Today is day 1 of our 5-day Focus Challenge. Thank you for joining us!
(Update: Day 2 is now available)
Our goal by the end of this challenge is to help you clearly identify the one thing that will provide the most traction towards creating the future you’ve always dreamed of. Before you can really start making progress and dive into how to develop your focus muscle, you first need to make time for it. If you don’t create time on your calendar to focus, there’s a good chance you’ll never do it as you get sucked into the business of the day and the routine things that derail you. You’ll get stuck putting out fires, or what Charles Hummel calls, the tyranny of the urgent.
It’s really easy to find yourself in this position. If you’re not careful, you can very quickly get stuck responding to the things that are “urgent”, last minute emergencies and you’ll end up with no time left over for the things that are important.
Important vs. Urgent
“What is important is seldom urgent, and what is urgent is seldom important.” – Dwight Eisenhower
Former U.S. president Dwight Eisenhower is credited with coming up with the following matrix, known as The Eisenhower Box
This matrix breaks down everything you have to do into one of 4 categories:
- Things that are important and urgent
- Things that are important but not urgent
- Things that are neither important nor urgent
- Things that are urgent but not important
If you’re like most people, the tendency is to live your life on the left side of this matrix. Yes, you find time for something that is both important and urgent, but you also spend a lot of time responding to things that are“urgent” but not important. A lot of email falls into this category, for example. The average U.S. worker spends 6.3 hours per day dealing with email, but the same people also say they don’t have time to go to the gym regularly even though they say they want to work out more.
What you want to do is make a mindset shift and start living your lives on the top of this matrix. You want to prioritize the things that are important but not urgent and create the time to do them consistently. That’s what this lesson, in particular, is all about. The truth is that unless you make time for the things that are important but not urgent and prioritize them, they will never happen. You only have a limited amount of time in your day, and unless you protect it diligently it will get used by other things that are “urgent.
Choosing Your Big Rocks
There’s a story made popular by author Stephen Covey in the book First Things First that illustrates the importance of creating time for the important things in your life. The story goes something like this…
A professor once pulled out a one-gallon, wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of his class. Then he produced about a dozen fist-sized rocks and carefully placed them, one at a time, into the jar.
When the jar was filled to the top and no more rocks would fit inside, he asked his class, “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes.” Then he reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks.
Then he smiled and asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?” By this time the class was onto him. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good!” he replied. And he reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it filled all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is this jar full?”
“No!” the class responded. Once again he said, “Good!” Then he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of all this?”
One person responded that there is always time you can squeeze in a day. While that is true, it was not the point the professor wanted to get across.
“The point,” he said, “is that if you don’t put the big rocks in there first, you will not be able to get them in at all.”
Making Time for Your Big Rocks
The way you make sure you have time for your own big rocks is to put them on your calendar. For example, if you say that exercise is important to you, then you need to block off time on your calendar to go to the gym. Otherwise, you’ll get stuck at the office replying to an email that just came in or dealing with a problem your coworker brought to you right before you left for the day.
If you decide that starting a side business or writing a book is important to you, then you need to create the time to take action on it. That’s what this first lesson is all about. Be intentional about choosing what is important to you, and don’t let yourself be controlled by the “urgent” whims of others anymore.
Last week I shared with you that I was struggling with reaching my goals and Thanh, the founder and CEO of Asian Efficiency, gave me a life-altering tip. He suggested that I needed to stop what I was doing and approach my goals differently. I needed to stop focusing on the outcome and instead, on an activity that I could do every day for 60 minutes. He said that if I can focus for 60 minutes – without interruption – every day on my goal, I will accomplish it
This was what I added to my calendar, 60 minutes of uninterrupted time to just run so I can accomplish my goal of running a half marathon (and I have never run in my life before!).
Now it’s time for you to take action on this lesson and create time in your life for the things you’ve identified as important. We’ll clarify the things that are important a little further in tomorrow’s lesson, so this lesson is fairly simple. Look at your schedule for tomorrow and block off at least 30 minutes on your calendar as a Focus Block
Make sure that you actually put this on your calendar so that you don’t just skip over this important step. Do this for the remaining days this week as well (Day 3, Day 4, and Day 5). This will create the space for you to complete the exercises associated with the other days in this focus challenge and provide the momentum you need to keep going even after it’s finished. If you can make this time consistent (the same time every day), even better.
Once you’ve done this lesson and created your Focus Block, let us know in the comments!
(Update: Day 2 is now available)
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