A Year of Small Experiments: Cleaning up the Basics
In our family, I am the reader and my husband is decidedly not. There's no criticism in that, it's simply each of our preference. However, he decided to include reading in his 2018 goals and committed to reading one book each quarter. For the first quarter he chose 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management by Kevin Krause, which a highly disciplined and efficient colleague had recommended.
It's a short book, and he knocked it off in the first couple days of the new year before encouraging me to read it as well. While I worked my way through, he was busy implementing some of the practices suggested in the book with nearly immediate and happy success.
I enjoyed the book for the tangible practices it recommended. I appreciated that it was direct in outlining each of the 15 secrets as well as suggestions for implementing them and explanations of why each practice is valuable. The writing itself wasn't my favorite, but the take-aways were good enough that I read to the end. I kept reminding myself that it's a business book, not literature, and I was excited to see how the practices would impact my days as a stay-at-home-mom.
I found myself implementing some of Krause's secrets immediately:
- Work from a calendar not a to do list. I simply took the items on my current to do list and scheduled them onto my calendar, which actually improved my drive to complete the item when its assigned day rolled around. Things shift around all the time and often things remain undone at the end of the day, but I feel so much less burdened by the endless list.
- Accept the fact that there will always be more to do and more that can be done. See above - not everything gets done each day. The big thing here is that I'm making peace with that, and I'm seeing how those items can easily slot into future days without crisis. I'm learning to better prioritize the things I do instead of looking at a big list and doing the simplest things just to check something off.
- Invest the first 60 minutes of each day in rituals that strength your mind, body, and spirit. The specific amount of time isn't important to me, but the spirit of making time to care for myself right at the start of the day has made a huge difference. I started going to bed earlier (before 9pm) and waking up earlier (initially 5:30, then 5, and by March at 4am). I'm sure that sounds a little crazy to some people - it sounded crazy to me before I started doing it - but taking that time for myself to write, exercise, shower, and eat breakfast before greeting my toddler has allowed me to bring more positivity, patience, and calm to our days. I still adore nap time and the break it gives both of us, but I'm no longer banking on that as my only alone time.
- Productivity is about energy and focus, not time. See sleeping schedule above. I'm getting good, consistent sleep and wake up feeling energized for the day. I'm using my best energy hours first thing in the morning for the things that require the most mental energy and focus, namely writing. I've created a chunk of time for myself when my energy and focus are naturally high and the result has been increased productivity.
There are also a few secrets that resonate with me, and I'm working to implement them:
- Always carry a notebook. I have space in my planner for this, but the actual note-making when an idea or thing I need to do or something I want to remember comes to mind is a work-in-progress.
- Say no to everything that doesn't support your immediate goals. I like this and believe in the concept of selectively saying "yes." This hasn't felt like a significant challenge recently, but it's a practice I want to keep in mind with older, more involved children and as my blogging develops.
- Focus your time only on things that utilize your unique strengths and passions. My yearlong project of focusing on and trying a new thing each month is intended to identify strengths, weaknesses, and passions.
- If a task can be completed in less than five minutes, do it immediately. I love this. I'm more successful with it on some days than others. I'm finding that part the the trick is to accurately identify how long a task will actually take to complete.
Early this year I also read Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, which I loved. It recommended many of the same things that Krause does, but the writing style, tone, language, and the underlying goal are quite different between the two books. I slogged through Krause's book because it was short and practical, but I savored McKeown's words and wanted to read more when it ended. Krause prompted me into very direct action as listed above, and I expect to return to McKeown again and again for practical how to's as well as a sense of encouragement and inspiration.
Now that January helped me sort out my to do list, regulate my sleep schedule, and access my best energy and focus, I'm ready to continue developing these choices into habits while I tackle the next couple goals: food and exercise.
What small changes have made a huge difference in your day?
Read more in this series: A Year of Small Experiments