The way to be available to yourself is to be unavailable to everyone else.
If I was challenged to choose a movie title to describe my schedule, I’d select “The Fast and The Furious.” I didn’t pick this because I enjoy street racing. I chose it because, like me, the movie franchise has had a dedication to non-stop action over the last 20 years. If you follow my schedule, you know I am always on the move “drifting” from one place to the next. As proof to support my choice, my recent schedule could not have been more loaded (and it even involved a car chase too!) Here’s a review of my recent trip to 3 states (NJ, NY, CT) over 3 days:
- I presented 3 times for over 300 people.
- I took 4 flights and drove 100s of miles in a rental car (which included a harrowing four-lane crossover in heavy NYC traffic on the George Washington Bridge!)
- I shot 3 live videos and another 10 marketing videos in 3 different locations.
- I attended 2 different corporate dinners, gave 2 live interviews and got in 2 workouts.
- In 3 different hotels, I made 6 scheduled calls, 1 podcast and still got 8 hours of sleep.
I didn’t share my schedule to brag about the number of things I accomplished. I shared it to boast about a profound idea I uncovered in the process.
You might think this schedule was overwhelming. Yes, the schedule was frantic, but I during it I remained calm. Instead of being wiped out, I was strangely invigorated. Because I had anticipated being so fatigued after the trip, I predicted Sunday would be a total day of recovery on the couch. Instead I found myself outside playing with my kids and energized.
That night I thought about the contradiction I had experienced. Why were there so many previous trips on which I had done much less, but they fatigued me as if I had done much more? What was it about this frenetic schedule that left me feeling euphoric instead of drained?
As I reviewed my schedule above again, I looked for clues. Was it the lasting effects of adrenalin from being on stage? Could it be the endorphin release from completing so many tasks? Perhaps my nervous system was out of whack from all the travel? As I ruled out each one of these ideas, instead of looking at the results of my activities I started to search for similarities between the activities. This search led to a breakthrough. Not only was the answer simple, I believe I have discovered one of the biggest challenges facing humanity today:
We are all just too “available.”
You see, even though I was very “busy” over my three days in the Tri-State area, because of the activities I was performing, I was not very available. Each one of the scheduled events required me to disconnect from my phone and totally connect with what I was doing in that moment. As a result, I got the energizing rush that comes with being completely “in the zone.”
Do you find yourself fatigued at the end of the day? Do you never seem to have the time to do all the things you needed to get done? Perhaps instead of a lack of time, you could have an availability problem. To examine your current availability, answer these 5 questions:
YOUR AVAILABILITY TEST
1. Can almost anyone contact you at almost any time via email, text, phone, Facebook, Instagram, Linked In, Snapchat or Twitter?
2. Do you answer others on your phone at stop lights (or worse while driving), bathroom breaks and at meals to only discover the message wasn’t really important?
3. Do you ever feel a bit overwhelmed or distracted by the constant vibrating or beeping of your phone (like before you try to go to sleep) yet still find it very difficult to ever shut it off?
4. Do you find yourself wasting time checking either “likes” or for responses to your to your responses over and over?
5. Have you ever gotten a voicemail to check your text to see if you got the email about the Facebook message you seemed to have read but didn’t respond?
Well, if you answered “yes” to most of the questions above (or at least laughed at the fact a haptic or sound has you acting like a Pavlovian dog) you are not alone.
I will admit, the test was easy to create because I am often over-available. I do my best to respond via phone, text, email and social media. Due to my large network at TFW, I feel it is my responsibility to be accessible. My mantra was that I am always “up” so I don’t let my people down. This past week, however, reminded me there is a cost to your availability and a reward for correctly controlling it.
Rooney Rule: Your real power is not being constantly AVAILABLE, it is being intermittently UNAVAILABLE.
When was the last time you said “no” to availability in order to say “yes” to the things you really have to do? Need some help becoming more available to yourself? Here is my list of 5 ways to improve your unavailability:
5 Ways To Be “Unavailable”
1. Re-Schedule Your “Schedule”
Although your schedule may have times you want to get things done, you may not have scheduled in your availability while you are doing them! Add this layer to your schedule and watch your productivity soar.
2. Replace Your Concept Of “Urgent”
When did you start believing you had to get “right back” to people? There is no rush on getting back to everything that second. Emails, texts and messages only create urgency if you allow it. Change your view and you will be pleased to discover things can wait.
3. Plan Your “Escape”
Do you have a place you have designated yourself to be unavailable? Whether it is your office, coffee shop, gym or dinner table, you should select an “escape room” for yourself and stick to it.
4. Limit Your “Touch Points”
How many modes of availability do you really need? By having fewer ways in which you are available to others, you will have more time for yourself.
5. Set Your Personal “Rules Of Engagement”
You are probably over-available because you never established your own rules. Spend some time creating your own availability rulebook and you will probably stop answering numbers you don’t recognize and or missing street lights due to your social media.
Controlling your time is one of your biggest challenges. But it is also one of your biggest responsibilities. One way to do this is to control your availability. Yes, availability can move you and your career forward, but for it to be most powerful, availability should also be scheduled. Availability can be distracting. Availability can snap you out of a creative state. Time to cut back on your feelings of urgency and focus on what matters most.
Yours in Strength,