For most people, life seems to accelerate during the fourth quarter. There are big goals to reach, personally and professionally. There are extra obligations around the holidays. And the pace of incoming requests speeds up as everyone around us feels the same urgency. So, what are we to do?
The temptation during the fourth quarter is to accumulate, to fall victim to the temptation of one more thing. That’s a problem, because your time isn’t expanding to accommodate these added obligations. When you start doing it too much, you do all of it less effectively.
In Q4, even more than the rest of the year, you need a relentless commitment to simplicity.
Simplify your task list
If you’re a Full Focus Planner user, you’re familiar with the Daily Big 3. You (hopefully) use this tool every day. In this season, you might be tempted to turn it into the Daily Big 4, 5, or 6. When you allow your task list to grow, you divide your focus. Divided focus undermines effectiveness.
The incoming requests are bound to have an increased sense of urgency. But urgency and importance are not the same.
Urgency incites reactivity. “Reactive” is the opposite of “strategic.” Your job is to diligently evaluate the importance. If a task is urgent and important, by all means, proceed. If a task is urgent and unimportant, reevaluate. Can you eliminate, automate, delegate, or even defer it?
Simplify your rhythms
The rituals that have worked year-round might start failing you right about now. It’s harder to make that early morning workout with family in town. It’s easier to work too late when there’s so much to do. Why not skip that before-bed meditation when you’re so tired?
The problem is, when our rituals begin to become spotty, it’s easy to drop them altogether. That out-of-sync feeling disrupts our days. Instead, simplify on purpose.
What are the absolute bare necessities in each of your rhythms? You can sleep 30 minutes later and substitute a two-mile run for that 50-minute workout. You can push your workday shutdown 30 minutes later and cut it in half so you’re home only 15 minutes late. You can do a five-minute meditation instead of a fifteen-minute meditation. Find what works for you.
Simplify your commitments
More requests and invitations mean more opportunities to exercise your “no muscle”—intentionally.
The truth is, you exercise your “no muscle” all the time. Every time you say yes, you’re saying no to everything else that could have occupied the time or energy taken by that yes. It’s not a matter of whether you’ll say no, but which commitments you’ll say no to.
At the end of Q4, how will you have wanted to spend your time? Who will you have wanted to spend it with? What will you have been content to let slide, and what really matters? Let the answers to these questions shape when and how you use your “no.”
Simplifying your commitments has the added benefit of making space for you to take a break. Because when the pressure is on, you need to step back and refuel more than ever before.
Bottom line: When the world around urges you to speed up, do the opposite. Slow down. Practice intentionality. Think strategically. Stay focused.
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