My heart is racing a bit as I begin to write this article. Usually, I’m pretty excited when I sit down to write because I’ve had some revelation, epiphany, or discovery I can’t wait to share with you.
Today is different, though, because my epiphany this week is not about how to create a better workplace, or some insight to help you become more amazing at what you do. It’s about me.
Do you have a little voice inside your head? You know, the one that tells you the truth no matter what? Maybe it nudges you when you read or hear something that you really need to pay attention to. And if your little voice is as annoying as mine, it often says “See, I TOLD you so!” when you should have listened to it, but didn’t.
My little voice has been whispering to me for a loooong time now to write a book. And by a long time, I mean years.
It pokes me when I write some of these articles, telling me “That would fit nicely into that book you haven’t written yet.”
It encourages me when someone tells me how much they enjoy my writing. “Go go go, you can do it!“
When anyone tells me I should write a book, it winks at me at says “I’m not so dumb after all, now am I?“
Well, in the past few weeks, my little voice stopped whispering. Instead, it found a two-by-four and started whacking it against my brain while screaming “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR????“
I had a basketball coach in junior high that used to yell at me the same way, minus the two-by-four. At first I was hurt, thinking I didn’t deserve such treatment. Then my wise dad (who, at that time was younger than I am right now), told me that I shouldn’t worry when the coach was yelling at me because it meant he saw potential in me. Instead, I should worry if the coach ever stopped yelling at me because that would mean that he had given up on me. He also told me that when the coach yells at me, I need to listen and do what he says.
I’m afraid my not-so-little-anymore voice will stop yelling at me, so I’ve decided to listen to it and do what it says. I’m just glad it’s not telling me to sell all my possessions, shave my head, and move to a cave in the hills of Kentucky.
Here’s my biggest obstacle (i.e., excuse): I don’t have time to write a book. I run a business, I have a staff to manage, I have workshops to conduct, I have a newsletter to write each week, I have paperwork to do, I have marketing work to do, I have a family that actually likes to spend time with me, I have a wife that deserves more date nights, I have two dogs to feed, I have parents to visit, I have _______ (insert one of a thousand other things here).
I’ve mentioned this quote from StoryPeople, one of my favorite art collections, before, but it applies so well to me right now I’m going to use it again:
“Everything changed the day he figured out there was exactly enough time for the important things in his life.“
My little voice stole that quote and has been using it on me a lot lately.
It’s the “everything changed” part that scares me. To write a book requires my life to change. I have to change how I spend my time. I have to change how I manage my staff. I have to change where I place my focus almost every single minute of every single day. I’ll be honest with you, I’m no better at accepting change than anyone else. But I’ve let my resistance win too long.
My little voice recently led me to read two books by Steven Pressfield, Do The Work and The War of Art. The message I received from these books was clear. I can’t let resistance win. And I need to stop creating my own resistance.
Starting today, I am removing every obstacle that stands between me and the important things in my life, namely writing a book. And the first obstacle I’m removing is busyness. Part of my recent epiphany is that I keep myself busy to avoid taking on something big, something important. If I stay busy, I simply don’t have enough time. Convenient excuse, huh?
Here’s the hard part to admit: I have busied myself with stuff that I have told myself is important, but it’s really not. So here’s my starter list of things I’m cutting out to make time for the truly important stuff:
1. Spending time on facebook, twitter, LinkedIn, and all other social media. Gasp! That stuff is IMPORTANT! Bullshit. It’s not important and you know it. It keeps you and me both from getting truly important stuff done. Yeah, even “business” use. I don’t hate social media. It’s just not as important as its proponents and heavy users think it is. Listen to people that defend it. They sound like addicts.
2. Staring at my computer for no reason. I’m an explorer. I like to browse and discover new stuff online. I like to read articles, blogs, etc. 99% of this activity for me is truly unimportant. It’s just a distraction or entertainment. I’ll still research stuff for work (and my book), but I won’t surf for no reason.
3. Doing stuff someone else should be/could be doing. This is a hard one for me. I’m kind of a hands-on guy, not the world’s best delegator. But if I’m being honest, probably 30%-40% of my time is spent doing things I could hand off or hire somebody to do. And I’m sure there are people who work for me and with me that are thinking “And it’s about time.“
4. Focusing on the little things. Even if I live to be 150, I will still go to my grave believing that the little things matter. But I’m not living another minute focusing on the details when I need to be focused on the bigger picture. There is a time to focus on the details, but now is not that time for me. Now, however, might be a great time for my staff to focus on the details (hint, hint). Even I can see how number 3 and number 4 go hand-in-hand, and I don’t even need my little voice to tell me that. Hey, maybe this is working already!
5. Letting people take my time. This means getting really good at saying “no” to requests for my time — not one of my strong suits. One of the hardest things for me to get in my thick head is that just because somebody asks for my time doesn’t mean I have to give it to them. I need to treat my time like my money. Do I give money to everyone that asks? Nope. I budget my giving each month. And occasionally I’ll give above and beyond my budget to something that is important to me, or something that I feel truly needs it. To everyone else, I say a polite no. I need to keep a fair amount of money to live my life effectively. I also need to keep a fair amount of time.
The truth is, I’d be better off doing absolutely nothing than letting any of these things take any more of my time, energy, and focus. Doing nothing would at least give me time and space to think about how to move closer to the important things, instead of stealing what little time and brainpower I have to begin with.
This might be the most self-centered article I’ve ever written, and I hope you’ll forgive the indulgence. I kind of needed to do this to wipe my slate clean so I can start walkin’ the talk.
As I bring this article to an end, though, I find myself hoping that my epiphany helps you review your own life and work. Maybe there’s something big that your little voice has been leading you to as well. Maybe you, too, let busyness stand between you and the truly important things.
You’ll know it’s true if you just heard a little voice say “See, I TOLD you so!” I just hope yours hasn’t found the two-by-four yet.
Thanks for reading! See you next week.
Are you ready to escape the busyness and get on with your important work? Check out this short video for a little inspiration: