The Rule of 8’s

Reasons are many, the result is one! A common complaint nowadays from almost everyone is “I don’t have time” and/or “I’m really stressed out”, and most of the time, not having time and being stressed out are mutually exclusive.

So where is time? Where is it disappearing?

We often feel 24 hours a day are not enough anymore. We need more hours in a day to meet all the expectations at work, at home, and those of friends and the community. Obviously, we can’t borrow time, we have to make it. We have to manage how to do more with less.

My grandmother used to tell us, the key to a balanced and happy life is to adopt the 8+8+8 strategy. Hers and her parents’ generations have all used it. She claims that they did live happier, healthier, more productively, and less stressed out. They had time for everything!

Her 8+8+8 strategy was simply dividing the 24 hours a day into: 8 hours for work, 8 hours for sleep, and 8 hours for everything else (family, friends, hobbies, etc…). I really wish, Grandma, your strategy is as easy to apply nowadays. Not only is work demanding more than 8 hours a day, we are constantly mixing the duties with each other, especially with the so called Smart devices.

So how much of this stress is self-inflicted? The answer is: “A lot”.

I believe our problem with stress and time is in losing some of the patterns in life. Life is supposed to be like grandma said; we’re supposed to have specific seasons for things.

But, we rarely have specific seasons nowadays, the same way we rarely have dedication to one specific task. I see it in every coffee and lunch break at every training I deliver; a typical scenario: delegates on their smart phones while eating, while talking to others, and I won’t be surprised if it’s on the toilet seat as well. And I wonder how healthy this multitasking is. This kind of multitasking is responsible of making us lose patterns. Multitasking is not a time management tool if it’s affecting the quality of at least one of the tasks on hand. Multitasking becomes a stress source initiator instead of a time management tool. How safe is driving and texting? How healthy is eating and multitasking? How effective is listening and doing anything else?…and the list goes on.

Simply put, if multitasking is not effective, you can’t expect it to be efficient.

In addition, the inherent nature of these smart devices of being interruptive has made us not only less productive, but also given us a shorter span of concentration, as the excuse is always there.

Stress is the result (and the cause) of a lack of resources. Our main resources as productive individuals are time and energy. We can’t do anything without them. Luckily, while energy is not permanent, it’s renewable. As a sign of good health, what gives us energy is breaks, sleep, and good nutrition…but again, with the overlap of duties and seasons, we lose the pattern of the three 8’s.

Using smart phones as an analogy here, what’s the use of these phones when they’re not charged? No matter how expensive and attractive your phone or laptop is, if there is no power to them, they’re useless dummies. The smartest device becomes the dumbest when the battery is flat. Likewise, what’s the input of your best employee when they’re stressed out and their energy is lost?

Be proactive, and keep charging. Taking time to refuel is one of the best time and stress management tools. Don’t let what’s important become urgently important. Keep track of how well your life battery is charged and don’t wait until it’s completely depleted. The emergency signs are there; the same way you see “Battery Low” on the phone or “Low Fuel” in the vehicles. Stop and charge or refuel… you cannot afford not to. You can’t say “I’m too busy driving; I don’t have time to fill up”. Also, it is important to keep track of what depletes your energy faster…the same way multitasking and unnecessary tasks deplete your smart phone’s energy, multitasking and unnecessary tasks deplete your energy in life. Focus and enjoy the task at hand. You’ll make it more effective and more efficient!

Finally, we assume that with our technologically advanced and smart devices we are smarter than my Grandma’s generation and the generations before her. But the truth is, I don’t think we have the right to say we are smarter. After all, as Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulder of giants”.

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