Most people think too much. Then they compound that problem by studying the feelings that come up for them as a result of that thinking. All this time that they spend thinking and feeling they could have been taking action. In a non-linear way. Non-linear time management is a commitment to action in the present moment. It’s looking at a task and choosing NOW or “not now.” If it’s not now, it’s got to be NEVER, or placed in a time capsule that has a spot on the calendar and therefore out of the mind. The mind must remain clear and empty of all future considerations.
The old-fashioned time management programs had a huge, burdensome focus on the future. The line of tasks stretched out forever into the future. It was fear-based and it was overwhelming to have so much of a future to carry around with you.
It resulted in massive, pathological procrastination. Everything got put off in the name of perfectionism. Nothing was bold or reckless anymore. Therefore there wasn’t much astonishing success happening for the world-weary practitioner.
But when I teach people to go non-linear, a strange thing happens. New life and energy come in.
In non-linear time management there is no line extending from my mind into the future. No tapeworm of unfinished business coming out of my body.
Linear time starts with your birth and ends [at the end of the line] with your death. Along that long linear line it’s just one damn thing after another. Then the lights go out. What was the point?
Non-linear time management stops all that weary nonsensical treading on the road to one’s destiny. Rather than inching along horizontally you must simply rise up. Your life can now become vertical. Now you don’t postpone challenges, you rise to them. You become a warrior. And
"The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that
a warrior takes everything as a challenge while an ordinary man takes
everything either as a blessing or a curse."
A time warrior does not manage time. A time warrior goes to war with [challenges and cuts away] all the beliefs that create linear time. A time warrior is a peaceful warrior but a warrior still. Peacefully taking a sword to all those negative, frightening, depressing thoughts that are automatically believed… so that a great, timeless, active day can be created. A day with no time in it unless you want to make some.
No, you’ll never find time
And just how do you make time? It’s made in your mind. By slowing down. Paradoxically. By creating your day. By being ruthless. With great swings and swipes of your samurai sword. You develop a brutal grace. Cutting out the unnecessary.
Instead of letting your calendar abuse you, and letting people use you.
Why do you let all these other people clutter up your day? Because you want to please them? Because you believe their approval is everything?
I have never seen a greater time-waster than people pleasing.
The nervous habit of scurrying around trying to win the approval of others. Answering all their emails the minute they come in, taking their every call, fulfilling every request… interrupting myself and my own dream over and over.
There’s no time left for achievement. For creation.
On this matter of people-pleasing, I learned more in Byron Katie’s nine-day school than in any other nine-day period in my life by a factor of about a thousand. Katie says, “God spare me from the desire for love, approval and appreciation. This would be my one prayer because the answer to this prayer brings the end of time and space.”
That’s non-linear time management in a nutshell.
So Katie, what is there when there is no time and space? She says there is energy, love’s pure energy. She says, “It’s the energy of pure unlimited mind, set free in all its power and goodness.”
Your problem is not time management
When you say “I’m having a real problem with time management,” my first objective is not to come up with some kind of better tips or techniques for you because that’s really not what’s at play.
What I want to find out is what’s beneath the time management problem. Because if you had a clear objective—let’s say your objective was to go to the airport and fly to New York City—you would have no problem managing time.
You’re on your way out the door to the car to drive to the airport and somebody says to you, “Hey, do you have a minute? I’ve got a couple of things I want to discuss.” You simply say, “No, I don’t. I don’t have time right now, I’m on my way to the airport.” You are a warrior in that moment of time. You can say no. Purpose makes you that way.
And you would get into your car and you would go to the airport, and maybe make an appointment to talk with that person later. You wouldn’t have any problem whatsoever managing your time! The reason for that is you have a specific mission. You have a commitment. People who have that don’t have problems with time management because they always know what to say yes to and what to say no to.
I am always committed to getting to the airport on time to catch my plane. If a call comes in for me and somebody says “Maurice is on the line,” I say “Tell him I’ll call him from New York.” And if somebody else says “Do you have a minute? I’d love to talk to you,” I say “I don’t, I’m sorry, I’m on my way to the airport.”
So with a clear mission driving me, time management is never a problem. Even if my car breaks down, I grab a cab real fast so I can still get to the airport. Nothing gets in the way of me going to New York.
Now what if I could live each day that way!
