In the early stages of my career, my calendar was filled with meetings from 8am to 6pm.
I suffered from FOMO at work. I wanted to attend every meeting and be included on every email so I wouldn’t miss out on something "important."
And the queue outside my office? Well, fuggedaboutit. It frequently looked like a line at a New York deli. Heck, I even put out a few chairs so people could wait comfortably.
Like you, I was busy most of the time. If you find yourself feeling drained, I bet your calendar looks a lot like mine did back then. You rush from meeting to meeting and barely have enough time to eat lunch or steal a bio-break. And your email clean-up and deep thinking time have been relegated to after hours.
Keeping up with the break-neck pace probably makes you feel significant because you feel like you are in the game. It did for me at a time. But it shouldn’t have.
What I’ve learned from coaching countless corporate leaders over the years is that too many leaders trade the important for the urgent.
And the trade-off forces us to use our personal time to get the stuff that truly matters to our success done, as Cal Newport references in his book Deep Work.
Hey, we all have moments when the urgent is the priority; however, those should be short-term exceptions. The good news is that we always have a choice. You can change your approach and create long-term success.
This was a change I made for myself when I was leaving corporate America. And I started on this path by asking myself, “What do you want out of life, Michael?”
My answer became my navigation system. After I set the coordinates, it was time for action.
Through trial and error, and guidance from productivity gurus such as Michael Hyatt, I developed a little system I call P.E.A.C.E.
The goal: To become more productive by focusing on the things that matter most with less stress and more freedom.
Here’s my P.E.A.C.E. system for you:
Ping-Ping: Who has instant access to you? The answer is everyone if you haven’t turned off your computer and phone notifications. I mean all of them: email, text, and social. Every chime from your devices could be something important or just another cat video. Since it's impossible to tell, most glance at every "ping-ping" and kill their productivity.
During his recent productivity summit, Hyatt shared that most people are interrupted every three minutes at work. Thus, making it difficult to put forth our best thinking on the projects that matter most.
Productivity Tip: Turn off all phone and computer notifications, and set up a dedicated batch schedule to process your email and other messages. And trust that if it is truly urgent, they will call. Bonus: Get the app “Freedom” to temporarily shut down social media to gain more focus.
The best version of you requires energy management. When you feel lethargic, it’s hard to play the long game. For the matter, the short game is tough, as well. Yes, you can run on fumes for a few miles, but if you want to excel, you need a full tank of gas. Energy management requires spiritual, emotional, and physical alignment.
Productivity Tip: Sleep is your energy portal. It's key to your alignment. So turn off your screens 60-minutes before bed. And kill that T.V. in your bedroom and hotel room.
Alone Zone: During my recovery, I started each morning alone in a quiet part of the hospital. Many people today called it the Alone Zone. My solitary quiet time became a routine that gave me clarity for the day. Today, I set aside four hours each week for thinking, planning, and taking action on my most important projects. It's my deep thinking time.
Productivity Tip: Spend 10-minutes at the start of your day to set your top three priorities. And block and protect a few hours a week that are dedicated to deep thinking on your big projects at work and in life. Bonus: Get the app “Calm” to begin a meditation practice. Trust me, you can do this.
Curiosity: Our conversations build our relationships. Our relationships build our tribe. Being curious helps you see more possibilities and strengthens your connections. It promotes a “We” vs. “They” culture, skill development, and trust.
Productivity Tip: Ask more questions for which you don’t have the answer. Actively listen to understand versus listening to reply.
Essentialism: The book Essentialism by Greg McKeown was one of my favorite business books of 2014. Strike that. It's one of my favorite business books, full stop.
His statement is scary but unfortunately true. Too many of us are afraid of boredom. We grab our phones at traffic lights or as we wait in line at Whole Foods. Our phones become just another shiny object to chase.
Productivity Tip: Get clear on your priorities at work and in life. Pitch, Pause and Pass the rest of your to-do list. Practice Essentialism. Stop chasing shiny objects.
After I left corporate America, I wanted more health, freedom, and peace in my life. Pursuing them has been a journey. Some days I still trade the urgent for the important, but it's less common today than 10 years ago.
Now, rather than run in the rat race and being constantly "busy," I'm focused on helping other executives and entrepreneurs become less busy and more productive and fulfilled.
Are you ready for a change? Following P.E.A.C.E. is one way to take the first step. Another is to ask yourself: “What do you want out of your life/career?”
Share your answer below and share other tips that have helped you become more productive on the things that matter most in your life.
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