The Tyler Durden, Tim Ferriss and John Cleese School of Time Management: The Ability to let that which does not Matter Truly Slide
'Perfection is not when there is nothing more to add. It's when there is nothing more to take away.' This is the opening quote of the chapter titled 'Elimination' in Tim Ferriss's New York Times best selling book "The Four Hour Work Week".
The reason this resonated with me so deeply is because I believe the common misconception with time management is that people often make it far too focused on the concept of fitting more into your day. I put it to you that there is in fact a much better way to manage your time. Instead of cramming in as much as you can and wearing yourself thin... What if we solely focused on the 20% of actions that cause 80% of the effect.
Read that again: The 20% of actions that cause 80% of the effect.
The truth of the matter is a perceived lack of time is more often simply a lack of priorities, because as John Cleese puts it; "It's easier to do the unimportant thing we know we can do well, than the much bigger, important thing we're not so sure of."
"No fear. No distractions. The ability to let that which does not matter truly slide." - Tyler Durden.
In the book "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" I was introduced to the concept of the graph above. A scale on which to rank all of my activities according to their level of importance and their level of urgency. There are four quadrants:
1. Urgent and Important - execute
2. Important and Not Urgent - optimise
3. Not Important and Urgent - systemise
4. Not Important and Not Urgent - eliminate
Most people tend to spend the majority of their time in quadrant one, prioritising the highly important matters that affect them at at their most basic needs. ie going to work, because it provides them with food and shelter and dealing with emergencies, because they threaten their health and safety. Then because they use the majority of their will power doing these important urgent things, they coast into auto pilot either in quadrant 3 or 4. Meticulously reading and replying to every email, going to meetings, watching TV or playing video games.
The reasons why we do this can be explained more clearly through psychologist Abraham Maslow's "Hierarchy of Needs" which illustrates that humans take actions based on the satisfaction of five human needs:
Physiology - Breathing, food, water, sleep, excretion and basic physiological processes.
Safety - Security of body, shelter, resources, family, health and property
Belongingness/ Love - Cultivating friendships, family and romantic relationships.
Esteem - Confidence, self respect, achievement, respect from others and...
Self Actualisation - The exploration of our innate potential through problem solving, creativity, spontaneity, morality, acceptance of facts and lack of prejudice.
Physiology and safety are low level needs, whereas self actualisation is a high level need.
The theory is that each lower level need must be met before a higher level need can be focused on. The problem is that people spend too much time filling basic needs to the brim rather than powering through them with the 20 percent of actions that cause 80 percent of the results. Self Actualisation will never be in quadrant one, where it is both important and urgent. That's why the place you should undoubtedly be structuring your life to spend the most time in, is quadrant two: Important things, that aren't urgent!
Think about it, what are some of the truly important things that have been on your to do list for a long time. Aren't they also things that if you got them done would have the greatest effect in propelling you forward in terms of your growth and potential? Setting shorter, stricter deadlines on these kind of items will allow you to accomplish them more readily. It will also often times reduce the number of urgent important things you have to deal with. For instance by forcing yourself to do the important, non urgent tasks of getting your tax return done or creating a budget, your far less likely to be stressed about money because you have a plan.
On the other side of the coin there's creativity, which John Cleese rightly points out needs a set amount of uninterrupted time designated to it to reach a critical mass, where the best ideas start to flow. He says in a video I'll link to below, the number one reason a colleague of his at Monty Python, who he deemed to be more talented than himself, didn't seem to write better scenes, came down to one very simple thing. When his colleague found an answer to a problem in his writing he took it straight away. He went with the first option. Whereas John would sit with the problem longer, uninterrupted in this state of child like play, using great humour and curiosity he would continue to develop solutions to the problem and wouldn't settle on one until he had to.
Your homework should you choose to accept it is to make a list of all of your to do list items, perhaps put them on post its and place them on your wall using the scale of importance and urgency. Look at the ones in your second quadrant and imagine what would happen if you focused more whole heartedly on them. Set a deadline to achieve one of them. Make it soon, like the end of the week. While you're at it try to avoid all non important, non urgent tasks like mindless television or browsing the web for the rest of the week. Ask yourself: What are the 20% of actions are that fulfil 80% of your low level needs and invest your time into the things that give back to you. Then finally, schedule yourself an hour and a half this week to spend uninterrupted on being creative. Push through your wall of attention span, be child like, curious, adventurous and play.
Thanks for reading guys. How was this weeks article? Did it make sense? If you'd like anything clarified or spoken on in more detail shoot me a comment or email at firstname.lastname@example.org and remember we really want you to help out with the acting industry survey we're doing at the moment, so if you fill it out, one lucky entrant will win a hamper worth 99 dollars!
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John Cleese On How To Be Creative: https://vimeo.com/89936101
Film and Theatre Actor Based in Sydney. Creator of Script Gym. Lover of Stories.