You’re busy, right? But how much of it is your own fault?
You may think that your workload is entirely influenced by circumstance, and therefore take the view that the level of tasks you are stuck with are entirely out of your control. You may recall, from your rookie years, the old ‘self-generated work’ approach that probationers (in particular) are encouraged to apply, which tended to open you up to a little bit of self-inflicted busy-ness. Those of you who, like me, couldn’t ‘not’ deal with stuff that occurred in front of you, still influence your workloads. As a result, when you can, you step away from ‘accidentally’ discovering new work so that you can catch up. Personally, I consider that a valuable coping technique and provided it isn’t an excuse for work avoidance, then carry on, I say.
That’s work sorted. But how much of your personal life busy-ness is your fault? Your first response may be to ask what am I on – “I’m completely in control of my personal life,” you may think. To be frank, you are responsible for how busy you are, but here’s a little input on why you may not be quite as in control as you thought you were.
In his book The Harried Leisure Class, author Staffan B. Linder made an astute observation when (and I paraphrase) he suggested that everything we decide has a time impact. For example, you buy a book – and immediately you have decided that while you read that, you won’t be able to use the time for anything else. A simple ‘duh’ example, yes?
Okay. Let’s up the ante. You buy a house. Now you have a responsibility to maintain it. But – did you need that huge garden? Did you need 5 bedrooms? Did you need three en-suites? All of the decisions you make – or decisions you just defaulted – have a time impact. And not just once, but monthly or more often. Less obvious examples: you have accounts with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkledIn, TikTok (why??), Snapchat et al. You subscribe to Sky, Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, NowTV and a myriad of other media channels. And in doing these things you unconsciously allocate time to maintaining your control and use of them – or rather, their control and use of you.
I confess, I have Prime, Netflix and Disney+ (or my son does 😊) and I have found that despite all the options available to me, I spend time exploring them all only to find nothing worth watching. But I’m sure there must be an element of FOMO (fear of missing out) because I still have to look, don’t I? Well, no. But like you, I do.
But only when I’m not doing something more important.
Back to my original point. When assessing how you are going to use your time in the future, one of your considerations needs to be – “When I buy/get this ‘thing’, how much maintenance effort will it cost in terms of time and resources I could spend elsewhere and on more important things?”
Personally, I suggest you adapt the Time Matrix, which I cover here and in my book Police Time Management, and consider whether the commitment you’re about to make is Important or just a Vanity project. Big house? How about one ‘just’ big enough and you spend the money/time benefit on family holidays and events? New car? How about one a few years older and spend the savings (and depreciation costs) on your hobbies? Big garden? How about you gravel it and save years of lawn mowing? (Okay, maybe only in part because green is nice, but a big garden needs a committed gardener. And lots and lots of time.)
I am personally very conscious of how much stuff I possess and how much the financial commitment I made in buying them influences any attempt to sell or replace them. I call them my ‘collection’ because it soothes my conscience, but the space they take up both physically and mentally sometimes make me wish I’d learned about minimalism a long time ago.
In conclusion, remember that when you make a choice about how you use your time, you simultaneously make a decision – usually an unconscious one – about how you won’t be using it, as well.
Think about that.