If you didn’t pass the driver’s test with flying colors, don’t despair. Most people don’t. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the workforce, leaders and entrepreneurs are perennially “busy” without getting much done aside from managing the constant fires that steal away each and every day.
So you’re not alone. Ironically amidst a culture of drivers, there are plenty of passengers. So how can we get the wheel back? Here’s an extremely simple but powerful roadmap that will build momentum each day until the constant fires are a distant memory.
Pay attention to your inner and outer grump – Seriously. Pay attention. Are you present right now while reading this post or are you distracted? The first and perhaps most important step in getting the reigns back is to be more aware of what is actually happening and turn the autopilot off. We get so used to the comfort and consistency of Groundhog Day, that each day comes and goes with our only awareness of discontent showing up as an end-of-day funk, or need to “tune out”.
Be mad, be frustrated, want more and use it as fuel to increase your awareness of what is happening throughout the day.
Now that you are paying attention, it’s time to follow the “Why Train.”
Why are you happy?
Why are you frustrated?
I want you to think about your emotions and thoughts related to your most recent day. Think about your schedule, your clients, colleagues, etc. Write about what made you happy and what made you grumpy and then follow the why chain on both the positive and negative side of your emotions.
Why did that meeting make you mad? Because it wasted time...
Why does wasting time make you angry? Because I have better things to do that I don’t get to...
Why does that make you angry? Because I will never get that promotion and make more money if I’m always chasing my tail...
Why does chasing your tail make you angry?
You get the idea. You keep asking the question until you arrive at the most fundamental answers that indicate the roots of why you are so damn grumpy. These frustrations will also provide great insight into what you need to focus on to feel fantastic and aligned with your mission and your day, but we will get to that later.
The devil is in the details – now it’s time to dive into the details. I find that using a good old fashioned ruled notepad is the best way to complete this exercise. Essentially, you need to keep track of everything you do for a single day. Write down the exact time that you start each task and track every chunk of time (email, social, distractions, everything). By the end of the day, you should have a sheet or two of start and stop times and descriptions of what you did. Don’t judge it, don’t feel pressure, just keep track of everything during the day.
Once you have your log of the day, it’s time to review. Don’t judge, don’t get upset, just look at it. How much time was spent on the most important stuff? And by important stuff, was it important to you and not just someone else? How much time was wasted? How much time was spent checking email or in meetings?
Your next move is taking the awareness from steps 1-4 to plan tomorrow. Look at your schedule and build a plan for how you are going to focus on the right stuff, gain some wasted time back and setup your day to focus on what’s important. Focus less on the things that make us lose our energy and momentum. I know you can engineer a day to be awesome, and productive if not at least better than before. So how many of those can you string together?
Awesome intentional days become weeks, weeks become months, months become years and years become exciting careers. Devote one day to this exercise and post your questions or comments. Just not while you’re driving of course. Once you get into this, you’ll have your hands back on the wheel.