When you prioritize what’s most important, instead of what needs to get done, you reduce frustration and increase joy.
Recently, I had a conversation with a friend and colleague. We got to talking about our work schedules and he told me that he’s changing how he works during the week. He will complete all client work and administration on Mondays and Tuesdays, allowing him to work on writing his book for the remainder of the week.
I was excited to hear this because I have read the first draft of what he's written so far. When I got to the last page I was disappointed because I wanted more. I wanted to keep reading and find out what was going to happen. It was the ultimate cliffhanger: a partial draft of a scandalous unfinished memoir!
He told me about this change to his schedule after I had explained a coaching process I created to solve one of my own struggles. It goes like this: I asked myself four specific questions to get clarity about what matters most to me so that I can determine what’s least important or a distraction, with the aim of being able to let go of it. Knowing what you can let go of opens up the space to put more of your attention, focus, time, and energy on what is most important.
Coming back to my friend, I suggested that he has already created the possibility for his new work schedule given how his business operates. He has a few very large clients, for which he receives an appropriately large compensation to complete each project. This means he can mostly work on his terms for most the time. I suggested it was ironic that he wasn't managing the writing his book in the same way he took care of client’s projects. He laughed about that, realizing the truth.
This turned out to be an important reminder about setting boundaries.
It's all too easy as a creative or an entrepreneur to have no set boundaries around the work which is most important and meaningful to you — perhaps call this the work which brings you the most joy and personal satisfaction. When you don't establish these boundaries, you are not respecting your values, time, energy, and worth. You are not acting on what's most important and meaningful to create the life you want to live — literally the life you deserve.
That realization is the difference between being angry, annoyed, and frustrated with everything — reacting to what you don't want but doing it anyway — versus being present and taking control of what you can manage and the choices you make about how to manage what you do and how you chose to spend your time.
The conversation with my colleague made me realized I was missing a piece of the puzzle based on my four questions that would make the exercise complete. The intended outcome of the four questions is to determine what you can let go of to spend more time doing what's most meaningful to you. But then what? You need to ask one final question:
"What sort of boundary will I create to uphold what is most important to me?"
If you are a creative, an entrepreneur, someone who works in the gig-economy, or a business owner, you wear many hats and do a variety of tasks in your work. If you're pulled in several directions but you need to show up in those various areas of business, the only way you can establish and keep boundaries is to make them public. You will need to tell the people you work with when you are available. This goes entirely against the current Zeitgeist of immediate customer response and satisfaction.
In my case, I get easily frustrated and respond angrily, albeit to myself or complaining to my partner (who isn't interested in hearing my complaints and don’t do anything about them) when I get text messages or requests to do certain things for one of my contracts. These requests have nothing to do with the people I serve. They are simply running their business for which I am providing a service, or they have hired me and are simply reaching out when they need to address an issue. They are simply asking me a question when they call, email, or text.
But for me, and me alone, to feel like I have control over working on what's most important to me (like my friend who established a unique weekly work schedule) I need to establish boundaries in the form of daily and weekly time blocks allocated to my various business projects. I also need to inform the people I work with about my availability, how and when I prefer to communicate with them.
”What do I need to let go of and stop doing to spend more time working on what’s most important to me?"
Remember, you need to first decide what’s most important to you before you can answer the four questions related to each work project or task. Once you have completed this coaching exercise and determine where to spend most of your time and what to let go of, you can then close the loop by creating the necessary boundaries to spend more time working on the “one thing” that will make all the difference in your life.
Epilogue: Our brains are pattern recognition machines.
If there is anything we wish to accomplish in life, from the smallest goal to achieving a milestone goal, we are always limited to the present moment.
For us to feel safe, secure, and in control of our destiny. We need prediction and response. In other words, we need to spend more time in our pre-frontal cortex, otherwise known as our logical, thinking, and creative mind.
If you believe that accomplishing various tasks and actions will lead to your goal, you are missing the most important aspect of creation: Intention and Process.
We cannot assume that the various tasks we take will lead to our desired outcome. All we can do is to complete the tasks and assess how well they have been completed. Realistically, we can only do one thing at a time; one task at a time. Looking to the future with exact precision is useful for course-correcting along the way.
We all have too much to do, too many tasks, expectations, distractions, and so on. If you want to live the life of your dreams, why not spend a little time figuring out what's distracting you; what's at least one thing you can let go of, so that you can spend more time doing what you love, or more time working on what you want to create, sooner than later!
Want to get the clarity you need to eliminate distractions and spend more time doing what you love?
You’re in luck! You can now access this Personal Evolution Practice for free (no email required) right here: “4 Questions to Help You Let Go Of What’s Holding You Back.”