We all have 168 hours each week. Choose how you use yours.
Busyness is a badge of honor nowadays. The easiest and quickest response is often, “I can’t. I don’t have time.” What a load of junk.
The average American is now watching 3.5 hours of television per day. Per day! In addition, according to a recent report summarized by Digital Trends, we’re spending 4.7 hours each day on our phones using data, checking social media 17 times. Yikes!
I get it. Email can seem important and we do real work on our phones. But if we’re checking our Facebook and Tweet machine 17 times, we’re being distracted from our real purpose and real work.
Email is not your life’s work. As Brendan Burchard says, “Email is other people’s priorities.” The most productive people I know keep email as a low, and often last, priority of the day.
In the charitable world, chances are, your real work is connecting with others; hopefully in meaningful ways. We write letters, proposals; we build houses; we triage with families facing eviction; we feed meals; we care for the ill. This is the real, important work.
T.V. and social media are these shiny lights that feed our brain and give it a momentary bit of pleasure. In essence, we’re getting our brain high…we’re giving it candy to keep us going.
It’s not just these things that distract us.
- Other people’s work. Don’t be down with OPW.
- Unclear priorities that result in us being pulled in a thousand different directions
It all can seem urgent and important when we’re not present and have clarity.
The question to ask yourself is: What’s my real work, watching other people’s lives or living my own?
Choose and Schedule What’s Important
Getting rid of the distractions requires new habits and staying focused on the necessary work. Here are some ways my clients and I find focus:
- Schedule fun time and relaxation. A client and I were discussing how we both tend to over-schedule ourselves. And the way I’ve been able to find time to relax is to schedule it. There’s a voice inside of me that says, “You need to be productive.” I wake up and often my first thoughts are of my task list for the day. So I tricked that over-anxious weirdo in my head by creating appointments for relaxation, either by exercising, reading, or a good ol’ fashioned 20 minutes of silence. The focus and productivity I get from this investment of time is invaluable.
- Define and choose your priorities. Nonprofits have a bad habit of having really broad mission statements that then equate to really broad jobs. Employees are trying too hard to fill these roles with any level of expertise. Have a tough conversation with yourself and with your boss around what is realistic for you. It’s time to end those job descriptions that require us to be good at bookkeeping, marketing, alligator hunting, and answering a constantly-ringing phone. Ridiculous.
- Summarize each day’s work and prepare for the next. At the end of each day, I take stock of my productivity with two simple questions: Did I get the right things done? How can I improve my work tomorrow? Those days that I leave my office most frustrated are those days that I let myself get distracted.
- Clean your desk. Don’t hold on to old projects or irrelevant research. Find a system to manage your files. A de-cluttered desk will de-clutter your mind.
- Choose better language. If you were in control of your schedule (which you need to be), instead of saying, “I don’t have time.” you would say, “I’m not able to invest my time in that right now.” “Unfortunately I’ve already chosen my priorities for this month that are helping me reach some new goals this year.”
The choice is ultimately yours: control your priorities AND your schedule or spend your time reacting to the lives of those around you. I’d love to hear how you’re working to create clarity and focus in your life! Hit me up on social media (but don’t spend too long there!).