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16 Jul 2016
When I sent out a survey to my readers not so long ago, I wanted to understand how I could best support the ridiculously smart people who look to me for guidance. I wanted to know what makes you tick or not tick and how I could help you tick better.
One result in particular stood out:
I am too busy. I don’t have the time to take action on my goals. Maybe I’ll do it later.
That is the greatest obstacle—as reported by you, my esteemed readers—to your happiness. As I’ve discussed, it is just that: an obstacle. Lucky for us, that means it’s surmountable. The mindset of “I’m too busy to focus on my goals” is easily overcome with the help of some inspiration, organisation, time management and action.
Of course, positive thinking will help (it always helps!) but focus on doing. That’s right. Do. When the busyness of your daily life shuts down the progress you want to make toward your goals, you are stuck in inaction. You are letting your thinking stop you from making progress, from taking risks, from working toward dreams-come-true greatness. Adding more action will amplify your efforts, and make the most of all your positive thinking.
Here are 9 tips (plus some bonus expertise…you’re welcome) to ensure that your busy is bountiful:
Chilli and chocolate. Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Crazy Stupid Love. Kip & Co. All good combinations. How can super combos support your goals? I combine exercise and a commute, podcasts and preparing meals, walking while chatting with my folks.
Yes, you caught me: I know I write about the importance of focus… and not multitasking and… being present. However, there are some peanut-butter-and-jelly-like combos that will give you lots of energy. You may find that listening to a digital book inspires long, inspirational walks that leave you spiritually and physically lighter.
Awareness is power. Think about it. Why don’t you have time? Which habits are distracting and not serving you? How are you spending time in ways that are not supporting your goals? Where are you least productive and most prone to interruptions? And why? Consider tracking your busyness for a day or two to see where you experienced black holes in your time (you know, those minutes or hours that seem to have disappeared).
Now, how can you reframe how you are spending your time? For example, your job might keep you extremely busy, but after examination, you may find opportunities to create and reserve time so you can concentrate on your goals.
For most of us, it’s difficult to find a free hour or two during the day (or night, for that matter) to dedicate to something new.
Your “free time” is like an unfinished crossword puzzle. The openings are here and there, and you need to be smart to fill in the open spaces.
I have to boast, I’m a pro at this. I even carry around printouts of relevant articles I want to read, so that when I have five or 10 minutes to spare I can dive in and learn. It’s like research on the go. Sure, you can read articles on your phone, but if you’re like me, you don’t find the experience of squinting and hunching to read on your phone very enjoyable. Plus, you won’t be tempted by the siren song of social media!
Don’t be afraid to break big actions down into small actions. You can carve some unexpected chunks of time out of your day, and make the most of each minute. Instead of grumbling about someone being late, think of it as a gift; you now have time to read or learn or make phone calls or develop ideas. Small steps of progress eventually equate to giant leaps closer to your goals.
I am rebuilding my website, the one you happen to be reading right now. The designer had a lot of questions for me, so I carried around a print out of the questions I needed to answer. When I got a second, I would jot my thoughts down one question at a time, which made it easier later.
To help set you up for success, write a list of things you can do if you had 1 minute, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 30 minutes, an hour. Next time you get stuck in a waiting room, you’ll be ready to jump into action.
The power in small, deliberate actions is unbelievable!
If I have a spare minute, I spend it re-energising with some dancing, commenting on a blog by someone I admire, connecting with someone on Linked In or giving my partner a one-minute, love-filled hug (You can check out my list of 41 things you can do to build confidence and re-energise).
Remember, you don’t want to become busy being busy. You want to be productive, and you want to take action toward your goals. But you don’t want to overdo it. I’d recommend alternating your productive spare moments with breathing and recharging.
My business, The Top Five Movement, is a perfect example of a side project that has built up momentum with small deliberate steps. A few years ago, I was stuck in inaction with this business. I was paralysed by too many ideas and no focus. So I enlisted the help of a coach and set a feeling-based goal to grow The Top Five Movement enjoyably and passionately. My coach, Julie, asked me to “brain dump” all of the options and ideas I had for growing the movement. This really let me capture all my ideas—nearly 50 of them—and get them out of my head and onto paper. Then Julie had me identify which five I would focus on. Just five! I then listed the steps I needed to take for each focus. And when I didn’t know what to do, the action I set was to learn what to do.
Focus was just what I needed. By setting my goal as “passionate and enjoyable,” I took away the urgency or pressure I was feeling about growing the business. Since then, I have launched two sites, multiple products, spoken at universities and businesses like Apple and coached incredible women on their goals. All on the side. All thanks to focus.
One of my favourite tools for maximising time is the Pomodoro Technique. It’s 25 minutes solely focused on a single task. I know what you are thinking: How much can you actually accomplish in 25 minutes? So I challenge you: Try it. Remember, it’s 25 minutes of uninterrupted productivity focused one task. It’s not 25 minutes of distracted, disrupted effortless whimsy. Concentrate!
A couple of things happen when you do. You might love it. You might love it so much that you look for more 25 minutes opportunities. You may begin to shift your priorities, smash distractions, lose unserving habits with ease—all because you saw the power of 25 minutes. I look at my own Top Five habit here: Taking a few minutes each day to reflect on positive moments has led to a collection of more than 10,000 positive memories and a movement.
Greatness is just 25 minutes away.
I look at advice, pearls of wisdom, routines and tips as being tools. You need these kinds of tools to get the result you want. But not all tools are going to work for you. Some you just won’t like, some will become uncomfortable as you learn and grow, and others will inspire you to use them again and again.
Savour the ones that work, but toss the ones that don’t. Recognise that you can do anything—but not everything. Make sure those anythings are making your life better or easier or more satisfying.
It just wouldn’t be a blog post from me without a bit of positive thinking. So, here goes:
Life has lots of layers and complications and potential distractions. It might be the worst time to do something, or it actually might be the very best time to do it. We often think of reasons not to do something, but what about focussing on ALL the reasons why you should take action.
Sometimes the toughest work is in the thinking—not the actual acting.
When you say yes to yourself and your goals, it means making a commitment to setting some supportive, smart and exciting boundaries to create space for action.
Know what you want, know how far you want to go, how much time you are willing to put in, know what you are willing to sacrifice (and not sacrifice). When it comes to prioritising your goals, you are in charge. Make sure you know your limits.
There is so much enlightening information and expertise about this topic. I wanted to share some of my favourite bits of wisdom from some of my favourite experts.
People often say that it’s not about having time—but about making time. So let’s make some time. Which of these tips/tools can you take and put into action right now? Share a comment below and let me know!