Too much on your plate? Feeling busy and overwhelmed? Getting nowhere fast?
It might be a good time to pause, take a deep breath, rethink what’s a top priority and what isn’t. It might be a good time to become more intentional about how you spend your time and energy and what you pay attention to.
It’s all too easy to add stuff to your plate (or get it added by someone else). We start to get busy, and the busier we get, the more we focus on ‘getting stuff done’, rather than thinking about what outcomes we want to achieve and how we can best get there. The more we get into that ‘busyness’, the less time we have to stop, pause, think, and the more ‘normal’ the tactical busyness feels. Ever noticed when you come back from a vacation and you are so much more organized and focused, only to fall back to seemingly random busy-work after a week or two? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.
Heck, it might even give us comfort and validation to ‘be busy’. However, busyness is not the same as impact. Busyness is not the same as achievement. Busyness is not the same as providing value. It’s just busyness, nothing else. If you want to make a change, if you want to make ’a dent in the universe’ as the silicon valley types like to say, you need to be intentional about where and how you invest yourself. Busyness is not a value. It’s a cost. Outcome and impact are the values.
Don’t be busy, be impactful!
So how do you get more intentional? Start with gaining clarity on what outcomes you want to achieve and what actions will be most impactful to get there. Then invest your time intentionally in those outcomes and actions. Don’t just go with the flow.
Here are some examples:
Meetings – Decide if a meeting provides value to what you want to achieve and if you can provide value to the meeting and group. Then go or don’t go. If you go, you must make it worth your time and everyone else’s time. Don’t just hang around in the meeting. Don’t multi-task – it doesn’t work anyway. Turn your webcam on for virtual meetings. Be there and engage. If you don’t feel the meeting is important to you, better invest your time in something else and avoid dragging down the energy of the whole group.
Tasks and emails – When you go through tasks and emails, force yourself to be focused. Limit the time you have available for those tasks. You will see that allotting a limited amount of time to getting something done will make you more focused, more efficient, and happier. It will also avoid that you keep working on something beyond the point of diminishing returns (remember the 80:20 rule). Give yourself a challenging time limit, and then force yourself to get all planned work done in the allocated time. Don’t allow any distractions – single-task!
Working after hours – Sometimes we need to get something done in time for a deadline, and work will bleed into the evening or weekend. Those should be the very rare exceptions, though. Be aware of and intentional about those exceptions. Know why you make them if you decide to make them. Don’t let working in the evening become a habit just because you did it the previous evening. It’s easy to get sucked into bad habits if you don’t observe closely what you’re doing. Today there’s a lot of excitement about being always connected, about moving in and out of work and private times, and blended models. I may be old-school, but I don’t believe in that. If you take your work home and don’t set boundaries, you disservice yourself and your loved ones. Be fully at work when you’re at work, and forget all about work when you’re not!
Downtime – This is so critical for our balanced well-being! Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Be conscious and intentional about taking downtimes. Plan them, appreciate them, and protect them. Don’t feel bad for not doing anything (‘do nothing days’ are a real thing). However, don’t waste your downtimes either. Don’t get lost in browsing the web or playing video games. There is a huge difference between planned downtime, or me-time, and mindless procrastination. Don’t get me wrong, if you like videogames, that’s awesome. Enjoy them for the time period that you have decided to spend on them. However, don’t find yourself looking at your clock, wondering where the time has gone, and feeling guilty about it. Being intentional avoids feeling guilty.
Family and friends – Put that smartphone down! Tug away your work problems! Listen, share and engage! Don’t let anything distract you from paying attention to your loved ones during the time you spend with them. It might be annoying at times (yes, let’s be honest, distractions from our kids can be annoying), it might go against your planned task, but you won’t’ regret it in the long run. The number one wish of people in nursing homes is to have spent more time with loved ones. Having gotten more tasks done never comes up in those conversations.
Be intentional about what you do and how you spent your time. You will have more impact, and you will be happier.
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Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
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