Recently updated on: September 18, 2023
We often use the race metaphor when describing life. But I think we often use it as an inaccurate comparison.
Life is not a marathon. Unknown to many, the marathon is the ultimate race. Which will be inconsistent with what we are trying to say that we should take our time in whatever we do.
Races, whether sprints or marathons have the same goal of running towards the finish line as fast as possible, or else, they would be disqualified.
The Tug-of-War Metaphor
Lately, with everything that's going on with my work and personal life, I can't help but compare life to a never-ending battle of tug-of-war.
And since our greatest asset is time, it is the only thing that represents life.
We are constantly battling between two or more choices in everything we do - but in reality, they are often just between what we "want to do" and "have to do".
Our time is very limited, and so is our attention. We can only do so much at any given moment without sacrificing another priority.
What about multitasking?
Multitasking is a productivity myth. We cannot multitask because we are not computers. We cannot do multiple things at the same time, but we can just switch tasks at a fast rate that gives the illusion of doing multiple things at once.
What people are claiming as multitasking is, in reality, they are just switch-tasking,
If we look closer, our day is often divided into activities aggressively pulling the ropes to get the lion's share of our time and attention.
But since our time is scarce, we most likely have to give up one thing in exchange for another.
Think of it this way, we may excel in our job but neglect our family. We may get a promotion fast in exchange for our long-term health.
We may accomplish many tasks in a day but forsake our sleep.
We may be successful in things that we view as important today but slowly lose grasp of the things which truly matter.
Life is a constant tug-of-war.
But it is not the common representation of the game we used to play.
Life's tug-of-war is complex. There are interlacing of multiple 'players' pulling the rope against one another to transfer a chunk of time to their side.
And those transferred time is transferred life. Once it's pulled on whichever side, you cannot get it back.
Just like the proverbial work-life balance, for many adults, we are always trying to separate our work and personal life as evenly as possible.
However, if we continue to run the rat race, we are always choosing between either work or life. And this will be our greatest battle for the next few decades - unless we make a change.
The Importance of Saying "No"
That is an analogy of life. There are multiple priorities within us that are holding on to opposing sides of our 'life rope'.
Each priority represents a player which joins one side of the work-life spectrum.
It is a never-ending cycle of pullers trying to take a larger part of our ever-divided attention.
By saying 'no' to low-value activities, you are saying 'yes to other, more important things.
What Can I Do?
It is quite simple, you just need to identify your top priorities.
If you're given a choice between two important choices, you know that one will always rank higher than the other.
You need to realign your values and motives to what you view as important.
Because even if you can do many things at once, the time will come when one 'puller' on either side of the rope will take a stronger pull of your time.
I am biased towards the 'life' side of the work-life tug-of-war because I've already experienced an unbalanced work-life before, and it resulted in some regrets that I hope you won't repeat.
You need to prepare to let some of the activities go to prioritize more important things. Learn to say no to your boss more often, especially if it is taking too much of your time.
And if you're still unaware, yes, there are things much more important than work. You just need to explore more.