I often arrive at the end of my day having accomplished a lot, although rarely all that I had hoped. I’ve tried many approaches to setting and resetting priorities, and confess to being a nearly obsessive list-maker. While lists remind me of what I want to do throughout my day (and sometimes my evening), they do not help determine how much time to spend on any one activity or project. By now you may be thinking, “It’s just not that complicated,” and you are absolutely right. It’s not – except for me.
I love simple solutions but had never found one that helped me navigate the day and, at its end, feel great about all I had done. Even on my most productive days I often felt that what I had accomplished was less than what was possible. Then, while driving to work one morning about six weeks ago, I was thinking about the overly-scheduled day ahead, wondering (and in total honesty, worrying) about how I could possibly accomplish my priorities for the day. I couldn’t help but smile because I frequently advise others that the answers to our questions lie within. So I took a very deep breath and asked myself, “What expression can I keep top-of-mind throughout the day to help me accomplish the most in the time available?” In a moment the answer came…”Is this the best use of my precious time?”
It was a simple question and over the next several days, when I was responding to e-mail, working on a project, heading to a meeting or returning phone calls, I silently asked, “Is this the best use of my time right now?” The answer always came immediately to mind. When it was “Yes” I continued what I was doing, and when it was “No” I moved on to something else. After a few days I was feeling much better about how I was spending my time, but also realized that what had prompted this experiment wasn’t just about the use of my TIME, it was more precisely about how I invested my ENERGY. I understood that if I ventured out of the present moment, if I worried about people or situations out of my control, I was expending energy that would be better invested in what had to be done NOW. After careful consideration, I modified my question to a variation of the original — “Is this the best use of my precious energy?” Much better.
Since reframing the question, I have asked it many, many times each day and evening. It has helped me be choiceful about how, where and on what/whom I invest my precious energy. My natural tendency to “push through” in an attempt to get everything done has now been tempered by the realization that every moment of my time and every ounce of my energy truly are precious. For me, asking the simple question “Is this the best use of my precious energy?” has made all the difference in the world.