Start focusing on the things that are purposeful, not necessarily the things that make you feel productive.

Dribbble: Paul Olek

The past couple of years I have intentionally worked on being more introspective which has lead to some enlightening discoveries. For example, I am innately good at heads-down work with a clear definition of what done and success looks like. Think homework, papers, tests, weightlifting, running, and other easy tracked activities that show objectively how I have grown or where I need to improve. However, I am really bad at going beyond surface level tasks and thinking about long-term effects. I was doing, objectively, really well in college — high GPA, good internships, plenty of extracurricular activities, but I had no idea what I truly wanted to do for a career or where to even start. This was a byproduct of being addicted to the feeling of productivity, and not being purposeful with my time.

My boss loves to throw his favorite books and articles my way to enable me to seek the things I wish to better understand. I even have some very dedicated friends that hold me accountable and walk with me as I grow. Having a community filled with supporters and thought leaders propel me to not only be my best, but strive for something more. In this quest, I have become fascinated by time management and my ability to make the best use of my time. I started reading Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, by Steven R. Covey, and boy am I shook. This book will live on well beyond my years because its truth is so foundational to how we work as human beings. Each habit builds upon the last, and provides an actionable path to bridge the gaps in between. The hard part is actually admitting some harsh realities, and committing to change.

I am about half way through reading it, but even just focusing on the first couple of habits has changed my daily outlook. This has eliminated a lot of unnecessary waste in my life, and opened up my schedule to focus on more important things. The question I always come back to is — does this thing or task help me work towards goals I have established for my profession, relationships, hobbies, or faith.

The hard part is cutting through the noise to discover and cement what those things are. I have a list of 25 things I would like to achieve, but realistically I can only do at best 5. Additionally, I have an end-less list of chores or demands, some are mandatory while others are optional, that detract from my time to work towards those goals.

iOS 12 introduced Screen Time, which lets me limit my activity on specific applications and at certain times. Android has had this for awhile, so I was excited for this to come out on iOS when I wanted to focus on minimizing my time on the limitless pools that are social media. Although I still push beyond my limits at times, and I don’t feel bad for using beyond when necessary. However, I appreciate the gentle nudge that lets me know I have gone past my planned usage. (Only downside is using YouTube and Google Maps bloats my usage stats)

My Screen Time Stats

Like my one of my favorite YouTubers, Casey Neistat, I strive for an empty calendar so that I can fill it with productive activities. My problem is the tasks that make me feel productive are rather fleeting. Email management, cleaning my house, or playing video games can all feel rewarding in the moment, but I look back and regret giving them so much of my time.

A recent podcast by captured all of the thoughts I have had floating around in my head for becoming more intentional with my time.

“You cant just wait for somebody else to say that your dreams or goals are important, you got to find some way to take your attention back” — Jake Knapp
Checkout the Productivity Planner on Amazon

Jake shared his perspective on time-management using lessons learned from the Sprint methodology which he devised while at @Google. Each day is given an overall objective to give teams the ability to look back, know what they did, how they were working towards a goal, and what will happen next.

This podcast was a swift kick to gut, but had so much truth to it. Since then I have been trying different methods of journaling to help me zero-in on improving where I spend my time throughout the day. I find that it is really hard to find a specific goal each day that hits a sweet spot of about 60–90 minutes worth of effort.

Making time for the things that matter in life takes dedicated effort and plenty of forethought. Inevitably there will be tasks that are demanding and might even feel wasteful, but focusing each day on giving time to the most purposeful things adds up to something significant. Designing your time around what matters keeps work+life in a healthy balance, without spiraling out of control into something that is regrettable. Got any tips for making time? Let me know in the comments! 📣