I truly would not have any time management problems ever because I would be so on purpose and so focused that I’d always know when to say “no” and when to say “yes.” The problem comes when someone gets up in the morning, gets out of bed, and sleepily walks into the never-ending “demands” of their day with no sense of purpose or mission. There’s no New York that day.
These people have nothing that they’re up to and no primary goal. So when someone pokes their head in the office and says, “You got a minute?” the answer is always yes. Why would they say no? That wouldn’t be very pleasing. So I say yes to that, like I say yes to everyone, I open every email, I take every call. Pretty soon I’m falling behind with what I know I have to do and I then believe at the end of the day that I have a time management problem when I don’t. I have a mission problem. Soon I’ll go around telling people “I have more to do than I have time to do it in!” Even though that’s not really true. The truth is I have no direction.
With the people that I work with who have “time management problems,” the first thing we create to counter it is boldness. What’s always missing is boldness—an ability to be brave and strong in staying on mission. We are on our way to New York.
A client named Priscilla came to me and said, “What am I supposed to do to manage my time?” I said, “Why do you want to manage your time?” Priscilla was stumped. And then she said, “Isn’t time management important? Always? I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”
I wanted her to find her purpose first. With a powerful enough purpose, time gets managed by itself. Like the trip to New York.
People often ask how I write so many books. I didn’t start until I was 49, and yet there are now 30 of them. It’s really a matter of choosing to do it or not to do it. If I only work when I’m “inspired” my work won’t be reliable, and it won’t be accountable. It won’t be a grown-up activity. I’ll be like some kid always trying to decide something. My problem with productivity only happens when I don’t have a discipline. Because then I wake up every day trying to decide if I feel like doing it. And that’s like waking up and trying to decide whether I “feel like” flying to New York, even though I have a ticket and a seat on the plane.
» Is it time or is it money?
Sometimes my trouble with time is really my trouble with money. If you have a real fear about money, the first things to look at are the underlying beliefs you carry. You might say, “I could lose my job. And I couldn’t handle it if that happened.” So let’s look at what would happen if you lost your job. How bad would that be? Is it really true that you couldn’t handle it if it happened? Might you not survive if it happened? I mean, maybe you could handle it. It might be uncomfortable, but I think you could handle it.
People get very confused when they tell themselves they couldn’t handle something. They scare themselves unnecessarily by believing that thought. Believing I couldn’t handle various future scenarios reduces my energy for life. My effectiveness drops. Now I’m avoiding tasks I used to handle with ease. I even think I might have a time management problem because so many of these tasks pile up unfinished. But I really just have a belief problem.
I behave as if money were oxygen. I think losing all my money would be like having the oxygen taken out of the room. Now I won’t be able to breathe any more! Terrifying picture. In the mind.
A warrior realizes money is not oxygen. Money is a tool of value-exchange created through service. And service is something a warrior can always do.
Solving the real problem
Time management is actually just problem management, isn’t it? When a problem comes up, what do you do? If you are a time warrior, you capture the problem. Straight away.
In other words, you write it down. You take it away from the emotional realm. Once it’s on paper, it sits there as a neutral object, just like a crossword puzzle sits there for your amusement. You know the minute you write it down that solving things can now become amusing and entertaining.
Writing it down has removed the problem from the ephemeral emotional realm of “something horrible.” You’ve eliminated the sense of doom.
Now that it’s written down it’s going to go somewhere. Maybe you’ll take it in to your coaching session with your coach. Maybe you’ll take it out with you for a long walk. You might have it go into a phone call you make.
Once you’ve captured it and written it down, it no longer lives in the back of your mind.
The former enemy is now in captivity. And he’s ready to talk.
You know that feeling whenever a problem is lingering back in your mind. You know it’s there. You can feel it back there. You’re walking around, trying to live, trying to communicate about other things, trying to have relationships but you’ve always got this feeling in the back of your mind. Like a mood parasite.
It isn’t being captured, it hasn’t been put down.
So step one is to capture your problem and write it down. Notice the free, powerful feeling that already gives you and you haven’t even solved the problem yet!
The second warrior step in rapid problem-solving is to redefine the problem. In other words, I no longer want it to be a “problem.”
And I don’t mean just glossing it over with a phony new “positive” word. I mean really, truly converting this thing [whatever it is] from a problem in my mind into something entirely different.
How about calling it a project?
A project is a lot more fun, emotionally. A person can have a favorite project. A person will never have a favorite problem.
