Work expands to fill the time available for its completion. Which is why, counter-intuitively, if you want something done, ask a busy person. They’ve probably got a strong system to juggle all of the things.
When we complain about not having enough time to do something, it's usually the opposite…
We have too much free time and haven't needed to get strategic with our time.
Or we've taken on more than our current routine can handle.
In both cases, the problem is not a lack of time, but efficiency.
Busyness without a system creates what I like to call “thought pollution”. Remember when we were in school and even after classes had ended for the summer it would take a few weeks to eliminate those constant “I need to study and/or do homework” thoughts?
That’s what I consider thought pollution: wasting brain space thinking about the work you need to do instead of doing it.
If we take on responsibilities faster than we upgrade our routines, we end up increasing our thought pollution... becoming so stressed we paralyze ourselves from actually doing any work.
So how can we add more to our plate without also adding more stress?
My answer is time blocking.
Yes, this suggestion is coming from a freedom worshipper. But I’ve actually found that the stronger my routine, the more freedom I feel.
I’m allergic to the word “busy”. Some people choose to wear it as a badge of honour, but I see it as a sign of inefficiency.
My time blocked calendar is my badge of success.
If you want to finally start that side project or simply become more efficient at work, consider joining me in time blocking your days. (We can be part of a super cool time blocking friendship club?!)
Every Sunday afternoon, reserve a few minutes to plan your week ahead—a glass of wine in hand is encouraged—and time block that sucker.
Curious how this looks practically? Let me share my approach.
Start your day with something you love
What excites you these days? And if “excites” isn’t the right word, then what’s the least annoying part of your day?
Start with that.
I’ve been on a mega writing kick this past year. With so many ideas floating around in my head, I can’t wait to get them on paper. So I’ve chosen this as my day starter.
At 7am every morning for the past few months, I’ve been planted at Starbucks with a grande nonfat latte beside me, starting off my day writing these articles. I start at the same time each day and I write for the first hour, building an almost obsessive routine that has gotten harder and harder to break with each passing week. Avoiding a lot of unnecessary internal debates each morning.
A lot of conventional advice says to start your day with the most daunting task. But how is that supposed to get me excited to jump out of bed in the morning?! Forget the traditional advice and motivate yourself in whatever way will actually get you results.
What would excite you enough to get a head start in the morning and win a few extra hours of your day?
Build pillars into your day
There are a few things you do each day that should be non-negotiables. Last week, I shared the importance of embracing small daily actions to achieve long term success. Whatever goal you’re focused on at the moment, create daily actions that move this goal forward.
Then don't ever compromise on getting them done.
Certain times of the day have less disruptions than others… usually the mornings. It’s why most successful people have a strong morning routine. Not because there’s something inherently magical about the morning, but because you have full control over your time. It’s what motivates me to wake up early—I win more “free time”.
My two pillars (aka. non-negotiable daily actions) are currently: writing and exercising. One hour is blocked in the morning for writing and one hour is blocked at lunch for exercise. No last minute plans are getting scheduled during these times.
What’s your biggest goal currently and which hour in the day are you reserving for it?
Own your calendar
You are just as important as the person scheduling that last minute meeting. Always remember that.
Someone’s poor planning should never interfere with your goals.
It might feel insignificant to break your routine “just this one time”, but let’s be real, it’s never just that one time. Each small slip weakens your commitment to your goal.
Be strict with the things that matter, so that you can be flexible with the things that don’t. If you took the time to plan your week, commit to sticking to those plans instead of letting someone else’s agenda overpower yours.
Change begins with ourselves, so let’s all commit to respecting each other’s time: no last minute meetings (they're a sign of poor planning, not importance); more messaging instead of frequent calls (breaking someone’s flow is a bigger waste of time than typing out a message on Slack or email); and keeping meetings on time with a clear agenda (you might love rambling, but no one loves being late for their next commitment).
What other practices should we all embrace? Please share!
Have a strong circle of influence
The quickest way to drop off your routine is not having like minded friends who are also pursuing excellence.
These can be real-life friends or a virtual community or simply the influencers and podcasts you follow...
...but when you start questioning your sanity for travelling off the beaten path, make sure you have enough support to keep yourself going.
When I started writing articles consistently, I made the effort to connect with other creators and even asked my sister to read and keep me accountable each week. Knowing that at least one person reads gives me the reassurance to keep writing.
When I was looking for a new gym to join, my decision was driven purely by which one had the strongest and most committed community. It’s why I've loved Crossfit for so many years—it's the same crew showing up each day, keeping each other committed to the routine.
And to maintain that base level of happiness and confidence, I stick to podcasts, books, interviews, and communities that promote those principles. As simple as that.
I heard this saying ages ago: an idle mind is the devil's playground. The quickest way to talk yourself out of taking action is having too much time to overthink it.
Don’t be afraid to add more to your plate, just be sure to upgrade your routine to avoid burning out.