This will go live on Christmas Eve, so if you’re finding this at release, I hope your Christmas is beautiful, meaningful and full of joy. And I hope your new year brings all the things you truly want!
That’s what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks…the things you truly want. Two weeks ago we talked about creating a list of five commandments to live by. These are the things you want your life to be centered around. They’re a decision framework for what really matters to you.
Last week we talked about what drives our actions, is it urgency or importance? I mentioned that I wondered where my time really goes and I committed to tracking it for a few months. I want to see if I’m spending it on the things I say I want to be spending it on. And I promised a week of results today.
Well, I did it. And here’s a few things I learned.
I learned that this is a stupid season to track time. Nothing’s normal. My work is really slow the last few weeks in December, so I don’t get a realistic picture of how many hours I’m working. And with the holidays, there are a million extra things that don’t happen any other time of the year. School events, extra-curricular things, parties, family activities, shopping…all this adds up to very skewed time tracking.
But, it was still valuable.
I learned how much time I spend on this podcast, which is really helpful for planning purposes. I learned how much time I’m spending writing for my other projects. I learned how much time I spend driving…which is a ridiculous amount considering I work from home.
I learned that the way I’ve divided up my activities to track was only partially helpful. I realized I have a category like a kitchen junk drawer. You have one of those, right? That place where everything that you have no idea what it is or when you’ll need it or where it goes…gets put. Everything from paper clips to plastic pieces that look like they’re important but probably came from a vacuum cleaner that died ten years ago. I have an activity category like that called household. So much junk got put in that category that it became not very useful.
I was also reminded how the act of tracking something makes you so much more intentional about it. Tracking the food you eat makes you much more mindful of what you put in your mouth. It’s a built-in self-accountability. Accountability-lite if you will. There’s something about knowing you have to write it down or enter it into an app that makes you stop and think about it. Tracking time makes you realize when you’re drifting from what you need to be doing. Just because of tracking, I made more intentional choices.
I realized how much brain drift I’m subject to. Cal Newport in the book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, talks about the idea that if you spend enough time in a state of frenetic shallowness, you permanently reduce your capacity to perform deep work. Permanently! Frenetic shallowness is a perfect description of last week’s box 3 - the urgent but unimportant box on our matrix. Living life in response to your inbox, social media addiction, or technology addiction, in general, is a sobering example of frenetic shallowness. I’ve noticed in the last few years that the hit of dopamine I feel when I receive a notification on my phone has created habits that have reduced my attention span and ability to focus. So, for about six months, I’ve been working to eliminate distractions and stop multi-tasking. It’s improving. Tracking time this week has helped me realize that I’m doing better than six months ago, but I still have work to do.
Those are some lessons I learned from tracking my time. Now what? What do I do with that information? Here’s our basic outline so far.
What we’re interested in are the gaps. If there’s no gap…if you’re doing exactly what you should be doing to create the life you want, then awesome! Amazing! Why are you not doing a podcast I can listen to?! Come back in February when we’ll be on another subject unless you just like to listen to my voice. In that case, it’s fine. Really, though, that’s wonderful if you are.
If, however, you’re like most people, there are likely to be some gaps. My five commandments are: love God, prioritize people, spend intentionally, choose health, practice gratefulness. I found when I thought about it that last year at this time I was struggling spiritually but strong physically. I was doing a great job of choosing health and a poor job of loving God. The last six months, I’ve totally fallen off the wagon health-wise. My training group split up, I’m making bad food choices, I don’t have consistent sleep habits and I’ve gained a significant amount of weight. However, I’m in a much better place spiritually than I was a year ago. I will say some commands are more important than others. If I have to choose between love God and choose health, I’m making the right choice right now. But generally, I don’t have to choose between them.
I have two gaps. I’m not choosing health and I’m not spending intentionally.
Choose health is on my commandment list because it makes all the other things possible. I feel wretched when I’m not eating right, exercising and sleeping well. It impacts my ability to do what I want to do with my life. And I also don’t want to buy a new wardrobe, so I need to get the health thing under control. For me, right now, this is the biggest gap I found.
Spend intentionally means to me that I’m stewarding my resources well. I’m putting my time, talents and money into the things that matter - into the other commandments, into loving God, prioritizing people and choosing health. Tracking my time was also about being able to get my arms around how I’m doing stewarding my time with the intent to figure out if I could do all the things that I want to do next year or if I need to eliminate some of them. Am I overcommitted? Or, just undisciplined? I’m not getting any rest right now…emotional and mental breaks. How can I work that in? Plus, I’ve gotten away from my financial budget in the last few years and I need to fix that, too.
Looking forward to next year, these are the two gaps between what I say is important to me - my 5 commandments and what I’m actually doing. These are the places I’m going to be working to make change happen. Choose health and spend intentionally.
When you take an honest look at your five commandments and at your actions, your current lifestyle, where are the gaps? What changes do you need to make, in a broad sense? I’m not asking you to write SMART goals right now, I’m asking you to decide in a general sense, where are you not living like you really want to? Not, where are you not living up to someone else’s expectations…where are you not living up to what YOU know to be important to make your life worthwhile?
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