When people have “projects,” they can wake up excited about doing their projects. They know that when they finish their projects, they’ll get a good feeling—a sense of completion, a sense of accomplishment!
We are glad to have projects in front of us that we can work on today, because we derive self-esteem and a sense of accomplishment from finishing projects.
Wrapping them up, putting them to bed, knowing they are done, taken care of and handled.
You may have noticed that in our society we reserve the word “problem” for the worst, most troubling kinds of things. Therefore I don’t want problems in my mind. I want projects.
Problems are good for us but we don’t really know that because of the emotional baggage we’ve attached to the word “problem.”
A time warrior’s life is filled with new projects.
» Help! Help!
Now you’ve got a project. Good. But if your project looks too big to do quickly, go to someone. Sit down with someone. If you have a coach, sit down with your coach. Take the problem that you’ve written out and put it in front of your coach and make sure you both look at it.
The reason coaches are so good at working with people is because they don’t have the emotional charge on a client’s problem that the client has. When the client thinks, “This shouldn’t be happening to me,” the client is now disempowered by his own emotions.
The coach, a consultant, or anybody who can sit with you and look at the problem with you, is not going to bring any emotional baggage to this problem. They will have a healthy distance from the problem. To them, it’s just an intellectual challenge. It’s like the Sunday crossword puzzle or a great mystery on TV they are watching and really enjoying trying to solve.
We human beings love trying to solve things. As long as they’re not our things. The real trouble comes in when we think these things we are trying to solve shouldn’t be in our lives, that they are bad for us. Because then we slip down the ladder of consciousness [and resourcefulness] to very low levels. It affects our creative ability and our clarity of thought. Our cognitive power is diminished. We struggle.
We avoid. We try to escape. We procrastinate. Soon we even think it’s a time management problem! It’s not. It’s an emotional problem.
Most “time management” problems actually began as emotional problems.
It’s really an exciting thing when I work with another person on my problem because pretty soon there are a lot more options available than I ever thought possible looking at this thing by myself.
Now we get to the next step in the warrior’s way to deal with problems. This is the most important step. This is the one you always want to make sure you do. This is the step in problem-solving that most people really don’t want to do. But that, in itself, creates new problems!
The name of this step is “complete.”
What you want to do with every project is to complete it. If you only solve part of it you’ll still carry it around as unfinished business.
Notice how much energy it takes away to have unfinished business in life. How much that drains you.
In fact, it takes more energy to carry around unfinished business than it does to complete everything on your list—a lot more! Try it someday. Try waking up and pretending you’re a robot or pretending you’re Superman, or someone without feelings, just someone who can do things without considering whether they feel like doing them. Then do everything you can think of that’s unfinished; and notice at the end of that day how much energy you’ve got. You’ll be amazed. The more things you complete, the more energy you’ll have.
That’s a real paradox! When you finish something and complete it and tie a ribbon around it so that now it’s done, your sense of energy about life goes up—it doesn’t go down. You are exuberant after completion. It really feels great.Notice at the end of a football game the team that wins is jumping all over the field. I mean, where do they get the energy? They have just been playing their hearts out all night long and here they are leaping and jumping into each other’s arms and running in circles and running around on the field. Now they run around and extend their hands to the fans leaning over the railings from the stands! Look at the energy in these people. Now they go into the locker room and they’re yelling and whooping and hollering and singing and dancing. Then they go out and party all night long. The sun is coming up and they are still partying. They still don’t want to go to bed. That’s because a victory on the field makes them feel gloriously complete. They completed what they set out to do! There’s no unfinished business. Now notice the team on the other side of the field. They’re just wiped out. No energy. The reason they’re wiped out is that it feels so unfinished.
From now on cross off every task on your to-do list. Don’t just half-finish it. Don’t just finish the important part and leave a few things hanging out. Finish the whole thing and tie a ribbon around it.
The more things I finish and know are complete and I can cross off my list, the more I can say to myself, “I’m totally, fully, complete with that,” the more whole I feel as a human being.
The so-called ‘time management’ problems
Don’t make them. Why would I commit to finishing a work project and taking my kids to the zoo on the same Saturday if the commitments compete? I would not do that. Commitments are things you keep no matter what happens to make them difficult to keep. Commitments are powerful. So be very selective when using them.
Just like a flame-thrower is a powerful weapon. It’s not necessary to own one, but it makes an intruder think twice before proceeding further into your home when you show him what it can do. Commitments are like that.
