I’ll never forget a student who once asked - in all seriousness - whether she should try to study more for her MCAT by cutting her sleep from seven hours per night to only four. With three more hours per night, she reasoned, she could get some quality studying done! Wasn’t this the solution to her problems?
My student had a container problem: in the container of her life, she was trying to cram too much. Rather than change her expectations about what should fill that container, she was trying to expand her container. And by trying to go without sleep, she was weakening the walls of her container: eventually the cracks would start to show, and nothing would fit in her container any more.
A recent article by Zen Habits puts this problem into perspective: we all feel like we don’t have enough time. Our to do lists will never go away. The more we do, the more we fill our lists. The choice we have is whether to change our expectations, to be frustrated that we can’t finish everything (which is inevitable) or to accept that we must limit what we can reasonably accomplish.
Your frustration comes from an ideal that you should be able to do it all, that you should be able to do everything on your list. Plus more: you want to travel, workout, meditate, learn a new skill, read more, be the perfect spouse (or find a spouse), be the perfect parent/friend/sibling, draw or create music, and so on.
Your ideals don’t match with reality — the reality is that you can’t do this all today, or even this week. You can choose to do some of them, but the others will have to wait, or not get done at all.
The entire article is highly recommended.