Sideshows: Making Time for the Important Things

circusHow many times do we allow the sideshows to run our lives? What do I mean by “sideshows?” Well, sideshows can be many things:

  • Your clients. Are you giving more time to clients who are completely wrong for you, rather than those who are ideal?
  • Your goals and vision for your life. Are you working on things that don’t really matter to you rather than those that you really want to do?
  • Your daily activities. Do you fill your days with “junk” activities, like watching a lot of television or checking your email a thousand times, rather than doing those things you know you should be doing that support the life you want to lead, like exercising and preparing healthy meals?

A sideshow is just that: something that perhaps fills the time between the main events and attractions. It’s never the thing that deserves our undivided attention, and yet, we can be heard on a much-too-regular basis saying things like:

  • “I don’t have time to get to [important things]. I’ve been so busy with [sideshow].”
  • “As soon as I finish with [sideshow], I’ll get to that [important thing].”
  • “If it weren’t for all these [sideshows], I wouldn’t be so tired, and I’d have time for [important things].”

Stop. Ask yourself these questions. Why am I wasting so much time on the sideshows in my life? Why am I here? What is the main event or attraction for me and for my life? How can I stop giving so much attention to sideshows and focus more on the things that really matter?
The solution could be easier than you think.
1. Identify the side shows.
Did you know that most people watch over 4.5 hours of television per day? If you claimed one “TV-free day” per week, you could devote 234 hours to something else each year!
Another option, stop checking email so often. According to one study, people can spend nearly two hours per day checking and replying to email. Designate “email-free weekends” and “email-free Fridays,” and you could save 278 hours per year.
2. Work from a list.
Each day, work from a list. Set aside a designated time each day to create a list that is “heavy on main events and light on sideshows.” Include action steps that will help move you closer to achieving your goals.
3. Always be aware of how you’re spending your time.
If you’re working from a list that focuses on the main events in your life, then you’re already halfway there, but it’s important to stop every so often and check in to be sure that you are, in fact, spending your time on the important things rather than sideshows. This is especially true for web workers; it’s so easy to start doing one task online and end up ten clicks away on something entirely different. Check in with yourself often to make sure you’re not losing time on things that do not matter.
It’s actually quite easy to begin making real progress away from life’s distractions and toward the things you love. You simply have to approach your days with intention and full awareness of how you’re spending your time. Identify the main events in your life and then find ways to give them more of your attention.
What “sideshows” have you removed from your life, whether partially or completely? How has it helped you reclaim time for your true passions and the things that are most important to you?

Image from Flickr by aka Kath