Blogs by InnovatorsBox®


Originally published in: Forbes

What is the opportunity cost of always being busy, especially when productivity is highly valued because there are always a million things to do? What would happen if we were productive in a prioritized way? When you answer that unscheduled phone call, you could have finished a proposal you’ve been working on for months or even taken a lunch break.

But here’s the million-dollar question: How do we decide which projects to prioritize? Our attention spans are getting shorter, and our workloads never seem to slow down. It’s easy to get distracted and be pressured to multitask.

The old me used to agonize over this routine and experience FOMO (fear of missing out) until I realized how to reframe my thinking. I hope you, too, will benefit from using this reframe.

First, a few things to know about me. I’m a perfectionist, visionary and a highly detailed planner. This helped me become who I am today: a successful, young entrepreneur and published author. Recently I experienced a moment of profound self-awareness. I realized that my need to overly plan was making my colleagues and team members overwhelmed. They were confused by my detailed thinking, unsure which ideas to prioritize, and as a result, concerned about making a mistake or not meeting my expectations. Because of this way of working, I used to stress about how I could optimize every moment and ounce of energy. This resulted in a packed schedule, but not a prioritized one.

Here are the strategies I now rely on that I hope will work for you, too:

Block off time for creativity because if you're always busy running from one meeting to another, you won't have the energy to deliver your "A" game for the creative and strategic work.

1. Schedule time for deep thinking.

Warren Buffet famously shared how emptying his calendar gives him time to think and strategize instead of sitting in meetings all day. Some of us may not have the luxury to empty our whole calendar, but we can practice scheduling blocks of time for deep thinking, strategizing and reflecting.

For me, at InnovatorsBox, that means I block off chunks of time for creative program development, brainstorming and reflecting. If I’m always busy running from one meeting to another, I won’t have the energy to deliver my “A” game for the creative and strategic work I do for my clients. So when I’m in my deep thinking zone, it is a sacred time.

Put your phone on airplane mode, don’t take any meetings and turn off your clock until your alarm goes off for your next meeting. This permits you to do more quality creative development instead of rushing to get something done haphazardly.

2. Manage your energy to avoid decision fatigue.

Decision fatigue happens when you’re so mentally drained that you aren’t able to make sound choices. This is why at the end of the day we feel more tired than in the morning: We’ve spent a full day making decision after decision.

Being aware of when you’re reaching decision fatigue allows you to avoid making any decisions, especially those you may come to later regret. In other words, if you know you have big decisions to make on a certain day, consciously limit your decision-making in order to manage your energy and critical thinking ability. You can even schedule a time to unplug and take a walk. Sometimes it’s as simple as stepping away from the computer or phone.

3. Be relentlessly curious about everything.

When you focus on being curious instead of reactive, you’re more likely to enjoy your deliverables and find something intriguing along the process.

For instance, when I do outreach emails to clients, instead of focusing on a sales goal or email response rate, I maintain a focus on curiosity. Of the people who responded, I wonder why they did so — and why the others chose not to. I wonder why some people are hard to get a hold of. I wonder why one person wants to talk over the phone but is not responsive over email. As a result of this process, my email writing process is no longer a task but a case of curiosity full of opportunities to learn. I’m not only gamifying this process, but I’m also intrigued to figure out patterns or decipher ways I can improve my communication style.

This method may take more time, but you will likely be more observant and thoughtful in your actions.

4. Plan ahead to enjoy being fully present.

The time we have today will never return, no matter what we choose to do. So part of not feeling FOMO or opportunity cost is learning to enjoy the present moment to the fullest.

If you choose to take a walk, fully enjoy the walk instead of forcing yourself to do multiple things. If you choose to attend a networking event, focus on enjoying meeting as many people and learning as many things instead of feeling worried about what you “should” be getting done.

This act of present focus is a lot easier when you plan your days and manage your energy. I can focus on being creative when I know I don’t have another meeting in five minutes. I can focus on the business meeting because I know my next meeting will be in 30 minutes and an alarm will ring before that.

You will still have a busy schedule, but by using these strategies, you will feel so much freer, more effective and happier about your workload and your decision-making. Practice these steps and be much more intentional about your time and energy. Don’t let the calendar or your deadlines distract how you feel about your day or your energy. Instead, use these constraints as a resource to construct your days.

There are always going to be major things that are unexpected, like a global conference being canceled due to the spread of a virus or more minor obstacles like traffic delays. But now, with these intentional practices, you’re more at peace with living and working with intention.

About the Author

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang

Monica H. Kang, Founder, and CEO of InnovatorsBox® and Author of Rethink Creativity is transforming today’s workforce through the power of creativity. She helps companies rethink culture, leadership, and team development by making creativity practical and relatable regardless of industry or job title. She has worked with clients worldwide including Fortune 500 companies, higher education, government, and nonprofits. Monica’s work has been recognized by The White House, Ashoka Changemakers, National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC), and Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). Prior to InnovatorsBox®, Monica was a nuclear nonproliferation policy expert. She holds an M.A. from SAIS Johns Hopkins University in Strategic Studies and International Economics and a B.A. from Boston University.

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