I know you’re probably sick of hearing the words “I’m so busy”. You’re sick of feeling busy. You’re sick of compromising your time with your family or your fitness for pressing obligations.
Well, I have an idea for you. I can’t take away the obligations, but I do have an idea how you can prioritize. A way to make you can feel more in control. An approach that enables you to make more conscious choices with your time.
Grab a fresh sheet of paper or your tablet and open Evernote. Map out a four-box grid. On one axis write ‘awareness’. On the other write ‘importance’
At first, we’re probably not even truly aware of what we’re spending all of our time on. Begin to list things and place them where they fall in terms of how important it is and how consciously aware you are when you’re doing it. Ideally, you want high awareness and high importance (e.g., paying your bills on time). Some things are important but we’re not aware (e.g., helping your kids with a problem). Other things are not important but you’re very aware (e.g., attending a meeting with no agenda or direction). Yet other things are not important and there’s little conscious intention to it (e.g., scrolling through Facebook).
You could pick one day and note activities as they come up or you have greater awareness you’re doing them. When you map it out and begin to notice how you spend your time, you can reflect on what you notice. How much is in each quadrant? How can you reduce low importance and low awareness activities? If you add up the time of these activities, bingo, you’ve officially got more time for what’s most important (that is, if you commit to reducing or eliminating these busy-making activities).
So how do you actually break the habit of spending less time on unnecessary “busy activities”? Here are a couple of suggestions:
Use the timer.
Set your timer on an activity that’s low awareness and low value. Give yourself a limited amount of time to, say, check Instagram, find a birthday gift, or write a briefing note. It’s amazing how efficient and even enjoyable an activity can be when we’re getting the most from it in a limited amount of time.
Set aside time in your calendar.
To prioritize the most important activities, especially ones that require boosted awareness, fit it into your calendar. Find ways to protect your time. important things you need to do and protect in your calendar.
If there are still things that need to be done but you begin to realize you are not necessarily the person who needs to do them, consider how you can delegate them. Contract them out, ask for family’s help, renegotiate workloads and the work of coworkers and staff. Ideally, what is left are priorities that require your skill set and your greatness. Sure, there will be times you will do things that someone else could do, but I’m convinced there are way more things just about every North American can delegate. Why do I think that? Because I used to do it all myself and was miserable. Now I delegate almost everything unless I really can’t (just yet). It’s not always easy (I may like things done a certain way), but it’s necessary.
In the end, I’m grateful every day for all the people who make my life easier on a daily basis. My cleaner/home organizer, kids (dishwasher one and dishwasher two as they sometimes call themselves), husband, virtual assistant, videographer, web designer, mother (AKA illustrator and sometimes cake maker for fundraisers), father (AKA graphic designer and sometimes renovator), book editor, co-author, bookkeeper, accountant, financial planner, travel agent, coaches, and the list goes on. None work with me full-time but they each do their part to make my personal and professional life smoother and allow me to live a more conscious, happy and calmer (and less busy) existence. A few years ago, I never would have thought I would spend thousands every month on support, but I realize now, the peace of mind and calm that goes with it is priceless. And, having the energy, creativity, and focus in my business actually generates more money than if I took it all on myself anyway. No loss, right?