This is a guest post by NAPO Houston member Donna Matthews, of Slay the Chaos.
Let’s look at the tale of two mornings…
On the first morning, you wake up in anticipation and excitement. You are headed out of town on vacation. You jump out of bed, grab your coffee, finish packing and head out the door to the airport. Your phone is dinging with random text messages, Facebook notifications, and the occasional email. You glance quickly to make sure it’s not flight related but otherwise, you are focused and on your way.
The second morning looks much different. You wake up and grab your phone wondering what happened overnight. You check your Facebook feed and Snapchat stories. You look over email. You clear all the notifications and feel productive because you’ve been busy. But now what? Because we’ve been focused on staying busy, we look for other busy work. Perhaps, we start the communication cycle again. Or we grab another cup of coffee and get distracted by the kitchen mess? Or if already at the office, we run into a meeting. We spend our day being busy and taking care of other people’s priorities. Because busy is productive, right?
On the first morning, you had clarity on your purpose. You had to get to the airport and go somewhere. You had places to be, things to do, and your goal was your priority. Get somewhere important to you.
On the second morning, without the same kind of clarity, you allow your morning to be whittled away by what others think is important. It’s more spinning wheels than getting somewhere.
Peter Drucker once said, “Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.”
Why are we attracted to busy work?
Busy work is easy. It doesn’t require a lot of thought and checking the checkbox gives us a rush of endorphins. We’re accomplishing things! Look at how busy we are today! I am important! But do you ever end the day wondering what in the world you accomplished?? And then something you didn’t do will come up and you hear yourself say “I don’t have time.”
You do have time. You just have to take it back.
A perfect example of this is a fiercely INTERNAL debate of mine… Inbox Zero. As in All.The.Emails processed. Inbox Zero gives me a great sense of satisfaction…but on the other hand…so what? The narrative goes something like this: Your inbox is empty but you didn’t write an assignment for your memoir class. Or you didn’t read a chapter in that book you’ve been meaning to read. You also didn’t try out the new recipe and you missed out on an important conversation with a co-worker. And that big work project…yeah, still not done. In order to accomplish inbox zero, I gave my precious time to busy work and missed out on the places I wanted to go. It’s not so much the quest of the empty inbox but what I exchanged for the empty inbox.
Let’s back up a minute.
Busy work screams for our attention. Electronic media feels urgent. In some cases it is urgent but I think after a deep breath we can all acknowledge that most of it can wait. Email, text messages, social media, errands, phone calls, idle chit-chat, another cup of tea, etc.
I’m suggesting that we make “our places to be – our airplane to catch” THE PRIORITY of our day. Once our priority is accomplished, then we look at the minutiae of everyday living.
Let’s take back our time!!
It starts the night before.
- You sit down and determine your 3-5 most important tasks you want to accomplish. Not the laundry list of things you think you should be doing…but rather the Most.Important.Tasks.(MITs)
- Write down the MITs. Your brain takes you more seriously when you write down the tasks.
- Go to bed knowing you have a plan. You have places to be tomorrow.
* Not sure what your MITs are? A great place to start is thinking about the times you hear yourself say “I don’t have time.”
You have your list – your places to be today. If at all possible, work through your list BEFORE you work through busy work. Sure, glance at the email and text messages to be sure there isn’t a fire somewhere but then return the focus to your objectives, your MITs for the day.
Momentum Method of Habit Change
The momentum method of habit change states that habits can be effectivity built using consistency as a starting point. Momentum is gained by a DAILY PRACTICE. If you are serious about changing your morning routines and breaking the habit of busy work, I suggest you consider the Coach.Me platform. There are hundreds and hundreds of habits you can join for free to build consistency, accountability, and structure to your schedule. As an example, I am currently in a habit titled Limit Email and Social Media. I check in each day I limit my online activity…I’m loving the accountability.
Now get going on your frog for today… you’ve got a plane to catch. Places to be. Goals to accomplish. Dreams to realize.