Not very organized?
People who think they are “not very organized” don’t have to re-experience childhood with better parents, find better medications, or take some long time-management course. What they need to do is organize.
That’s the non-linear approach. Just organize. The linear approach is to string the problem out over time. To put yourself though lots of linear paces as you struggle to finally “know how to” organize your desk.
If my professional life is to be simple, I must simplify it myself each day, each week. I must simplify it by organizing it. Putting things in compartments so they don’t haunt me like ghosts. The greatest drain on my energy is an unfinished task. The way to restore my energy is to DO that task or SEAL IT OFF inside a compartment of time on my calendar so my mind can be free of it. A free mind succeeds faster.
Find small tasks boring?
A warrior does all small things with great effectiveness. She does it with inventiveness, humor and love.
She sings when she does the dishes, and she takes her sweet time when she lovingly writes checks [she really understands how nice it is to have the money to be sending people]. She slows down and enjoys everything instead of having a category called boring.
If I continuously activate that “boring” category in my head it is going to be a long day. The day will be filled up with difficult work and I will feel dreary and distressed.
I’ll drag myself around wondering how I can get it all done.
What’s boring is all up to me. It’s completely in my control. I can do any task any way I want and I can have as much fun with it as I choose.
The deadline is your best friend
Victims think of a lot of things they “should” be doing to improve their lives, but then they think they are just too busy to do them now. They are soon focused on their troubles.
Warriors focus on the next quantum leap of success. [In life, what you focus on grows.] The time warrior does surprisingly good things NOW.
His ruthless sword cuts through all the nonsense of impressing people and leaves only love and service in its wake.
And now is when it all happens. And if it can’t literally happen now, the warrior sets precise deadlines. Sets them up now. He sets the deadlines NOW, so that they are still in the NOW. Deadlines soon become the warrior’s best friend: “We’re changing our price structure January 1st, we are hiring our new marketing director by March 15th, we are going to have the house painted and made over by April 30th and we will have the whole neighborhood papered with our new flier by noon Friday.”
The more seriously you regard your deadlines and the more you keep your word on meeting your deadlines, the stronger you get internally. The higher your self-esteem becomes. The more you trust yourself.
I experience a stressed-out feeling whenever I think about the deadline for a creative project. But my stress comes from having that project be in the future.
Non-linear time management doesn’t allow that line that stretches into the future. Because the linear thought process always produces stress. Unreasonable stress.
Here’s what always works for me. Creating my perfect day. Figuring out what I’d have to do in one day [today] to automatically meet the deadline.
So if my book is 220 pages, I know that if I write two pages a day I can finish it in less than five months [my deadline]. So I have a new project. It isn’t a book, it’s two pages. Today. That’s all I have to do, and it’s all I ever have to worry about. Two pages. It’s fun. It’s exciting. And it’s very satisfying.
Some days I get on a passionate roll and write ten pages! Nothing can stop me! So I’m way ahead of deadline. I can sometimes get ahead. I can never, ever—with this system—fall behind. It’s a system called “today.” I can never feel stress because I’m always working within my day. I don’t stretch a linear line into the future.
Can you see it? Non-linear time management doesn’t ever have a long timeline. It has two choices: now or not now.
No more overwhelm
Sometimes people think radical, innovative time management is something they are going to have to get into later. Right now, they are dealing with a difficult situation. And they are feeling overwhelmed.
They don’t realize something important.
Situations—even “dramatic” situations like bankruptcy, divorce, death and economic recession—cannot directly cause a feeling of any kind until the brain interprets and creates a story about said situation.
Your problem is not that you are overwhelmed. Your problem is an attachment to the story of overwhelm. Truthfully, are you overwhelmed? Or do you just feel that way? Let us really, really look at your last five days. Let’s just isolate one of the hours. Let’s take a look at this “overwhelm” and see if it’s really there.
You are not, in this hour we’ve chosen to look at, at all overwhelmed, are you? Not in this particular hour.
But your story is that you are.
You can drop that story. You can tell a different story. Try this story: “I’ve only got one thing to do! How liberating. It’s the thing I’m doing right now.”
Sadness, depression, frustration, upset, and anxiety can only be produced by seeing a situation and then producing an interpretation of it and then believing that interpretation. So, therefore, you and I can only be overwhelmed by our thoughts about something, never the thing itself.
