You wake up to the incessant buzzing of your alarm clock which is set all too early for a Friday. Peeking outside you notice how beautiful the day is already looking - the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and there is not a cloud in sight. And you're miserable. You've got a million things to do at work (hence the early morning alarm) and they are all due today. You can feel the stress building inside you already and you're not even out of bed yet! It's going to be a tough day…
If this sounds all too familiar then I am willing to bet that you often feel like you have too much to do and not enough time to do it in, and I am also willing to bet that you are wrong. You have plenty of time but you are just making things harder than they really are.
Making Things Harder Than They Are
This is something us humans love to do. We love to make things harder than they actually are, for any number of pseudo-psychological reasons, and it can be a very difficulty habit to break out of.
It is hard to break because the symptoms are not always obvious.There are dozens of little actions that we do every day that purposefully make our lives more difficult and often they are so small, or so ingrained in us, that we don't even notice them.
Of course this means that we just assume things are hard and we have to deal with it, when the reality is much different. The reality is that things are generally simple and we choose to make them harder.
It is not always obvious that we are doing this. Like many things, being at the centre of the problem actually makes it harder to identify it.
When we are slap-bang in the middle of a stressful and difficult time our mind is focused on finding solutions to the problems, not on questioning why the problems exist. But that is exactly what I am encouraging you to do.
Why We Make Things Harder
Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation that is causing you stress, stop and ask yourself if you contributed to it. Did you somehow make this situation harder? If you want to play the victim and pretend that all this bad stuff just happens to you then stop reading now. You wont be willing to change anyway.
We all make things harder for ourselves at different times in our life, and some people more-so than others. But why do we do it at all? Why would we purposefully choose to make something harder than it needs to be?
The most obvious reason is that it gives us an out. It provides us with an excuse for mistakes, or sub-par performances, and allows us to exaggerate any successes. We create a fictitious win-win situation where we feel excused if we do bad and feel praised when we do well. But this is bullshit.
When we make things harder we only make it harder within our own frame of reference meaning that, for most of the time, other people do not see the added difficulty we create. They see the problem in the original, simplified manner which means they wont be likely to accept the excuse or find you deserving of praise.
How many times have you had a task sit in your inbox, or on your to-do list, for weeks only for you to get stuck into it in the last few days before the deadline? You end up going a little crazy as you try to cram weeks of work into a few days and somehow you manage to get it all done and you feel like you've worked your butt off to do it. You may have too, but in the eyes of your boss, or your client, or whoever was waiting for that task, all you have done is finish the task in the allotted time. Nothing special there. But if you had missed that deadline they would have been very unhappy. You had weeks to do it and you still couldn't manage!
Making things difficult to have an excuse doesn't help anyone and is just plain wrong.
Thriving on Drama
The next biggest reason why we make things harder for ourselves is that we naturally thrive on the drama. When we are immersed into a stressful situation our body produces chemicals and hormones that amp us up to perform at abnormal levels.
This is known as our fight-or-flight mechanism and in previous centuries it was very useful. It was built into our bodies to enable us to be ready to take instant action whenever we were in mortal peril. But our modern lifestyle rarely has a need for this mechanism so we create excess stress in our life as a cheat. A cheat which is not doing anyone any favours.
The energy we generate in fight-or-flight mode is designed for very short bursts. It is literally used to escape danger by fighting it or fleeing from it. These are not long-term activities.
When we use this as our main source of energy just to "get things done" we force our body to run on this intense energy for periods much longer than it expects to. Our body is not designed to do this and the result is any number of negative consequences - physical and mental burn-out, tiredness, inability to focus afterwards, headaches, and so on.
Picture a time that you worked under an immense stress (legitimate or manufactured) for longer than a few days. Do you remember how you felt afterwards? Most people cannot keep it up for long before they crash, and the bad news is that the longer you over-use this fight-or-flight mechanism the bigger the crash will be.
Avoidance is the next most obvious reason we subconsciously make things harder than they need to be and this ties in closely to making excuses. If we make things so hard and complex that we are constantly busy then we can feel a little bit better that we didn't get those crappy tasks done.
It's the perfect excuse for not cutting the grass, not calling the phone company, and not joining that nudist colony.
In reality it is not an excuse at all. It's just poor time management.
The worst form of avoidance though is not the small and boring tasks but the big and important ones. Being "too busy" has become the excuse of choice for those not willing to take a chance and pursue their dreams. These people manufacture a life where they are constantly busy, working hard, and feeling stressed, so they have the perfect excuse for not achieving their dreams. This stems from a fear of failure and a fear of success and neither are valid things to fear.
Avoidance is never the right option.
Making Your Life Easier Instead
The key to changing this behaviour is to become more aware of your actions, your motives, and your choices. Start by analysing your actions to identify when you are subconsciously making your life harder than it needs to be. Once you recognise that you are doing it you can start to change it.
Making the change comes from attacking the root cause of the problem. Think about why you are creating more difficulty than is required. Are you making excuses or avoiding something? Do you just love the pressure of an impending deadline? Or is there some other hidden reason?
Once you figure out the reason behind your actions you can begin to implement changes - use a daily to-do list to stop you from procrastinating, halve all your deadlines so you don't have time to waste, or run away and join the circus.
The choice is yours but don't waste your life pretending to busy.