There are five key areas of productivity that must be mastered in order to build skills that are both effective and lasting. Mastery of these skills will enable you to take full control of your life. I call these The Five Fundamentals of Holistic Productivity.
- WHAT are the five fundamentals?
- WHY it is essential to master all five fundamentals?
- HOW do the fundamentals work together to elevate your work, your goals, and your life?
The story begins with Part I
The music starts and everyone begins to walk around the circle of chairs. You are focused and alert, listening for any clue that the music might suddenly stop. As soon as it does, you will need to rush to the nearest chair to sit before there are no chairs left. After all, there are fewer chairs than there are people playing and if you are the one left standing, then you are out!
This is Musical Chairs — a game that many of us played when we were just little kids. Even then we had an understanding that not everyone would get to sit after the music ended.
Let’s adapt the game. First, we will not remove one chair after every round. Second, instead of kids playing, let your large flies be the players! You know, the flies that you controlled to pilot your vacation plane. Those flies.
If you don’t know about the flies yet, go back and read Part I.
The swarm buzzes around in a circle waiting for the music to end. Once it does, the flies land. One fly per chair. Because we have a swarm of flies, instead of just one large fly not finding a seat, there will be many flies left out.
Now you understand the second fundamental of holistic productivity — Time Management. Let’s break it down…
Time Management is not about managing time because you cannot do that. Rather, it is about managing the things that you choose to do with your time. Time is a limited resource, so it is imperative to be intentional about how you use every minute.
Why musical chairs?
- There are a discrete number of chairs in the game
- There are a discrete number of hours in a day
The circle of chairs represents one day on your calendar divided into hours. Let’s say you spent 9 AM — 10 AM reading and writing emails. Once you reach 10 AM you can no longer use 9–10 to do anything else. The time is gone. Only one fly can land on that chair.
Some time slots will always be pre-committed with tasks that cannot be avoided:
Other obligations, such as a doctor’s appointment or your kid’s school play, will fill in many of the open time slots. What remains is your discretionary time — the chairs in your game.
Which flies will you allow to land?
Remember that the large flies are your most important tasks. They are the tasks that will make significant progress toward achieving your goals. These are the tasks that you want to play the game and land on a chair. Schedule time for your important tasks. Find chairs for each of your biggest flies.
Not Enough Time
There is a problem. There are not enough chairs for all your large flies! This is the challenge of time management.
Forget about letting the flies fight it out when the music stops. Do not leave the result to chance. You must decide which flies get a chair and which do not.
It is your time. It is your goals. It is your life. Be proactive about how you fill your days.
Tomorrow is another day
The good news is that once the game is over, you get to play again! A new game of musical chairs. A new day. The flies that did not play in the first round have a new opportunity! You can let different flies land tomorrow.
This is how time management can help ensure that you work on all of your important projects. You have already selected the best tasks to keep on your todo list (the large flies), and now you are allocating time on your calendar to work on them.
If this sounds too rigid, do not fret. The system is flexible and can bend to meet the changing demands of your day and week. Adapt.
If you are anything like me, at some point in your life, maybe even now, you have struggled with work/life balance. For a long time, it felt like feast or famine.
I was working too many hours and not spending any time with my family and friends.
I was attending too many dinners, parties, and special life events resulting in my work slipping behind.
Why does it always seem like it has to be one or the other? What about the other areas of my life that require my attention? I still needed to pay my bills (I don’t mean earn enough money, I mean pay my bills! That takes some time.) I still needed to exercise and take care of my health.
When I finally learned to schedule my entire day on my calendar, it suddenly dawned on me. I don’t have to only use this for my work! I can schedule time to spend with my daughter. I can schedule time for exercise or to pay my bills.
When I showed my filled out schedule to my wife, she thought I was crazy! Whether she was correct or not is a discussion for a different article. The point is that she did not see why this would work. It’s too rigid.
A completely filled-in daily schedule does not have to be rigid. There is flexibility. Some items are truly fixed, but others can be adjusted.
If I need more time for one thing, I can see right in front of me what I am taking time away from.
My decisions became more informed. My choices for how I spent my time became more focused. I could adapt as necessary with a full understanding of what I choose to do and what I choose to not do with my time.
Now you know you must coordinate your fixed commitments, your important goals and your discretionary time. It is not possible to do everything, but it is possible to decide which things will fill your days. Make it count!