This maxim is going to prove true in a bunch of areas, so allow me to unpack this brief statement into some detailed thoughts.
Are you really as busy as you think you are? Disorganization is typically the real culprit for many people, but this is fixable. Are you chronically late for everything you do? Do you do most things at the last minute? Are you not in a real relationship because you are not dating the right people? Allow me to provide an answer to ALL of the above…
You are not prioritizing things in your life in the correct manner.
Yes, in some ways it IS that simple. Think about it, you may have a busy life of school or work or both, and then things outside of this as well. If things like working out take a back seat to other stuff like sleeping in, happy hour Tuesday night, going out Friday and Saturday night, brunch on Sunday or spending the day watching football, your priorities are out of whack. I had a room mate a long time ago that played video games about 25 hours a week. Yes, literally a part time job’s worth of hours per week, and yet he complained he didn’t have any money after paying his bills for the month. Look, I am all for some down time to recharge and relax, we all need that. But if you look at a week or a month of your life in detail and see just how much time you waste, you’d probably be disgusted with yourself. I am quite certain I would be disgusted with you. :-)
Do you show up late or almost late for work or class every day? Think about that…do you really want the adrenaline dump on the way from the parking lot, every single day, trying to beat the clock and not get into trouble? It seems exciting at first, and on occasion it is unavoidable due to unseen circumstances. But as a way of life? No way to live in my opinion. I know, I’ve tried it, and it is adding stress to your life that is entirely avoidable. This is hard on your immune system, your hormone levels, your palms sweat and your heart and mind race. You are setting yourself up for failure at some point in this process, and the worst part is that this process is completely within your control. I think the things that fall into the category of controllable but ignored are the most detrimental; there are plenty of things outside of your control, but this is not one of them.
Organize your life better, and instill some basic disciplines that help you avoid the need to rush for everything. You need to place the right level of importance on your schedule so you can function at a high level. Can you afford to get fired from your job, or get locked out of class on the day of a big test? No, of course not, and yet you live your life like this is not a possibility. Do you rely on speeding down the freeway to make up for the one last hit of the snooze alarm? Maybe running a few yellowish-red lights to shave time off your commute? Think of the consequences of this, you could get into an accident, harming yourself and/or someone else, you could get stuck in traffic and miss your timeline, and if nothing else you’ll be stressed out as the start to each day. Do you really want to live like that?
Let’s pivot to another area where this lack of discipline would be very telling…dating. If you are taking your time answering someone’s text messages, putting off meeting up with them, etc., you are not very into that person. Or you are a complete selfish bastard, one or the other. But if you really were interested in them, you’d have to hold yourself back from dropping anything and everything you are doing to see them in person or answering the phone when they called. You should have this level of enthusiasm for the right person, that is part of the fun and a very good indicator as to just how interested in them you are. But if you aren’t getting that feeling from them, stop stringing them along. It is not doing either one of you any good. Try to be a good human and let them know that you are not interested in them in that way. Yes, that is an uncomfortable conversation to have, but be an adult and do it. Remember, karma is a real thing. If you do the right thing it isn’t a guarantee that it will be done that way to you, but if you plow through life acting like no one else is impacted by your actions, karma will get you sooner rather than later. And if you are on the receiving end of this type of treatment, recognize this and move on. It doesn’t matter how into them you are, if it is not reciprocated now, it is not likely to get better. In fact, it is more likely to get worse over time, and now you are in a one-sided relationship where you give everything and receive nothing in return. Yup, been there, done that too.
Here is the message I am trying to deliver: What matters to you gets prioritized.
If you struggle to prioritize certain things, like being on time, you are going to have to deploy disciplines and systems to help ensure you are meeting your obligations. If you need to be somewhere by 8AM, adjust your schedule to arrive 15 minutes earlier. You do it on occasion, now you just need to do it with more regularity. Would you get up 30 minutes before an important job interview that is 20 minutes away? I would hope not. So if you can plan accordingly for this very important occasion, you can do it on the daily as well. Add an additional 30 minutes to your morning routine, building a cushion in for things like bad traffic, stopping for gas, etc. Give yourself more time so that you are calm and relaxed when you arrive at your destination. If that destination is work or school, you will arrive with a clear head and a lower heart rate, allowing you to think and function more clearly. Regardless of the task at hand, this is the way you want to begin your day. Life is stressful enough, don’t willingly add to it.
Help your own cause by going to sleep earlier the night before. Your brain functions in 90 minute sleep cycles, so time your routine accordingly. If you need to be up at 6am, reverse engineer that back to a 8:45PM bedtime, giving yourself fifteen minutes to fall asleep and starting the sleep cycles to time out for a six am wake up alarm. You will feel so much better rested and ready to go when you do so. When we are younger we pay little to no attention to this kind of thing, and we develop bad habits and poor sleep hygiene accordingly. Break that cycle right now, today, and you will benefit in a lot of ways.
Another thing you should do is remove as much friction to your mornings as possible. Have everything ready for the next day the night before. If you do head to the gym in the morning, have your gym bag ready to go and lay out your clothes and shoes in advance. Make it so there is nothing that you need to do other than wake up, get up, grab your stuff and go. This streamlines the process and makes it so much easier to execute. If you are headed to work or class in the morning, do the same in the appropriate manner. Get everything organized ahead of time, that way you are not running around looking for your car keys or your glasses in a panic. Pack your lunch the night before if you brown bag it. I can tell you as a non-morning person for most of my life, you just need a few of these tricks to be implemented to make your life so much easier.
What is important gets prioritized. You will make time and give effort to things that are very important to you. That part is should be pretty easy. If you under-prioritize things that should be important, you have to fall back on systems to keep you in check. If you can do this, your life will be on cruise control. And you’ll start to notice how many people around you do things the hard way unnecessarily. People that your report to, whether a boss or a teacher, will notice these characteristics too. One of the main components of leadership and promotion is the discipline to be consistent. If you can always be on time, always ready to rock and roll when you arrive, this separates you from the masses. It is not difficult, but it isn’t easy either. That barrier is enough for someone to tell if you are exercising discipline in your life or not. Set the tone for yourself, and eventually for those around you.
As a human being, you are far more malleable than you think. We can get used to almost anything if necessary, so use this to your advantage. Common wisdom is that you need thirty days to implement a new habit and make it your default setting; I am not sure hard and fast this rule is, but if it is close to accurate, think how little effort it would take to change a habit compared to how long you would reap the benefits of this over a lifetime. A little pain or discomfort now is going to be such a good investment over the long haul I don’t see how you cannot give it your best effort to get the wins that come out of it. Delay your short term comfort for long term success, it is as simple as that.