To discover and understand your purpose and to organize your life around it requires time . . . time to think about how you’ll manifest your purpose and time to reflect on your performance. Organize your time and your calendar to explicitly schedule in these activities.
A Tale Of Two Workers
This is a tale of two workers. Call them Tom and Tim.
Tom works hard. He’s busy all day. Here is a typical day for Tom. When he wakes up, Tom immediately reaches for his phone to check for messages and e-mails. Before he gets out of bed, his mind is already teeming with thoughts of what he has to do today. He gets up and rushes through showering and dressing for work. He skips breakfast — who has time? He’ll grab a fast food sandwich and a cup of coffee on the way to the office.
Once at the office, Tom checks his e-mail again, then his calendar. He has several back-to-back meetings scheduled. He also has a major project that is due by the end of the week but he hasn’t had time to work on it yet. Maybe he can get to it today. And oh yeah, there was that upset customer that called yesterday . . . he still needs to call her back.
And so it goes. An endless stream of e-mails, meetings, phone calls (and the occasional glance at his favorite news and sports sites). Tom didn’t start his day by saying, “Today, I’ll be at the whim of everybody who can reach me. My priority will be whatever hollers loudest.” At least, he didn’t say it with words, but that’s how this day — like most of his days — turns out.
By the end of the day, Tom is exhausted. He has gone full speed all day but has very little real progress to show for it. He puts the material for that project he never did get to into his brief case — he’ll try to work on it tonight at home.
Tim works hard, too. But his day is remarkably different from Tom’s. Tim knew last night that he wanted to be up by 6:00 AM today, so he was asleep by 10:00 PM. He wakes up without an alarm, having got about 8 hours of sleep. He gets up right away and goes to his quiet spot to meditate for 10 minutes. Afterwards, he does some gentle stretching, then takes a brisk walk for 20 – 30 minutes.
Back in his home office, Tim sets a timer for 15 minutes, sits down at his desk, takes out a fresh sheet of paper, and thinks. He contemplates his current goals and makes plans for attaining them. Some days, he takes a longer view, thinking and writing about his life purpose. Or he describes his ideal life. When he finishes, his mind is clear and he has a sense of connection to his higher purpose.
Tim feels in charge of his day. He showers, dresses and shares a healthy breakfast with his wife before he leaves for work. Tim has not checked his phone nor will he till he gets to work. He has trained the folks he works with that he answers e-mails at specific times throughout the day and he sticks to that schedule.
At the office, Tim reviews his calendar. He has blocked out a couple of hours when he will work on his most important task – a major project that is due in a couple of weeks. He quickly reviews his plan for today – he wrote it down last night before he left work – and checks his messages to determine if he needs to make any adjustments. Then Tim settles in to work on his #1 task for the day.
At the end of the day, Tim looks back over all he has accomplished. He jots down his plan for tomorrow, shuts down and closes his office. He heads home to spend the evening with his family.
Who Is In Charge (of your day)?
It’s evident that our friends, Tom and Tim, have vastly different approaches to their work. It is also evident that, although both are extremely busy – the reality for most of us – only one closes out the day having accomplished anything meaningful. At the end of his day, Tom is no better off – and probably a bit further behind – than when he started.
“Nobody ever looked at an empty calendar and said, ‘The best way to spend this time is to cram it full of random meetings!’ Nobody ever said, ‘The most important thing today is everybody else’s whims!’” [Knapp & Zeratsky] But unfortunately for many of us, this is how we operate by default. What we may be lacking is a fundamental knowledge of what we are working toward . . . we haven’t yet come to know our purpose.
You Need Time To Think
You need time to think and reflect to discover your purpose and to consider how to live it. When you jump from one shallow task to another, when you blow up your attention by constantly checking e-mails or messages or the latest social media posts, you fill your brain with “mental clutter”. When that happens, you reach a point where you can no longer filter out irrelevant information. [Whitbourne]
If you allow your life and all your time to be scheduled by other peoples’ priorities and other peoples’ problems, you’ll spend your days flitting from one squeaky wheel to the next. Begin to organize your time so that you have space for considering what is important to you.
To define what is important to you, to determine your purpose and to act upon it, you must consciously schedule in “thinking” time. You must clear up the mental and physical clutter that may be keeping you from making this a priority.
Important, But Not Urgent
“. . . cutting through the clutter can benefit your physical health and cognitive abilities. Start getting out that trash bag, whether virtual or physical, and you’ll soon feel better able to enjoy your surroundings while you think more efficiently and cleanly.” [Whitbourne]
If you completely fill your day with work that is important to other people, you’ll never get to the things that are important to you. Recall Dr. Stephen Covey’s illustration of the professor putting big rocks into a jar before he added gravel, sand, and water.
To get to your “big rocks”, you must make them a priority over other tasks that seem urgent but are less important. When you do your planning (you do plan, right?), schedule in time to think . . . about your purpose, your goals, your ideal life. Slow down and look at these things – else you may find your life whizzing by and yourself unable to focus anywhere very long. Clear up the mental and temporal clutter so you can pay attention to the things that are important to you, but not necessarily urgent.
Refine Your Life Management
Do you need to re-evaluate and perhaps refine your own approach to managing your time and your calendar? Perhaps you have some mental clutter to clear up? If you do, here is one way to tackle it.
Observe how you are currently structuring (or not structuring) your day.
What is one thing you believe is hampering you in taking time to think about your life’s purpose? What could you stop doing that could make a difference? Or what is one thing you could start doing that would be an improvement? If you need a boost to get started, review the work styles of Tom and Tim in the opening paragraphs.
Now, what will you stop? When and how? Do that.
Or what will you start? When and how? Do that.
Did your change make a difference? How? Or if it didn’t, why not? Evaluate your results and determine if you need to refine your new practice or if maybe you need to try something different.
Schedule Time To Think
To discover and understand our purpose requires uninterrupted thinking time. To organize our lives around our purpose requires time to plan purposeful activities and time to reflect on our performance.
Living on purpose doesn’t happen by accident. It needs thoughtful consideration and that requires time. But the result is well worth the effort. In fact, it is how you embrace the Excelerated Life™!
Excelerated Organization™ — being clutter-free and well-enough organized — able to find what you need when you need it — is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.
Knapp, Jake and John Zeratsky. Make Time: How To Focus On What Matters Every Day. New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2018
Whitbourne, Susan Krauss. “5 Reasons to Clear the Clutter out of Your Life.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, LLC, 13 May 2017. Web. 18 July 2019.