Inevitably, we all go through periods in our lives where we are simply stretched thin. You know what I’m talking about, you have 50 things that MUST get done this week and you’re only going to get half of them done. Sometimes we do this to ourselves (like a bunch of jerks), but sometimes the universe just has plans for us that we have no control over. I am currently spread pretty thin (mostly by my own doing), and I’m here to offer you some ideas for keeping your sanity intact the next time you find yourself with too much to do and too little time.
First of all, you have to focus on the big picture. Really. Close your eyes and spend a few minutes imagining what it will be like when you are done with all the things that are currently on your plate. Think about all the benefits. Maybe you are remodeling a house and you will have a nicer living space. Maybe you are finishing a degree and you will get a raise/promotion/good job. Maybe you are hosting for the holidays and you will get many wonderful memories. Spend some time thinking concretely about every good thing that will happen because you are spread so thin right now.
Thinking like this helps me put things into perspective. Sure I might be running around like a chicken with my head cut off NOW, but sometime relatively soon I will have a whole host of new wonderful things in my life. Concentrating on those wonderful things makes hectic days seem a lot more manageable.
The best castle anywhere… ever.
There was probably a time in your past that you fantasized about being exactly where you are now. Isn’t that strange? At least in the West, us human beings have a bad habit of spending a lot of time focused on our future and our past, and not nearly enough time just enjoying the present. The thing is, the future never looks exactly like you planned, and the past is unreachable and, as a result, we often romanticize it.
Stop and think for a moment, can you remember a time in your past that you wanted to be where you are today? Maybe when you couldn’t wait to `grow up,’ or you couldn’t wait to be done with school, or you couldn’t wait until you got your first job, got married, or bought a house.
Think about that. As children we are much better at living in the moment, and yet we still spend some of our precious youth fantasizing about how great it will be when we’re older. This happens, even though life is as simple and enjoyable as a child as it ever will be. And now you’re all grown up (presumably) and have some or all of those things you wanted, and what are you doing? Are you living in the present and enjoying your accomplishments?
Have you ever listened to The Flaming Lips? You should. In particular, this song is really good.
The message in this song is really simple and pure. Spend time with your loved ones while you can, because you only have them on loan. Also, the following line is one of my favorites,
Instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It’s hard to make the good things last. You realize the sun doesn’t go down, it’s just an illusion caused by the world spinning ’round.
The way you frame your thoughts matters, as we’ve already discussed on this blog. In a very real way, you control the reality in which you live. Framing your thoughts in a positive way whenever possible goes a long way toward making a happier experience.
So just a friendly neighborhood reminder: appreciate your loved ones while you have them, and remember things are very rarely as bad as they seem.
First things first: keeping small inconveniences in their place. The key to this is knowing what you want. I mean, specifically, what are your big picture goals? If you don’t know, then you should stop reading this and give the question some serious thought. OK, I’m now going to assume you know what your big picture goals are. Maybe you want a family, a house, or financial security. We can even go a little smaller scale. Maybe you want to lose 10 pounds, or be able to squat 315 pounds, or learn Spanish. The key to making sure little things don’t matter is knowing what the big things are.
Don’t sweat the petty things, and don’t pet the sweaty things. – George Carlin
Do you ever catch yourself getting really annoyed by things that don’t matter at all? I do. It happens literally almost every day. Some jerk who doesn’t know how to drive, or spilling a sauce on my shirt, or not being able to open the pickle jar (“just like in those commercials, honey!”). There are always a bunch of small inconveniences just waiting to get under your skin if you let them. But that’s not what I want to talk about in this post.
Not sweating petty things also means that you shouldn’t make every decision an excruciating process. Some decisions really don’t matter at all, but we still agonize over what is the ‘best’ decision. In fact, there has been some research in recent years that suggests that having too many choices makes it harder to be happy with the choice you end up making. For more on this, you can watch psychologist Barry Schwartz’s TED talk. But in case you don’t want to spend 20 minutes watching it, I’m going to give you the Cliff Notes (there’s also a good article about this stuff over at Raptitude).
Notice how the graph goes up overall, but there are some places where it temporarily dips back down. Photo credit – cobrasoft
There is a little bit of perfectionist in all of us. It varies per individual, but it’s there to some extent in everyone. That little voice inside telling us to keep working on the details until we get them JUST right. And that little voice is really great for a lot of things. It pushes us to do our best. It reminds us to stay on track. It helps us operate at 110%. And it is, no doubt, a large contributor to good grades in school, excellent presentations at work, and any other good product in our life that requires extreme attention to detail. But sometimes that little voice is a dick.
Screenshot of Vincent and Jules from Pulp Fiction
Who doesn’t love Pulp Fiction? A classic Tarantino film, with an absolutely all-star cast. My favorite scene is the final one in the diner where Jules (Samuel L Jackson) is talking to the would-be robbers. Here’s a good little clip of it (warning: explicit language). Anyway, I own the movie and as I type this I am looking at it over on my DVD shelf. Even though that scene is totally awesome, it’s not the one that gives this post its title. The idea for this post comes from a deleted scene (explicit language). It takes place in the home of Marsellus Wallace, when Vincent goes to meet Mia to take her to dinner. She tells him, “Now I’m going to ask you a bunch of questions I’ve come up with that more or less tell me what kind of person I’m having dinner with.” One of the questions is the following: