Each day we make big decisions and small decisions about how we choose to spend our time. We probably pay attention to the big decisions but how much weight do we give to the small decisions? All of our decisions about how we choose to spend our time can either help us move towards living the life we want or they can – sometimes quite unintentionally – send us in the opposite direction. Here’s a recent example from my life.
I attended a four-day meditation and yoga retreat which ended with me driving my husband’s car into a massive rock (not the result I envisaged when I booked the retreat). Why did this happen? I was rushing. But how could I be rushing? I had literally been in the child’s pose for four days relaxing! It all started the day before…
A fellow participant needed a lift to the airport. “Don’t worry,” I said! “I live only 15 minutes from the airport! I’ll drop you there!” Here’s where it all came undone. Why did I offer? I wanted to help this lovely woman I’d just met that weekend 🙂
This small decision to offer a lift had many unintended consequences including:
- Causing damage to our car
- Having to ask a friend to go out of her way to pick up my daughter as I wouldn’t make school pick up in time (because the retreat ran over time and, of course, I had to go to the airport!)
- Being late for a medical appointment for my son
- Losing my zen way earlier than expected!
At that moment, with that woman, I wanted to help her. That was a good thing to do, right?
What I failed to see at the time (though had that niggling gut reaction soon after) was that by offering to give this relative stranger a lift to the airport; I was also saying NO to things that were more important. I was saying… no to quality time with my kids; no to my friend’s afternoon plans, no to a peaceful re-entry to reality and no to money!
The above is a dramatic example. However, I see time and time again, both with clients and me, that we forget that we can choose how to spend our time. And every decision we make about how to spend our time is traded off against something else we could be doing. Perhaps that thing that we say yes to means we are saying no to something far more essential and valuable to us.
In the book, Essentialism by Greg McKeown, he suggests an approach that will allow you to do the right thing, for the right reason, at the right time.
The steps he suggests are:
|How McKeown’s describes||Tips to implement|
|1. Explore and evaluate||Discerning the Trivial Many from the Vital Few :
||Your goal could be something you are working towards or could be the values you have for your life|
|2. Eliminate||Cutting out the rivial many:
||Easier said than done!|
|3. Execute||Remove Obstacles and Making Execution Effortless:
||Obstacles could include perfectionism, not having an efficient process and not considering the detail of what is involved.|
Being an Essentialist is an aspiration – it feels intrinsically right. Why wouldn’t I want more space in my life to focus on those people and things that truly matter? The problem is, that now more than ever there are so many exciting things to learn, see, and do that it indeed does take discipline to choose how to spend our time wisely. I do not have it sorted – in fact – if you looked up “over commitment” in the dictionary you might see my name mentioned.
I will relapse many times, but it’s a journey that I am keen to keep progressing on.
Just because it is a good idea, or fun, or even the ‘right’ thing to do.. doesn’t mean you should do it.
Someone asks you to do something that you don’t want to do:
Easy Option: “I’ll get back to you later today” (defer, defer, defer). Then send a message thanking them for thinking of you, and unfortunately, you cannot fit it in at the moment.
Difficult Option: “Thanks for thinking of me for that. I wish I had more time to fit that in, but regrettably, I do not”.
All you need is 30 seconds. 30 seconds of sitting in the discomfort of saying no. Be comfortable with silence! Don’t fill the silence with apologising or worse – agreeing! Connect with the time you are saving not being annoyed at yourself for saying yes!!
Someone asks you to do something that you DO want to do:
“I’d love to be involved in that. What are your timeframes for delivery?… I just need to check what else I have on at the moment, and I will get back to you”.
Consider what else you have on and how this particular work aligns with your goals. Additionally, work out how much time it will take and consider whether it is realistic to deliver in the timeframes.
For more info…
Quick read: https://hbr.org/2012/08/the-disciplined-pursuit-of-less
Audio interview: https://hbr.org/2014/07/to-do-things-better-stop-doing-so-much (15 minutes)
Deep dive: https://www.amazon.com/Essentialism-Disciplined-Pursuit-Greg-McKeown/dp/0804137382