By Tim Grahl
I would love to strike the word “busy” from every writer’s vocabulary.
Somehow, talking about how busy someone is has become a twisted sort of compliment, and a point of pride.
When I get on the phone with people, they usually thank me for my time, saying they know how busy I must be.
When I ask people how they’re doing, they tell me how busy they are.
When I tell authors they should make time to send emails to their fans, they tell me they’re too busy.
From the CEO to the high school student, everyone is talking about their packed schedule. There’s just no room for anything else.
But what if we got rid of the word “busy” altogether, and replaced that whole concept with something much more honest?
Instead of the word “busy,” let’s use “prioritizing my time.”
I didn’t somehow squeeze people into my frantic schedule. I made a choice to consciously set time aside to speak with them.
On a larger scale, let’s all stop complaining we’re too busy. Let’s tell the truth instead, which is: “I haven’t prioritized my time well.”
“Busy” is something that happens to us. Prioritizing our time is something we make a choice about.3
This is a simple choice to make. Stop looking at your schedule and thinking “I’m too busy.” Instead, look at your schedule and ask yourself, “How am I prioritizing my time?”2
Just this one change will cause you to think differently about your schedule. You’ll quickly begin to look for ways you can control it, instead of letting it control you.
Here’s one example of how this can work for you:
You don’t feel as if you have time to write in the morning, because you have to be up at 6:30 am to get the kids ready for school before you go to work.
Ask yourself, “What would it take for me to get up at 5:00 am?”
Of course you need your eight hours or so each night. But what are you usually doing between the hours of 9:00 pm and 12:00 am? Is it time spent in a useful way? Or is it time spent on Facebook or watching The Tonight Show?
What if you started going to bed at 9:00 or 9:30 pm, instead of 11:00 pm or midnight?
What if you prioritized your time around your writing, instead of your current schedule—which leaves you with “I’m too busy to write”—?
Of course, this means you’ll have to say “no” to a lot of time-wasting stuff.
People are often surprised by the number of things I don’t do. I don’t:
- Spend time on Facebook (other than the Instant Bestseller group), Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram (except to post pictures of my kids)
- Print up business cards
- Have any printed materials other than my book–no stationery, bookmarks, etc. I’ve never seen a return on investment on these for what I do.
- Blog more than three or four times a month
- Comment on other people’s blogs
- Read that many blogs in the first place
- Read or watch any news outside of a few particular niche media channels that I feel are important for my business or personal goals
I recently had a few authors call me out on my article about the myths of social media.
They claimed that social media does work, saying they’ve seen sales occur because of it.
I’ve never claimed that social media is a complete waste of time. I’ve simply pointed out the social media is the 90% of effort that gets you the 10% of results.
The results are not great, considering the amount of work you have to put in for them.
Once you decide to start prioritizing your time, you’ll start looking for activities you can remove in your daily life that get less-than-optimal results.
That one action then leaves room for the three or four things that bring you huge, not meager, results.
You must ruthlessly cut unnecessary stuff out of your life.3
When it comes to planning my time, I have learned to be ruthless.
If an activity is not significantly helping me towards my goals—whether that goal is selling books or having a good relationship with my wife—then it gets cut out of my life. End of story.1
As one of my mentors regularly says, “You can say whatever you want about your goals in life, but the truth is in your calendar and checkbook.”
What exactly are you spending your time on? What activities are you doing that are significantly helping you reach your goals?
Activity—busyness—does not equal progress.
Activity also does not equal achievement.
How do you start prioritizing your life?
- Decide now that you are in control of your schedule.
Yes, we all have things we have to do, such as work every day and take care of family. But every minute outside of those things is a choice.
Decide that moving forward, you are in charge of how you spend your time, and will act accordingly.
- Set your priorities.
What do you want to accomplish in your life? Where do you want to be in a year? What do you need to do each day to get there?
When you’re planning your week, here’s how to fill your schedule:
- Start with what you have to do. If you work a 9 to 5, block out that time on your calendar. If you go to scouts every week with your son or daughter, put that on the calendar too. Start with the non-negotiables.
- Then add what you need to do. This is where your writing goes. This is where your platform-building activities go. This is where date nights with your significant other goes. This is where exercise goes, so you don’t drop dead at 44 with your next novel half written. This is where your steps to achieving your life goals go.
- Fill in any time left. Hobbies, Facebook, TV, etc.
- Plan ahead.
This is the one that can easily catch me off guard.
When I don’t plan, I’ll show up at my desk at 5:30 am, grab a cup of coffee, sit down, and… nothing.
I’m not sure what to work on, what to write or how to spend my time. The way to solve this is to plan ahead.
When I do it right, I have my entire week scheduled before it starts, and I know what I’m going to work on the next day before I go to bed the night before. This allows me to sit down and immediately get to work.
- Change the way you describe your time.
Instead of saying to yourself or other people that you’re just too busy, say “I’ve chosen not to prioritize that.”
Because that’s the truth.
Whenever you don’t do something in your life, it’s because you have chosen not to prioritize that activity.3
Please don’t read that as a judgment. An author friend of mine recently had a major disaster occur in his family. He’s spending a lot of time at the hospital right now, hoping his loved ones don’t die.
He’s choosing to prioritize his family over his writing, and that is obviously a great choice.
But choosing to prioritize useless activity over taking active steps towards your life goals—that is a choice you’re going to regret.
So how’s your day looking?
Have you gotten so busy that you can’t see straight? Are the days ticking by without you reaching your goals?
Or are you consciously prioritizing your life so you can get the important things done—like be the writer you always dreamt of being?
Tim Grahl is the founder and president of Out:think, a firm that helps authors build their platforms, connect with readers and sell more books. Visit: http://outthinkgroup.com