If anyone were to ask me who is my greatest enemy…
it’s Time. Hands down.
One hundred percent.
This week has been (or I least I thought it has) my most “productive” week so far:
I worked on my craft for at least 20 hours total (devoting at least 3–4 hours of deliberate practice a day), accumulated at least 12 hours of work on my “side hustles”, and published 5 blog posts (could be 6 for this week if I finish this before midnight!)
Maybe these numbers don't sound that huge, but I still have a job and I’m still in school. Sure, those two things have been flexible for me, but that’s only because I made that possible for myself (and haven’t been able to in the past).
Life goes through seasons. Sometimes you will get things done and other times not as much.
This week was important in that it is my first week of trying to commit to such a consistent and “productive” schedule.
Now that I’m here at the end, I think it’s good to take some time to reflect on whether or not this was all worth it and what I’ve learned about “productivity”.
So, was it worth it?
The Answer: NO
Okay I know, I’ve only done this schedule for a week. I have no doubt that keeping such a structure over the course of months would have some great payoffs for me.
However, I wouldn’t say this week was worth all the hours of work I accumulated.
Don’t get me wrong. There was a lot of good, but I’ve learned a few lessons through doing this that will definitely make me change my goals.
Speaking of changing goals, here’s the first lesson:
My Goals Were Unrealistic
Look, I have highly ambitious goals, and that’s not gonna change. Not for anybody.
I will continue to believe I can do the things I want to do even though it may be “highly unlikely”.
As I’ve said countless times before in other posts: the mere “possibility” that I can in fact achieve my dreams off is enough.
However, as I’ve also said in other posts: there’s nuance to everything.
There are always two sides to everything. Nothing is black or white. It’s all gray. Something can be black and white at the same time.
With the productivity goals I set for myself this week, I realize that though it was possible, it was unrealistic at the same time.
For starters, I didn’t even complete my goals. I was supposed to write nine blog posts this week (silly me, right?) and here I am trying to cram in three more at the buzzer-beater (I’m already too late because now the week is over!).
As far as working on my craft (I’m just a classic classical musician trying to rack up hours and master my instrument by the way), I did manage to reach my goal of 20 hours this week. Yay me, right?
The practice sessions toward the end of the week drained my energy and became more about accumulating the hours rather than actually growing and learning and deliberately putting in successful repetitions.
That’s another lesson with this whole thing: I started to lose quality because I was too focused on the quantity.
I put in seven hours toward my side hustle (at least an hour a day), so I technically completed this last goal as well.
But, instead of my prescribed hour a day method, I ended up cramming the hours on the last two days of the week. I ended up doing 3 hours straight yesterday and 4 hours straight today (or something like that).
The point is: this was bad.
I didn’t necessarily lose quality on this one, but it definitely wasn’t great for my health, and cramming with this one affected everything else.
Why did I end up cramming in the first place?
Because the goal wasn’t realistic! I ended up pushing it back to the last two days of the week because it wasn’t possible for me to do it the way I wanted to in the first place.
You know what makes this whole thing even more unrealistic?
My job schedule isn’t going to remain as flexible and not as time-consuming for long. In two weeks' time or so that is almost all I will have time for! If I was at that point there’s no way any of these goals would’ve been possible!
Too Much Change
Change is good, but not too much. You have to take things slow, and I definitely didn’t. Part of the reason why I failed with some goals or crammed in the other ones was simply because I was trying to instill, I don’t know, five habits at once or so within me.
I was so determined to meet my goals, stay hard, and get after it because the grind doesn’t stop.
But the grind did stop, several times at that.
On top of everything that I was consistently trying to establish at once and force myself to do, I thought it a great idea to wake up a 5 am because, you know, self-help and stuff.
Waking up at 5 wasn’t necessarily what I regret, but to couple changing my whole sleep schedule with everything else ended up not working.
Too Much Inspiration
I had been watching tons of motivational videos on hard work. I was absorbing all the David Goggins and all the Gary V (love these guys, by the way). However, I think it’s important to note that you can get too inspired.
Yep, you read that correctly.
Look, I was feeling all the motivation. I set my goals for the week. I was going to be a hard individual and stare struggle, fear, and failure in its pathetic little face and overcome them, once and for all!
But they overcame me. I wasn’t ready.
I handled too much at one time because I was overly inspired.
You have to be careful with all the motivational stuff. First, it doesn’t last you long. Second, especially if it’s one of those compiled ones with tons of cut up interview snippets, you can miss the context and misinterpret what was said.
