If you have been reading my work for a long time, this letter may sound a bit familiar. I actually wrote the bulk of this almost two years ago as a post to my blog. When I started writing today's letter, I realized that everything I was saying was basically a repeat of this. So, I figured, why not just send what I wrote before. Hope you'll forgive that. Here it is...
Now that you and I have agreed that the best place for the things you intend to do is on a calendar, I wanted to take some time to talk about what that means.
You see, when the things you hope to do are on some long wish list of things you hope to do, they are telling you a lie. They are telling you that you that every single thing on there is of equal importance. They are telling you that you have infinite capacity and infinite time. They are telling you everything needs to be there and should, at some point, warrant 100% of your attention. That it is completely possible and reasonable that you will do all of these things and have all the time in the world to do them.
The beauty of forcing the essential question of "When?" is that it also forces you (and the things) to face a hard and undeniable truth — time is finite. Each day has 24 hours. Six-to-Eight of those you are sleeping. You have many other obligations that will take away from the rest of your waking time — both on your calendar and not. My guess is that for a lot of us, at most and on the best days, we have about 2 hours to honestly dedicate to any of the things on our list. Most days, that is much, much, less.
Now that you are going to make those things part of your day, week, or month by taking a look at your calendar and deciding when you plan to do those things and scheduling those things at a time, you can see exactly how much time you have to work with. Suddenly, you go from having the lie of infinite capacity to the truth of having known constraints. With this knowledge, and only with this knowledge, you can focus on doing better things with that time.
Time is an instant prioritizer. Looking at a thing you need to do and asking "when" returns an answer that is a priority as much as a time. For instance, if some thing should be done "Now" then it is more important than anything else that might be done now. If some thing should be done today, and slotted into a free spot on your calendar to be done today, then it’s as important as anything else you will do today. It also follows that some thing that you put on the calendar to do tomorrow is less important than the things you need to do today or right now.
Now that you have recognized that the time and capacity you have for this long list of things is, in fact, limited you might also start to look at the things on that list and ask, "Is this worth my time doing?"
That is to say, if you know you only have a limited amount of time to work on the things you wish to do, don’t you want to make sure you are only doing the things you should be doing? Don’t you want to do better things? Things that really matter and make an impact? You have maybe a half-hour, hour, etc. Don't you want to spend that short amount of time doing the best things you can?
I know I do. And, I know the first step to deciding the best thing I can do with the time I have is ensuring that the things on my list are all things that matter to me. Anything else I, literally, don’t have time for.