Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Mike Burns of The Other Side of Complexity.
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to’.” ―Lao Tzu
15 years ago, I was overwhelmed.
I was working a ton of hours, trying to establish myself in my career. I was juggling relationships with my wife, my 6 kids, neighbors, friends, family, and co-workers. My schedule was pretty cluttered. There was a lot of stuff going on, and not enough time to do it.
My intentions were good. My heart was in the right place. But my life was a whirlwind. I couldn’t catch my breath.
Something had to change. I knew I needed some help.
So, my family began a journey to figure out how we could manage our time well and focus on the things that were most important to us. This pursuit has lasted 15 years (and counting). And it has paid off tremendously!
I can’t say that every day goes exactly according to plan. That’s not even possible. But, I can say, with confidence, that we now live the kind of lives we want to live. We focus our efforts on those things we value most.
We still don’t get everything done. We drop the ball sometimes. But we’re headed in the right direction. We have close, meaningful relationships with people that we love and we’re using our talents and experiences to do things that (we think) have meaning.
Each person’s life looks different. What’s important to me may not be what’s important to you. The “plan of attack” for regaining control of our schedules won’t look the same.
However, if your schedule feels like it’s a bit out of control, there are some universal steps you can take to begin finding a tailor-made approach.
5 Steps to Declutter your Schedule and Live Your Desired Life
1. Acknowledge the fact that you can’t do everything.
We can only do so much. We have unlimited options, but limited resources. We have to make important decisions to eliminate some things. When we’re feeling especially productive and superhuman, we struggle to admit this reality. But, we can’t do it all. We have to remove the clutter.
Clutter is the stuff that interferes with the life we want to live. It slows us down from doing the things we value most. It’s that unnecessary stuff that we entertain, but doesn’t help us get where we want to go. And it needs to be removed.
2. Clarify what’s most important…to you!
The things that are important to you will affect how you make decisions and how you spend your days. If you don’t know where you’re going, why bother establishing a path? Before you start developing a plan, you have to know what you want to accomplish and what rules you will play by. You need a what and a why before you figure out how.
You’ll need clarity in at least 3 important areas:
- What kind of person do you want to be?
- What relationships are most important to you?
- What do you want to accomplish?
3. Determine what you have to do to live for those things.
Once you’ve identified your objective, you can begin to think about how you’ll get there. It is incredibly important to identify your goals and values. But if you don’t take the second step and think about your plan to live up to them, then they are only dreams.
You have to map out a route to your destination. You have to figure out the best way to be and do what you want to be and do. You have to determine what actions will be required and what tools you’ll need to accomplish them. If we don’t, we run the risk of just wandering around through life as a slave to our circumstances.
4. Say “no” to other stuff that hinders you.
It’s not enough to know what things you should do. You also have to get clarity on the types of things you should not do. We’ve already established that our time is limited. We will have to make choices about how we spend our time. We will have say “no” to some things so we can say “yes” to others.
Inevitably, we will face circumstances that could throw us off course and make us want to give up on our dreams. Sometimes, these hindrances are caused by unhealthy behaviors. Sometimes, they are caused by people who want to see us fail. Sometimes, they are caused by good things that aren’t best.
Regardless of what causes the hindrances, we have to pay attention to them and make some decisions about what activities need to get the boot!
5. Find what motivates you and use it.
Study yourself and figure out what makes you tick. What makes you come alive? What makes you feel human and reminds you that you are not just a robot with a job and a checkbook? What tugs at your heart? What reminds you of the things you value most?
It may be: listening to music, blogging, dancing, painting, singing, jogging, lifting weights, or something really random and strange that you just love to do.
It’s okay if it isn’t related to your “greater purpose” or if it even makes sense to other people. If it motivates you (and it’s legal), do it!
Life’s too short to spend our days in constant frustration.
Don’t allow things of lesser importance to rob you of the life you could be living. Take a good look at your life and be honest. Do the work and declutter your schedule. You can do this!
Mike Burns blogs at The Other Side of Complexity where he encourages others to live well and focus on what’s most important. His new book is Time Well Spent: Gain Control of Your Schedule and Live the Life You Want to Live. You can also connect with him on Twitter.