You’re not alone if at the end of each day you feel like you didn’t accomplish enough. And it’s no wonder. Everywhere we turn we see and hear messages about ways we could be making more money, how to be a one minute manager, businesses we could start, technology that could make our lives easier, 1001 places you should visit before you die, cars & trucks that you should buy, relaxation techniques you should try, and on and on. We’ve got opportunity overload.
There are so many opportunities to improve our lives, careers, relationships, etc., yet we have only a limited amount of time each day. How can we take advantage of some of these, and still enjoy our lives? How can we find the best and leave the rest?
Top Down Approach
Most of us are using a Top Down approach to life improvements. In this approach we sort of browse the universe of ideas that are out there, picking and choosing what looks interesting at the moment. The problem with this is we may be spending our time on things that are not really a top priority, thus crowding out the time we need for more important improvements. It’s like going browsing in the mall with your rent money. You buy some new boots and suddenly you don’t have enough money to pay the rent. We have to look at our time as just as valuable, even more so, than money.
Why do we use the Top Down approach? Simple. Because it’s much easier to browse than it is to analyze our needs and seek out the opportunities that will be most meaningful to us. But we pay the price of wasting our time and suffering unnecessary anxiety over missed opportunities.
Better Approach: Bottom Up
The better way to handle all the opportunities available is to approach it from the bottom up. That is with you at the bottom looking up at all the opportunities. Your goals become the filter. Think of it more like a decision tree. With the bottom up approach you start with the trunk (your goals) and then seek out only those branches (opportunities) that are important to you.
How to Use the Bottom Up Approach
1. Review your life goals. What are you trying to accomplish in your career, relationships, finances, and life in general? Which goals are most important to you right now? These should guide your search for opportunities.
2. Turn off daily input that is not targeted to your needs. For example you might stop watching the news and instead just read the highlights in a weekly magazine, such as The Week. Or you might turn off the TV altogether. Most people watch TV in the evening because they are too tired to do work on any of their goals. If you fall into this group, you might consider shutting off the TV, do some light reading instead and go to sleep earlier than usual. This way you can get up earlier than usual and work on one of your goals before work instead of watching mindless TV night after night and not making any headway on your goals.
3. Limit or stop random web browsing. Random inputs into our lives are good for creative sparks, but most of us get way more than we need and the creativity factor is far outweighed by the overload factor.
4. Seek out targeted web inputs. Use Google search or Google Alerts to find opportunities that align with your goals. Subscribe to RSS feeds of sites that consistently have content that is aligned with your goals. Cut out RSS feeds that don’t add real value to your life.
5. Be more targeted in your reading. Cut out magazines that you can’t keep up with. Cut out magazines that don’t align well with your interests or goals. If you read the newspaper, consider reading just certain sections that pertain to your goals or interests. Or you may want to just read the Sunday paper for the weekly recap. Again, there, limit the number of sections that you read. If it is a high priority goal to leisurely read the Sunday paper all morning, then definitely do that. If your goal is that you want to go places or do things on Sunday, then try limiting.
6. Capture the best ideas. When you do find opportunities that are a match with your goals, then write down those ideas in a notebook where you keep all your ideas.
7. Review the ideas you write down at least weekly. If you haven’t already taken action on them, decide which ones are most important to you and set your first action step to take.
8. At the end of the day take a few moments to review your day either mentally with eyes closed or through journaling. What did you accomplish? Did you make progress on your top priorities? Are you satisfied with that? What could you change tomorrow or going forward to improve? What was good about today? What are you grateful for? What will you do tomorrow?
9. Be at peace with your day that has passed. Relax and rest for the evening so that you can face tomorrow with renewed energy!
K. Stone is author of Life Learning Today, a blog about daily life improvement Should You Start Your Own Work at Home Business?, How to Stop Being “Busy” and Live Your Dream Life, How to Write a Book in 60 Days or Less, and How to Be a Great Salesperson.