Over at Women Living Well, Courtney's running a series called "5 Weeks 5 Disciplines 5 Challenges."
Week 2's focus is Time Management, and I'm actually pretty excited! Not because I'm naturally so good at time management; quite the opposite!
But over the last few months, I've been experimenting with a tool that's been working really well for me. It's this series of six clarifying questions I ask myself:
1) WHY am I doing this now?
This is a simple motivation question. Often, the answer is quite surface.
A few minutes ago, I was wiping down the counters pretty thoroughly. When I asked myself, "Why am I doing this now?" the answer was, "Because the counters have gotten sticky, and I noticed a few ants moving in!"
Simple question. Simple answer!
2) Why AM I doing this now?
This is a much deeper purpose question. Often, the answer takes some digging.
Earlier today, I found myself reaching for some chocolate. When I asked, "Why am I doing this now?" the quick answer was, "Because chocolate tastes good!"
But when I asked, "Why am I doing this now?" the more honest reason was, "Because I've been writing a research paper for two hours and want something to sweeten my bland life." With that clarity, I had a choice: to continue "using" food or to find another healthier way to add sweetness to my life.
3) Why am I doing this now?
This is an identity question. Is this something only I can do? Or could I delegate it?
A few weeks ago, this question was very helpful when I needed PowerPoint slides to publicize the a local poetry contest to our students. I was about to spend an hour messing around with it myself when I asked, "Why am I doing this?" and realized the only answer I could come up with was "Because I'm a control freak!" which is no longer an acceptable answer. (Not that it ever should have been an acceptable answer, but that's the topic of a whole 'nother blog post!)
I delegated it to my student worker, Annika, who did a beautiful job. As a prize-winner in last year's competition, she was the ideal person for the task!
4) Why am I DOING this now?
This is a process question. Is doing the right step for this project right now?
Or should I be researching? Analyzing? Reflecting? Conferencing? Seeking counsel? Praying? Waiting? Backing away?
A few weeks ago, I got stuck on a writing project that I was trying to plow through. Finally asking "Why am I doing this now?" I realized that I simply was not ready to write, to be in the "doing" phase. I needed to spend more time clarifying the assignment and then brainstorming. I felt such relief when I pulled out of "doing" mode!
5) Why am I doing THIS now?
This is an priority question. Of all the things I could be doing, is this the best use of my time and energy?
I have hundreds of interests, and I love starting new things. So "whatever your hand findeth to do" is a dangerous concept, because my hands can find many things to do.
Yesterday, Daniel and I agreed to spend the evening hours hanging out together. Then I started catching up on Facebook and laughing at all the funny photos my friends have posted. I kept 5-more-minuting my husband until I finally stopped and asked, "Why am I doing this now?"
I had a wonderful date just waiting to happen yet I was frittering my time on Facebook? Clearly, I needed to straighten out my priorities!
6) Why am I doing this NOW?
This is a timing question. Is now the best time for me to focus on this project or could it wait?
I excitedly dove into writing a book proposal in January. I was overwhelmed with urgency because a window of opportunity had finally opened: an agent I'd love to attract was suddenly accepting new queries.
But several hours in, I had to ask, "Why am I doing this now?...When I need to be finishing my MA degree? Sending in the one last item in for my PhD application? Revising my retreat talks? grading? lesson planning? napping?"
I hit "Save" and calendared the book proposal for June. It's a valuable enough priority for me to do, just not now.
These six questions are also useful for reflection: "Why did I do that then?"
And for planning: "Why will I do what when?"
Think back to the last few days to a time when one (or more) of these questions could have come in handy. Which one? How might it have helped you?