I have so much free time. Said no one, ever.
But if someone were to ever dare utter those words, it would be my friend.
We’ll call her Ingrid.
Ingrid’s one of those people who make you wonder:
If everyone has the same number of hours in the day, why does she seem to get so much more done than anyone else?
It’s definitely NOT from the lack of commitments.
Ingrid’s got 4 kids. A husband who works market hours from LA. She’s currently out raising a Series A during the pandemic. She exercises and meditates every day. And yes, she does wake up at 4:45 am – but she goes to bed by 9:45. (That’s 7 hours, if you’re counting.)
Yet every time we speak, she’s totally present.
She asks me tons of questions about my family.
She recalls the tiniest details (remember the time you wanted to start an events company?) about my life.
And even when things are awry at her start-up, she’s lucid in her stress.
I once Ingrid how she defined success. And without a hint of hesitation she said:
“Me and my family’s health.”
And her next three words shook me to my core:
“Never feeling rushed.”
If time is the currency of achievement, why are some able to cash in their allocation for more chips than others?
And in a world of rapid fire Slack messages, daily episodes of The Daily and Zoom calls up the wazoo – who on earth has the right to not feel rushed?
Wait But Why’s Tim Urban offers a clue. As one of my blogging idols, Urban has the deft ability to crank out 10,000 word posts (like this one on career change) that double as free life coaching sessions.
And here’s a clue into his baffling prolific-ness:
Digging into the mentions, it becomes quite clear why he just doesn’t use Google Drive.
In the book No BS Time Management, Dan Kennedy has an entire chapter dedicated to the evil forces that make us feel rushed all the dang time. Look no further than the name of chapter two itself:
How to Drive a Stake Through the Hearts of the Time Vampires Out to Suck You Dry
And Kennedy’s concluding Time Truth:
There’s one thing you’ll never see in a casino. A clock. And that’s good business – if you’re the dealer.
The iconic management thinker Peter Drucker famously said:
What gets measured, gets managed.
You actually do this already – the Peloton Leaderboard, a Headspace streak or the star chart that rewards your 6 year old’s good behavior.
A bunch of my homies have this Bluetooth-enabled doo-hicky on their desks.
It’s the Timular Time Tracker and it lets you easily account for your time so that your days don’t disappear like the clock-less casino.
But are you ready for time-tracking with a twist?
When I first hired my business coach, he asked me for an audit of my time.
But there was a catch.
He wanted to see the hours organized as follows:
- $10 per hour work
- $100/hr work
- $1,000/hr work
- $10,000/hr work
The book-ends of this exercise rocked me.
In the $10 category there was the constant re-scheduling Zoom calls, formatting Keynotes, responding to YouTube comments, and gathering my 1099s.
(My coaching and consulting was split in the middle two categories.)
Come on dawg, the top law partners at Skadden bill $1,500 an hour.
But whether you’re a business owner, executive or manager – there absolutely are daily actions that could have $10,000 outcomes in the future.
- Recruit a VP of Sales
- Incubate a breakthrough new product
- Create a world-class management training program
- “Disrupt” your own career by learning an entire new skill
- Learn how to delegate using Upwork, virtual assistants and No-code tools
- Become great at public speaking
- Take specific steps to shape the culture of your firm
When you break the code of extremely successful people like Ingrid, you realize that they have an unwavering commitment to $10,000/hr work.
And it’s not necessarily profit-driven – they’re simply deliberate in playing the long game.
E.B White wrote:
“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve (or save) the world and a desire to enjoy (or savor) the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”
This succinctly captures the our daily tension as well-intentioned day spiral out of our control… minutes after our alarms go off.
- Put out today’s fire or plant a seed for tomorrow?
- Be perfectly present with your child or do a task that fattens their 529 plan?
- Should you give the hamster wheel another good twirl or pursue more purposeful work that energizes you?
In the NYT article productivity isn’t about time management, it’s about attention management Wharton Professor (and longtime RadReader) Adam Grant sheds some light into Ingrid’s unique mindset:
I’ve found that productive people don’t agonize about which desire to pursue. They go after both simultaneously, gravitating toward projects that are personally interesting and socially meaningful.
Which brings me to a peculiar recent discovery of mine. This discovery touches three of my favorite activities: surfing, writing and meditation.
I found that in these activities, When I apply more effort, the output decreases.
I cannot impose my will into writing a great email.
When I paddle furiously into a wave – I don’t catch it.
Trying becomes striving and striving undoes itself.
In Daosim, they call this “Wu Wei” or Effortless Action.
You may know it as Flow. Or the Zone. Rowers refer to it as swing:
The swing carries us; We do not force it. We pump our legs to drive our arc higher, but gravity does most of the work. We are not so much swinging as being swung. The boat swings you. The shell wants to move fast: Speed sings in its lines and nature. Our job is simply to work with the shell, to stop holding it back with our thrashing struggles to go faster. Trying too hard sabotages boat speed.
Ingrid’s days are rich with swing. She’s found her Wu Wei – and I’m on the hunt for mine.