I’m working on a post about parenting. The working title is Every Mother Wants to be a Stay-at-Home Mom. On Her Terms.
I know what I want to say and I’m prepared to present my case, but I also want to encourage a conversation, influence perspectives, and do a little more research, so I’m taking some extra time to get it right.
In the meantime, I thought I’d write this. It’s not as provocative or definitive, but it’s immediately actionable and can save you precious time this year, and we can all agree on the value of that.
The word busy has become problematic because it’s an abstract term often used to validate doing too many activities, filling our time without a strategy, or a lack of understanding about why we are doing what we are doing and if it matters.
It’s a catch-all for feeling full or important.
But busyness is relative and expands to fill your life stage. It’s rare to become less busy. If you aren’t careful, busyness becomes an excuse for missing out on important moments and/or not getting what you want out of life. So, the goal isn’t to become less busy, but rather more conscious about how we spend our time.
With that, this is a very effective six-step method to be “less busy” or more time-conscious in 2019:
1. First, list your top 3–5 priorities this year.
2. Second, list your top 3–5 goals this year.
3. Third, list your top 3–5 people this year.
4. Combine lists.
5. Do a quick gut-check to see if your list feels right, is essential, or if anything is missing.
6. Then, eliminate any daily activities, roles, habits, or obligations that don’t contribute to your list.
If it’s not good for the list, it doesn’t make your calendar. It’s that simple.
For those of you who aren’t too busy to read on, here’s a little more color.
First, list your top 3–5 priorities this year.
These are the things that bring you the most joy, the highest return, that you can’t live without, and they rarely change. They are your Northstar and your “whys” — the reasons you get up in the morning, the reasons you want to improve. Your list may be longer, but try to limit yourself to five or fewer priorities that if taken care of, indicate a productive, intentional, well-lived year.
Second, list your top 3–5 goals this year.
When you think about looking back on this year, what achievements will be most memorable, what actions will be game-changers, what milestones will matter most? These are the goals that are foundational to your future. You know you must X if you ever want Y to happen. Again, try to limit yourself to five or less.
Third, list your top 3–5 people this year.
Maybe you said “family” or “partner” or “boss” (I hope not boss) on your top priorities. That’s fine, but since you have an opportunity here to list your people, try to omit people from your priorities list. The people are this list are those whose happiness matters more than your own, who you would give it all up for, who you would do anything to help them get what they want.
It’s trendy right now to quote “your network is your net-worth” and “you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” But part of the equation that it omits is you. You need to be someone that others want in their top five. That’s intense, right? Flashback to the fear of being picked last at recess so many years ago. You don’t have to market yourself, to pledge others groups, or to be everything to everybody, but you do have to show up authentically, consistently and confidently communicating who you are and what you value. Your people will get it. They will get you. They will pick you.
When you see your top 12–15 things together, does it feel right? Does it make sense? Does it paint a picture of who you are and who you want to be? Play with the words, maybe try a word cloud or a sketch or pretty fonts. When you see it all combined, do you want to give the page a big hug because it’s all the things you love best captured in one location? Or does it feel incongruent? At odds? Haphazard? Impossible? Like something is missing?
Trust yourself to know what doesn’t fit anymore, to assess what items on the list are blocking other items on the list, what isn’t a possibility for your future anymore. Maybe consider taking some things off the list and replacing them with something better or more relevant.
Then, eliminate any daily activities, roles, habits, or obligations that don’t contribute to your list.
If it’s not good for the list, it doesn’t make your calendar. It’s that simple…and that ruthless. How can you be expected to cut out so much? Before committing or recommitting, evaluate. Don’t wallow, don’t regret, consider if it’s “calendar-worthy.” Just like the cafeteria brownie is rarely “calorie-worthy,” you would never schedule a 55-minute Facebook scroll. Yet both can happen if you aren’t paying attention. If you need a cheat day or some free time, book it in, but don’t let it eat up precious time.
It should be circular — the more you invest in the list, the richer and more rewarding the activities, roles, habits, and obligations become because you’ll be living in alignment with your values, doing what matters to you. What is presented to you, either because the Universe knows, your people recognize, or you are cultivating it, is better for you and more effortless.
Over time, this process will become exponentially easier because you’ll see how much more productive, happier, and fulfilled you are when you stay in your zone. You’ll be able to quickly assess high-return activities and act on high-return opportunities without having to consult the list. It’s just a framework for trusting yourself and staying focused. Instead of filling your moments, you’ll maximize your time. See the shift?
What do you want now vs. what do you want most?
Answering that question will feel like a privilege instead of a limitation.
Finally, the length of time it will take to become focused and reap the benefits is directly proportional to the gap between what you are currently busy with and your list. The bigger the gap, the longer the time, and the greater the shift.