All of us know people who seem to be constantly busy. They claim to have somewhere to be or something to do almost every hour of the day. You’ve probably listened to friends complain about how busy, overwhelmed, and stressed they are. And if it happens enough, you may be wondering if they’re doing it to themselves.

These people talk about how they wish they had more time, wish they were able to participate in activities they used to love, and reschedule time together over and over again on you.

So what gives?

Don’t Let Your Calendar Control You

Let me first start by saying I’m not perfect when it comes to managing my time, far from it. I get distracted, sometimes procrastinate, and sometimes fail to be fully present when I ought to be. I do however, think I’ve gotten pretty good at setting and keeping expectations with others when it comes to commitments that are important to them. I rarely reschedule, and If I do, I’m usually able to do so 48 hours before the planned meeting.

My calendar(s) – yes I have two, one that is visible to the team I work with and one that isn’t – do not control my life. If you don’t use digital calendaring you probably should, because one of the first things you’ll see about your schedule is that *surprise* you’re not constantly doing something 12 hours a day. You probably have blocks of time within the day where you actually don’t do much of anything at all. Blocks of time where you go on Facebook, read about Kim Kardashian on Buzzfeed, or watch your favorite show.

Every Sunday night I review my schedule for the week – move anything I think is at risk of running over into something else and ensure that any activity that doesn’t have an agenda attached to it is removed until one can be applied. For me it’s not worth going to a meeting or activity that doesn’t have a clearly defined outcome expectation.

Busy People Aren’t Necessarily Productive People

The words busy and productive are not the same, they’re not even synonyms. Many find themselves jumping from task to task and at the end of the day think they’ve been super productive.

It’s easy to feel that way if you were rushing from meeting to meeting all day long. And even easier to feel that way if you complete a to-do-list of items in the process. These activities though don’t necessarily mean you’ve been productive. They mean you’ve been ‘busy’. You must ask yourself: What did I accomplish that brought me closer to reaching my goals? What relationships did I strengthen? What items did I delegate to others?

The Difference Between Being Intentional And Unintentional With Time

Focus on three big wins (things that will really move the needle on your goals) – these should be thematic and the most important areas you want focus on for the given period. For me an example would be:

  1. Relationships
  2. Brand Building
  3. Income

Yours will likely be different which is the way it should be. Furthermore, your big wins may change or be prioritized differently every few weeks. That being said, you shouldn’t go about changing them every day.

Then attach actionable steps you can take for each:

  1. Have dinner with parents
  2. Write personal development article (checkbox!)
  3. Sign up a new client

Any activities/tasks that I want to take on during the week then must correspond to one of my big wins. If an activity doesn’t specifically help further one of these three areas in my life – I don’t automatically disregard it, but I question whether it should get on my calendar and whether or not it could be addressed in a different way eg. delegated, done next week, or skipped all together.

Now, these aren’t the only three things I’ll do in a week, they’re the three things that MUST happen during the week. I specifically schedule ‘free’ time blocks during the week and on days as an intentional reserve for things that could come up eg. a crisis at work or a last minute dinner with friends. I do maintain a list of less time sensitive tasks and during downtime or reserved free time I’ll knock these out on a rolling basis.

No one is saying you need to have each hour of each day planned. But by prioritizing your big wins each week, you can see and feel the progress you make. And that makes your actions and success that comes with them very intentional.

Did you love it? Hate it? Let me know how you stay sane and get things done.