I love the parable of the blind men and the elephant. A number of them encounter an elephant they each reach out and touch one part of it and argue over what they think it looks like until they realize they are all right. I think this applies throughout our lives. We often disagree with others but we are often both right, or at least have good reasons for backing up our opinions. I also think it applies to advice, we all get a lot of advice and I think it is all valuable, but it is often only one part of the elephant, so I'd like to systematically review advice and add to my picture of the elephant that it is. Today I'll look at the advice from a TEDTalk on time management.
Laura Vanderkam - How to gain control of your free time
What she says:
- Many people try to shave off time here and there to fit in more things (i.e. fast forward commercials)
- She doesn't think striving to shave time is the right approach, she thinks we should choose what's important and having the time will take care of itself. She gives the example of someone with a busy lifestyle that has a flood at their house. Resolving it takes 7 hours out of the persons week. She many people don't think they could find 7 hours a week to exercise or meditate or whatever, but when you have to you just do.
- Her big take away is when we say "I don't have time" we are saying "It's not a priority"
- How do we realign our priorities?
- For work pretend it's the end of the year and write up your ideal performance review, listing all the things you accomplished.
- At home pretend it's the end of the year and write up your ideal Christmas letter, saying all the great things you did this year.
- From these future write ups get 6-10 goals for your year
- Break them down into manageable tasks
- Week by week take some time to plan out your goals for the next week. She recommends doing it on Friday afternoon when you're a bit drained from the week but willing to assign tasks to your future self for next week.
- She says we all get 168 hours a week, and she thinks if we look closely we'll see we've got probably 50-60 we could be using better, i.e. towards our priorities.
So, let's unpack this. She says
1) Things we already know - we make time for 'must do' activities, example, emergencies.
2) Gives us tips we won't do - write out our priorities and just do them.
This is like that email forward about the rocks and sand in a jar, do the important things first. The part about changing "I don't have time" to "It's not a priority", is I've suggested taking 'lazy' out of your vocabulary and replacing it with "It's not important enough for me to do right now"
I think Tony Robbins does a better job of this when he describes 'musts' and 'shoulds', and I think Kelly McGonigal does a great job outlining why we'd fail in The Willpower Instinct.
So overall it's nothing we haven't covered yet on the site (no new insights) but a nice reminder, it might spark your memory or finally push you to taking action. Personally, I like the specific examples of how to pull your priorities out of your brain with those year end reviews ahead of time, I might add those to the list of things you can do. I also like how she simplifies the categories down to three things Career, Relationships, Self. The goal setting program I did recently had a lot more categories and was a lot more complicated.
One great life hack I've come across to help you hold yourself to your priorities is to have a computer call you every night to ask you to rank yourself on those goals you pre-set for yourself. Below the TEDTalk is a video about it, and here is a link to a robot service that will do this for you, there's even a free two week trial. www.triggersdigital.com
I'm using it and I'm really finding it makes a difference for the little things you can overlook, those medium size rocks that can get neglected and left off your year end reviews. You know what, I'm going to put this video on top because I think you might be better off watching it that the TEDTalk, it's more focused but it's a technique that might help you with everything else.