If you fail: try, try again. But if you try the same approach over and over again, why are you expecting success? Brut force will only get you so far, especially when trying to do more with less. It’s a short term strategy at best. It’s time to make room for success.
If you’ve admitted you need to make room, congratulations. You have taken the critical step of looking closely at what you are trying to do and the unrealistic expectations of cramming one more thing into that already bloated calendar. You recognize it’s better to be excellent at a few things than mediocre at many. Now that you have the right mindset, it’s time for action.
Make Room for Success: Action Steps
What lies ahead are two challenges. These action are designed to make space for what is important – your success. Whether you’re looking to add an important project to your already full life, or you find you are not making progress on an existing one, these challenges will shed light on your obstacles and give you a way through.
Action Step 1: Close the Door
When I need to do some deep thinking, I close the door to my office. I don’t want distractions from what’s already in front of me. In this first action, I’m asking you to close the door to your already full calendar, to-do list, or any other list of responsibilities. Stop adding more to your overwhelm. How?
Stop saying yes.
There are volumes written about saying no. Right now I don’t want you to go into your past to uncover the cause, I simply want you to stop saying yes to everything. Remove yourself from all ‘must say yes’ situations. Is there a co-worker, friend, or family member who has a way of getting you involved in their objectives?
Are you a marketer’s dream who acts on cue? How many free webinars have you signed up for recently? How about those newsletters you get but don’t have time to read? What about that fun run that your co-worker is doing and convinces you to join?
Stop putting yourself in those situations and you’ll say yes less often. It’s not that any of these are bad things, but right now you need to be laser focused on what success means for you. It’s ok to say no. Or at least stop saying yes. Be honest. Tell anyone that asks for your time, ‘Thanks, but right now I’m laser focused on this project.’
If saying no is closing the door, this action is the deadbolt lock. One of my clients was so committed to closing the door, he created a gate or check-point all requesters had to go through. He created an automatic response to every email and voicemail he received. In it he outline his criteria for things that would get his attention. Everything else was delegated or simply ignored. It works for him. If you’re ready to be fierce, give it a try.
Action Step 2: Remove the Nonessential
Now that you’ve stopped the steady stream and closed the door, it’s time to take a good look at what’s already in the room. Most likely you’ll find both essential and nonessential activities. Not everything belongs on your list. We want to remove as much of the nonessential as possible, leaving you with only those things that have impact on your success.
What is essential? It’s what’s absolutely necessary for you to achieve your goals. Everything else is nonessential.
The Lens of Essentialism
It’s time to hold up the lens of essentialism to everything on your list. Look at both ongoing and one-time activities that live on your calendar, your to-do list, even in your inbox. Be as honest as possible when looking at the time you spend everyday.
If you don’t have a clear picture of how you spend your time, keep a log for at least 3 days. Break it down in 30 minute blocks and write exactly how you spent the time. If you are not honest, you are only fooling yourself.
Ask yourself, ‘what would happen if I didn’t do this task?’ The answer will give you insight into how essential it is to your priorities and success.
Stop Nonessential Activities
Sometimes it’s difficult to admit how much nonessential activity we allow into our precious lives. It usually starts small and harmless, but adding up to dangerously lethal doses over time. Don’t despair. Here are a few statistics about how we spend our time that may give you an idea of where your nonessential time is spent:
- The average American watches 5 hours of TV a day, 1,825 hours a year;
- Commuters spend an average of 42 hours per year in traffic;
- Social Media claims 118 minutes per day of our time, over 717 hours per year.
Shall we add that up? 2,584 hours every year, or just over 7 hours per day, 365 days per year. Ouch!
I’m not saying you have these habits. You may not categorize this as nonessential. My point? Small amounts of nonessential time throughout the day add up. Time you are NOT spending on what you have identified as essential.
Reverse Nonessential Commitments
What happens if you’ve already committed to something and it doesn’t hold up to the essential criteria? It’s time to be brave and reverse your commitment.
One of my favorite exercises is to look at things that are already on my list…things I’ve committed to and ask myself: if I were asked to do this right now, would I say yes? If the answer is no, it’s time to reverse my commitment. I consider the impact of reversing my commitment and if I’m able to accept the consequences, I go back to the requester with an honest explanation of how I’m focusing on my essential work right now and this doesn’t fit my current objectives. I’m sure there’s someone else who does have it on their essentials list and wouldn’t that be the better person to do it?
If you’ve cringed at any of these challenges, you’re in the right place. Change is difficult. Especially significant, meaningful changes in our perceptions and behaviors.
What are you willing to do to be successful? What are you willing to give up? Stop doing? Let go of?
In the final part of this series I’ll share with you the aftermath of making these changes. It’s not always easy nor pretty.