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5 Questions That Will Help You Focus On What Matters

Posted by on January 11, 2016 in Conscious Living, Happiness & Humor, Thrive with 0 Comments

Bryan Collins | Tiny Buddha

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“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~Mary Oliver

Let’s get things done.

If you’ve ever read any books or articles about productivity, you’ve heard this phrase. It’s one I used and made a part of my life for a long time. More recently, I’ve discovered there’s a better and more disciplined way to work and to live.

It’s called essentialism, and it means getting more of the right things done.

According to Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, an essentialist removes the trivial and focuses on what adds value.

They make smart decisions about how to spend their time, energy, and resources because they understand this is the best way of contributing more to the people in their lives, to their families, and to society.

I’ve discovered five important questions that are helping me make progress toward getting more of the right things done.

And I want to share them with you.

1. Is this activity adding value to my life?

Since I was a child, I played and loved video games. When I was in my mid-twenties, I even reviewed them for a popular entertainment website. The website didn’t pay me, but I didn’t care. I enjoyed gaming, and I was able to keep the games after I wrote my reviews.

After a year or two of this, I felt a shift in how I approached games. Instead of looking forward to playing the next AAA title or blockbuster release, I began to dread the tedious missions, the walkthroughs, and inevitable write-ups.

To my great shame, I wrote negative reviews of games I’d only played for an hour or two before selling them.

One morning, after staying up late gaming the night before, I woke up and realized I was wasting my time and energy on something I didn’t enjoy. I emailed my editor and told him I was done. Then, I sold my games and gave my console to my son.

I’m not making a case against gaming; instead, I share this story as an example of how we value our time differently as we grow older.

2. How am I going to fill my glass?

Consider your entire day a glass:

You can fill this glass with important activities, or big rocks, such as spending time with family or working on projects you’re passionate about. Then, you can fill the glass with non-essential activities like answering email or watching television—these are likes grains of sand, and they will settle around the big rocks in your day.

However, if you fill your glass non-essential activities first, there will be no room left for the big rocks in your day.

Every night, before I go to bed, I ask myself what I want to fill my glass with?

My answer is almost always the same: to write.

Unless I act, these grains of sand will fill my day and leave no room for writing. However, if I make a conscious decision to write, these grains of sand settle around the big rocks in my day.

I’m not going to lie and say I fit writing into every day, but when I do I feel lighter. And if I write first thing—even if it’s just a journal entry—I don’t have the inevitable moment when I sit on the couch after an exhausting and demanding day and think, “Oh no, I still have to write.”

If you’re not a writer, you still have big rocks in your life. They could be spending time with a loved one, meditating, or exercising. Your grains of sand could be commitments you’ve made to others that aren’t adding value to your life or passive activities like watching the news or reading social media feeds.

Decide on your big rocks before you got to bed, and you will wake up and fill your day with what matters.


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