The Disconnect That Reconnects - Part 2
Welcome back! A couple weeks ago I wrote about how a few years ago I took notice of the time I spent on things that, in all honesty, truly didn't matter. After examination I found that I was spending, on average, two hours per day on useless things that were adding little to no value in my life. I further explained how I set yearly and daily goals to help me focus on the things I found important to my life. If you haven't read that blog yet, you can check it out here.
While setting the goals were great, I quickly found that daily distractions were making it difficult to finish what I needed to get completed. Things like text messages, email dings, social media notifications, unimportant tasks and many others were all competing for my time and attention. I needed to figure out how to cut those distractions out of my day.
So, what did I do? Well, I started by taking a page from a few other guys like Zig Ziglar and Dave Ramsey.
I began to start my day doing nothing. Now don't read too much into that and think that I didn't work or anything for the first few hours of the day. Here's what I mean by that. When I first woke, I noticed the first thing I scanned through was my phone. Of course, my phone was also my alarm and it was just natural to check the several Facebook notifications that magically appeared overnight. I noticed, though, that all those Facebook posts were people with a tear in their beer from the night before, someone of a certain political party posting a half true meme about the opposing political party, a cat video or seven, a completely untrue "fact" (which I now call "infauxmation") and someone telling me I needed to share a post to prove I loved Jesus. Before I even left my bed I was starting my day rolling my eyes in disdain, getting upset or feeling a bit self righteous, which were all things that distracted me from what was truly important in my day.
So, I trained myself to put my phone down. Yes. Trained. It was a habit. That little red dot with a white number inside letting me know that someone had taken enough time out of THEIR day to "like" or "comment" on something of MINE was like a drug that beckoned me to just tap on it and drink in the ego-stroking goodness that came with seeing another thumbs up on one of my posts, pictures or comments. Admit it. You're addicted, too. And it took time to tear myself away from my phone in those wee hours of the morning. I'll be honest: I don't have much willpower when I can barely hold my eyes open in the morning and struggle to place myself in a vertical position.
So, yes, I had to train myself. And I'm still not very good, but I'm better. I'm slow to rise still, but my hand rarely strays to those tempting social media notifications. Now, I spend those moments in prayer and reading. If you're not the praying or reading type, try meditating or simply sitting on the back porch watching the sun rise while sipping a hot coffee. Do something to clear and focus your mind and prepare yourself for the day.
In making this one tiny adjustment in my day I've noticed a change in my attitude. I begin work less "worked up". I've not already dealt with someone else's stress before 8:00 AM. Think about all the posts you see on Facebook. How many of them are friends griping or complaining? Even those political tongue-in-cheek memes that may even elicit a chuckle from you are designed to rile you up, even minutely. Sure, there are posts of kids, and cutesy stuff, but mixed throughout is post after post of stress-laden chaos in someone else's life. Giving up checking those notifications became a breath of fresh air in my mornings.
After my prayer and reading time and after I've sent my kids and wife off to their days, I move to my office and make out a list. This list contains anything and everything I would like to accomplish in the day. This ranges from any work related activity, chores around the house, hobby-type activities, and exercise among other things. Then I separate all those tasks into four groups, which I picked up from Dave Ramsey in his book Entreleadership (and he picked up from Dr. Stephen Covey). Those four groups are the following:
- Important and urgent
- Important but not urgent
- Not important but urgent
- Not important and not urgent
The first group is easy. These are the fires of the day. Those issues that pop up that, if not taken care of, could be devastating to your business, family, life, etc. The 4th area, "not important and not urgent" are usually pretty easy to identify. Things like most TV watching and checking your social media accounts fall into this category. However, sometimes these activities slip into the second or third categories.
Category three are some of the most annoying things to me. These "not important but urgent" activities include things like group texting with what feels like forty responses a second. Or emails from friends that just had to pass on another forward. That ding, ding, ding of your phone going off every time is demanding your attention for something that is literally a waste of time on most occasions. These activities scream URGENT and because of that they appear to be important. Sure, knowing when the fantasy football live draft is scheduled can be important, but not when I'm working on a time sensitive project or spending time with my family. At that moment, those text messages are stealing time away from what is truly important in that moment. In Part 3 of this blog series, I'll share how I worked to reduce these Category 3 interruptions throughout my day.
Which leaves us with Category 2: important but not urgent. These are things like exercising, date nights with the significant other, goal setting, building relationships, building your savings account, education and many other activities that impact your quality of life. All are very important things that are not necessarily urgent now, but if you fail to take care of them can become urgent. Choose not to exercise and eat healthy now? Then you may find yourself in the ER. Your health has now become important AND urgent. Choose not to save some of your money? Then when tragedy strikes or you lose your job, you may be wishing you hadn't drank so many lattes and instead stashed that money in an account. These are activities you need to be making time for in your day.
Your day needs to be filled with category two activities that add value to your life. Spending time with your family and friends. Managing your finances. Planning. Setting goals for your career and education. Reading a book by an expert in your field.
What sometimes happens, though, is we find that Facebook, Twitter and our DVR have slipped into the second or third categories. Activities that add little to no value to our life have suddenly become more important than reading to your kids. They've become more important than spending time with someone you love and creating memories. Checking the next status or binge watching a series is more important than going for a walk or a run. Looking at someone's vacation pictures is more important than getting that project completed.
And this is why I list out what I want completed each day. Once I've made my list, I separate each item into each of the four categories. I start with the first category and knock those out and then move to the second and begin tackling those. If I don't finish a task on my list, it goes on tomorrow's list. And if it's been on the list for a while and it doesn't become "important and urgent", it gets put on the goals sheet for the year or next year.
All of this planning takes me less than ten minutes each morning and is essential to my day. As I touched on in the last blog, this helps me focus to a pinpoint what I need to be doing today. Once I have finished making my list my work day begins. During my work day I have had to make several adjustments to keep distractions at a minimum, of which I will discuss in the next blog in this series.
As for now, I hope you learned something that you can apply to your life or have been encouraged to make positive changes in your life. Don't waste time on things that sap you of energy and ultimately add no value to your life. Live life to the fullest and make the most of every opportunity every day.
See you next blog!
Now you better understand the early mornings I spent reading, creating and enjoying quiet time. There was always a list written down, always a planner in my bag. Lists made on napkins and paper towels as thoughts came for fear I’d forget them if I waited to write them down. Even in retirement there is a plan with lists made so that things are remembered and accomplished. Lists and planners are kept so that I can look back and see what was accomplished on days when I think nothing is working out. Great article.