Getting things done, especially the right things at the right times is a constant struggle for me – and I’m sure I’m not alone.

It’s certainly not down to a lack of time. We all have 24 hours in a day, yet I’ve even heard retired people say how busy they are and how they don’t know how they managed to work full time and do everything else before they retired.

So where does the time magically disappear to? I have a couple of theories:


Work expands to fill the time available

I’m just about to change my car and have been researching makes and models. There’s so much information out there and so many decisions to be made; even after you’ve decided what type of car and features you want you then need to decide whether to buy new or used – then if used, you can buy from a private seller, or an auction, or a dealer. You can choose to part exchange your old car or sell it privately. Then you’re advised to negotiate the best price, do vehicle checks etc etc.

At one stage I could feel myself getting overwhelmed with all that needed to be done and the prospect of how long it might take. Then I thought “hold on a minute – it only took me two days to choose and buy my last car”. Why? because the previous one had been written off and I only had a few days free use of a hire care before I had to arrange my own transport. I had a deadline forced upon me.

Does this mean I made a rush decision, paid more than I needed to and didn’t get exactly what I wanted? Not at all – I’ve had my current car for 7 years, it’s been very reliable and I bought it for a good price.

There is magic in setting a deadline; the time constraint naturally limits some of your choices and focuses your mind to make quick decisions, based on your level of knowledge and experience at the time. Could things go wrong with the car? Absolutely; but things could go wrong whether you take 6 hours to choose one or 6 months. So why take longer than you need to?

Set yourself a deadline, do the best job you can within that time and you’ll find you’ll have more time available to do other things.


If you don’t run your life, other people will run it for you

Most people who are due to retire make a point of shouting it from the rooftops; announcing proudly that soon they will be a man or lady of leisure. Or the newly self-employed boast about how they can now do what they want, when they want. Often what they don’t realise is the consequence of this; people pick up on the fact that you might be available and will be all too ready to ask if you ‘wouldn’t mind doing them a small favour’. Before you know it you’re editing the local village magazine, serving on the council and dog sitting for 3 sets of neighbours, wondering why you don’t seem to have any time to do what you want to do.

It’s great to help other people out, but to do it at the expense of tasks that would really help you out is unhealthy. The jobs you’re not getting round to doing for yourself are likely to be the ones you’re trying to avoid; and you’ve given yourself the perfect excuse to avoid them.

So before you say yes to anyone else’s pleas for support, however desperate they may appear, make sure you’ve put the big stones in your jar first. That way you won’t neglect the most important things in your own life and resent the work you’re doing for others.

Note: An exception to this is if you do paid work for others which you enjoy, which allows you to pay someone else to do jobs for you that you don’t enjoy. That’s called working smart!

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