The rat race. A safe place for some, and a slow death trap for others. In one way or another, many of us reconcile with this race that scores of people have made synonymous with life. The 8-5 Monday through Friday, the regular commute to and from, and the steady paycheck are not without its benefits. The stability, ease, and overall sense of comfort that comes with the general layout of the rat race are hard to resist, especially when for most of us, it’s all we’ve ever known.
But is it for everybody???
I find myself in a space where this has now become a legitimate personal question. More importantly, I’m questioning what alternatives there are, and what they look like? The impact of these questions are all the more forceful now because I’m presently a 30 something-year-old married man.
I like my job, but I love fitness and creative expression, hobbies I take up for leisure. Sure, I would love to throw away the security of my current job and give all my time to meet the demands of an elite fitness enthusiast and content creator… But I have bills to pay.
I was convinced for a time that I was stuck between a hard rock and just as hard of a place, feeling a need to escape routine living while meeting my responsibilities as a husband. It took taking a step back to realize that I don’t need to “escape”, but rather transition out. It’s more than realistic to have your cake and eat it too when you’re caught between things you must do and things you want to do. Here are a few tips I’ve implemented to help me reach my goal:
1. Protect Your Time
This one is easier said than done because we live in a world where so many things are competing for our attention. This includes the distractions we impose onto ourselves. Nonetheless, it is extremely important that we dedicate specific time towards the things we care about. This is also time that should also not be negotiated for any reason. For me, this means:
Gym: Sunday, 1:30pm – 3:30pm. Monday – Friday 5:00am – 6:30am
Meal prep: Every Tuesday night and Friday night 7:00pm – 9:00pm
Self-development: The bus ride to work. The ride normally takes between one and one and a half hours every day.
Content generation: The bus ride home from work taking the same amount of time as the ride into work.
Day off: Saturday, no exceptions.
Protecting your time is a crucial aspect in making sure you’re able to not only do the things you want to do but also to stay on top of everything that you need to do on a daily basis.
2. Learn to Prioritize
It’s not always enough to simply dedicate and protect precious time. Every opportunity should be taken to make the most of the time we have available, and doing so requires planning and prioritizing. In a society that loves information, options and flexibility, it can be easy to confuse what’s actually important with the surrounding noise. One of the easiest ways to separate between the two is writing down a step-by-step plan to accomplish your goals. To keep yourself further on track, try giving yourself deadlines on actionable items so you’re constantly working towards making progress. Knowing what to do is one thing, but if you wish to “work smarter, not harder” you’ll need to know what to do FIRST, what to do NEXT, and what to do LAST.
3. Track Your Progress
Admittedly, I still struggle with this piece of the puzzle, but it’s also been one of the best tools I’ve used to help me along my journey. We all need to know that our efforts are yielding a positive result and tracking your progress affirms just that. Knowing that you’re further along today than you were yesterday is also a very powerful motivator to keep you going. It can also be used as an indicator of potential problems with your approach to an issue. Tracking should ideally be done on a fixed interval so you’re better equipped to reaching your goals.
Each of us has a different journey, and no two paths are exactly the same. People also progress differently, so doing what works for you individually is vital throughout the process. Every step taken forward belongs to you, but I encourage everyone to remember two things as you make each step. Make each step easier to take, and make each step count.
#HardWorkEasyLiving. Do HWEL for yourself.