If you make one resolution this year, make it this one:
to spend your time on things that are truly worthwhile.
This means eliminating more things from your life that matter least,
and focusing on the things that you choose to focus on.
Decide on the compelling causes* you want to pursue this year – at work, at home, in your community. Choose a vital few things that will make a difference that matters to you, so you know where to focus your effort and commit your energy.
Choose when to take calls and when to use voicemail. Choose when to check your email and when (the time of day when you are at your best – often early to mid-morning) to leave it. Decline meetings that have little value or no clear agenda. Turn off alerts from LinkedIn, Facebook, Quora, Twitter, Instagram, and the news.
End each week by reviewing the outcomes you want for the next week. Then schedule the main activities into chunks of your days ahead. End each day by scheduling tomorrow’s vital activities around fixed commitments – and make those activities into new commitments.
If you cleared your inbox, tidied your workspace, and got up to date on your admin before the holidays…
Fabulous! Now keep it that way.
Make a list of all the time bandits that steal your time by interrupting or distracting you. Once you have consciously made a list (put it in your notebook and mark the page), you will be better able to resist their seductions. Make a courteous but firm N.O. – a Noble Objection** that says ‘I choose to prioritise what is most important’.
Seth Godin’s fabulous book, The Dip, introduced me to the profound idea that we often do too many things that are worthwhile. Those of us who excel do so because we know when to drop things that are important and worthwhile, to make time to truly master something else that is even more important and worthwhile. Dropping unimportant stuff is easy. This is hard and therefore even more valuable.
It’s easy to get annoyed, frustrated, angry, or upset by the thoughtless, stupid, careless and selfish things other people do. It may even be reasonable. But it is not wise. However you feel, people will carry on doing that stuff anyway. So your destructive emotions serve no purpose. Rise above it. Accept it will happen, and get on with being as good a person as you can, and focusing on what matters to you.
You will enjoy your work, hobbies, social and volunteering activities more when you give them everything you have, set yourself demanding targets, constantly track your progress, and have a clear purpose in mind before you start. Even when they are mindless, mundane admin tasks. Flow states are described by author Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, as causing ‘a sense of deep enjoyment that is so rewarding people feel that expending a great deal of energy is worthwhile simply to be able to feel it.’
There are lots of tips to avoid procrastination. The simple fact is that they all amount to ways to help you to exert your will over your desire. If it matters, choose a technique and get on with it.
Focus takes effort. So set time aside to recharge your batteries with good quality rest, relaxation and recreation. Also keep your diet in tune with your desire to focus: good quality food***, savoured and enjoyed. Finally, also take time to reflect on what you are achieving and learning as you go. Reflection and mindfulness are the route to serenity and wisdom. (But be warned: it is not necessarily a short journey.)
This is the central idea of Chapter 1 of my book, Powerhouse.
The world is full of opportunities. Turn the right ones into compelling causes that you will totally commit yourself to. ‘To defend everything is to defend nothing’. Figure out what really matters and make it your mission.
The idea of a Noble Objection as a way of saying ‘No’ is a core concept of my best-selling book, The Yes/No Book.
Lots of people asked me if my books are available in audio book format, so, as an experiment, I have recorded an unabridged version of The Yes/No Book for download.
You can get it from Gumroad and, if you use this special New Year offer link, you can get it at less than half price.
Are you like me – often in search of stimulating new ideas? Then you will love the Radio 4 in Four webpage – full of intelligent timewasting snippets from Radio 4’s output – all four minutes or less.
One of my favourite programmes of last year was an audience with Michael Pollan – a clip of which is on that site, titled Seven Words to Change your Life.
In this, Pollan summarises all of the research findings on healthy eating into four words: ‘eat food, not too much, mostly plants’. Listen to the clip to learn more about what constitutes food.