It's amazing what you can learn from being in line at the coffee shop. I was in the city early the other day and I stopped at Starbucks to get my coffee. It was particularly busy and there were about 10 people lined up. Most were fidgeting and impatient.

I took the opportunity to just observe and here is my perception of what was happening for some of the people in line. I have given them names to make it easy to write.

"I don't have time for this right now," Tracy thought as the very polite Starbucks assistant was explaining all the different coffee options to the person at the counter. And she went on and on. This is crazy Tracy thought - how many choices are there?. She was fidgeting, moving from side to side, sighing and rolling her eyes. She kept looking at her watch.

Tracy wasn't the only one becoming frustrated. Betty, at the counter, was clearly becoming more and more confused. Harry, behind the counter was being very polite, though straining to do so as he could see the line growing. There were simply too many choices for Betty. She just wanted 3 coffees but now that she had all these options she couldn't make a decision.

As I reflected, secretly very pleased hat I was early, I had an insight - there are sooo many choices we have to make each day. And that puts you under extra pressure, takes up time and therefore, creates stress in our lives.

Let's use Starbucks as an example. With all the combinations of coffee types, sizes and add-ons there are hundreds of choices. This is essentially the same as you having many things to do and not enough time to them all - you have to choose.

What we need to do is to reduce the selection down so we have fewer choices. Going back to the coffee. When I choose my coffee I eliminate all the syrups and sugars (I don't like the sweet stuff). I limit my caffeine intake so I almost always get the smallest size. AND I love my coffee! I do not stress about all the options I did not choose. I focus on enjoying what I chose. How do you decide which coffee you want?

How does this apply to choosing what to do with your time? It's about knowing the difference between what you might like to do or what you have been told to do AND what is really important for YOU to do. I might like to try all the different coffee bean options. My friends tell me to try the caramel syrup. In a traditional time management approach these would all be added to my to do list - does that help me? No. It actually makes it worse!

I suggest you consider that all the things on your to do list (or in your head) that you think you have to do are really like all the coffee options at Starbucks. Use your coffee selection process to reduce your choices. Simplify your life by reducing your choices and you will find you have much more time and less stress. When you don't you are like Betty at Starbucks stressing over which choice to make.

Finally, Betty cleared her head and said, "I just want three coffees". Harry seized the opportunity to reduce the choices and asked "with or without milk?" "with milk, please." Betty replied with a smile as all the stress evaporated. Harry ordered 3 small flat whites.

Recognise your to do list is really a menu of choices. Use your coffee choice process to reduce your options and you will reduce your stress.

Author's Bio: 

Michael Erwin is a Time Creation Expert and Time Coach. He offers Free time management resources You can find more time management articles and time management tips at