DAY 22: you think YOU’RE busy? (part 5)

Posted: Jul 28, 2006

Blog

DAY 22 – I’m on a personal development kick, and have been spending my free time figuring out why I have no free time anymore… 

Take a hard look at this and be brutally honest with yourself.  I’m trying to do the same for me.  No games.  No coverups.  Here’s Steve’s advice on getting rid of the junk that wastes your time

Triage ruthlessly.

Use the trash can liberally. Apply the rule, “When in doubt, throw it out.” Cancel useless magazine subscriptions. If you have a magazine that is more than two months old and you still haven’t read it, throw it away; it’s probably not worth reading.

Realize that nothing is free if it costs you time. Before you sign up for any new free service or subscription, ask how much it will cost you in terms of time. Every activity has an opportunity cost. Ask, “Is this activity worth what I am sacrificing for it?”

In college I was downright brutal when it came to triage. I once told one on my professors that I decided not to do one of his assigned computer science projects because I felt it wasn’t a good use of my time. The project required about 10-20 hours of work, and it involved some tedious gruntwork that wasn’t going to teach me anything I didn’t already know.

Also, this project was only worth 10% my grade in that class, and since I was previously acing the class anyway, the only real negative consequence would be that I’d end up with an A- in the course instead of an A.

I told the professor I felt that was a fair trade-off and that I would accept the A-. I didn’t try to negotiate with him for special treatment. So my official grade in the class was an A-, but I personally gave myself an A for putting those 10-20 hours to much better use.

Ask yourself this question: “Would I have ever gotten started with this project, relationship, career, etc. if I had to do it all over again, knowing what I now know?” If your answer is no, then get out as soon as possible.

This is called zero-based thinking. I know a lot of people that have a limiting belief that says, “Always finish what you start.” They spend years climbing ladders only to realize when they reach the top that the ladder was leaning against the wrong building.

Remember that failure is your friend. So if a certain decision you’ve made in the past is no longer producing results that serve you, then be ruthless and dump it, so you can move onto something better.

This is good advice that I’ve never heard anywhere before.  I’m thinking I oughtta dump a few things right now…

There is no honor in dedicating your life to the pursuit of a goal which no longer inspires you. This is another situation where you must practice integrity in the moment of choice. You must constantly re-assess your present situation to accurately decide what to do next. Whatever you’ve decided in the past is largely irrelevant if you would not renew that decision today.

Identify and recover wasted time.

Instead of watching a one-hour TV show, Tivo it and watch it in 45 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials. Don’t spend a half hour typing a lengthy email when you could accomplish the same thing with a 10-minute phone call. Batch your errands together and do them all at once.

Trying to cut out time-wasting habits is a common starting point for people who desire to become more efficient, but I think this is a mistake. Optimizing your personal habits should only come later. Clarity of purpose must come first.

If you don’t have clarity, then your attempts to install more efficient habits and to break inefficient habits will only fizzle. You won’t have a strong enough reason to put your time to good use, so it will be easy to quit when things get tough. You need a big, attractive goal to stay motivated. The reason to shave 15 minutes off a task is that you’re overflowing with motivation to put that 15 minutes to better use.

It all comes down to figuring out what you want to do with your life and what you want to be known for.  Come people call it a legacy.  Some people call it a 500-year-plan.  I call it destiny, and for me, it’s music. It just took me a while to figure that out is all… 

I think if you get the highest levels of your life in order (purpose, meaning, spiritual beliefs), the lower levels will tend to take care of themselves (habits, practices, actions).

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