end of the semester.
I wanted to share this because the idea that we can do it all is dead. We can’t. The idea that everything is important is a myth too. Prioritizing is vital and can only be done if you have an ultimate goal in mind. Prioritization with no end goal in mind is not possible and that is probably why everything always seems important.
Next time you get overwhelmed and feel like you are working really hard but not making any progress, sit down and evaluate what your goal(s) are. If what you spend your time on is not helping you accomplish your goals, remember you have the power to change that.