This curated column is authored by Career Coach & Blogger Christopher Connors
Yesterday was one of those days that simply caught up to me and got me worked up. Because I’m a time-tested veteran of battling through worry and fears, I was able to identify the problem right away- I was far too anxious about little things that weren’t urgent and could easily wait for another day. I was wasting time and energy on clutter. Sound familiar to you?
Little, insignificant worries and problems can accumulate and catch up to us, and before we know it, we’re consumed with big worry and problems. It’s better to face these things with a clear mind and an intelligent approach to knock them out.
1. Utilize Stephen Covey’s Time Quadrant Approach
I‘ve written previously about Stephen Covey’s time management quadrants. This is a baseline that is very valuable when considering how we should invest our time each day. This quadrant is a great tool that allows you to use your analytical mind to diagnose each task or aspect of your day. You can then determine whether that something is an activity worthy of your time, or simply clutter that will waste your time.
As Covey points out in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we all have to spend time doing important — or unimportant — things that have to get done. No matter how well we plan our days out, there will be fires to put out- that’s just a fact of life. Trust me, once you have children, there are even more fires to put out! In a good way, sort of.
For you parents out there, remember that when you’re changing a diaper at 2:45 in the morning and standing tall in the face of a 16-month old child’s screams, as he pounds your ear drums like Dave Grohl.
The point is, there will be difficulties and critical things we need to focus on that we may not want to. The key is to minimize the time we spend on unimportant activities — clutter — and maximize our focus on what really inspires us and deserves our attention: the activities in Quadrant II.
2. Be Curious — Explore New Things that Interest You
Maybe you’ve been there, getting worked up over insignificant things that can destroy your day or even your week. Negative thoughts, anger, worry and envy are common emotions when we get distracted and frustrated. These enemies of our mind prevent us from focusing on the, “Quality Time,” in Covey’s quadrant.
Covey describes using new activities and ways to boost out personal growth as, “Sharpening the Saw” time. This is where we learn, read, imagine new ideas, explore our creative side and spend time in prayer, boosting our faith and hope which leads to love. I encourage you to build in five hours per week, despite a busy schedule and juggling lots of responsibilities. Your future you will thank you for this time of development and enrichment.
The times that I get down are when I’m doing things I don’t enjoy or thinking of nonsense that irritates me. Does this sound like you? As much as I try not to, I am occasionally prone to wasting my time on little nuisances — that can morph into large obstacles — that dominate my thoughts with negativity. I fall back into old traps of lustful, envious or lazy thoughts.
These time wasters eat away at the precious minutes or even hours of solitude, prayer, creativity and mindfulness I have. They threaten to damage and damper my mood around my loved ones. I want to maximize the time I spend with my family and show them all the love that I can. I want to focus on my goals in life, concentrate on becoming better at my job and improve my personal and professional relationships.
A great way to embrace our curiosities is to plan them into our week. To find activities that stimulate creative, imaginative thought. We all have things that we love that are tried and true. But what about trying new things? It’s amazing the new ideas we’ll find and remarkable experiences we’ll enjoy, when we’re open-minded to trying out new things.
3. Keep the People and Things You Love at the Forefront of Your Thoughts
I’m successful when I surround myself with people and things that create positive energy. The thoughts that enter our minds can permeate our being and rapidly change both our emotional and physical states. Norman Vincent Peale addressed this beautifully in his mammoth bestseller, The Power of Positive Thinking:
“We are beginning to comprehend a basic truth hitherto neglected, that our physical condition is determined very largely by our emotional condition, and our emotional life is profoundly regulated by our thought life.”
We have to remind ourselves that we’re better than whatever anger, worry, doubt or envy creeps into our mind. The surefire way to block these thoughts out is to dominate our subconscious mind with positive thoughts, rooted in belief of self. Our values, self-confidence and things that matterhelp give us that view.
When I find myself in these moments where I feel like I’m stuck, anxious and my mind starts drifting, I think of my beautiful family. I focus on my dreams — the things that light the fire inside of me and inspire me to keep moving forward with confidence, energy and hope everyday.
I think of my Why — my definition of success — and my passion for writing, coaching and making a difference in people’s lives. Those things lift my spirit and produce tidal waves of positive energy inside of me.
I think we all experience the proverbial peaks and valleys for a reason. The down periods help us to make better sense of what brought us to moments of exultation and powerful, emotive feelings of self-satisfaction. The clutter is such a waste of your time and mine. Our thoughts and our being are much bolder than that! I’ll let Mr. Thoreau’s wisdom finish this piece.
“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.”
Henry David Thoreau
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