Usually when we are feeling particularly trapped in our circumstances, our many responsibilities feel like entrapments. You may feel like you should be spending time doing other things, maybe even things that you enjoy, but here you are washing the dishes for the four hundredth time today. You may resent time spent out at the clothes line hanging endless socks, as it takes away even more of that precious time.
One of the first things I try to encourage people to do is to take a look around them, but with fresh eyes, making an effort to see things in a different light. Once you understand what your end term goals are, you can then begin to see that many of the things you do from day to day are maintaining some of the best tools you have towards reaching those goals.
So what are your most important tools?
Your mind is potentially your most valuable tool. It is the source of all of the strengths and disciplines that you will require to reach your life goals. It controls everything you do, think and say as well as every belief you hold. Your mind also provides processing power, generates ideas and creates plans. You use your mind to visualise a goal, create a pathway to achieving it, and motivate you step after step until you reach it.
The best thing about your mind is that it is highly trainable and flexible and you can strengthen it with practice. You can actually teach your mind just about anything given sufficient dedication and diligence. Find good resources from your library, the internet, or other people who have experience in your chosen area. Apply yourself to short periods of daily learning, if you can not do any more than that. Keep your learning varied and well-rounded.
You can ensure that your mind is functioning at its best simply by using it! Refuse just to go through the motions every day. Instead, cultivate a mindfulness in everything that you do. Always be thoughtful about how your actions fit in with your values, how you can make things work better, and how your responsibilities help shape your path in life.
Avoid getting bogged down too much things that aren’t really important to you. Using your mind most efficiently and powerfully means letting go of things that do not serving you. Use your mind to help streamline your life so that you are always directed and focused on the things that matter to you and the ones that you love.
People often underestimate the value of their health until it is threatened. Take measures now to ensure your body is working as it should and to protect your health.
Your body and health are highly valuable tools that you should make a priority to protect, strengthen and nurture. Being strong and healthy helps you to complete the many different tasks that will lead you to success with your goals. If your body is in great condition you will have the energy and stamina you need to get as much out of each day as possible.
You can increase the functionality of this tool by eating well and ensuring you get some form of exercise, preferably every day. Taking care of your body does not have to require a large amount of time, just consistent daily care. Don’t forget to get enough sleep and drink plenty of water as well.
Be aware of your diet, making it nutrient rich and not based around junk or fast food. Even common prepackaged foods like frozen, microwave meals or package mixes can be a minefield for your health. It is much easier and much better to eat a variety fresh, natural foods prepared simply.
Be proactive with your health care, too. Prevention is much better than cure but if you already struggle with chronic illness or just have a delicate immune system you will benefit very much from awareness and willingness to advocate for yourself to make sure you get the ongoing care you need.
Your home is the place from which all of your other activities are based. This is where your family centres itself, and where you pour love, affection and care onto them. This is the place where you will build your own business. This is where friends meet to support and encourage one another. Home is a vibrant, busy, full centre of activity and should be a place where you can work steadily towards your goals.
Home was never meant as a showcase or an empty palace where you try not to spend too much time.
Given that your home plays such an important role in reaching your goals, you need to keep this special tool in order. Try to see your daily work of dishwashing, hanging out the laundry, mopping and organising and so on, as ways of caring for this very important tool. Looking at it this way helps you to understand how all of your work, even if it seems mundane, is doing its part to get you closer to where you want to be.
I encourage you to find out how your home really needs to function in order to be able to help you, rather than hinder your progress. When you buy a tool at the hardware store, chances are you look for functionality and quality rather than prettiness or fashionability.
So it is with our homes. If your home is pristine, your carpets are all spotless, your jeans are all ironed and hung up, but you spend all of your time keeping it that way, or you’re unable to work efficiently because your house isn’t set up efficiently, then you are wasting this wonderful tool and its potential. Set your home up for success by keeping it clear of clutter, streamlined, organised, systemised and as clean as it needs to be to meet its various functions.
Some of us may not have much money, but whatever we do have is a tool nonetheless. Money enables us to exchange work time for goods and services. The key to using money is to ensure that the goods and services we are exchanging our time for are actually helping us stay on our goal path, and not taking us on a detour.
If you’re in bad habits with spending, you need to take a very close look at your budget. Living within your means should be something you expect from yourself, because if you do so (which usually requires a good amount of self discipline), you will see rewards very rapidly.
Taking care of your budget means cutting things out that are not really serving you well. If you’re in the habit of using your ‘me time’ to go watch a movie once a week, consider how much this adds up over the course of a year.
It may only cost $20 to watch a movie and have a cappuccino, but this adds up to $1040 per year. If you add to this other small but unnecessary expenses of perhaps having lunch out once a week at around $20, and then hitting the grocery or chain stores for a little unplanned expenditure (say maybe $100 worth of ‘bargains’ that you didn’t really need) you could easily end up spending around $7000 a year!
Even if you feel that you deserve this time out to blow off a little steam with some ‘retail therapy’, you have to question whether this money could be better used in a way that moves you closer to your life goals, not further away.
This is the one tool that everyone has been given in equal measure. Why then do some achieve so much while others simply can’t find the time to do anything? The key here is, of course, how that time is used.
We all make choices about how to use our time and which tasks to assign our time to, even if we think otherwise. Yes, your days may require that you spend time cooking meals in the kitchen or cleaning the bathroom or any number of other important tasks. The choice you make is how you go about completing these tasks, whether you’ve optimised procedures to be as efficient as possible, or in some cases if you do them at all.
When you’re assigning your time to various responsibilities and tasks, you really have to scrutinise each job. Is this necessary to meet your goals? Does this line up with your own values, or someone else’s? Are there ways you can streamline this task so that it eats less time?
We may find ourselves overwhelmed when first considering the idea of making everything we do more efficient. It is a fairly big undertaking. In future articles I will be discussing systems I use to create efficiency in all things so that we create time.
In the meantime, begin to cultivate an awareness of how you complete your day to day tasks. For example, as you’re washing dishes you can think about ways that you could spend less time in this task while achieving what you need to. Could you declutter your dishes so that you have only what you need, thereby giving yourself less to wash overall? Could you wash dishes as soon as possible rather than allowing them to sit so that they become encrusted and more difficult to wash? Perhaps simplifying meals would create less dirty dishes to start with?
Simply begin to become more aware of the processes you’re using to complete each task. Awareness is the very important first step in creating efficient systems.
Your money is a tool that you can use to move you closer to what you truly want out of life.
So is your home.
And your body.
And your mind.
And your time.
Begin to allow your perspective to change so that you can use these tools to their full potential. Being unclear about your goals, and having an incorrect view or lack of appreciation of your resources can cause you to derail from your path. It’s vital for you to be able to see how everything in your life works together and how you can use that to your benefit.