My mind is never calm, it keep on wandering from places to ideas to experiences from people! Any time I have a couple of minutes on my own, while waiting in the car or in a queue or on bed waiting to sleep, for example, I take my phone out and start reading. Or I take notes, whatever keeps my mind busy. I have many interests. If I let myself fully indulge in them, I would be all over the place, and won’t be able to focus.
I’m famous for opening all presents coming over. That curiosity has helped sometimes in my past. Fortunately, I’ve learned to keep them under wraps, like presents that I can open at will, although not most of the times.
I know I’m not alone in this situation, I see same people on Quora everyday. Have you ever asked yourself any of these questions?
- How can I keep my mind quiet to focus on the one thing that I have to do?
- How can I stay motivated to pursue one goal and follow through with my plan when I want to do a hundred things?
- How can I satisfy my many interests with the limited time I have?
Over time, I’ve learned to deal with these challenges, and fortunately, I’ve found a solution. Here is the six-step method I refined over the years. With it, I can indulge in many interests and still stay focused to get things done. It gives me quick results and is highly flexible.
The first step is to define which activities are the most important in your life at this time—activities that stand at the core of the life you want. Examples include: spending time with your family and friends, exercising, reading, working, listening to music, and traveling.
Undertakings that are part of your personal growth plan are also important, as they will make you the person you want to become. Examples include: learning new skills, improving your existing ones, starting a side business, and advancing your career.
All these activities are your must-haves; they are highly important to you and they can have a considerable impact on your life. This is where you will put your full focus.
Write them all down in a list.
Then, decide which other activities you are going to indulge in. What is important for your entertainment or your craving for knowledge? These activities are typically your hobbies, things you love doing like watching movies, playing games, and reading books.
Write down your nice-to-have activities on a second list.
3. Clear the Clutter
Our brain is constantly looking for stimulation. And conveniently, our modern society provides it. Our brain is constantly bombarded with lots of stuff through app notifications, endless news, emails, and texts. All these stimuli and our relentless quest for instant gratification inevitably bring us to procrastination.
To get our head out of the water, we have to get rid of the clutter. We need to free time for our must-haves and nice-to-haves. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What are the activities that you do purely out of habit even though you don’t enjoy them much?
- What are the things you end up doing because you feel you “should,” even though they are not important to you?
- What are your typical procrastination activities?
Here are examples of activities that might typically fall into this category: watching the news, checking Facebook or your email, and watching TV generally. Take your time to dig out all these activities and write them down on a third list. This is the list of activities that you should stop doing or do less frequently. Keep the list as a reminder in case you catch yourself “wasting” time on these activities.
4. Get Your Activity Plan Ready
Now that you have your three lists, write down your must-have and nice-to-have activities in a weekly plan.
Put down the amount of time you will allocate to each of these activities every day or every week; for example: read for thirty minutes every day or exercise for thirty minutes on Tuesday and Thursday.
Your time allocation for your must-have activities should naturally be more substantial. If you realize this is not the case, you should got back to step 1 and 2 and clarify what is a must-have and what is a nice-to-have.
Now that you have your activity plan ready, follow it during a typical week. Try to stick to the time you have allocated for each activity. Then, every day, write down how much time you’ve really spent on all your activities.
At the weekend, retrospect: review your week and analyze the data.
- Did you stick to your plan?
- What went well?
- What didn’t went well and why?
Based on your answers to the questions above, make adjustments to your plan for the following week. Allocate more or less time to specific activities where it makes sense. Remove activities if you must. Refocus and commit to clearing out the clutter once again.
6. Experiment, Explore, Shuffle, Repeat.
Your plan should never be static. The whole point of the method is to indulge in the activities and topics you’re interested in. So feel free to shuffle your activities around and add new ones at will. Explore, try out whatever you fancy, even indulging in cluttering activities to see where it leads you. By exploring and experimenting, your will learn more about yourself and what brings you fulfilment.
You might discover that one activity that you’ve wanted to do for a long time isn’t that exciting and fulfilling once you indulge in it. So you might end up dropping it, with the satisfaction of having tried it out. Over time, our interests and goals change; this is why your plan of typical activities will and should be updated on a regular basis, typically once a month.
Do what keeps you excited and fulfilled.
This process might seem pretty regulated, but it doesn’t have to be. Once you’re comfortable with your plan and devoting time to what is important and fulfilling to you, you won’t need to worry about the plan every week. You can then keep your planning to a minimum. A plan keeps you focused and prevents you from feeling overwhelmed by too many activities.
So try to follow a clear weekly plan for your must-haves. In contrast, my nice-to-have activities are more driven by the daily habits I put in place than a strict plan. Take ownership of the process and shape it to make it fit within your life. As long as you’re clear on what you want and committed to discovering yourself while trying new activities, feel free to do whatever you please.