Planning to do nothing.
Time Management books tend to focus on tasks. On culling emails, on filing systems, on taming interruptions to meetings. They are about scheduling jobs, planning steps to be taken, organising paperwork. They make me tired just writing about them. The assumption is that good time management is about how we do what we do and how to do it fast.
Let me give you an example. Yesterday I knew I had to do a lot of work on this blog. If I was to keep up my intended posting schedule and everything else I had to do in life I needed to sit down and write a dozen or so posts. I had a system of notes and Filofax inserts and Evernote notebooks. I knew what to do. But I was feeling pushed along and I didn’t know what to write about.
Many writing books say to put your butt in a chair and a screen and keyboard in front of you and get to work. A good second step. But my first step was a little different.
I went out for breakfast and read a couple of magazines and the newspaper. Then I went to buy some shoes. Then I went to my favourite bookshops and browsed around a bit. And by early afternoon I had jotted down six new blog post ideas. Today I have my butt in the seat and the keyboard in front of me.
Think of it in terms of noise. An unmanaged workplace yells at you. There are shrieked demands and heavy clunks as things fall out of place. Missed deadlines ring loud bells and that phone just never stops chirping.
Good time management puts a sleek system in place. It hums and purrs like a deluxe car. Every half hour, bang on time there is a neat and pleasing soft scler-wump sound as one task goes completed down the chute. The phone is on answer machine so you can actually hear the clock ticking gently and the coffee machine spluttering. How nice.
It’s still making noise. And it is the noise of routine. The noise that conditions us to sit and follow the same ( now highly efficient) system over and over. It reminds us that there is a system to fit in with and if we don’t keep up the noise will start again. In other words, there is still pressure.
A good time management system will alleviate that by incorporating what I call ‘bird song time’. A time to walk out and away and get your head into a new listening experience. Something, anything, unexpected. Timetable yourself to do nothing and you will find it remarkably productive because you shift from system to thought, from methods to experience, from outcomes to new ideas. You rid your head of the noise of the system so that you can hear the birdsong, the new ideas, the possibilities in the wind. It is not procrastination because you are not putting things off for the avoidance of starting them. You are starting, just in a place where you can hear the birds.
Then when you come home the sleek time management system is quiet enough for you to hear yourself humming that nightingale song over the clicks of your keyboard.
Will you put a time in your planner to today to do nothing much?
What do you need to hear in your life that your routine is drowning out?