Your schedule is your lifeline
When asked how I consistently work over 80 hours a week during school, I always turn back to a simple rule - your schedule is your lifeline.
I generally wake up between 6:00am and 7:00am everyday, depending on when my first appointment is. If it's at 9, I get to sleep in til 7:30/8:00am! I have a general routine for the morning: stuff like shower&shave, boil 1-2 eggs, make toast and coffee/tea, eat breakfast, get dressed, pack my bags and head out the door within the first hour of being up.
I'm at school working between 8am-9pm most days, each hour is filled with meetings, interviews, class, and networking. I feel lucky if I get an hour break anytime between appointments because I always pack it hour-hour back to back.
Each week is in the calendar with my top priorities plugged in, green in color. Any appointments that are moveable are in orange. When I look at my schedule, I always make sure to reflect on how evenly my activities are spread out across work, relationships and friendships, health, personal development, learning and religion to make sure that I'm not neglecting anything major over the course of a month.
You're going to have weeks that are more specific to one area of your life, but I make up for spent time in other activities that are important to me the following weeks after.
Life is so much simpler - I don't ever have to think about what I have for the following day, because everything is in my iCal! =D I look at it in the morning, so I know what to pack, and refer to it during the day so I know what I have to prepare. I rarely have double bookings too, because they come up when I am plugging in a new event.
On top of all that, I set reminders for task-oriented events to pop up a couple days/week beforehand, so I can adequately allot time to it.
I used to love A&W's Root Beer Floats. So much so that as a kid, we would pick up root beer and ice-cream from the grocery store and make it ourselves. You'd start with the simple, but delicious vanilla ice-cream at the bottom and follow through with filling up the rest of the glass with root beer to make the perfect combination.
There were those times, though, when a friend would be pouring it out instead of me, and they would pour the root beer so fast that my glass would end up full of foam and very little actual root-beer goodness. >.<
Life is the same way.
Let's say your end goal is the root-beer float. But not just that. Your optimal goal is to have the vanilla ice-cream floating at the very top of the glass. I see the vanilla ice-cream as the basic ingredient/foundation that will make you happy. The higher you get the vanilla ice-cream scoop, the more progress you have made. The root beer that is filling the glass therefore represents both action and time. Any foam in the glass is action wasted, because the more foam you have, the lower the vanilla ice-cream will be able to float up. (That is to say, Inhibited progress)
If you carefully pour out your actions in life and calibrate it as you're doing so, you can often end up reducing the amount of foam you end up with, maximizing the quantity of root-beer, or effective action.
Scene switch: When I ask somebody how they've been, I normally get one of the two generic answers.
"Oh, I've been good." or "Man, I've been busy"
In regards to this post, I'm going to address the latter statement with a simple observation: Everybody seems busy! But busy doing what?!
Foam action, that's what.
What is Foam Action (FA) and how does this apply to real life situations?
I'll explain FA through an example we can all relate to: the Internet.
We have access to as much information as we like, via our 24/7 access to the internet with our smartphones, tablets, and laptops, so as a result: we get an overload of things to prioritize.
The following tasks I classify as Foam Action.
- writing/organizing/responding to Email
- monitoring and reading Facebook msgs, posts, comments, pictures
- Twitter mentions/LinkedIn Connections
- random links your friends send you
- matters of business
That being said, Foam Action is action that you partake in that takes up your time but has little substance/effect on your life/root beer float. Who wants to have a float that is just ice-cream and foam? Not you.
We should have learnt our lesson when we invested time and energy into MySpace, Friendster, Bebo, and so on 5-7 years ago. For the past 5 years, the paradigm shifted to Facebook. What happened to all that time spent? Gone, and nothing accomplished. Is Facebook going to meet the same end? Eventually.
But this is nothing new to you. ;)
Get that root-beer back in your float, you know you want to.
The first step to do so is to GET RID OF THE FOAM!
What I'm proposing that is new is to manage your life with a bit of self-discipline, but enable yourself to still indulge in FA (on a smaller scale). Why you would do this is because you know you could be way more effective in your daily activities. If you feel overwhelmed with work/school, this is probably a good start.
1. Check your Facebook once in the morning and once at night. Take up to 20 minutes each time to check/respond to updates and posts.
2. Check your email twice a day as well: 11:00am and 4:00pm.
Here's how my Gmail is organized:
A. I label everything in terms of the organizations I'm with, then sub-organized under main roles I have. Ex. ABC Company would be the main label, followed by Sales/Recruiting/HR/Investments, etc.
B. I use Gmail's Priority Inbox, meaning I can quickly give priority to the senders who I know I will have to respond to, and decreasing priority with companies sending me advertisements, promotions, etc.
C. Apply the 2-Minute Rule to your mail.
If the required response to any given task will take less than 2 minutes, DO IT NOW or defer it to a specific time that you will definitely do it.
D. Archive the following:
- email that you may need to refer back to at a future date
- email that you have responded to
E. Delete the rest.
You should have no more than 20 emails in your inbox at any one time. Don't tell me you can't manage it, I've been in a leadership role in three different organizations, on top of my job and my role as a student, all at the same time. You just have to be organized.
3. Delete all the apps that waste your time/have you addicted.
I had to do this with WordFeud, Angry Birds, and many other silly games. That is definitely Foam Action to the highest degree.
4. Youtube should be once a day, at night. This should be after your productive time. I don't even watch YouTube videos anymore, it was a degenerative habit that killed my brain cells. However, I do turn to YouTube occasionally for stand-up comedy to help me improve my presentation delivery/timing.
Generally I try to watch one TedTalk every night now. The thoughts and ideas that have sprung out of this habit have improved my creativity and passion IMMENSELY.
5. START NOW! What are you waiting for?
Foam action is no action!
Declutter your life, one step at a time.
A blog on my continuing journey through life, covering self-development and success strategies, but also personal reflection.