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Opportunity Overload

Opportunity Overload

    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    K. Stone

    The founder of Life Learning Today, a blog that's dedicated to life improvement tips.

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    Last Updated on October 15, 2019

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Is Procrastination Bad? The Truth About Procrastination Revealed

    Procrastination is very literally the opposite of productivity. To produce something is to pull it forward, while to procrastinate is to push it forward — to tomorrow, to next week, or ultimately to never.

    Procrastination fills us with shame — we curse ourselves for our laziness, our inability to focus on the task at hand, our tendency to be easily led into easier and more immediate gratifications. And with good reason: for the most part, time spent procrastinating is time spent not doing things that are, in some way or other, important to us.

    There is a positive side to procrastination, but it’s important not to confuse procrastination at its best with everyday garden-variety procrastination.

    Sometimes — sometimes! — procrastination gives us the time we need to sort through a thorny issue or to generate ideas. In those rare instances, we should embrace procrastination — even as we push it away the rest of the time.

    Why we procrastinate after all

    We procrastinate for a number of reasons, some better than others. One reason we procrastinate is that, while we know what we want to do, we need time to let the ideas “ferment” before we are ready to sit down and put them into action.

    Some might call this “creative faffing”; I call it, following copywriter Ray Del Savio’s lead, “concepting”.[1]

    Whatever you choose to call it, it’s the time spent dreaming up what you want to say or do, weighing ideas in your mind, following false leads and tearing off on mental wild goose chases, and generally thinking things through.

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    To the outside observer, concepting looks like… well, like nothing much at all. Maybe you’re leaning back in your chair, feet up, staring at the wall or ceiling, or laying in bed apparently dozing, or looking out over the skyline or feeding pigeons in the park or fiddling with the Japanese vinyl toys that stand watch over your desk.

    If ideas are the lifeblood of your work, you have to make time for concepting, and you have to overcome the sensation— often overpowering in our work-obsessed culture — that faffing, however creative, is not work.

    So, is procrastination bad?

    Yes it is.

    Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you’re “concepting” when in fact you’re just not sure what you’re supposed to be doing.

    Spending an hour staring at the wall while thinking up the perfect tagline for a marketing campaign is creative faffing; staring at the wall for an hour because you don’t know how to come up with a tagline, or don’t know the product you’re marketing well enough to come up with one, is just wasting time.

    Lack of definition is perhaps the biggest friend of your procrastination demons. When we’re not sure what to do — whether because we haven’t planned thoroughly enough, we haven’t specified the scope of what we hope to accomplish in the immediate present, or we lack important information, skills, or resources to get the job done.

    It’s easy to get distracted or to trick ourselves into spinning our wheels doing nothing. It takes our mind off the uncomfortable sensation of failing to make progress on something important.

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    The answer to this is in planning and scheduling. Rather than giving yourself an unspecified length of time to perform an unspecified task (“Let’s see, I guess I’ll work on that spreadsheet for a while”) give yourself a limited amount of time to work on a clearly defined task (“Now I’ll enter the figures from last months sales report into the spreadsheet for an hour”).

    Giving yourself a deadline, even an artificial one, helps build a sense of urgency and also offers the promise of time to “screw around” later, once more important things are done.

    For larger projects, planning plays a huge role in whether or not you’ll spend too much time procrastinating to reach the end reasonably quickly.

    A good plan not only lists the steps you have to take to reach the end, but takes into account the resources, knowledge and inputs from other people you’re going to need to perform those steps.

    Instead of futzing around doing nothing because you don’t have last month’s sales report, getting the report should be a step in the project.

    Otherwise, you’ll spend time cooling your heels, justifying your lack of action as necessary: you aren’t wasting time because you want to, but because you have to.

    How bad procrastination can be

    Our mind can often trick us into procrastinating, often to the point that we don’t realize we’re procrastinating at all.

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    After all, we have lots and lots of things to do; if we’re working on something, aren’t we being productive – even if the one big thing we need to work on doesn’t get done?

    One way this plays out is that we scan our to-do list, skipping over the big challenging projects in favor of the short, easy projects. At the end of the day, we feel very productive: we’ve crossed twelve things off our list!

    That big project we didn’t work on gets put onto the next day’s list, and when the same thing happens, it gets moved forward again. And again.

    Big tasks often present us with the problem above – we aren’t sure what to do exactly, so we look for other ways to occupy ourselves.

    In many cases too, big tasks aren’t really tasks at all; they’re aggregates of many smaller tasks. If something’s sitting on your list for a long time, each day getting skipped over in favor of more immediately doable tasks, it’s probably not very well thought out.

    You’re actively resisting it because you don’t really know what it is. Try to break it down into a set of small tasks, something more like the tasks you are doing in place of the one big task you aren’t doing.

    More consequences of procrastination can be found in this article:

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    8 Dreadful Effects of Procrastination That Can Destroy Your Life

    Procrastination, a technical failure

    Procrastination is, more often than not, a sign of a technical failure, not a moral failure.

    It’s not because we’re bad people that we procrastinate. Most times, procrastination serves as a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with the tasks we’ve set ourselves.

    It’s important to keep an eye on our procrastinating tendencies, to ask ourselves whenever we notice ourselves pushing things forward what it is about the task we’ve set ourselves that simply isn’t working for us.

    Featured photo credit: chuttersnap via unsplash.com

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