This week I was speaking to a good friend of mine who is doing really well in her job, but it’s not what she wants to be doing forever.
She has other interests she’s considering as potential career, but lacks the time to give it any attention.
“I’ve got all these books I want to read about finance and investing,” she told me, “which is what I’m really interested in, but my work is so stressful that by the time I get home, it’s late and my brain has turned to mush. The last thing I feel like doing is reading a book!”
This is a classic example of how most of our attention is often focused on the “urgent and important” stuff that comes up during the day. Emails, phone calls, clients, work deadlines, demanding bosses, etc all scream for our immediate attention. But if you think about it — in the long run, are they really “important”?
Now think about all the stuff that’s really important to you and your long term health and happiness.
It could be: a meaningful career, getting fit and healthy, going to the dentist, writing a book, taking up photography, spending quality time with your partner, calling your mum or travelling the world.
But how much time do you actually dedicate to these things?
Seriously, in the last 24 hours, how much time did you spend doing stuff that’s not urgent, but really important to you? And how much time did you spend doing ‘urgent’ stuff that’s really important to other people?
And this doesn’t just relate to people working 9-5. I go through the same thing in my business. It’s very easy for me to fill my day doing voice overs, writing emails, doing the podcast, preparing for meetings and presentations etc, which is all urgent and important stuff.
But the things that are really important to me include: writing in this blog, writing a book, creating online courses, going to hip hop classes, playing ukulele and spending more time with friends and family.
Now the problem is, it is SO EASY to push aside the important stuff. We tell ourselves we’ll get to it “someday”. And then decades later, we wonder why we still haven’t done all those things we wanted to do, and why we dedicated our lives to other people’s demands instead.
How you can fix it
I listened to a great podcast episode of the Good Life Project where host Jonathan Fields says:
“Do your work first before responding to the world.”
I also heard a similar mentality from Brendon Burchard on this episode on discipline. And I love this approach. Both Fields and Burchard suggest you work out what’s important to you, and then MAKE TIME for that thing FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.
Maybe you only have 30 minutes, maybe you have an hour — but you must do that thing FIRST before you allow yourself to be bombarded with emails, phone calls, demands, deadlines etc.
This is why I do my creative work first thing in the morning. I try to not look at email, my phone or social media before midday, because I know that if I do, I’ll spend the rest of my day responding and being reactive. And by the time I’ve dealt with all that, my brain is too mushy to get any quality creative work done.
So if you work 9-5, I highly recommend you get up earlier and spend that first part of your day doing your one important thing. Maybe it’s quietly reading a book, or going for a run, or writing for 30 minutes. Think about it as your ‘sacred morning time’.
And once you’ve done that, you can go about the rest of your day doing all your ‘busywork’, happily knowing that you’ve still done something for yourself that day.
And at work, get into the habit of NOT checking your email first thing. Block out that first hour, or two hours, to do the important project work undisturbed. Go hide in a meeting room if you have to. Those emails can wait, believe it or not.
The more you practice this, the more of a habit it will become. Then, those ‘someday’ things will finally become ‘today things’.
And how amazing is that :)