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Time Does Not Equal Capacity – Challenging The Dysfunctional Belief That Holds Us Back

Time Capacity

The pandemic epoch and the shift to distributed/remote work has presented us with no shortage of challenges and struggles. Yet lurking in the background are some unexpected benefits and surprises. When we’re not swimming in the exhaustion of the current context, we can turn that rock over and capture some wins and rewards. 

For many of us, including me, one of those unexpected finds has been the gift of time.  The elimination of the work commute, the diminished availability of social interactions and engagements, and the general move to leading a more micro/local life has brought windfall of clicks on the clock into our lives.  

When have we ever had more time?  

As we come to grips with this, it’s easy to start a spiraling conversation that looks like this: 

“I have more time available…so I need to do more…I need to accomplish more this year…I need to be more productive!” 

Then, when we don’t see the immediate and tangible results of more productivity, we can easily trigger our inner critic and feel disappointment that only exacerbates and extends what Adam Grant refers to as languishing. 

And then we’re really stuck. 

How can we reframe this situation? 

Bill Burnett, one of the authors of the ground-breaking Designing Your Life and a pioneer of design-based thinking, is one of the most thoughtful leaders and educators I’ve had the privilege of learning from in my career. When Bill speaks, whether during an online event or in-person (as I got to experience in September 2019 in San Francisco), I really listen. 

Perhaps the biggest learning I got from listening to Bill is understanding dysfunctional beliefs – things we believe are true, but in fact, are not true. Very often, these beliefs are the biggest barriers that hold us back and block our ability to move forward.  

The power of design-based thinking has unlocked my ability to see the dysfunctional beliefs that surround us, and confront them head-on. 

Challenge Dysfunctional Beliefs 

The belief that more time equals more capacity is a dysfunctional belief.  

We have been conditioned to believe that if we have more time, we will have more capacity to achieve more, do more, and assemble a greater list of accomplishments and checkboxes. 

It’s just not true. 

Our time is just one component of our overall capacity. It’s an essential ingredient for sure, but it requires several other ingredients to grow our capacity. Those are things like energy, focus, mental wellness, purpose, self-confidence, and much more.  

So, we need to reframe the belief of more time equals more capacity. That reframe looks something like this:  

“How do I grow my capacity to take advantage of this gift of time?” 

When we view this challenge through a different lens and see the opportunity, we can move forward. We can inject our windfall of newfound time and combine it with the other capacity-growing intentions and practices we need. Then the proverbial magic starts to happen. 

Here are three ideas to help you grow your capacity and better use your gift of time in the future: 

Do Less Things Better
Whoever said that the longest list of completed tasks and accomplishments is the winning lottery ticket in life was dead wrong. More is not better. Better is better. Rather than focus on an ever-growing list of things to do, work with the Essentialist mindset and focus on the small number of things that really matter to you. Change your ‘To Do List ‘to an ‘I Choose To List‘ to reframe what you are working on and what you value most in your life.  Say no to the things that aren’t a priority. Direct your capacity to the “vital few” versus the “trivial many” and see how much further you can develop and grow in your life. Appreciate the rich satisfaction of fulfillment versus volume of task accomplishment.

We’ve all read piles of research and articles that show us how people are working more hours AND are more stressed than ever before. There is literally no stretch left in this elastic, and many of our friends and colleagues have felt the sting of that elastic snapping in recent months. The pathway back to that elasticity is self-care. The habits and rituals that ground our self-care have been overlooked for too long. Perhaps the most effective way to grow your capacity is by starting on the ground floor of your own self-care and building up and out from there. We need gas in the tank if we are to make the journey. 

Focus on Energy-Giving Activities
One of the most important ways we can use our gifts of time is to pour them into the things in our life that we know give us energy, enthusiasm, and positive feelings. That could be exercise, social interaction, meditation, or whatever you know has worked to fill your tank in the past. Getting back to those energy-giving practices brings a multiplier to those bigger (and fewer) things you want to move forward in your life. I know that 45 minutes in the home gym (formerly known as the garage) will give me the capacity to do focused and insightful work, such as writing this blog! When we don’t feel we have the capacity for a task, conversation or problem, we need to give ourselves permission to connect to an energy source and come back to the challenge when we know we have the right amount of capacity. 

What are three important things that you want to put your capacity towards in 2022? 

What have you done today to add to your capacity? What will you do tomorrow to add capacity? 

How can better self-care provide you with the uplift in capacity you need right now? 

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