Sunday morning I was out for a walk with a dear friend who remarked that she desperately wished that she could pause the clock for a few days to get caught up. I found myself longing for the same thing. I imagined luxuriously checking tasks off my list, while the world was stopped around me…until it hit me.
There’s no such thing as “caught up.”
The sheer volume of stuff that comes our way increasingly defines the landscape of our lives. Between the projects, emails, meetings, requests and the laundry list of tasks required just to keep our lives running, of course we feel overwhelmed! And this doesn’t even begin to tackle the things that really matter to us.
Yet the conversation about productivity, amazingly, still centers around getting more things done. The idea that we can increase our productivity to the point that we can finally get caught up is a complete fallacy. There is quite literally no end to the number of unimportant things that we have to spend our time on.
Meanwhile, there truly are only a few things each day that are worthy of our finest attention. Being productive must be reframed from getting more done, to getting the right things done.
Begin by evaluating what outcomes you’d like to achieve—what’s important to you. I’ve found a simple daily exercise, done each morning, can help you identify your priorities amidst the onslaught of demands.
As the day begins, take a moment to imagine that you’re at the end of your day. You’re either closing down your computer at the end of work, or putting your head on your pillow at the end of the day.
Now ask yourself, “What would make me feel great about today? Which tasks, projects, and activities would make me feel gratified with how I spent my time?”
Let your mind wander and be open to whatever comes to mind. Submitting the project proposal that you’ve been putting off? Creating a detailed plan for the coming month? Perhaps it’s your workout, catching up with an overdue friend, or the 10-minute meditation you keep meaning to get to?
You’ll know that you’ve found your answers when you feel a sense of excitement and elation in imagining the end of your day.
Now pick just one or two of the activities that you imagined. Choose the ones that brings you most joy, or the ones that will be most impactful for you, your relationships, or your career. These are your top priorities for the day! If you get nothing else done, focus on completing these.
Clear your calendar, close your inbox, set your timer, and go. Rather than pausing the clock with vain hopes of catching up, use your time to move you towards your extraordinary future.