I keep daydreaming a scene I’d like to put in a book or movie. A mad man [Me? Why not?] lives in a mental ward. [Me? It fits.] Each day they let this man into the recreation room. He’s in his pajamas. He sits down at the circular table. The attendant gives him a big blank pad of paper and a box of crayons. He takes out the crayons and draws the head of a monster. He stares at the monster, screams, and runs out of the room.
The whole thing looks funny to the attendant. It looks, shall we say it… insane. The poor mad man is scaring himself to death!
And crazy as that looks, we ourselves do that each day. We use our crayons [our imagination] to scare ourselves instead of to create.
When we imagine [perceive] that we are overwhelmed by outside events [or options, or tough choices, or situations, or ways of making money, etc.] it is an illusion, because the brain doesn’t even function that way.
Only a thought believed can produce a feeling of overwhelm. Something happens, and we add the meaning of it. Circumstance carries no meaning by itself.
In a simple life in which you only do what’s in front of you, there can be no overwhelm, ever. That life is yours to create.
It’s what you do with your time that frees up more time and draws life into your world.
Are you doing what you’re doing right now better than you have ever done it? Be truthful. Or is it just “as good as” or “good enough”? The “good enough” stuff we do is not good enough for the time warrior.
Do you want to succeed at something? Good work right now will help you do that. Most people want to start by improving how they “market” their services. Maybe a new website, or a better network of affiliates. But most of the time that’s not where the answer lies.
The answer is in the work itself.
Let’s slow down. Let’s write a better book, preach a better sermon or build a better mousetrap, because that’s where the magic is. That’s where your secret leverage lies.
But how do you master mastery by slowing down?
How do you master time that way? Don’t you fall behind?
No, because slowing down gets you in harmony.
You’re not out of tune any longer.
Without slowing down, you get way out ahead of life itself. I’m only asking you to slow down to the speed of life. You want to dance with life, not race out ahead of life.
People who race out ahead of life are falling down on the dance floor. They are living in their own future, which is where fear lives. But when you slow down to master this present moment, life gets fearless.
For example, I was coaching a man I will call Ben. Ben was excited because a large company had hired him to come in to give them a 60-minute talk. Ben couldn’t wait. The talk was on his calendar for a month from now and he knew exactly what he was going to present. It was a talk he had given many times before and he knew it would be a big hit.
So now that it was all set and on his calendar, Ben was onto other things. Ben was spending his days racing around mentally and physically trying to get other new business. He was answering every call, checking email thirty times a day and living in a whirlwind of chaos. Ben was always in his own future, so Ben was always anxiety ridden [as all anxiety is about the future].
My job as Ben’s coach was simply to slow him down.
Down to the speed of life itself. Because life was on Ben’s side; he just couldn’t see it. He saw life as a giant opponent. Something that needed to be won over.
Once Ben relaxed and let himself take some deep breaths, I asked him to go back to the client who had hired him for a talk.
“What if someone passed a law,” I said to Ben, “that said you could only have one client for the rest of your life and you would have to make all your income from this one client, and this was your client, Ben. What would you do?”
Ben was silent. I could see he was thinking.
I asked Ben to spend the rest of our coaching session thinking about this one client. To slow everything down, as if this client were the only thing that existed in his world.
I was teaching Ben to go non-linear… to be a time warrior. The time warrior slows time to a standstill. Now there is no time. Ultimate victory. There is only timeless, eternal presence. Or “now.”
Ben and I began to list the many other ways he would love to serve that company. He wrote a list of people in the company he wanted to go visit prior to his talk, to gather research on the many problems and challenges Ben could help them with. Two weeks later Ben had converted a $3,000 one-time speaking contract into a full year’s program with more than twenty times that income.
Just by slowing down and applying laser-like focus. That’s the only difference between the average man and the warrior. The warrior has focus.
Remember that such focus cannot be frantic. It has to be relaxed and slowed down.
Notice when you’re out on a boat and someone points out something on the shoreline for you to look at. If you strain your eyes, trying to force your focus, you won’t see it. Only when you relax and let the image come to you do you now see it clearly.
Most people think they are not inspired because their project is not inherently inspiring. Therefore they procrastinate. Or they just work on it sporadically. They don’t realize that if they would slow down and do this project one slow step at a time—in a loving and deeply energetic way—inspiration might just appear. After the work starts!
