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Turns Out, You *Can’t* Do it All—So How Do You Pick?

In: Productive Mother

You know who's funny? People who try to do everything.

Talk about a dysfunctional relationship with time. Contrary to popular opinion, time is not always there for you when you need it.

Yet, then you are all cute, telling yourself you'll just “fit it in”—whatever “it” might be that day. Why does everyone think they'll fit it in? Nobody ever fits it in. You know what you fit in? About two or three things a day, max. That's it. That's the limit. Even if you technically have more time in the day, eventually your brain does that thing where it just says “piss off, Harry” and throws in the towel.

But, you know, it's hard because we humans have good intentions. We want to say yes to exciting opportunities. We don't want to miss out on anything. Remember a hundred years ago when you were in college and you wouldn't have dared to miss a Friday night out? (Imagine! all the things! they'll do! without you!)

Well, you don't give a turkey's foot about the bar anymore, but that dread of missing out still haunts you—except now it's dressed as a giant, oversized dollar sign waving itself around as it dances in circles around you chanting, “I'm a good opportunity! I'm a good opportunity!” (Mirages can be such smug jerks.)

And so temptation overcomes us. We don't want to miss out; don't want to regret. Because what if?!?! So we join hands with every good opportunity that comes our way, and we try and we try and we try to fit it all in. Andddddd that's the moment everything comes crashing down around us.

I used to be that person; one of those people who tried to do everything.

In fact, at one point, I even started making myself smaller—showing up less in the world and keeping quiet—as a way of minimizing all the opportunities that were coming my way. I was having trouble keeping up with getting bigger, better, more influential, because the more I grew my career, the more demands were placed upon me. Attractive demands. Demands on my time, my attention. Demands that were some of the best opportunities I'd ever had.

Then one day, I clicked in my inbox and found myself cringing. Cringing at interview requests. Cringing at speaker requests. Cringing at new client inquiries. Cringing at things that I should have been elated to have.

So I took a step back and asked myself, “Why the resentment?” And once I had a long, wine-soaked heart-to-heart with myself, realized that it was because I was pissed off that I was too busy. I couldn't just “fit it in” anymore. My strategy of stuffing as much into my life no longer worked. My strategy of becoming smaller so I'd have less to stuff in no longer worked. Because I didn't have a strategy—I had a band-aid. And that band-aid was leaking gross, disgusting, crusty blood all over the floor.

The thing about the internet is that we're surrounded by new opportunities every single day—good opportunities.

It's not always easy to pick.

In fact, you won't want to pick.

But you have to.

So the question becomes: How? How do you pick from a sea of fantastic? 

My answer:

Pick what'll still be fantastic five years from now. Leave what'll only be fantastic for five weeks.

Some people call that “long-term thinking”; I call it, “How to make sure you're not being a spontaneous little flitty airhead.”

  • Writing the book gets categorized under “five years.”
  • Partnering with clients you respect and are excited to work with—”five years.”
  • Building something that'll outlive all of us—”five years.”
  • Spending the time to make your business more scalable so it can run without you—”five years.”

Things that might only be five weeks?

  • Shuffling twenty different one-off clients through the door.
  • Getting wrapped up in a cyclone of non-stop 1:1 hourly work.
  • Becoming a professional inbox zero hero. (God forbid.)
  • __________________ <—What's the thing you know you shouldn't be doing that you're resenting?

You might be in business for yourself to pay the bills, but there's a difference between being “in business” and “having a business.” One ensures you get paid today. The other ensures you'll keep getting paid tomorrow.

So while it might be tempting to “fit it all in,” turns out we don't need to fit everything in—just the right things.

Half the battle is just figuring out what those are.

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