Down to the nitty-gritty. Here’s how to take the grande ideas you had when focusing your year and make them happen. The first few sentences of Part 3 are great:
It’s one thing – one huge thing – to decide where you want to focus your year. Most people never really think about it as they work furiously toward… well, they’re not really sure. Still, it’s another thing entirely to actually spend your time focusing – day in and day out – on where you’ve decided to focus.
After Peter Bregman discovered that he needed an annual focus and after he had decided on the five areas he wanted to focus on, he then realized he needed some organized plan to help him actually work on those areas. He says that over time he developed a daily plan which helped him make decisions, ahead of time, about where he would spend his time and where he wouldn’t. I think it’s important to put things on our list that we want/need to do. But it’s just as important to realize that some things are not going to get done and need to intentionally be set aside.
An example for myself: I really want to spend time exercising, so I make sure that it gets put on my daily plan. While I also would love to attend each and every coffee that is scheduled during our time here at Fort Jackson, I recently had to skip one in favor of the other things on my schedule. There is no reason that I should feel obligated to go to everything. It goes beyond obligation in this particular situation. I didn’t feel obligated in the first place. I really wanted to go. (Adult conversation. No kids. Panera Bread. Panera Bread’s cream of broccoli soup. Being around other Chaplains’ Spouses. Yes, PLEASE!!!) But I looked at the week, at the date the coffee was held on, and I knew that putting that into my schedule was going to be too much. I had to decide where I was going to spend my time, and where I was not going to spend my time. Friends, we do not have to do it all. We simply can’t do it all. Let’s learn to say no to some good things so we can have less stressful lives!
The closing phrase in Chapter 21 is: “Plan your day ahead so you can fly through it, successfully maneuvering and moving toward your intended destination.”
In the following chapter, Bregman describes the overwhelm I experienced a few times in grocery stores once we returned to the states:
…a group of people was offered samples of six different jams available for purchase while another group was presented with twenty-four different jams. The six-jam group was ten times more likely to actually purchase a jam. Because the greater the options, the more difficult it becomes to choose a single one, so we end up choosing none. That’s what happens when we’ve got too many things to do. We look busy. We seem to be moving. But in reality, we get very little done.
Once we got back from Germany I found myself slightly overwhelmed with the choices available to me. Even though I’ve been back here almost three months, I still tend to go with the same things I choose while in Germany because it’s easier than trying to weed through all the choices available to me. This is not true, however, in the case of fast food restaurants. (We have a bajillion choices and find it easy to select one from those we didn’t have in Germany. I have yet to eat at Burger King, Taco Bell, or Popeyes. We have only had McDs once, but have frequented Chipotle, Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, and Cook-Out. By the way, why had we never heard of Cook-Out before?!?! Is it new?!? That place is stinking AWESOME!!) But I digress…
Peter Bregman took the information he had accumulated about annual focuses and daily plans and created a structure to help him make sure he spent his time where he really wanted to spend it. You can print his out from his website, filling in your information, but I found it easier to make my own, since I have seven areas of focus instead of five. Here is what mine looks like:
The way I use this is to daily fill out the to-do list, putting things into the categories that they belong in. If they are in the “other” category, then they are lower on my priority list. I do my best to check off everything in the main seven boxes before messing with anything in the “other” box. An example of something currently in my “other” box is to fill out those surveys that the Army sends every. single. time. we. go. to. the. doctor. For real… we’ve had birthdays (which equal well visits and sports physicals) and PT visits and so on and so on. While I want to help the Army gauge the quality of the care I’m receiving, it’s not a top priority of mine. If I can get to it, I will. I have not found time to do those things yet, and I am not letting it bother me one bit.
In chapter 23 Bregman tells a funny story. He was late for a meeting with a CEO of a technology company and decided to email him as he was in the elevator riding up to meet him. Still focused on his iPhone he got out of the elevator on the wrong floor. Someone still on the elevator said, “Wrong floor?” He turned around, realized that he had, in fact, gotten off early, and saw the very CEO he was heading to meet still standing in the elevator, holding the doors open for him. He had been so focused on his phone that he had missed the fact that he was actually already with person he was going to visit. I’m not going to bust on iPhone users, I am one, but it can be easy to spend so much time focusing on one thing that we totally miss what’s going on around us.
For me, I want to make time for writing. I really enjoy it. I love the outlet it provides me, especially as I spend the majority of my time with children. I feel that writing gives me a chance to have quiet, focused time, a designated opportunity to organize my thoughts, it allows me the chance to share with others what I’ve learned in books or through life, and the ability interact with adults, even if only through a screen. In order to focus, I get up very early, hours before I know the boys will wake up. I also turn of Facebook (because if I don’t, I can see the little number of notifications/messages popping up and I am tempted to go over and see who is saying what). I also turn of email for the same reason: I want the time I have set aside for writing to be spent on writing.
The closing phrase of that chapter was: “To get the right things done, choosing what to ignore is as important as choosing where to focus.”
Chapter 24 explains how Bregman uses to-do lists and calendars. To-do lists are great collection tools. They are the perfect places to write in all the things we want to do, but CALENDARS are important for helping us actually get those things done.
Instead of telling you exactly how to do this, I’m just going to encourage you to check this book out at the library. It really is full of funny stories and entertaining examples.
In Chapter 27 Peter Bregman starts to speak my language. He actually used the term “lifelong learner.” He talks about how so many times we make a mistake, and then make it again and again. Or, sometimes we do things right, but then fail to repeat it. The reason is because we fail to pause, breathe, and think about what’s working and what’s not. If someone learns to do this they will become lifelong learners. And Bregman says this does not require a lot of time. Just about five minutes at the end of each day to consider a few questions.
Chapter 28 reveals the meaning behind “18 minutes.” I wrote out the steps for you, and then felt like that was making it too easy for you. I’ll just let you find those out for yourself. If you choose to read this book and implement the ideas you will find time in your schedule to do things you’ve always wanted to do. You will find yourself less busy, more creative, better connected to your family and friends, and comfortable with saying “no” to good things that could easily distract you from what you really want to do.