» Now is the key
The time warrior steals from the future. Then she pours her stolen gold—all of it—into the present moment. Like sand out of a boot into a sand painting. She pours from the future into the present. She embraces the present and increases her capacity for living. Only then can the future truly be bright.
When I coach people who have small businesses, or who are coaches or consultants, or who raise children or lead other people, I notice that their greatest opportunity for success is right in front of them in the very next conversation they are about to have.
Yet they fly past that conversation, barely tagging it like in a schoolyard game, racing to get to their “better” future.
When I recommend that they slow down it goes against their inner anxiety—the anxiety that runs their lives—as they strain so hard against their leash. The leash begins to choke them off and they start to lose oxygen. At night, they don’t sleep, they just eventually pass out.
No wonder no valid plans for the future can be made. Those plans are all fear-based [invalid] because they want a “better” world than the one that presents itself in this next conversation, this world of infinite opportunity.
War against distraction
We live in an embarrassment of information. We are connected to everything. It’s all here. A few keystrokes away.
And the only downside is the intoxication of it.
Because we can become drunk with options. Games, blogs, chats, videos, social media, gossip updates; there is no end to where we can go. Oh the places.
Two hours later we step back from the screen wondering where the two hours went. Sure, we took a lot in, but what went out?
That’s why the warrior of time must keep his sword sharp and at the ready.
To carve out and cut away the clutter. To open up a clear space for creation. For it is active creation that will produce wealth and well-being. Not information.
Even though we understand the value of selfeducation, we know intuitively that we must, sooner or later, provide service to others. We must create something of value with our time.
Therefore, more than ever before, focus is vital.
Uninterrupted time is the portal through which we now succeed. Not the flurry of multitasking and chaos.
It’s your war against interruption and distraction.
Because if you can bring gentle, sustained focus to a task, you’ll never regret the results.
As my friend and colleague Dusan Djukich says in his marvelous book, Straight Line Leadership, we stop. We start something and then we stop. When Dusan coaches his clients his recommendation is this: stop stopping. The more space we open up for ourselves the more problems we solve. The faster we achieve our goals. The great philosopher Voltaire observed, “No problem can withstand the assault of sustained thinking.”
The key word in Voltaire’s observation is “sustained.” We don’t sustain. We don’t take long, thoughtful, sustained walks. We don’t sit quietly in space and solitude until a problem disappears [which it would] because we are too busy.
Or, we think we are. Same thing.
We think we’re busy, especially today, with the way our “phones” hook us up to the whole nagging planet. We are so connected now! We never have to be alone again!
This is good?
In most ways, it is. It’s fun and exciting when I sit in my Arizona office and get an urgent text from a client in Scotland. The phone beeps and I grab it and check it.
But what happens when I do that? I interrupt my meditative train of thought and it might have been a train that was taking me to a HUGE breakthrough solution to a major challenge. Beep, beep, beep! And I stop. I am on to something beautiful if only I would continue, but I stop.
Are you a good piano player? No? But you took lessons, once, didn’t you? Yes? What happened?
Have you ever looked back on your life and wondered what would have happened if you hadn’t stopped? Piano, a foreign language, studying a certain subject, a distant love, anything.
Management and efficiency studies in the work place tell us that one hour of uninterrupted time is worth three hours of time that is constantly interrupted.
Or, as the old saying says, winners focus, losers spray.
So the warrior element in how you relate to time is how “violent” a swordsman you are going to be before your day begins. How much uninterrupted time will you carve out for yourself? Will you be a true time warrior?
Because if you will, you’ll love your timeless time. You’ll be amazed at what you can create when time is not an issue.
The self-employed warrior
When we’re newly out on our own, freshly self-employed, only answering to ourselves, it’s usually a shock to the system. Because when we worked for other people, we let them rule the day. We’d show up and go where they wanted us to go. They would manage us, and then we would reluctantly do good work inside that structure. But now that we are off on our own, the challenge is different. Because we don’t know what to do. And creative people need some kind of structure. That is, if they are going to have productive days.
When I write a book without a writing schedule, it is really a nightmare, and it doesn’t get done right, and I end up at the end of the deadline working overtime. In the end, it’s not good work, and it’s not creative writing.
Paradoxically, the best creativity comes from working with the most structure you can possibly impose on yourself.
Anything you can do to schedule yourself increases creative output. You think it would take away your spontaneity, but it really doesn’t. It’s amazing how well an artificial structure works. Forcing the action. It works in all aspects of life. I don’t feel like going to this meeting… I don’t feel like going to this family gathering… I dread it. And then I get there and I have the time of my life.
