Photo credit: Ricksflicks
It’s cliche, but I have come to appreciate the adage “Time is the great equalizer – everyone has the same amount.”
I used to beat myself up for not doing as much as the incredible people around me; people who could accomplish so much more than I seem to be able to. I would hear about their accomplishments and instead of being inspired, I would feel overwhelmed.
I talked about this on a 30 mile bike ride commute into work with a buddy of mine a few years ago. We would do this once a week at daybreak, catching the sunrise over the lake. The ride took 2 hours, plus shower and chocolate milk rehydration put me at my desk by 9am. I didn’t feel like I could balance training for a 300 mile bike ride (STP, a 1 or 2 day Seattle to Portland ride) with my tennis team upcoming season.
He said: “Lil, think about everything you are doing right now. List it out.”
So I did. And I felt pretty accomplished, actually. Because when I added everything up, I felt like I wasn’t as far off from those people I was feeling jealous of.
Thought Exercise #1:
When you feel like you’re not doing enough, consciously list out everything that is on your plate.
Then he said: “Now, if you want to ride 300 miles in a day, you’re going to have to train for at least 2 months ahead of time. That means riding every week 3-4 times to and from work, the long way. Plus a long ride every weekend, working up from 50 to 100 miles.”
“But I can’t ride that much and play tennis, I won’t have enough daylight left. And my legs will be worn out”
“That’s right, Lil. You have to choose. You can’t keep adding things to your list. If you want to do this, you definitely can. But you have to drop something else. What would you drop?”
Thought Exercise #2:
Be honest with your time. If you pick up a new activity or are working towards a new goal, evaluate how much time it will really require to do well and think about what existing activities will be affected by it.
And here’s the important part, at least for me. When I choose my activity, I actively stop doing something else. I don’t try to keep a hold on it just a little, just on weekends, just once a month. If I pick something new up, I have to commit to the new thing whole-heartedly or else it won’t really be fulfilling, worth-while, or done well.
So that helps me – it helps me say no to new random hobbies (Trapeze? Glass-blowing?). It helps me feel good about what I am doing (Look at me! I do all this stuff!). And it helps me really take on new activities without feeling like I’m going to fail because I know I’ve made the time for it.
Oh and by the way: I didn’t do the 300 mile ride. Instead I fully committed to my local tennis team season. We ended the season first in the division, won our local championship, and traveled to Portland to compete in the regional championship. So I guess I made it to Portland after all.
After graduating from UC Berkeley in 2007, Lilia Gutnik (liliagutnik.com) moved to the Pacific Northwest where she learned how to ride her bike around Lake Washington with the encouragement of her friend Matthew Pearlson. Her commute to work is now to the Bing offices, where she is a technical product manager on the monetization team. In her spare time, she still plays competitive tennis, travels to far-off countries, tells stories, and occasionally gets overwhelmed by the number of things she wants to do but doesn’t have time for.