Over the last one month I did not accomplish anything, other than binge reading comics and clearing my Instapaper queue, I did not write, ’did not complete reading books, ’did not work on the many pending tasks Omnifocus so kindly reminds me everyday. Why? ’Cause with too many hobbies to concentrate on, too many projects to work on, too much politics to be aware of and too many responsibilities to handle, I turned numb from inaction.
What should I’ve done? Manage time or narrow down focus?
When it comes to time management there are 4 types of people –
- Type 1 – follow GTD hoping it’ll clear enough space in their life to concentrate and work on their life’s mission.
- Type 2 – follow the principles laid by Stephen Covey. They identify their values, vision and mission and drill down to the important aspects of life and include them in day to day schedule often at the expense of other urgent activities.
- Type 3 – these are the folks fire fighting throughout the day ignoring the important stuff and then drowning that regret by dousing in alcohol, tv or other mind numbing activities.
- Type 4 – they know what they should be focusing on. They know what are their important aspects of life and schedule them into their calendars. They also know that by doing this, they’ll not be able to focus on all the items they’re expected to do that day and so end up working only on 1–2 important stuff to get by and ignore them till they cannot postpone any longer.
I was fluctuating between type 3 & 4.
When it comes to focus, what should I be doing? Decide between ‘values’ or ‘scope’.
- Values – following Covey’s principles once we identify what’s important to us in life (i.e., family, health, hobbies, etc.) and focus on them. But, if we don’t have enough time? We reduce its scope.
- Scope – let’s take an example – if cutting down on your hobbies is going to leave you dissatisfied, then you’ll identify how many hobbies you have and choose only the topmost 1–2 on which you can concentrate. If you have only 1–2 then you’ll focus on few specific activities in those hobbies, ignoring the rest. That is, if I like gaming but dont have enough time to play all the games I want to, I’ll probably play games of only one genre which I really like.
In my case, I was not clear of my values and neither could I convince myself to narrow my scope.
Then what should be the modus operandi?
- First, don’t schedule a lot to do everyday in Omnifocus. Instead, schedule only the ‘absolutely due today’ items and then pick and choose what you can do based on context. This way, you can not only get rid of all due items for that day but also know how much time you’ve left and realistically choose your next course of action.
- But what if everything is urgent? What if there is so much to do, and no time or energy left to do anything else? Then, we go back to what David Allen says – when picking which tasks to work – decide what is most important to you, what’s most aligned to your value system.
- But what if I find all of them of equal value. It’s a rare case, but, let’s consider. Then, I either reduce the scope or space it out. That is, like stated above, I either narrow it down to specific activities or concentrate on week on reading, another on gaming, followed by writing and so on till I feel I’ve done it all.
Covey says we should concentrate on important but not urgent stuff to always be on top of things. David Allen questions how we can concentrate on important activities when there are other unavoidable urgent activities to be handled. I think getting the balance between these two thought processes determines how successfully we navigate through life.