Subtract to Grow

Dr Priya Sadawarte

Consultant Anaesthesiologist

Everyone is glued to social media like WhatsApp and Facebook in this digital era. When you see your friends presenting in conferences, running marathons, exploring the globe, and posting their beautiful artwork, you give a ‘thumbs up.’ and wonder in your mind- how do they find time to follow their hobbies, exercise, and read? Are these special people, whom God has gifted more than 24 hours in a day? Can I get these extra hours? Good news is- yes, you can!

I will share with you three simple mantras that changed my life for better, and if you follow it, it might change yours.

Mantra 1: Identify the essential, eliminate the rest

‘80:20 Rule’ says that 80% of outcomes are from 20% of efforts. Only a fraction of what we do is truly effective. If you analyze your personal and professional life, you would be surprised to realize that 80% of your happy moments are with 20% of people in your life.  80% of your income is being generated from 20% of hospitals you work with.

Now your job is simple. Just master the art of identifying the 20% of efforts that will drive 80% of results. Then focus your time and attention on these vital few and ignore trivial many. You can achieve almost the same results with much lesser efforts. This will help you strike a balance between maximizing your earning and building other forms of wealth like relationships and skills.

Mantra 2: Learn to say ‘No’

We have developed a fear of missing out (FOMO), because of increased awareness of what is going on in others’ lives, thanks to the social media feeds. In your efforts not to miss anything, you may miss many things. When you are saying ‘yes’ to something, you are indirectly saying ‘no’ to everything else you could be doing at that time.

When someone asks you to do something, it is easier to say ‘yes,’ than saying ‘no;’ because saying ‘no’ may lead to disappointment. But this disappointment is momentary, and it is much better in the long run, than being overcommitted and not delivering on your promises.

Do not take on more than what you can handle. When someone asks you to do something, and your answer is ‘Hell yes!’ then only say yes. If you have some doubt, then there is no doubt! Just say ‘No.’ 

Spring-clean your life. Replace multiple meaningless activities with few meaningful ones. Only real asset you have is time, so invest it wisely.

Mantra 3: Prioritize

When you say, “I don’t have time,” what it implies is ‘it is not a priority for me at the moment’.

Assess what you want or do not want in life. To identify the meaningful activities, spare some time and ask yourself –

1. Is this task important, is it moving me towards my goal?

2. Is this task urgent? What will happen if I delay it?

That takes us to Time management matrix

Quadrant IV activities (e.g. Netflix, scrolling social media) are neither important nor urgent. These are the distractions that make you feel good in short term, but there is no long-term tangible benefit. Minimize these activities.

Quadrant III tasks (e.g. some meetings, responding to certain emails) give stress due to urgency, but do not move us towards our goals. So, ask who can do it for you? – Learning to delegate/ automate is an important skill. This way you leverage your time by using money/ people and technology. Utilize this additional free time doing things which move you towards your goals, help you earn or learn, and which you enjoy.

Quadrant I tasks (e.g. submitting article for publication at the last minute, tax deadlines) are urgent and important; hence you must do it ASAP. But spending too much time on quadrant I tasks can result in burnout.

Quadrant II tasks (e.g. Exercise, time with family) have no deadline, hence are easily postponed; though they are going to get you closer to your goal. It is better to schedule these activities. If you manage quadrant II well, you can avoid tasks getting migrated to quadrant I.

Remember, priorities cannot be right or wrong, they are simply different for each one.

Do you feel that time is flying past and you are stuck in a loop that is getting you nowhere? Then you need to take control of your life. Be ‘mindful’ instead of keeping your ‘mind full.’ Slow down, be in the moment. Achieve healthy balance with technology, decide what you want (and what you do not want) in life, set goals- make a plan- develop a habit and most importantly, be consistent.

Just like we individualize treatments, each thing may not work for everyone. You need to try and assess what works for you. I can tell you the route I took, but there are many other roads that lead to the same destination- chose your own. I wish you all the best in your journey towards better life.