A friend and colleague had a productivity training event in my area, and we decided to reconnect over dinner last night, with her staying over before her flight out this morning. When I asked her about what was on the attendees’ minds most, what they were struggling with, she looked sad. “Honestly, Teri, they were struggling with trying to keep up with a schedule that is mathematically impossible to keep. The end result is that when I asked them about what gives them joy, they didn’t know. They are so disconnected with themselves they don’t know what brings them happiness anymore—that isn’t even on the table.”

Are you finding yourself so busy answering emails, texts and checking social media posts in addition to your other responsibilities at home and work that you’ve lost touch with what brings you joy?

I’ve noticed when I begin to get that feeling of “Oh my, there is no end to this!” is usually when I’m checking email. It can be overwhelming and feel like there is no way out of it. How do we manage it all?

I’ve been hearing similar concerns from my clients. Managing our time and creating some balance is an issue common to all of us. How do we keep up? Simply put, none of us can. 

When we look at the frustration many of us are expressing and get curious, we find the challenge isn’t only keeping up with responsibilities, but keeping up with the tsunami of information coming at us hourly through email, texts and various social media sites.

The bigger question for all of us, I believe, is, “What can I ignore?” There is a lot of noise in our online environment that amounts to the value of static—it is merely a distraction. 

One of the critical skills we must hone is that of selectively sorting or prioritizing the relevant from the irrelevant. Here are some sorting “buckets” you might find useful:

  • Relevant to me now, today
  • Relevant to me in the near future (a week or so)
  • Not relevant to my objectives (but may be interesting)

We must learn to sort in this way to have any measure of control over our time and where we invest it. Investing time implies there will be a payoff for that time. We invest in exercise to have the reward of health and fitness. We invest in relationships to enjoy a satisfying social life. We invest in learning new skills to advance in our careers and gain more income and have work joy. 

If the weird articles you may find interesting don’t provide any other payoff, your time might be better invested in something that will be more personally meaningful. Looking at what others are doing for adventure, social activities and political rants can be entertaining and addictive, but they have no real value to us and can be an enormous time suck. 

Here’s a challenge: track the number of minutes a day you spend on these kinds of online voyeuristic strolling, and ask yourself where might those minutes be applied to get you closer to a meaningful outcome that has been elusive because “I just haven’t had the time.”

Current research shows that face-to-face time with friends and family provides all kinds of life-enhancing effects that we simply don’t get by “liking” someone’s post on social media. Data shows that making time to be with friends can lead to a longer life, better physical and emotional health, lessen the chance of dementia and help us cope with stress. We also inspire each other, broaden our perspective and learn from each other. This article shares statistics on benefits: https://www.livescience.com/53315-how-friendships-are-good-for-your-health.html

I’m so glad my friend and I chose to invest in our friendship. She was only here for a few hours, yet we laughed and shared so much in that time. We truly, genuinely connected. For any of us to have a truly satisfying life, there needs to be joy, meaning and fun. Where can you invest in your own happiness today?

Teri Johnson is the founding partner for Personal Best Partners, a company that helps business and civic leaders build teams that perform at their fullest potential.

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