“Never mistake activity for achievement.” – John Wooden
Do you ever get to the end of the day and wonder where all the time went? I do. Then I sometimes realize that I didn’t get many of the things done that I wanted to do, even though I seemed to be busy all day. Maybe that is the problem. I was busy all day with activities but didn’t achieve much of want I set out to do. Why?
One of the reasons that I have to admit is that a good deal of my activity is centered on the palm of my hand and that nasty little time-stealer that seems always to be there – my phone. Checking the weather or my email or playing the little word game that I like on it are activities that take time but usually have nothing to do with achieving anything. I get well over 100 emails a day, plus Facebook notices and WordPress notices and LinkedIn notices and on and on. Of course, each of them demands my attention and then I have to decide what to do with each – save or delete. I’m busy, busy, busy, doing nothing of importance and achieving nothing during those times.
There are lots of other activities that I do almost every day, like going to the gym, that may not achieve much in terms of my daily goals, but they are at least healthy activities. I also walk my dogs 3-4 times a day, which is a time waster, but one that I enjoy and one which give me some time to think. I watch very little TV anymore, mainly the news and maybe an HGTV show during dinner, so that can’t be my time killer. There just seem to be lots more things that need to be done these days and very few of them can be done without something else being accomplished first.
I’ve noticed than many activities involve as much “fixin’ to” time as the activity itself requires. Fixin’ to is what you do to get ready to do something, to actually achieve something. When my wife asks me when I’m going to get to the chore or tsk that I set out for myself for the day, I tell her that I’m “fixin’to.” Fixi’ to involves all of the pre-work activities like sitting and thinking about it, the planning it and the getting ready to actually do it – buying the necessary materials and getting out the required tools. Fixin’ to is an activity that may be mistaken for achievement, but is actually a necessary part of the achievement and a time consumer.
Trying to multi-task often involves lots of activity with little real achievement to show for it. The problem with most multi-tasking is that none of the jobs that you are trying to do at the same time get dome well, if any really get done at all. The constant interruptions to move on to give some attention to the other tasks in progress often mean that none of them get the time that they need. In the end you may feel exhausted but have achieved little. You can do the same thing with relationships or friendships by trying to juggle too many things with friend at the same time and giving none of them the time that they’d really like with you.
So, what are we to do? I’d suggest spending a little “fixin’ to” time each morning to think about and prioritize the things that you really need to or want to get done that day. Maybe even write yourself a list in priority order so that you have something to refer back to during the day. Then, when those little interruptions that we all know happen during the day come up, you can look back at your list and get your priorities back in order. Most of the things that we allow to steal our time and attention during the day aren’t really that important. Answering email isn’t a real-time requirement, nor is responding to a Facebook post with your pithy comment. If you have things that are important to accomplish today, focus your activity on them and let the other stuff slide.
I’m fixin’ to make my list right now. How about you?