Why You're Not Getting It All Done
Does it seem impossible to get everything done that you've planned?
As we set out to live intentionally and build lives with meaning and impact, we face the challenge of showing up consistently to do the actions and behaviors that deliver real change.
My Personal Overwhelm
My biggest challenge with consistency this past year has been striving to be consistent with too many things. I started out this iteration of my career with YouTube. Then added this newsletter. Then re-started my fitness program. So far so good.
Then added a course with extensive live components, then added some hobbies (can’t be all work!), then added Twitter, then adventurous travel excursions, then amped up the intensity of the fitness training. Increasingly, I have house repairs and improvements. Joined a mastermind group. Nothing has been removed or reduced (at least by intention), and suddenly I have a collection of activities that simply do not fit in any weekly or even bi-weekly schedule.
But they are ALL high priorities, I emphasize to myself. And me being me, I completely agree with my argument. So they all must remain.
Sadly, the time-space continuum is not as easily persuaded as we are by our own arguments. Given any starting point and ending point, the amount of time is finite.
Systems & Prioritization Only Go So Far
I have found success in being consistent by setting up systems and designing patterns in my days and weeks — giving them deliberate shape and structure. But I keep trying to apply these systems and routines to more than I can physically fit into a day or a week.
Then, consistently coming up short frustrates me. Immensely.
Does this sound familiar to your life?
For some people, including many I work with, this frustration becomes debilitating.
“Why can’t I just do the simple things I’ve set out to do? It looks so straightforward and easy.”
Perhaps my greatest strength is letting the past go, not judging but channeling that disappointment into a better round next time. If the failure yesterday or the past week or month is channeled into a more determined effort to do it right tomorrow — to the point where you actually do it, then it’s not a failure at all. It was learning. Do that over and over again and things will work out just fine.
But if packing more in than you can realistically achieve, no amount of “doing it better” will eliminate the frustration. And the disappointments will compound instead of the successes. Here we have the making of a negative feedback loop.
That’s why my videos and essays hammer on the point of ruthless prioritization, which lines up the right activity sequences so that the things that do get done are the ones that make the biggest impact.
Ruthless prioritization can still be applied with unreasonable expectations of what’s possible, and then self-judgment can crush us when coming up short.
Viable Short-Term Goal Setting
We must not only learn to channel frustration into a better effort next time, but also learn what is viable in a day or week. Or at least get reasonably close.
Initially, the idea of setting lower expectations on what we can do in a day or week or month can seem as though we are reducing our ambition and holding ourselves to a lower standard.
Setting expectations and plans that are viable, with a modest stretch, gives us a stronger drive to complete and achieve big objectives. This is because we see it as realistic — and the belief that we can do it is essential to aggressively pursuing any objective.
And the more frequent rate of success with this approach builds confidence and momentum to do it again and again, generating a positive feedback loop.
Hofstadter’s law states:
“It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law”
The reason it seems impossible to get it all done is that it is impossible.
Awareness of this phenomenon is a major step toward the essential quality of self-awareness. And self-awareness is at the core of everything we do.
We’ll explore this much further as we go in this series.