I have a workout app that I love. In fact, I have made it my app recommendation on my podcast because I’m impressed with it. But, I haven’t rated it on iTunes and likely won’t. Why? Because when the app asks me for a rating, it asks at the wrong time and in the wrong context.
The app always asks for a rating after I finish a workout and log it. At that point in time, I’m tired and am literally walking out the door of the gym ready to do the next thing for my day. That is not a time that I will sit down and write a review and isn’t the best location to knock out a review either. The context is wrong for me to do it, the timing is bad for me to do it, and so, I don’t do it.
My kids make this same mistake often. They ask a good question but at a terrible time or the wrong place (context). For example, my son kept wanting us to buy him a specific fidget spinner last school year. He would ask over and over, but when he would ask it would be late at night when it was already past his bedtime and too late for us to find it online together. Or, he would ask when we were in the car going somewhere, not the best time to sit down and search Amazon together. It took him a long time to get what he wanted, simply because he asked at the wrong time and in the wrong context.
As I think about this, I have to wonder where I’m missing success for these same reasons. Often success is about being at the right place at the right time. So, in the things I’m looking to accomplish I’m wondering, is my timing right? Is the context right? And, if not, how can I fix it?
When I was in college, I didn’t know my professors. I was the kid that would sit in the back of the class, half listen to the lectures (because I preferred to read the material) and then leave without speaking to the professor after class. At the time this seemed like a great strategy for flying under the radar. What I realize now is that, while it was a great way to fly under the radar, it also held me back from achieving at my highest level.
If I had been known by my professors, I would have worked harder. This was always true in school before that, every teacher that knew me got my best work, as opposed to the teachers that barely knew my name.
Being known gives us a sense of responsibility and accountability that we would not otherwise have. It doesn’t just apply to being known by people in leadership over us but also applies to peer relationships where accountability and responsibility are needed. When I’m working toward something that I want to be held accountable to, I tell people about it, so I am more motivated to get it done. Sometimes I will even blog about what I’m working on as motivation to perform at a high level.
The more we are known by one another, the more we share our hopes and dreams and even our struggles, the more we will be motivated to work hard, to perform, to achieve. When we are known we are not just another face in the crowd, we become something more, we are a community and we are better for it.
My goal for today is to do less but to make more impact on what matters. Increasing I’m aware of the 80/20 rule, how 20% of the things I do push my goals forward and 80% of what I do makes little difference. I think this rule wasn’t always true, but in modern society, with our work distractions (like email) and our other distractions (like Facebook), we can’t help but spend a lot of time on things that don’t truly impact our goals.
If you think about it, we are a very distracted society. We spend a lot of time bouncing from thing to thing to thing, all in the span of a few minutes. We sit at a table with another person while reading posts and liking pictures posted by someone else. We have a call while driving and listening to the radio, not realizing that makes us significantly more likely to wreck the car. You get the idea.
So my goal for today is to do less. I want to do less of the 80% of the junk that doesn’t move my goals forward. I also want to do less multi-tasking (because there is no such thing) so that I can focus on what is important. I’m convinced that in doing less I’ll get a lot more done.
Recently I have been using a timer to keep me focused on tasks. For example, currently my timer is set for 30-minutes, and the only thing I will do during that 30-minutes is write. I have shorter timers for other things like reading and longer timers for things like working out.
What I am discovering is how much more focused I can be when I set a timer and say to myself, “I will do nothing else during this time other than this task.” I know, it’s obvious why this works, I just can’t believe I didn’t do it before.When I set a timer and focus intently on a task a few things happen:
- Time seems to slow down. I don’t feel rushed, at all. I feel like I have enough time to think.
- I’m significantly more productive. Yesterday in between meetings I set some timers and knocked out some of my most important tasks for the day. Then something weird happened. I had a window of about 10-minutes before a meeting where I had nothing to do. I was fully caught up, during the work day! Can you imagine?
- I produce better things. Whether I’m writing a blog post, recording a podcast or just responding to email. When I am doing those things fully distraction free (with complete focus) what I produce is of much higher quality.
My encouragement is to give it a shot. Choose a task you know you need to do, but may not want to do. Set a timer for 20-minutes and commit to doing nothing but that one task for that time. I think you will get a lot more done than you think and you will experience some of what I’m experiencing as well.
When you say to someone you are passing in the hallway, “hi, how are you” how likely are they to respond, “busy, but good!” That’s how I used to respond too, until I realized that I’m actually not busy. That’s why I dropped the word busy from my vocabulary. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot going on these days. I have five kids. I help run a fast growing digital agency and a nonprofit. I’m involved in my community. And, of course, my kids have extra curricular activities that have me playing taxi cab often.
But, at the end of the day I’m not busy. I know this because I still have time for what matters most to me. I finish work at 5pm or very close to it. I have dinner with my family every night at the dinner table. I have time to write, read, think, and occasionally to even build furniture for my wife! I have time for the things that truly matter to me and my family, which to me is the opposite of busy.
Busy is frantic. Busy is overwhelmed. Busy is packing so much into one day that there is no time to actually enjoy that day. Busy is mental exhaustion. I am none of those things because I choose not to be. I choose to do less, to miss opportunities, to say no to things that are good but not best. I choose to not be defined as busy. I also choose not to use that word longer. If you ask me how I am, I’ll tell you I’m terrific.
For some people working from home means working 24/7. I work from home but choose to ignore that temptation. I want time with my family, time with friends and community, and time to be a whole person, not just a business person. So, I make sure my day ends at 5pm sharp to leave time for the things that are important.**
I believe that if something can’t be done by 5pm that means either:
- I am trying to do too much or
- I haven’t prioritized my time well
I keep a notebook with notes from each day, and I love to write at the top of the page, “Day ends at 5pm!” Seeing that note at the top of the page all day forces me to prioritize my time and make tough choices to meet my deadline.
** – I’m not perfect at this every week, but this is my goal, and I hit it 90% of the time. I also start my day early to make sure I can be very productive but still clock off at 5pm.