“How are you doing?”
When I finally learned being “busy” and being “productive” were two different things, I eliminated “busy” from my list of answers.
Here’s how I stopped just talking about my ideas, and found a process to actually start doing something about them.
This is the second post in a series titled, “Setting Goals and Taking Action.”
Put it in the calendar. (2 of 5)
Show me a person’s calendar, and I’ll tell you their priorities.
I once asked a mentor of mine how the semester was going for him, and instead of replying with what all the other professors were saying and feeling, like “Midterms grades are due when?!” or “There are just so many things going…I really don’t have time.” he just smiled, and said, “Great.”
He rattled off the things that were happening, and that’s when he indirectly taught me something that’s changed my life. I learned that being “busy” isn’t a sign of a high-performer, but rather, the lack of control over how they were spending their time. The lack of frenzy and ease at which he recounted his projects showed a masterful control of how he had allocated his time.
For me, this meant going back to my roots of using a calendar and really examining where and how I was spending my time.
I blocked out the non-negotiable items. I blocked out specific times to read and write. I looked for ways to maximize my blocks of family time, prioritizing and extending whenever possible.
One revelation I had was clearly separating the work time from family time. The result was I worked faster and harder when I had time set aside for work. It also granted me the peace of mind to relax when it was family time, knowing I’d already put in the work time earlier in the day. I am continually reminded that there is no such thing as multi-tasking. That’s just code for “scattered.”
What I also learned was mapping out my weekly schedule really illuminated where I was spending my time. For example, I could save time by doubling up on two low-concentration activities, like eating and returning phone calls. Another quick win was simply re-arranging certain blocks to cut out extraneous travel time.
It also eliminated the time wasted wondering or hesitating what I should be doing next. By having a designated category of action slotted, I simply referred to my running Action Item list to see what was next in the queue of priorities.
I even went as far as to see what categories I was spending my precious time resource. It was like mapping out a weekly schedule budget, figuring where I was spending my most precious commodity. This allowed me to ask myself, were my spending habits aligned with my intended priorities?
My first few drafts of my schedule were far from accurate. Of course I went to bed later than I intended. I originally left zero blocks open to do miscellaneous things, like getting a flu shot or staying after class to talk to parents. My ideal scenario didn’t always account for the surprises of real life.
To reconcile this dissonance, for weeks, I would keep track of where I actually spent my time and compare it to where I had intended to spend it.
As with the power of frameworks, this system gave me a way to map out my ideal scenario and review/revise the dissonance between the target and reality. I came up with new drafts of my schedule, re-allocating time to different categories as necessary. It made me stay on target, while not overbooking myself. If I was scheduled to write, then I was sitting down, and writing.
In essence, this practice over a few months gave me more self-awareness of how and where I was spending my time. My writing blocks were guaranteed, and the result was spending less time being “busy” and more time getting work done.
To be productive, you have to set aside time in your calendar to do the work. It means more investment of time up front. but the proof in return has been in the number of projects I’ve completed in the last 6 months.
Sit down and plan out your ideal weekly schedule. If you need a jumping off point, check out my Weekly Practice template.
Keep track and log where you are actually spending your time. At the end of the week, create a new revised weekly schedule, figuring out where you need to plan better vs. where you to need to execute better.
Comment below with your top 3 priority categories, outside of sleeping, and if you had any realizations of where you were actually spending your time.
Strive for your actions to align with your aspirations.
I’ll be continuing this post as a five part mini-series. If you have huge aspirations, but you’re not sure where to start or feel frozen because the task feels too daunting, tune in for the next post. You can also hit the “follow” button below to receive these posts by email.
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Thanks for reading and I appreciate the sharing!