Last year I had a lot of projects on the go. Some of them helped me to achieve my core business offering, but others just accumulated and gathered steam through over ambition or an inability to say no to things I really should have.
If this sounds familiar, you'll know they couldn't all be maintained and as often happens when there is a diluted focus, those initiatives lacking clear direction suffered most and fell away.
But this year I've challenged myself to think differently.
As part of my 2018 push for clarity and concentration, I'm determined to think in terms of time above all else. Yet how we value our time is a fascinating but entirely subjective discussion. What's important to one is frivolous to another.
But whether we are attempting to make more money, build better relationships, achieve more freedom or make a positive difference to our local community, we face hundreds of small tradeoffs each day.
Therefore, how we choose to spend it matters. We can all find common ground in our search to make better use of it though. I'm sure few would claim never to waste it and most would agree, we want to do more of what we love and less of what leaves us feeling flat and uninspired.
So, a big-picture productivity idea that has resonated strongly with me recently is Tim Urban and Andrew Finn's 100 block concept from their very cool website Wait But Why. It positions that most people sleep somewhere between seven and eight hours a day, leaving about 16 or 17 hours of conscious (wine permitting) time in which to spend life. It's the part where we pursue trendy things, like happiness and fulfilment.
That equates to about 1000 minutes of time, which conveniently can be broken down into a 10 x 10 grid of 10 minute blocks. So yes, you've guessed it. Your day therefore consists of 100 blocks of ten minutes, to spend however you wish.
On the one hand the exercise points out the obvious, but, having spent the last few days actually filling such a grid in, it also presents a powerful graphic depiction of just where the day (and week, and month) can go.
How do you choose to spend them? Going for a drink after work may take up between 9 and 12 blocks. Going to the gym probably takes another 9-12 blocks up. Already we're through almost a quarter of our day.
Most of us must work, of course, and we must look after ourselves both physically and mentally. We also need social interaction through our family and friends, as well as finding the space to take some personal down time to reflect and recharge. Balance is important.
Of course nobody can judge what the right balance is. To some extent we're all wired differently and it's a deeply personal configuration. What is worth pointing out however is that most things worth achieving are hard work. They take up a lot of blocks.
In some respects carving up your life into little segments is depressing. There's perhaps a touch of the over zealous about it, of not relaxing enough to just go with the flow. But it is interesting to reflect on just how we spend our time.
It makes one think! Whatever we choose to spend our blocks on is inevitably at the expense of something else, but ultimately, if you feel you're falling short of your goals you can look at the last 30 to 90 grids and ask yourself the tough questions. Do they really paint the picture they need to in order to get you where you want to go?
Ps. You can print the 100 block grid here if you want.