Last week, using an analogy of eating mac and cheese all day, I explained a bit of the dilemma of being an overachiever. Overachievers often only know the value of achieving, and as a result, they live unbalanced lives. The solution to this is to broaden your horizons and discover new sources of emotional fulfillment. This week we will begin delving into how you actually do that.
So, one of the first blocks most overachievers hit is time. When you value achieving over all else, your time becomes filled with nothing but achievement based tasks. In fact, chances are you will have more tasks than time you have to complete them. This creates an obvious problem. How do you broaden your horizons when you don’t have time?
The answer to this is a little multi-faceted but we’ll break it down. The first step is recognizing that the very act of creating time is already broadening your horizons. By just setting aside time, where you might not do something as achievement oriented, you are already expanding and exploring new things.
The second half of this question is “How do I make time?” This is a little bit tricky, if you are like a lot of achievers, getting free time is a bit of a treat, but it seems like as soon as you get time, your schedule balloons up to fill it with something more you need to do, or you just find another achievement based activity to pursue.
My girlfriend, Tia, was actually the one who found a solution to this. She created something she refers to as “not time”. “Not time” is kind of cool. It’s basically free time that you treat like you’ve already filled with things to do. So, for example, say somehow you magically gained two hours of free time this week. If you treated it as free time, you’d automatically find things you could schedule or do for those two hours. This might be the time you decide to homework, maybe chores, or even schedule a specific activity. In contrast, if you treat this time as “not time”, you act like you’ve already scheduled something to do then. This means you can’t plan anything for those two hours. It’s “not time”, as in time you don’t have to spare.
So, what do you do with your “not time”? Well, “not time” is a chance for you to take a breath and step away from your never-ending to do list. It’s meant to be your leisure time, so you should be spending your time on things you want to do, instead of things you feel you have to do. This can be anything including taking a walk, napping, reading, playing on your computer, etc. The important part is that you are enjoying yourself and allowing space for new experiences outside of achieving.
I am feeling guilty, restless, and twitchy during my “not time”. What’s that about?
You are currently suffering from what I like to call achievement indigestion. Going back to the mac and cheese analogy, this is sort of like if you ate mac and cheese your whole life, but then you tried to eat something else. Your body does not know how to process other foods, so it reacts negatively and you get indigestion. Exploring things outside of achievement is very similar. You’re so used to achieving, that anything different will not sit well with your psychological tummy.
The good news is that, this is a temporary thing. Over time your psychology will adjust and recognize that taking a break isn’t a bad thing, just like how your tummy will learn to digest other food.
The bottom line is to stick with it. If you sit through the discomfort, it will pass, and you’ll find new exciting things on the horizon.
But isn’t “not time” bad? I mean I could be doing something productive right now.
Actually, if anything, “not time” is really good. Even if your sole goal is to accomplish more.
For starters having “not time” gives you time to emotionally detox and refresh yourself. This puts you in a better position to get more things done in the future.
It also creates some empty time and space in your life, which means you’ll have more time to ponder ongoing problems and come up with solid solutions for them.
It also gives you a break to look forward to. This is important, because you can sometimes find yourself with a never-ending to-do list. Without a break in the near future, it can be very tempting to procrastinate.
To summarize, most people who experiment with “not time” will probably find an increase in their productivity instead of a decrease.
Why is adding “not time” important?
If you remember in my last article, the fatal flaw of overachieving is that you get tunnel vision. It’s like eating mac and cheese all day. If you only eat mac and cheese, how can you know there isn’t anything better in the world?
Setting aside “not time” gives you a space to step back and better assess your life. You can start stepping out of that tunnel vision to get a look at the bigger picture. If you do this enough, you’ll start to see other things you can value besides achievement. It’s a bit like leaving the restaurant that only serves mac and cheese, so that you can explore and see that there are actually hundreds of restaurants to choose from.