Plan Simple with Mia Moran

When we are busy but nothing is getting done

October 10, 2018

“The busier you are, the more intentional you must be.” ― Michael Hyatt

So often we are on the move. It feels like we never stop, but at the end of the day, we don’t feel like anything has been accomplished. In fact we feel like an utter failure because of our inability to check anything off our list.

When asked how our day was, we say, “busy,” but instantly feel like an imposter. After all, if we were really that busy, we’d feel accomplished, right?

Not necessarily.

I don’t know about you, but I have spent whole days on my computer, but at the end of the day my inbox still has 1000 emails, and I know more about my friends on Facebook than they know about the Planner I just created because I got lost in my feed and forgot to post! I have spent whole days cleaning the house only to feel like the basement is a small store filled to capacity. I have spent whole days driving kids everywhere but feeling like I got nowhere.

But there are some planning tricks that I have found really helpful, and some of them might be just the little tweaks you need today to feel less busy and more accomplished.

Know how you want to feel. Busy is a feeling. I have had days that I have decided I want to feel calm, present or even abundant that don’t look that different than a busy day, but they feel different. It is because I go through my day with a different outlook, or I tweak little things — sitting for lunch, shutting off my phone at my daughter’s dance class, listening to great music while cooking, standing and stretching for 3 minutes for every 40 minutes I work.

Block out every minute of your day. Many of us dream of times we get to be alone, with no one who needs us, no one whining or pulling at our shirt. We yearn for some downtime to just put up our feet. When we can, we leave some spaces in our days, but it never seems to work hou. It goes soemthing like this: you leave some space on a Tuesday afternoon because last Wednesday you were dreaming of a nap, or maybe some extra time to walk to the store instead of driving. You looked at Tuesday, saw it was wide open, and you knew you could wait. Then on Monday, your daughter’s best friend wants to come over. You say “Not today” because there is a dentist appointment, but Tuesday would work. You just gave up your free moment. Instead, choose a color that represents downtime or selfcare. Block out time in your digital calendar or actually draw a rectangle around the time in your paper calendar. That way, all kinds of time are accounted for—including down time—not just “busy” time.

You can only be in one place at one time, so decide to be there. Have you ever truly sunk into a moment where time almost feels as though it is standing still? Maybe you are watching your kid do something spectacular, or you see something so beautiful in nature. These are moments when nothing else matters. What would happen if you just observed your daughter dancing instead of sitting in class writing your grocery list? What would happen if you told your son that you will help him in one hour and until then you focus with out distraction on writing the email that you have been avoiding? What if there were no phones at the dinner table? Presence is powerful. You can get a ton done in a power hour, but if you are focused on one thing it will never feel busy.

Define your 3 big rocks. Your big rocks are three things that move you towards your big goals. Compare them to busy activities: things like doctors appointments, client work, driving kids to school, things you will do because you have to. Picture this visual: a glass vase with three piles next to it — 3 big rock, a pile of pebbles and a pile of sand. When the sand goes in first, then the pebbles, it fills the vase and there is no space for the 3 big rocks. When the 3 big rocks go in first, then the pebbles, then the sand, it all fits perfectly. The truth is we have to make time for the projects that really matter to us or we will always feel unfulfilled. The other stuff will happen—it always does.

Recall with gratitude. Sometimes the lack we feel after a busy day is because our day is not in alignment with how we want to feel or with our big rocks, but sometimes we have so much in our head we are forgetting what we actually did in a day. I used to really wish someone else would notice, but the truth is that when I notice for myself and am grateful for al the little things, I can totally turn the lack around. You could recall in your head, but I recommend keeping a gratitude journal of all the little things — making it through the grocery store in 15 minutes, driving carpool, smiling at a co-worker, walking around the block to take care of yourself, working on a project for an hour, etc.

Leave a runway.  Have you ever created a day that had back to back meetings, a soccer game, and dinner squeezed in between. The thing is that we cannot sit in our chair and be creative on demand, and we cannot cook and sit to eat in 30 minutes. When we sit at our desk to start a creative endeavor, we need time to turn off our email, clear our desk and take 3 breaths. When we walk in the house we need a moment to put our bag down, change into comfy clothes, hug our kids, turn on some tunes, and then we are ready to rock and roll in the kitchen. And if we need to be quick one night that is OK, maybe we eat something already made, and use our time to really sit. We also need a runway on the other side. We need enough time that we do not become hot balls of stress if we get stuck in traffic. Enough time to wash the dishes, so the kitchen is a clean slate the next morning. And just to be clear, this does not always mean you need more time. Sometimes it does, but often it means you need to be more intentional with your runways.

Batch. A day where I wake up check email, meditate, respond to email, take a photo, go on a walk, get kids to school, post the photo on social media, take a shower, try to write, get frustrated, get a smoothie, try to write again, move onto another project, fill 6 hours, get kids from school, drive everywhere, then work again after dinner feels REALLY busy — and not very productive. If I wake up and really do all the things that I need to do for me, get the kids to school, go on a walk, come home, spend 2 hours shooting a month of photos, spend 1 hour in my inbox, and spend 2 hours planning a month of content, I feel so good at the end of the day. When I sit to work on other days, I can spend 5 hours just connecting with clients, or 5 hours writing from all the photos I have. It feels much more sane.

Put your own oxygen mask on first. I allude to this a lot. When you have a morning routine that assures you will eat well, exercise, shower, etc., you will show up throughout the day with more ease. When you do this throughout the day — sit to eat your salad for lunch, say no to a 5:00pm meeting, get someone else to drive your child home (return the favor another day if it is a friend vs. a sitter) — you will carry this sense of ease to your pillow at night, even if your day was very full.

Create a rhythm for your week on the Friday before. A lot of the “busy” comes from an endless to-do list that cannot possibly fit into your day, much less your day under pressure. But when you look at your week and which days have space for creative projects and which days are a bit more choppy and can fit lots of micro tasks, and place those into your planner in advance, you have chosen what goes where and that feels good. The fact that you are doing this on a Friday, takes the pressure off and gives you the weekend to get ahead — clean off your desk, go food shopping, exercise, so that you start the next week off to a great rhythm.

Lean into your cycle. We are women on a 28 day cycle. This feels a bit crazy when we are not aware. One day we are sad, one day we are productive, one day we are super convincing, and one day super tired. For most of us this is predicatable. If you you start to pay attention, you will not schedule a day that you need to be most productive on a day you are most tired. We often say we really need a nap, but there is no time. You may need to make time for a daily nap, or maybe there are 3 days a month you really need to leave time for a nap.

Write it all down. Keeping everything in our head is crazy making. There is a study done in Ireland that looked at patients who had just gotten a major hip surgery done. Each patient is told exactly what they need to do each day to walk well, pain-free again. They are told that it is hard work, but well worth it. Half are given a pen and paper. That half was 90% more likely to follow through with their exercises because they wrote it down! I really do believe in handwriting, journalling or a paper planner — the FLOW planner was my attempt at making a hybrid. But Google calendar or a tool like Trello are also great options. Even an index card is better than your head.

How can you stop feeling so busy and start feeling more accomplished at the end of each day? It is more mindset and planning than changing your whole life.

What can you commit to to get out of busy and into ease? Come comment on Instagram!

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