10 No-Nonsense rules for doing more with your Life originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
People often ask me the secret of pursuing multiple interests. They think it's all about great time-management. Personally, for me, the surprising thing is it's not about time management at all! But maybe we miss these rules because we keep looking in the wrong places.
Here are 10 simple rules for DOING (not "getting') more with our lives:
Rule #1 - Do not confuse who you want to be like with what you want to DO.
Most of our dissatisfaction with our 'mediocre' lives is only because we compare it with someone. We want to be "that cool guy" who plays in a band during the weekends, while he wants to be that person who runs his own business and is not answerable to anybody. This desire sounds more like "Wish I could be like him too!' or "Wish my life could be like hers!' - and that's the beauty. It isn't! And it can never be! It's like the turkey trying to be a peacock!
Rule #2 - Stop justifying why you CANNOT do something, and start asking "What do I want to do?"
We are too busy making excuses for why we cannot do anything, or justifying why the people who do are just luckier than we are. 'Had I been single...', 'Had I not had parents to support...', 'Had I been younger..', 'Only if my spouse was more supportive...', 'If only my kids were older...', 'She does it only because her boss is much better...', 'She can afford to do it, only because her husband is more supportive...'
Imagine your family, circumstances, and boss all turn supportive this weekend. So you have 2 days completely at your disposal. What exactly would you do with that time? Often, we do not have an answer. If your desire is genuine, there should be a list of activities (not wishes and dreams) bursting to be done.
This is harder than we think. Which brings us to the next point.
Rule #3 - Ask "What do I WANT to do?" not "What SHOULD I be doing?"
Our true desires are usually buried under a heap of self-inflicted expectations. If we truly look at our wants, they are just a bunch of "me too"s ("I too want to learn the guitar", "I want to be well read", "I want to write a blog too") or "should"s ("Ideal couples do ABC", "Ideal working moms drop their kids to school, are great at work, have great professional networks, read to their kids, romance their partners...and also 20 million other things.")
Comparison is a recipe for eternal insecurity. If you had no one to match up to, no one to beat, what would you want to do? Maybe have a good nap? Watch that silly show on television? THAT'S OK!!!! But wait!! Isn't doing more with your life about doing 'big' things?
Rule #4 - It's not about doing things that you should, but things that make you happy (and that will keep changing)
True frustration comes not when you CANNOT do something (you can crib and relish the fantasy at least), but when you DO it - and still feel unhappy.
Why? Because you were simply imitating, not doing (see rules #1 and #3). Come up with a genuine list of what you would give your left arm to do. And then squeeze it in whenever you have free seconds or minutes. Every second will genuinely count!
As you keep feeling happier, and more fulfilled, more powerful, you naturally start wanting to do more. And then graduate to bigger things...
Rule #5 - Do not underestimate the power of compounding and consistency
Many people think doing stuff in bits and pieces is not worth it. "Why learn singing if I cannot dedicate time to practice? True learning demands time, dedication, and discipline." Yes, it does. But who said there's a deadline? We often miss the hidden ''What's the use ... if I cannot be great at it"' part. Which is again based on imitation and comparison.
Do not aim for "working at your voice for 1 hour daily without fail!" Aim for enjoying singing whenever you can...and IMMERSE yourself in it, learn, improve, and grow at it. Sometimes you get 10 minutes, sometimes 2 hours. It might span over a month. But it all adds up.
A professional singer might practice for 600 hours in a year. You might do 600 hours in 5 years. But a mindful 600 hours is much, much better than zero. After 7 years, you might have people asking you "How do you manage a full time job, a family, and a great voice?"
Go slow, take a pause, take a break - but never ever STOP!
Rule #6 - Enrichment of life is not a linear process, but an organic one
As you squeeze in stuff that you love doing in whatever time you get, the happiness from it inspires you to make time for stuff that you love. You might find yourself painting one night after putting the kids to sleep, rather than a disciplined "every Saturday from 4 to 6 pm." Or maybe you decide to get back to that book you loved. And then make time to complete it somehow.
When your mind is driven by passion rather than rules, it is much more focused. The "flow" factor increases. You grow much faster. Distractions drop automatically.
You do not make yourself stop watching TV, you just create a situation where you don't have the time for it!
Rule #7 - "Waiting for inspiration" is just an excuse for procrastination
Quotes, movies, books, ideas
Rarely work for things we want to do.
Because often what we want is not a plan...
But just the reassurance that 'I can!'
There is a big difference between wanting to really DO something that matters to us (succeed), and getting rid of the uncomfortable feeling that we CANNOT (failure). Inspiration helps us get rid of the feeling of failure. And often that's all we need: A fantasy, not an action plan. Not that it's bad. But then the solution is a good sleep maybe, not solutions, and surely not regrets and misery! To find out the truth, simply ask, "Do I really want to act, or simply want to convince myself that I can?"
Rule #8 - Nobody does everything at the same time
I sing, draw, paint, cook, write fiction, write non-fiction, read. I even took a filmmaking course. And work now. But I never did all of those things at the same time. It's been years since I drew something good, months since I cooked something interesting, weeks since I sang something challenging.
Nowadays my time goes into and working with the school. But when people see my recordings page, stories, cooking photographs - it's easy to think I keep doing all those things in my life all the time.
Do I miss doing those things? No! Because I do not have an expectation to meet. And when I feel desperate to sing, I DO! For myself, not for others.
Rule #9 - Don't be afraid to try things you are not sure about
We often worry so much about the results that we end up not trying. And that can be the biggest regret. When I decided to plunge into learning filmmaking, I was sure I would not do a full-time degree course. I chose a 3-month, $450 DSLR weekend course. Only to discover that it is not my cup of tea. But that was the best $450 I spent! One less regret to carry. Do not think; do it!
If you keep thinking about what will happen if you do it, you won't do it, and then it won't happen.
Rule #10 - Do not fall for the "I do not have the talent" trap
Who said you have to? This is usually a manifestation of the "I want to be like.." disease(Rule #1). We see these 'Coolest 10 product designs' internet articles and end up wishing we were that creative too, and give up on ourselves.
But did you think that those 10 designs did not come from the same person? Or that each person might have come up with a cool design once in 5 years, and is now struggling to keep his job? Or that those 10 designs were created over a span of 25 years, which you are reading about in 5 minutes? Do not compare! Do what you love! Nothing's too big or small.
If you do what you love, and keep doing that, chances are you will get better at it, even great at it. But not because you WANTED to. It would just be a positive side effect. The fun would already be in the journey, and then perhaps in the destination, too.
So there it is! Figure out what you really, truly want to do, without worrying about what others think or do. Then start, don't wait. In whatever chance you get. Even if it means discovering that it is not what you wanted. Don't judge it, enjoy it! Be happy, and be inspired to do more of it. Making time, instead of waiting for it. As you keep up this moving, flowing, organic approach, you will find yourself very, very, very busy - but joyfully, not stressfully so.
Wish you all the best for a more enriched, creative, and fulfilled life!
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