Busy – the token, knee-jerk answer most people will give you when you ask how they’re doing. Evidently, despite having unlimited tools to help us save time, we’ve somehow managed to be busier than ever. But, I’m not going to let busyness get in the way of being productive with work that truly matters.
Put first things first
In his best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey helps us understand the difference between being merely “busy” versus being productive. One of the seven habits he outlines is putting first things first. This means giving priority to the things in your life that are actually aligned with your personal mission. Of course, this implies that you’ve intentionally sets goals, values, and cast a vision for the life you want, rather than just passively “dreaming” about how you wish it would be. And, this doesn’t only apply to your personal life, or your life outside of your job. You have to be intentional when taking an inventory from all aspects of your life and take control of your time by telling it where to go on a weekly basis.
Schedule like you mean it
For myself, having a healthy, fun, and thriving marriage is a top priority, so my husband and I make sure that we’ve allotted times during the week for us to just hang out, go out for dinner, or do something fun. I also leave Saturdays and Sundays to spend with not only him, but with our extended family and friends. That means grabbing a bite to eat after church on Sundays, or visiting on Saturday evenings. I’ve intentionally set those times aside where I do very little work, and am present for the people I love.
Here’s what a typical week looks like for me:
Going to the gym was only recently added to my schedule since one of my goals for 2017 is to lose 30 lbs. I didn’t want being overweight and unhealthy to be a part of my life story, but rather to live out a vision of a healthy, active, and fit life. There was no way I was ever going to come even close to reaching my goal if I didn’t make working out a priority in my schedule. There is quite a bit of social and rest time carved into my schedule. It’s just enough time to feel rested, but not enough to feel like I’m wasting time. In fact, one of Stephen Covey’s seven habits is to “sharpen the saw”, meaning take time out to refresh yourself so that you have the ability to be productive in areas of your life that matter.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
One of the many problems with the endless amount of notifications and audio alerts we get from our phones and computers is that when we’ve answered a text message, or responded to an email, we feel like we’ve actually accomplished something. We feel productive. I’ve put true productivity as a priority by keeping my phone out of reach for long periods of time both during the work day and in the evenings at home. That means I keep my phone in my purse, in the drawer of my desk, and only check my text messages and social media every couple hours.
Answering emails, checking social media, and making endless to-do lists are simply busy work – something to keep your mind thinking you’re doing meaningful work when you’re really just wasting your time. Focus that time, instead, on chipping away at the actual work that leads to your project finishing and launching. Don’t waste your time on the small stuff.
What will make an impact?
Texting your friends or catching up on the email inbox is necessary, just not very impactful. Ask yourself how much impact your actions are going to make in the long term. The time you take writing that song, writing that blog post, or editing that Youtube video is going to stretch further than the time it took you to do the work itself. That time spent is so much more meaningful than the time you would have wasted on consuming media in its various forms. Scroll through that feed once, and then do it again in a few hours, not a few minutes.
Here’s to wishing every night was Friday night date night…