So now I just do it. Because it’s on this structure I call a calendar.
What do I feel like doing right now? That is the worst question I could ever ask myself during my workday.
On a weekend that’s a fine question. “What do I feel like doing? I’ll watch a little baseball, I’ll play the guitar.” That’s fine, but in my workday, the feeling question is the worst question I can ask myself. The best questions are: “What do I want to produce?” and “What structure would guarantee that?”
End of procrastination
A time warrior removes her sword and dismembers procrastination. And this may be the most important thing she’s ever learned about winning the war against procrastination: she can always start small. Start small, and the smaller the better.
The mind makes all future tasks big and scary. So we procrastinate. Even little things, when we imagine doing them in the future, get distorted and take on frightening proportions. Objects in the mirror of the future appear larger than they really are. Because the imagination, when it ventures into the future, always finds the worst case. No wonder we procrastinate! Thinking and imagining the worst case scares us into putting everything off. Worry produces the opposite of action. It produces a chilly block of Jell-O where a human heart used to be.
Trembling. Therefore, worry is the ultimate in dysfunction. It’s a misuse of the imagination. It chills the body.
But if you’re a warrior, you want the body to be hot. Or at least warm. Warm and friendly until you catch even more enthusiasm for your task [which happens by doing it] and soon you are on fire.
Action is the answer. Action warms the body into fire. The biggest fallacy there is about making good use of one’s time is that you have to feel like doing something before you can do it. That you have to know how to motivate yourself prior to your action. Try this: Have the action happen first. You can work up a sweat with wild action just by doing it. Then a funny thing happens. The motivation shows up.
But not always big action. Try three minutes. Give your task three minutes of your time. [You can address 40 neglected things in two hours this way.] Small actions.
Any tiny action. The smallest acts are like atoms. They often turn out to be the most important acts of our lives.
So once I identify the big scary imagined task as a distortion produced by my own worried mind, I want to go small, as small as possible. What can I do in the next three minutes? Three minutes then walk. Quit. Bail. Walk away. Barefoot. [If you can, that is. But my experience is that nine times out of ten I get excited by how easy this thing really was all along. It was just masquerading as big and scary seen through the lens of my worst case future.]
And when I say three minutes, that doesn’t mean you can’t take that smaller and split it from three to a minute and a half. Just do it. And make sure the action is effortless, too. As they say in Zen, effortless effort. Always the best.
Otherwise we [and I include myself] ruminate, brood, meditate and wander the intercranial halls of self-loathing and mental fatigue, making up all sorts of mystical stories that keep us fearful and passive. Dungeons, dragons and always out of action. Now knowing I only have a three-minute commitment I just do the thing I was procrastinating about! I just make that a policy!
How do I distinguish between waiting [listening inside for inspiration] and procrastination? If I’m legitimately waiting for timing to be right and inspiration to emerge on a creative project, I have no problem waiting. If I’m procrastinating [there is something to do that I know needs to be done] then I want to identify my next action. Just do that one thing—you know what it is—it’s the thing you’re thinking about right now. Don’t think in terms of patterns. None of this: “I always” or “I never” because those globalizing thoughts will never serve you. They will scare you and make you a pessimist. Keep your life creative and simple: what needs to be done now in these three minutes? That’s all you ever need to ask, and you’ll never have anything like procrastination bother you again.
Focus is everything
Push my head under the water and I experience an increase in energy because I am immediately focused on what I want to do. I want to get out of the water. So I know exactly what I want to do. And any time I know exactly what I want to do my energy increases. My energy increases the same way the sun’s power increases when I take the diffuse rays and harness them and focus them through a simple magnifying glass and let the focused ray of sun burn an old dead leaf like a science fiction laser.
When we focus we are joining the energy that created the world. We forget that we can always do that. We forget, and then we cling to worries and fears and all the mindstuff that keeps us passive. Soon anger emerges. A vicious circle. But the minute someone calls us out back to play volleyball or take a swim or climb a mountain or ride a bike, something happens. We are breathing deeply once again! We are joining the energy that created the world. Breathe first, then let the mind expand. Don’t wait for it to happen the other way around.
P.S. To maintain sanctity of the source, this article follows American English.
Excerpted with permission from Time Warrior by Steve Chandler, published by Maurice Bassett
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