To apply re-contracting to your life, find weak spots in your life.
Doing this simple audit quarterly can have a profound effect on the quality of your life and the quality of your relationships.
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Once in a while, everyone experiences a moment when they realize the need to reconsider something about their life to make it more enjoyable and productive. Re-contracting is a strategy that allows an individual to single out tasks, patterns and people that are draining energy and holding them back.
Originally rooted in the teachings of the Roman philosopher Seneca, the concept of re-contracting has withstood the test of time. Seneca once wrote to his student Lucilius, “A good man will not waste himself upon mean and discreditable work or be busy merely for the sake of being busy.”
Today, this idea is a foundational pillar in executive coaching. Programs advocate for regular re-contracting with clients. The power of this technique is in its simplicity and minimal time investment. For all that, it’s powerful enough to help you declutter your time, escape from energy-draining obligations and distance yourself from toxic relationships.
To apply re-contracting to your life, find weak spots in the three main areas. Here’s what you need to do:
- Self-evaluation: Make a list of tasks you routinely do but despise. Reflect on their necessity and value. Tip: Unsure where to start? Maintain a time diary. Documenting your daily activities can help pinpoint time-consuming tasks.
- Business evaluation: List out all business and operational tasks. Consider if they can be eliminated or delegated. Tip: Review your calendar and task management apps for recurring events and responsibilities.
- Relationship audit: Identify professional and personal relationships that aren’t benefiting you. This encompasses work colleagues, family, clients, associates and acquaintances like gym partners. Tip: Recollect when you feel exhausted after a conversation or meeting with somebody. Think if it was caused by the person or by other circumstances.
The three pillars of re-contracting
Now, let’s move on to eliminating the obligations that don’t work. There are three primary ways to re-contract:
- Give it up: This encompasses outright elimination. For instance, if a hobby drains you, consider quitting. End the contract if a demanding client is more trouble than they’re worth.
- Renegotiate: Consider a trade-off for tasks you loathe, but others might enjoy. The aim is to swap an undesirable task for a more pleasant one.
- Buy or delegate: If purchasing a service or tool can save you time, invest in it. Delegation, though sometimes requiring hiring assistance, can be invaluable in freeing up mental and temporal bandwidth.
I’ve already applied those strategies to a few things in my life and can share some examples to illustrate how it works. Attending trade conferences affected my health, so I shifted to alternative client acquisition methods. A client was taking too much of my headspace, so I found a subcontractor to take care of his account. I had been taking voice lessons, and while they provided some benefits, the commute wasn’t worth the effort.
Sometimes, we hold on to duties, people or ways of doing things out of habit or because we feel obliged and consider any discomfort a normal part of life. Letting go is not easy for some of us, but it’s a good skill that may take you to the next level in life.
An important note on habits
On the one hand, acquiring good habits and quitting bad ones is all the rage, and there are multiple books and science behind it. They can truly be a savior of your time, happiness and vitality. On the other hand, it’s also easy to become a habit maniac and get burned out.
Write down habits you’re trying to adopt or break into your re-contracting list. Reflect on their effectiveness, long-term value and the energy they consume. Also, sometimes, we want to adopt a habit out of pure desire to follow our role models or to feel better about ourselves. However, habits that serve others right and sound good in theory may not work for you. One size doesn’t fit all; what makes Mark Zuckerberg productive and happy may wear you out.
Upon freeing up time, you might wonder how to reallocate it. Consider listing activities and individuals that energize you.
For those looking for unconventional advice, Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, suggests a unique approach in his book, Rewire Your Brain: Think Your Way to a Better Life. Adams champions the idea of embracing embarrassment as an antidote to monotony, suggesting, “If I’m bored, this means I’m not embarrassing myself enough.” Or you may consider occupying yourself with nothing. Rick Rubin, a famous music producer, writes in his book The Creative Act: A Way of Being that we all need time to do nothing to come up with creative ideas. Boredom may be a booster for new ideas and inventiveness.
Re-contracting isn’t just about reclaiming time but refocusing on what truly matters in life. Doing this simple audit quarterly can have a profound effect on the quality of your life and the quality of your relationships.
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