Stop What You Are Doing

Whether you believe you can do a thing or not, you are right (Henry Ford)

I wake up each morning with a long to-do list for work. I also have fewer but more important long-term goals related to health, finances and growth, jotted on a “less-important” side column. As crazy as it might sound, these bigger priorities don’t fit into my everyday schedule: I have been delaying a full health check for about 10 years! Does this sound familiar? If yes, you are not alone.

Planning our future, taking care of our well-being and making progress on the grand scheme of life is what really matters on this lonely planet in the middle of the Milky Way galaxy. Why is it so difficult to pay attention to what it really counts in our lives and dedicate more time to what is truly important?

Humans tend to seek out immediate gratification and we do so by answering an email or completing a trivial task rather than putting an effort towards a goal that we cannot measure in the short term (taking care of our health, writing a book, planning our family’s future, etc.). This is what Dan Ariely calls “structured procrastination”: rather than making sure we use the hours in our day efficiently, we often give way to the temptation of tackling easier projects first instead of the important ones.

If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first. (Mark Twain)

Getting to “inbox zero” and answering 50 emails in a day can give us a deceptive sense of productivity. It seems we had a great prolific day, but sometimes we have just crossed things on someone’s else to-do list (= your inbox).

We need to reset our brains to perceive a sense of achievement when reaching a long-term, more important milestone. How can we do it? Let’s think about my health check: it is all about setting small goals and making an effort to hold on them. We all use calendars to manage our short-term working schedules, we should use them also for our bigger goals. How? I could block three 15/20 minutes blocks on my calendar to:

  1. Pre-work: Decide what medical checks I need and see if these are covered by my health insurance
  2. Schedule an appointment with my doctor to talk about the health check
  3. Follow up on the best timing to have the appointment and block the entire day, as this is the most important thing I could potentially do for myself in 2018 (it could save my life).

Our calendars are too often filled with useless meetings and short-term projects; in 2018 we should all using some of our precious time to work towards achieving our bigger goals in life.

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