You’re right. Ben Franklin (or whoever) didn’t put it quite like that. For some, this title may seem like the Procrastinator’s Dream. But for highly productive people it’s a lifestyle mantra that drives all they do.
You should only do today what you can only do today. Huh? In other words, some things are more important (not more urgent) than others. DO THE IMPORTANT THINGS! And don’t waste your time with the small stuff until you absolutely have to.
My goal here is to help you make room to discover and reinforce your personal authenticity. That requires concentrated reflection. When you are so busy with small stuff then you never have time to reflect. You really do need some time every day to simply be quiet, rest and reflect. And… if you don’t MAKE TIME you’ll never HAVE TIME to do it.
Your brain is limited. Sorry… even if you are brilliant your brain has a limited capacity to perform at a high level without recharging, which includes 8 hours of sleep (YEP! But more on that another time).
Several things can cause brain drain but three killers immediately come to mind: (1) Decision-making, (2) Creativity, and (3) Conflict. All three can be oh-so taxing on your brain and your energy as well. For today’s post I want to focus on decision-making and creativity.
As you may know now, Tim Ferriss is one of my “go-to” guys. I suggest you read all his books and especially listen to his podcasts—they’re simply amazing! Tim talks about our limited capacity for decision-making (which impacts our capacity for creativity). He suggests that we have a limited number of effective decision-making units each day. He arbitrarily picks a number of “100 daily decision-making units.” Some decisions may require as few as 1-2 units, while others could be 10 units or more.
Once you reach 100, you’re toast. No energy, no creativity, and certainly no ability to make good decisions. So what can you do? Why not try this? Make it your objective to use as few decision-making units as possible each day, sparing you some energy for rest and reflection.
The deal is to “defer” decision-making as much as possible until a truly important decision arises. Preserve your brain! Defend it from “brain-drain.”
Difference-Makers are Big Rockers!
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey talks about your daily tasks falling into one of two categories: important or urgent. He argues that far too often the urgent things are not all that important, yet they seem to have the power to capture the majority of your time.
Highly effective people focus on the important tasks—they do today only what they should do today. Covey calls these the “Big Rocks.” He aptly uses the metaphor of a glass jar that is filled with sand, small pebbles, and big rocks. After the jar is emptied there is only one way to refill the jar. You must put the big rocks in first, then the smaller pebbles that will fill in the space between the rocks, and finally the sand that slides in between the rocks and pebbles.
The metaphor is perfect. Highly effective people begin with the harder stuff—Big Rocks.
So, what does this mean in reality for you and me? It means: You should never do now what you can put off til tomorrow. Big rocks today, pebbles tomorrow. But… if tomorrow you still find only pebbles, then it’s time to get some rocks! NOTE: See the Right Things Opt-In (on the right-hand side of our website) for uncovering Your Personal Mission where there are Plenty of Big Rocks.
Defer, Defer, Defer… Today!
Another thing I learned from Tim is to DEFER your daily decisions for as long as possible. For the last 2-3 months I have made a conscious effort to follow the four following tactics. And you know what? They really do work! No kidding. You gotta give ‘em a shot. My energy and creativity levels are at an all-time high… simply because I follow these 4 Practices:
- Begin each day with a structured Morning Routine or Ritual.
My morning routine has probably made the hugest impact of all. For that reason… it’s next week’s entire post 😉
- Schedule your Big Rocks
List them on Sunday before the week begins, and then revise them at the end of the previous day. Sometimes I divide my daily to-do lists into 3 categories: (a) must-do’s (big rocks), (b) should-do’s (pebbles), and (c) could-do’s (sand). Must-do’s are my Big Rocks. They are always the first tasks that I must address. Then should-do’s and I almost never do could-do’s.
- Defer your decisions for as long as possible so you have energy, creativity, and courage to make the hard decisions when you need to.
I have structured my morning routine so that I have at least 2 hours after I wake up before any decision at all must be made.
As the day goes on I try to either (a) Wait to make a decision. If it’s big enough sometimes I’ll put it on my calendar, or (b) I’ll give someone else permission to make the decision: Where do you want to go for lunch? What time should we leave? Should we include Marianna? You know, the stuff that REALLY doesn’t make a difference one way or the other. Let someone else make that decision. I’ll just say, “Whatever you think. I’m fine either way.” You’ll be amazed at how many of those potential brain-drainers cross your path every day.
- Make it a conscious choice to NOT MAKE A BIG DEAL of Small Stuff.
“Which route should I take to work?” “What should I do first, pay bills or return calls?” Don’t even think about it. Just do whatever comes to your mind first. You’re going to do both, so just do one first. Who cares which one it is? (Obviously, some things do indeed have priority over others—like your Big Rocks.)
MAKE TIME SO YOU HAVE TIME
Finally. Earlier I made the point that you really do need some time every day to simply be quiet, rest and reflect. And… if you don’t MAKE TIME you’ll never HAVE TIME to do it.
By deferring decisions and focusing primarily on must-do tasks you will find that you have freed up a significant amount of time, time you can devote to yourself in rest, reflection and creative endeavor.
What are the big rocks in your life? What are you doing that you shouldn’t be doing?
Let us know how and what you are doing; even what you shouldn’t be doing. Remember we are a community that helps each other out. I’d love to hear your responses.