One thing I've learned in the year I've started our company, Radiate, is that a lot of you are busy. Actually, all of you.
I'm not sure what it is. Maybe it's the triple play of work, life, and social media. For some reason, we're so busy that now we have to schedule sleep into our calendars.
Why did all this happen? I think it's the Screen in Your Hand. A friend of mine told me that on a recent trip he left his phone in a friend's car and couldn't retrieve it until the next day. Suddenly, he had all the time in the world. Rather than feeling blessed, he said it was a frightening experience. One evening with nothing to do? May as well be stranded on the moon!
We all handle the busy craziness with varying degrees of success. I thought I was handling mine pretty well until my back gave out, forcing me into bed rest. That was a big learning experience which I'm still grateful for. Since then, I've been interested in different ways people organize their time and prioritize their lives.
One terrific way has been using a very simple phrase. I learned this trick from an equally busy person who said he came across it on a Reddit forum, the ideal platform for the ADD person. Basically, the next time you catch yourself saying, "I don't have time for..." replace those exact words with "Subject X is not a priority."
At first I was skeptical. How could this phrase help me prioritize?
And then I began to use it. The first instance had to do with exercising. Whenever I found myself muttering, "I don't have time to go to the gym," I'd replace that phrase with "Exercising is not a priority." I knew that wasn't true. And so I consciously made time to exercise. Now, I schedule it in like I schedule meetings because it is a priority.
The next was with my kids. Every time I said to my boys "I'm too busy to take you to the movies" or whatever else it was, I'd replace it with "Taking the boys to the movies is not a priority." Ouch. That sounded harsh. I sorted out what really was a priority and what wasn't. If I dropped everything all the time, I'd never get any work done. So "taking the boys to a movie" became a priority but things like "downloading the latest app to their phone" fell down the list.
The third scenario in which I used this trick was probably the most important: meetings. Even with the rise of social media, people love to meet for coffee. I like to as well. There just aren't enough hours in the day to grab coffee with all the people you meet. So you have to start saying no, but who wants to hurt someone's feelings? I'm always amazed by the people who can turn down requests for coffee and still look like the nicest person in the world. I always worry people will hate me.
But then I started to use this phrase. "Meeting for coffee to discuss X is not a priority." It really helped clear up what was important. I defined "not a priority" as any meeting that was neither urgent nor important at the time. I'd kick that meeting down the month. It didn't mean I didn't think the person was important but that the subject at hand was subsumed by other things.
I hope you find this phrase useful in your own life. Tell me your experience by commenting below.
And if you want to hear some clever time-saving tricks from people like Adam Grant, watch our Radiate video: