Let’s debunk a shitty motivational platitude, shall we?
“We all have the same 24 hours in a day.”
This trite adage is meant to motivate the lazy. It’s meant to erase the excuse “I don’t have time,” to convince us that the only thing separating us from the most successful people in the world is how we spend our allotted twenty-four hours every day.
The result, at least for this Bitch, is that I sometimes find myself frustrated and cranky because I couldn’t complete all my goals in a single day.
I begin my twenty-four hours with the goal to finish three major projects at work, read fifty pages of a novel before bed, get a workout in, walk the dog, weed the garden, write an article for the blog, edit a chapter of a freelance project, mop the kitchen floor, schedule dinner and hanging out with three other couples, paint a bookshelf for my friend’s nursery, and call United Airlines in the vain hope that for once in their miserable existence they’ll treat a customer with reasonable compassion.
And when I’ve failed to complete all these goals in a single day, I beat myself up for not being efficient enough. For clearly there are successful people out there achieving all of their goals in the same amount of time, right? We all have the same twenty-four hours, after all!
To be successful, you just need to optimize your time! Work smarter, not harder! Stop wasting time and use your twenty-four hours just like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk! Sort out your priorities and get shit done! If Sheryl Sandberg can do it in twenty-four hours, then by all that’s holy, so can you!
Which is, of course, complete and utter bullshit.
The measure of a Beyoncé Hour
We do not all have the same twenty-four hours to work with every day. Full stop.
To illustrate this point, let us turn to a perfect human. Let us turn, of course, to Queen Bey.
You think Beyoncé scrubs her own damn toilet? You think she waits on hold with Comcast customer service when her Internet is down? Does she schedule her own doctor’s appointments and pick her kids up from daycare?
A resounding “hell no.”
For she is Beyoncé, Golden Goddess of Goodness, Muse of the Modern Age, our queen, long may she reign.
Beyoncé has people for all that shit! She has attained a level of success and wealth at which she doesn’t have to waste her precious time managing the tedium of everyday life. She farms all that shit out to hired help so that she can focus her considerable talents and energy on what she does best: creating the next global musical phenomenon. And looking flawless while doing it.
Incidentally, Beyoncé also has people for that too. She has hair and makeup people, a personal trainer, nannies, personal assistants, drivers, maids, publicists, stylists, fixers (I just assume), nutritionists, and someone to hold her purse at events.
As a result, Beyoncé has shed the petty concerns of the average person. She need not waste time on literally anything. Her full twenty-four hours are devoted to creativity and brilliance and personal betterment. (Just kidding. It’s impossible to get better than Beyoncé.)
A Beyoncé Hour is therefore worth at least 144 standard Earth hours.
Beyoncé can achieve in one hour what it takes mere mortals six days to achieve. And on the seventh day she fucking rests.
You are not Beyoncé
You’re not Beyoncé.
You do not have people for that shit.
Alone, you must toil at the management of your life and finances. You, a plebeian struggling on this ball of mud, have boring and time-consuming responsibilities that prevent you from operating at Beyoncé levels of perfection.
Only you are responsible for scheduling your life, making enough money to support yourself, tidying your home, and taking care of your body. If you don’t feed yourself, Beyoncé’s personal chef is not going to show up and feed you farm-fresh, nutritionally balanced meals so you can focus on a more important goal at dinnertime.
You can’t do or have it all. Or at least not all at once.
You can’t hole up in a swanky hotel for a month finishing the Great American Novel, waited on by staff who provide you with room service, laundry, and a goddamn mint on your pillow while you stretch the creative muscles of your brain to the point of utter brilliance. (Note: this is literally how J. K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series. While not quite Beyoncé, Rowling also has more time in her twenty-four hours than do you. Way more.)
You can’t take a break from every other responsibility in your life to work on a singular ambitious goal. In fact, it’s pretty hard to farm out your other responsibilities for any length of time. And if you can, the opportunity is rare and shouldn’t be squandered.
Imagine calling up some unpaid person (with responsibilities and time constraints of their own, I might add) and saying “Hey, can you do my day job, take care of my kids, feed me three meals a day, and answer all my calls and emails for a week?” With enough money, you can probably pay someone to handle all that. But with enough money, we’re edging closer to Beyoncé Hour territory.
And again: you are not Beyoncé.
This is Beyoncé:
You are blessed to breathe the same atmosphere, but you ain’t her.
So why act like you have the same twenty-four hours as Beyoncé?
Understand the limits and give yourself a break
It is the pinnacle of privilege to suggest that we all have the same twenty-four hours to work with. I suspect that anyone peddling such heartless nonsense is standing atop a pyramid of resources and help that most of us simply don’t have.
We don’t often hear about the nannies, the spouses, the dog walkers, the maids, and the assistants of the fabulously successful. I guess it’s not glamorous to admit that every hour of help you pay for affords you one more hour in your day. But that’s how it works. And to ignore that part of the equation is to turn a blind eye to reality.
All of which is to say: go easy on yourself.
Have reasonable expectations of your time. While ambitious goals are great, too ambitious and you run the risk of burning out or self-flagellation.
It has taken me a while to understand that if I don’t achieve all my creative, money-making, and personal maintenance goals in a single day, it’s not a moral failing on my part.
For I don’t have paid help. And so my twenty-four hours are divided in ways Beyoncé hasn’t had to deal with for decades.
I still sometimes fall into the trap of thinking, “But maybe if I powered through the mental exhaustion after 10 p.m., I could’ve finished that project before the end of the day.”
Adjust your expectations to reality. Be kind to your hardworking self and set reasonable goddamn goals!
What’s reasonable, though?
Think of your most productive day. Tabulate every glorious fucking thing you accomplished that day. You were on fire. You were Reaganing like Jack Donaghy in his finest hour. Miraculously, you were able to achieve peak performance and then sleep like a motherfucking baby knowing you didn’t have any lingering to-dos looming over your head.
Now cut the accomplishments of that day in half.
That is a reasonable expectation for yourself every day.
Create your own Beyoncé Hour
I’m not suggesting that you should settle for laziness or give yourself permission to procrastinate. This is not to say you should give up on your ambitions or tell yourself, “Well, I’m not Her Majesty Queen Bey, so why even try?”
The mental burden of striving for Beyoncé levels of perfection on the daily is sure to burn you out. You won’t be able to take pride in what you do accomplish because you’ll be too busy hyperfocusing on what you don’t get done.
The miracle of setting reasonable, attainable daily goals for productivity, is that if you somehow accomplish them all ahead of schedule, you can get more done. And everything you do above and beyond your reasonable goal is icing on the cake. It’s uber-productivity!
Here’s more of what we have to say about productivity and setting goals:
- Actually, Fuck Big Goals
- I’ve Succeeded at Every New Year’s Resolution I’ve Ever Made. Here’s How.
- Help! I’m Procrastinating and I Can’t Get Up!
- Ask the Bitches: Is It Too Late to Get My Financial Shit Together?
- The Dollar Bill Game, Part One
- Ask the Bitches: How Can I Make Myself Financially Secure Before Age 30?
Celebrate your accomplishments above and beyond your rational, reasonable daily goals. You’ve outdone yourself! That’s heckin great for someone who doesn’t have the resources to hire an army of help!
You are only human.
Unlike Beyoncé, who is a fucking gift to the human race sprung fully formed from the mind of God Herself. All shall love Her and rejoice.