Most «superheroes» are nothing of the sort. They’re weird, neurotic creatures who do big things despite lots of self-defeating habits and self-talk.
Personally, I suck at efficiency (doing things quickly). Here’s my coping mechanism and 8-step process for maximizing efficacy (doing the right things):
1) Wake up at least 1 hour before you have to be at a computer screen. E-mail is the mind killer.
2) Make a cup of tea and sit down with a pen/pencil and paper.
3) Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. Most important usually = most uncomfortable, with some chance of rejection or conflict.
4) For each item, ask yourself:
— «If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?»
— «Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?»
5) Look only at the items you’ve answered «yes» to for at least one of these questions.
6) Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on one of them for today. Let the rest of the urgent but less important stuff slide. It will still be there tomorrow.
7) to be clear: Block out at 2-3 hours to focus on ONE of them for today. This is one block of time. Cobbling together 10 minutes here and there to add up to 120 minutes does not work.
8) If you get distracted or start procrastinating, don’t freak out and downward spiral; just gently come back to your one to-do.
Congratulations! That’s it.
This is the only way I can create big outcomes despite my never-ending impulse to procrastinate, nap, and otherwise fritter away my days with bullshit. If I have 10 important things to do in a day, it’s 100% certain nothing important will get done that day. On the other hand, I can usually handle 1 must-do item and block out my lesser behaviors for 2-3 hours a day.
It doesn’t take much to seem superhuman and appear «successful» to nearly everyone around you. In fact, you just need one rule: What you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well does not make it important.
If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put these on a Post-it note:
Being busy is a form of laziness-lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.
And when — despite your best efforts — you feel like you’re losing at the game of life, remember: Even the best of the best feel this way sometimes. When I’m in the pit of despair, I recall what iconic writer Kurt Vonnegut said about his process: «When I write, I feel like an armless, legless man with a crayon in his mouth.»
Don’t overestimate the world and underestimate yourself. You are better than you think.
And you are not alone.