I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately. It’s one of our most precious commodities, and yet, we don’t really know, or practice, how to utilize it most effectively or to it’s greatest potential. All of us have greatness inside, a purpose, something to offer the world – and the main thing that differentiates the good from the great among us, is how we spend our time. This is great news for all of us; we too have the opportunity to use our time to it’s fullest potential in supporting our goals and values, to become one of the greats.
How exactly are you spending your time?
Let’s take stock of how you generally spend the hours of your day, here are a few questions to consider:
1. Are you being intentional about your time, or is a lot of it being wasted in activities that don’t serve you or move you forward?
2. Do you spend a lot of time “thinking”? I’m not talking about intentional solution-focused thinking, I’m talking about perseverating on the past or future, replaying conversations over and over again, “visualizing” circumstances that may or may not ever happen, allowing negative emotions to direct thoughts, etc.
3. Do you feel like you’re pinging around in the minutia of business (emails, social media, phone calls, meetings), without ever seeming to get anything done or get things moving the way you would like?
4. Do you have a morning routine that sets your day up for success, or are mornings generally mindless and/or chaotic?
There are many ways to enhance your use of time, and we’ll cover those in-depth in future posts (with an exercise below), but the one thing that most people leave out in their quest for change, is the actual action. How many business growth or self-help books have you read, loved the ideas, but never implemented the tools, or quit using them after only a few days? The key is to actually do something, consistently. Weird, right? New research has shown that it takes 66 days for a new habit to become automatic. 66 days! That’s an uncomfortably long time, and our brains shirk at discomfort, remember? Which is why so many people stay at the “good enough” level, without powering up to being great. As Robin Sharma says about developing new habits, “the beginning is hard, the middle is messy, and the end is gorgeous”. You know you’ve developed a new habit effectively when it becomes automatic and doesn’t take willpower to accomplish anymore.
Exercise: Using parameters to trick your brain into focusing.
Our brains work best when there are clearly defined boundaries. Have you ever thought of a project that had so many variables you didn’t know where to start, and so never did? It could be a messy house, disorganized office, large work project, event etc. When our brains aren’t given an end point on any given task it goes into survival mode. Remember, our brains want to do things as efficiently as possible, while using as little energy as necessary. An indefinite project causes us to lose focus, and the tendency is to move on to something easier, or more pleasurable (hours spent on social media, anyone?).
Interestingly enough, our brains can be tricked into hyper-focusing if there is a limit on how much time it thinks we’ll be expending energy, and the feeling of “accomplishment” stimulates the pleasure response, making the brain even happier. The best way to do this is to actually schedule out your day into defined blocks of time, but until you do that, an easy and very effective way to cause your brain to hyper-focus is to use a simple egg timer (I suggest using an egg timer, instead of a phone, because it doesn’t have any other elements that can become distracting).
- Pick one part of a project (messy kitchen, weedy flowerbed, papers that need to be filed, etc)
- Set your timer for 20 minutes, and only work on that section of the project. If you start to shift into multitasking, like you’re used to doing, redirect yourself into working on only this task for 20 minutes.
- Only spend the allotted 20 minutes on the task!
- Set your timer for another 20 minutes, to either work on a new task, or to give yourself a break.
- After a break or another task, return to your first task for another 20 minutes.
- Repeat as often as you’d like.
It may take a couple sets of 20 minutes, but if used often, this exercise causes our brains to hyper-focus on the task at hand, knowing it has an end point, and it doesn’t have to expend energy on any other task during that time. The moments of rest or focusing on a new task, allow the brain to reset and refresh, coming back to other tasks with renewed energy. Try it, let me know what you think.
Sometimes we reach a certain level in life, and we plateau; we’ve taken ourselves as far as we can on our own. Working with a highly trained coach can be essential to moving to the next level of performance. Contact us today for more information!