I love David Goggins, and he’s all about hard work and getting in the dirt and just doing the damn thing. I watched an interview where he had mentioned that he had to focus on one thing, that that’s the only way he can do it and go all in.
I hadn’t focused on that bit as much, but in hindsight, I see what he meant. He’s a big advocate for hard work, as he and everyone should be, but he wasn’t telling everyone to overwork themselves. Sure, maybe he does it to himself, but he doesn’t prescribe that for anyone. He simply wants people to do the maximum of what they can do.
For him, it was important that it was just one thing.
I’m a believer that you can do several things and maybe even all at once, but with this approach, you may have to make your goals a little more realistic.
You can’t do it all at the same intensity. Something will still be the main thing. You may not even get to the side things every day.
But I was too inspired to see or listen to any of that. I thought that I was simply going to go into this week being the most productive person in the world. I was gonna rack up all these hours (which I did), establish all these habits (which I didn’t), and achieve great success (eh).
I semi-did these things. Yet, I pursued an unrealistic goal on a temporary “motivational high”.
The “Life Things”
I made the terrible mistake of completely forgetting about all the other “life things” I had to do. Things such as urgent errands and meetings and calls I needed to make.
And you know what happened? I didn’t do them!
You know why that sucks? Now I have to do these urgent things this upcoming week on top of everything that I already had to do this upcoming week!
That my friends is called the “snowball effect” (or whatever…feels more like an avalanche type of ordeal…even though I have no idea how that feels).
Don’t put little urgent life things to the side. It only gets worse. Make time for them. Lord knows I should’ve!
This is a great lesson for me. As annoying as these life tasks (that have nothing to do with my dreams) annoy me, I can’t let the fact that I don’t want to do them cause me to actually not do them.
Make time to do the annoying things.
What Really Matters
Most importantly, I lost sight of what really mattered. The “productive” time-blocked hours in your day don’t matter if the hours themselves are unproductive.
It doesn’t matter if I lose quality to quantity.
It doesn’t matter if I don’t get all of the urgent “life things” done.
And it especially didn’t matter because I sacrificed special time with my wife.
I have to be honest with you.
Your relationships matter. Hell, don’t get me wrong, your goals matter, a lot.
I believe it’s a super big thing that matters, even on the same playing field as your relationships and maybe more in some cases.
That’s just honest truth.
But once again, the same is true for the ones you love.
I made the mistake of not even running this plan by my wife. I made the mistake of not spending near enough time with her as I should have.
How can I say this week was successful? How can I say I love and care for someone when I’ve spent all of my time on something that wasn’t going to work out anyway?
This is what I have learned, and I hope it has some value for you. I want to make it clear to you, though, that I do believe in hard and smart work, even to more than what most people may be comfortable with.
I don’t necessarily regret any of this. I’ve learned from it and am going to move on.
People spend far too much time thinking about the past.
I’ve learned from this time around that I was a little unrealistic, overly confident, overly motivated, and vastly unprepared.
Those are valuable lessons. The only thing that makes this week successful is that I’ve learned what not to do and how I can make things better.
I will still put in 20-hour weeks toward my craft. In my current situation, that’s still possible. However, I am going to do a complete workaround and decrease my blogging/side hustle goals to something much more manageable.
I will put quality over quantity.
I will get adequate sleep and change my sleep schedule over time.
I will establish habits one by one.
I’m not going to ignore life and all of its annoying tasks for me.
I’m going to spend much more time with my wife.
I’m going to remember that some days I may not be able to get to everything. I will still stretch myself as far as I can go within these new limits that aren’t even limits. It’s called Life!
Believe me, I’ll take every chance I get to do more, but only if I can.
I don’t want this article to become an excuse for you to bash hard work and productivity.
I did it the wrong way and you can learn from this, sure, but for so many of you ambitious-super-huge-dreams-people, you and I are not doing enough.
Enough is how far you can go that still makes time for the other things you say you care about.
Set goals for yourself that stretch you more than the normal stretch.
You’ll find that you can still create a lot more time for yourself, your relationships, and life things if you cut out some other crap anyway (For example, my phone says I spend about 3 hours and 15 minutes a day on it! And that’s 35% down from last week! Yet we wonder where all the time went…).
I forgot to mention one more thing. You wanna know why I decided to pursue these goals in the first place? Why did I even try?
Because all my life I’ve been talking about what I’m going to do. I’m so tired of talking. Extreme action to combat this seemed like a way to prove I could do the work and stop talking about it for once.
And you know what? It did work.
But that’s not the only way, either.
You can do this. It is possible. Find that balance that doesn’t really exist. I know you will (or can’t?).