They won’t let me… It doesn’t work in our culture… There’s enough on my list for 5 people… My leader is a workaholic… My customers/clients/family/community/organization expect this. Have you thought or said any of these things? I know I have.
In my post about taking ourselves more seriously I encouraged all of us to multi-task less, make our time with others meaningful, and take some time daily to imagine possibilities. I also acknowledged that there are challenges to taking these steps and promised to write about overcoming the challenges.
Before reading any further, I want to warn you… this post isn’t about how we make other people change, condemning the challenge, or being victims. This post is about ownership and accountability. This post is about what each of us can do to change things for ourselves and impact what goes on around us.
Convert non-productive time
The first step in being more intentional with our time is an honest self-assessment. How do we spend our time? How much time do we spend playing games on our devices? Scrolling through Facebook for the latest on our high-school or college crew? How do we spend the 30 minutes before we go to bed? How many favorite TV shows do we have?
I suspect we could each look at our time and find something that we do personally that isn’t very enriching. Are we doing it to relieve stress? Meditation, drawing, journaling, and playing music are a few ways to relieve stress while cultivating creative thoughts. I can tell you from my personal experience that converting 1 hour of time daily to meditation and journaling changed my outlook, approach, and stress level dramatically.
Ok, so let’s step into the rest of life where other people are involved… feeling like everyone wants everything yesterday? Another self-assessment… do we play a part in this? Maybe yes and maybe no. Be honest… if we constantly put things off and let everything go down to the wire, it’s time to catch up. Procrastination is a way of life that perpetuates stress and leaves no time for imagination.
Maybe procrastination isn’t an issue. In some environments a lot is expected of us. This goes beyond the office and could be in the family, organization, or community. For me this always seemed to be an issue. I’m not a procrastinator at all, but I always seemed to have way too much. Why? Because I took on a ton and responded to everything the moment I got it. I didn’t set boundaries and was constantly on!
We can always take on more to get ahead at work, be the best parent, serve the most in our community, etc. However, if we take on too much we end up not being great at anything. Do we say “no”? If the answer is “no”, we have work to do.
Email… another big issue. I’m sure we could all agree that it’s gotten out of control. My general nature is to plan rather than procrastinate and to have things organized at the end of the day. A full inbox makes me crazy! Over time I got into the habit of answering emails immediately, or as soon as possible. 99% of them didn’t have to be answered on the spot and could have waited, but by answering them right away I set an expectation. If this resonates for you, don’t answer non-urgent email immediately… even a 30-minute delay will help set more reasonable expectations.
Focus on the conversation
Have you ever been in a meeting with someone who constantly looks at their computer or device? Do you feel like saying “hey… I’m over here… did you hear what I said?”. Once we aren’t procrastinating, have set reasonable expectations, and aren’t compulsive about email, having meaningful interactions with others is more likely. If you’re a leader, manager, parent, spouse, etc. this is for you… people notice when we aren’t paying attention and aren’t engaged and it hurts. It’s time to close the laptop, put down the phone, and make eye contact!
Though some of these action items may seem small, they make a huge impact on our personal happiness and ability to think and act intentionally. And, when we are happier and intentional we impact the world around us by our work, attitudes, examples, and how we treat others. Empower yourself now and take yourself more seriously… you will discover amazing things!