As I type this, I am right in the middle of a fairly intensive stretch of busyness in life. This month has been a bit of a whirlwind. We’ve had house guests and been house guests. I also traveled for a speaking engagement, had multiple projects that required my attention, and conducted several workshops/training sessions for business clients locally and online. This doesn’t include everyday life (which is very active), and, of course, the time I spend fishing!
Today, in the midst of all of it, and a day ahead of my next speaking engagement, I was sitting in the kitchen having lunch. Our kitchen windows look out on the river and I love to watch the Egrets, Herons, and Osprey fish while I eat lunch.
As I’m eating, I can see that there are a lot of baitfish around, and they are quite uncomfortable. In fact, they are so uncomfortable they are trying to jump out of the water! As I sat there for about ten minutes eating and watching the water explode as the bigger fish fed, I considered for a minute where I am in my work; all I am focused on, both prepared for and ahead. I didn’t have another scheduled call for the next few hours, and if I really needed to, I could do it from the boat.
So I jumped up from the table, grabbed my fishing rod, net, and oars (and a few other things), and within five minutes I am paddling right into the middle of thousands of baitfish. Ten minutes after that, I had a beautiful 24 inch puppy drum in the boat, and an hour later, some gorgeous filets in the fridge for dinner.
Have you ever had someone call you last minute and say they had an extra ticket to the ballgame and ask if you wanted to go? You could choose any kind of event or happening and plug it into this question. You get the point. In general, what affords us the ability to be spontaneous, is directly related to being on top of things that matter in life.
If you have been showing up in your important relationships regularly, been keeping up with your responsibilities in your household, been staying up on your projects, your school-work, or your work work, you’re free to go without any hesitation or backlash.
Ahhh but if you haven’t, then to go would create problems. And, if you go, you won’t enjoy it nearly as much because in the back of your mind, you know you should be doing other pressing things. Note this: Procrastination is a joy stealer.
This is where the seeming dichotomy of planning to be spontaneous makes a difference. The key word here is planning. Another word that applies is priorities. When I teach productivity and time utilization, the primary focus is on priorities and planning your life such that you are always working proactively in the things that matter most.
Planning is a powerful life skill. Some folks feel like the more you plan your day and your life, the less opportunity you have to be spontaneous, because you are living based on the plan and schedule. Like most things, there is a balance to it. But the fact is, it’s difficult to be spontaneous on a regular basis in life unless you are good at planning, because the price is too steep.
The late Stephen Covey called this living in “Quadrant 2.” When you consistently attend to the key tasks that support the priorities that matter most, you avoid the self-inflicted crisis that comes from neglecting anything important, and it also affords you the ability to be spontaneous. Another massive benefit of this style of living which I call “3 Circles Living,” (also the title of the book) is that you rarely, if ever, experience stress related to things you need to do.
My bride will tell you that I am awful at planning for a vacation somewhere out on the horizon. But I am meticulous about planning in short horizons, like a month or two, and then breaking it down into the planning and execution daily.
For example, when I lived in Maryland, I NEVER checked the weather. It just didn’t matter to me. But now? I look at the weather a week ahead of time, and definitely daily, because I plan my meetings, coaching sessions, and general work-flow around when the water will be suitable for fishing. Aside from training/speaking events which I do based on what is best for the client’s group, and a few other commitments (like the YMCA board for example) everything else relative to my schedule, I dictate and plan.
I realize not everyone can do this. If you are an employee, you likely have certain hours that you don’t have flexibility from a life standpoint. This is relevant for you in that your work-life breaks down the same way. You have specific roles and tasks that are priorities. Effective planning and execution increases your productivity, reduces stress, and creates more room in your brain for creativity and innovation.
Embrace the dichotomy. Plan to be spontaneous.
By Todd Burrier