I was listening to the Propane Fitness Podcast the other day when I came across the following great insight. If you’ve not been introduced to the guys at Propane Fitness, they are Jonny and Yusef and they put out a regular podcast relating to all things health, fitness, training, lifestyle and self-improvement and they’re well worth a listen.
The particular snippet which caught my attention was only a brief quote from Yusef, relating to prioritisation. When working with a superior in a previous job, Yusef had noticed an Outlook notification pop up on his manager’s screen with a title to the effect of ‘***URGENT***’, ‘READ NOW’ etc.
He said to his manager, ‘Do you want to get that? It looks pretty important...’
To which, his manager replied, ‘I decide what’s urgent and what isn’t. Not them.’
This was only a passing comment in a much larger conversation but it really struck a chord with me. With the number of distractions around these days whether it’s radio, TV, print, social media or any other form, our attention is an extremely valuable commodity. What’s more, we as individuals are often selling it for well below its true value.
Let’s use Facebook as an example. We’ve all done it; we sit there on the couch, a cup of tea in hand, scrolling away. Before you know it 20 minutes have gone by and you’ve achieved nothing but looking at memes, dog/ cat videos and what someone you don’t speak to anymore is doing on the awful stag do of someone you don’t know.
You get the picture. Add Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat to the mix and you can easily blow an hour and a half and voila! Your attention has been bought and you’ve got nothing to show for it.
So what to do about it? Sell off all your worldly goods, burn off your fingerprints and go and live in a cave? Perhaps not. But perhaps the following is worth a try.
‘The Equaliser’ Approach
If you haven’t seen the old TV show or the more recent ‘The Equaliser’ movie with Denzel Washington, I suggest you give it a quick watch. The hero has some OCD tendencies and one of them is timing nearly everything he does (including smashing up bad guys, which is awesome).
This led me to an interesting experiment. For a week or maybe two if you’ve got the patience and want more accurate data, log how long your routine daily tasks actually take to complete. I’m talking about the essentials here – not scratching your arse or chatting about Game of Thrones or gossiping about Janet from accounts blatantly sleeping with Dave from sales after the office party. Stuff like:
Once you know how long your daily routine takes you, add the times up, multiply by 7 and subtract it from 168 hours. Whatever is leftover is the amount of time in your week that you can spend doing whatever you want.
Now think of something you’ve been wanting to pick up. Start a gym program. Learn a musical instrument. Underwater basket weaving. Whatever floats your boat.
I can guarantee, unless you are the real-life Equaliser (newsflash: you’re not) there is availability in your week to do whatever it is you dream of doing.
Just imagine how good it would feel to devote just a few hours a week to doing something which would make you genuinely happy. To watch your new skill or interest blossom over the course of time and to develop something for no reason other than your own will. Doing something entirely for your own benefit doesn’t make you selfish. It will make you a happier, more productive and better version of yourself and help keep you sane. It is entirely within your reach to do the things you want to do.
So be honest – are you really too busy? Or do you just not really want that thing you say you do? Those are your options when all is said and done.
As Yoda put it: “Do or do not. There is no try.”
Let me know how it goes for you, I’m keen to hear about people’s experiences with this.
Propane Fitness Podcast – Episode 48 ‘Productivity Demons: Search and Destroy’
Propane Fitness Podcast – Episode 53 ‘Distraction is Destruction – Your Smartphone is Sapping Your Life’