How often do you find yourself in a place where you have so many different passions, interests and options that you might leap into that you find yourself doing none of them?
I’ve definitely been here at times myself. And it can be just as frustrating as when you’re busy doing lots of your different passions and finding that you’re not quite completing any of them … or that you’re burning the candle at both ends and in the middle and are exhausted!
So, what to do? How to choose? How to prioritise? You’ll be pleased to know that there is a multi-pronged approach that I have found incredibly helpful when I’ve been in this space.
(I use flipcharts stuck up on the wall and post-it notes to help me ‘see’ what I’m working through. And also, I find that post-it notes are one of the best inventions ever as I am able to move them around as my thinking evolves.)
First, I group all my interests into ‘themes’.
- So for me those themes might include – travel, what makes people tick, overcoming money shame, history & social anthropology, visual arts, personal wholebeing etc. You’ll have your own themes that work for you and who you are.
- In each theme group I make a note of whether they are interests I’ve been pursuing for a while, whether they are brand new to me or whether they are an addition to an interest I’ve already experienced.
- And then I arrange the themes in two columns – one is for my revenue generation and one is for my personal happiness. I list them in a hierarchy that is based upon what is shouting out loudest to me at this moment in time. It is totally arbitrary and based entirely in my now.
Second, I look at my weekly schedule.
I consider my need to generate revenue so that I can meet my basic needs as well as have the freedom to pursue a range of interests for fun. And I arrange my weekly schedule for the next 4 weeks into chunks:
- I put in any commitments I’ve made to others (e.g. employers, clients, friends, family, partner).
- Then I consider what other time I have in my day. And in those chunks I decide whether they’re about revenue generation or my fun time.
- Now the chunks might be 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours and are always a blend throughout the week of these time options. And each week over the 4 is likely to be different.
Third, I play around with what my pragmatic options look like.
- I look at the commitments I’ve already made. And I look at how much time I’m already spending on revenue generation or fun. And what I’m actually doing in that time. Does it align with any of my themes from step 1?
- I then look at which of my themes is currently got nothing happening in the next 4 weeks. And I look at what interests/activities I have within that theme and choose the one that I currently have the deepest curiosity about. I decide how much time I want to give to trying this interest out in my life over the next 4 weeks. And I put it into different chunks in my schedule.
- Then, where I still have empty chunks in my schedule, I look again at my themes and see which interests or activities are shining the brightest for me and I allocate them a space. And I usually leave one or two chunks each week empty to allow for spontaneity in my life.
- Then I step back and look at the whole of my 4 weeks … am I happy and excited about the balance of commitment, revenue generation, fun, developing interests and brand new passions? If not, I play around some more – shifting things around, changing out one theme or activity for another. Until I feel good about it.
AND THEN I GET ON WITH IT … I give my schedule a go.
What happens to those interests, passions, activities that are still unallocated a chunk of my time, energy or attention? They go to one side and will be considered in 4 weeks time when I revisit my schedule for the next 4 weeks (and yes, I schedule this activity as a commitment to myself on day 23 of my 28 days (4 weeks)). We have 13x 4 weeks each year which allow us to add and remove interests frequently. Which meets our driving need for variety and change in our lives.
Sometimes, I realise that I have activities, events or interests in my schedule that I want to stop doing. I may have made a regular commitment to a group or an event that no longer fulfils me. I may have tried something brand new that actually wasn’t as interesting as I felt it might be. I may have got to a point in a project with a client where we are coming to a decision gate and I know that the next phase is more about implementation, embedding and continuously improving. I know that I am the wrong person for such focuses, I shrivel up. I also know that there are people who relish these phases or being involved in gradual improvements.
In these situations I begin to communicate with key people about how best to hand over my experience, knowledge and responsibilities to others who will be fantastic on an on-going basis. And sometimes, because I do really appreciate the relationships I have or their vision for what they’re doing, I’ll include in these discussions an exploration of what new innovative things I can do with them to move them towards solving another challenge they are facing.
The benefits I’ve found through doing this activity regularly is that by keeping myself consciously choosing what I am pursuing I feel that I am in control of my need for ever-changing variety in my life and that what I am doing is meaningful to me (and often to others). I also find that my schedule is rarely ‘routine’ and that I am able to achieve huge amounts … both in my revenue generation column and in my happiness column. I also know that every 4 weeks I get to refresh my schedule – to let go of those interests and activities that no longer fit and to add in new ones. I am also ensuring that I am honouring my needs for revenue and happiness. Which are tied closely together anyway.
And now it’s your turn! I look forward to hearing through the comments below how you find trying these three steps out work for you. What are you getting started now that has had you frozen before?