How I Create More Time and Rarely Get Overwhelmed

I still have days where I feel distracted and get less done than I’d hoped. I still have moments where I feel stress and a lack of motivation.

There are also days where I spend the entire day working, but usually those days are out of a love for work, rather than a need to do it.

There are still some curveballs thrown that catch me off-guard for a while too.

But on the whole, I’m never really overwhelmed, and I rarely feel as if I lack time. In fact, some days I feel as though I have more time than I need.

I don’t need to tell you that most of the world is chest deep in a crippling epidemic of distraction, overwhelm and busyness. Perhaps you’re feeling it too.

For most of the last ten years of my life, distracted and busy was my default setting. But a year or so ago, I got fed up and made a conscious decision to end this insanity.

I’m not quite there yet, and as with most things, it’s a work in progress, but I am in the process of fixing and streamlining my new approach to life every day.

Before I tell you how I got back in control, I want to make it clear that you are not overwhelmed because of the economy. It is not the fault of smartphones that you are distracted and unproductive.

YouTube is not to blame for your lack of productivity.

Many of you might be clicking on to the solution at this point. The way to solve your overwhelm and lack of time is exactly what you would do if you had to be rational about things.

Do less of what is holding you back and keep doing what works.

But humans just aren’t like that are we? Many of us will continue to do illogical, unhelpful things even if it’s actually hurting us, consciously or unconsciously.

Some people will continue to toil in hardship because they secretly and unknowingly love the pain. That’s their life and their ‘problem’.

For those of us who aren’t lost causes, there is a very effective way to take the power back and make it work for you in a more tangible way.

When I made a decision to take control of things, all I needed to do was acknowledge the reality of cause and effect.

Everything happens for a reason. Change the cause, change the effect

…Which led me to being more strict about placing limits on things.

I now have a set of written rules for myself and for my eyes only, and I remind myself of these rules every day.

I have a rule for how much time I can spend watching videos or movies.

I have a daily limit on when I can access social media. I have limits on what I eat and how late I go to sleep and wake up. I restrict the times I can access my emails, and I’m adding new things to the list all the time. It’s kinda fun.

And do I feel trapped? Do I feel overwhelmed? Nope. I’m free and I’m more in control than ever.

I relish the process of skimming the fat. I love to fast to give my body a jolt. I’ve grown to love being patient. I enjoy getting up early. And I love to be productive.

I have no clear routine, but my rules impose enough control on my day that I don’t (often) fall into lazy habits.

This kind of discipline is particularly valuable to us independent workers. Almost every decision you make comes from you.

No one is showing you the path. No one but you creates that path and decides each and every step you need to make.

When people use the term “being your own boss”, most people interpret it to mean running your business. It is that. But it’s also being your own drill sergeant.

Your freedom in life comes from discipline, not running riot and doing what you like, when you like. It’s counterintuitive, but it’s very true.

Your freedom is rooted directly to the restrictions you set for yourself.

Working for yourself is not something we are entitled to, it’s something to earn. To make it work smoothly requires conscious discipline.

By imposing rules on how you spend your time, and on what things your attention is directed towards, suddenly you have order.

Immediately you have control. Right away, the old you is a dim memory and you are transmogrifying into an elite form.

What would happen to your productivity if you allowed yourself one or two hours of Internet time every day? That’s a lot less than the nearly 8 hours for average millennials. Even less than that?

How would your life change if you, like me, gave yourself 45 minutes each day or less to watch videos and movies? As a film nut, I used to watch a lot, including YouTube, so doing so has given hours back to my day. And this is just one of many self-imposed limits.

I won’t share more examples because it would be patronising. The choices you have are so simple after all. You just need to be clear to yourself on your rules and stick to them as well as you can.

Rules that limit the bad habits are one side of the coin.

You must also set rules that define what you must do each day that will have a positive effect on your situation and I plan to talk more in depth about the flip side to the limitation in another article.

Hang them up on your wall, and put them in places that you see them all the time.

Allow yourself to slip occasionally, give yourself a break, but then get back on board and see how the chains holding you down start to crumble.

Originally published on Red Lemon Club.

Alex Mathers
Alex Mathers


Alex Mathers is a writer and illustrator from London, based in Bangkok. He enjoys exploring ideas that help us be more confident and creative. His book: 'Joining the Dots: The A-Z Handbook for Making a Success of Your Creative Skills' is available for free, for a limited time.

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