Your opportunity is time, allocated wisely.

In meditation this morning, I asked The Universe to show me the opportunities I needed to make our goals a reality. The Universe’s response* was “Your opportunity is time, allocated wisely.”

This reminded me of a meme I saw four or five years ago:

 

That realization was the catalyst that started me on my quest for optimal time management. Because if Beyoncé could figure out how to become Beyoncé with only 24 hours in every day, then I could certainly figure out how to become Danielle.

Since then, people have asked me things like, “Do you ever sleep?” and “I feel like you’re a rush of activity, but you also seem to have so much leisure time. What?”

Friends, I get 8 – 9 hours of restful sleep every night. I meditate almost daily. I dork around on Facebook for 1 or 2 hours every day. Russ and I have dinner together almost every night, and watch between 3 and 4 hours of television every night. And yet I also lead a small company called Outlaw Soaps, have a great contracting job with Mozilla, and wrote a book (and continue to write them). I go to the gym about 3x per week and hang out with people I love, doing exercises I enjoy.

It’s a good life.

There’s no reason you need to be running around harried.

Here are the fundamental driving principles behind my time management strategy:

1. Manage Your Priorities

I have tried many time management techniques, and really, the biggest and most important time management technique I have found is PRIORITY MANAGEMENT. Because you can optimize every one of your actions, work 30 hours every day, and chase your feet to the bone on a treadmill, but if your actions are working toward a goal you don’t care about, then your time is still wasted.

This is why I created the Goal Workshop as one of my very first pieces of content. It’s that important to me.

When you are clear about your priorities and what is important to you:

  1. You can stay motivated even when stuff gets hard – and stuff will get hard
  2. It’s easier to decide what tasks are of no use (see point #2, below)
  3. It’s easier to identify what tasks are valuable, and make time to prioritize those tasks (see point #3, below)
  4. Articulating your priorities to other people is easier, so if you’re working with other people, they can understand the logic behind your priorities and not even bother you with stuff that isn’t in your priorities

2. Reduce Inefficiency

“Do nothing that is of no use.” – saying I heard somewhere

“80% – 90% of stuff we do doesn’t matter.” – Gary Vaynerchuck

Between these two principles is the answer: Don’t do 80% – 90% of the things that you think you “have to” or “should” do. If it aligns with your priorities and is in the 10% of tasks that will create meaningful progress, then it must be done. Otherwise, don’t do it. Delegate it to someone else and let go of the outcome, because it probably isn’t that important.

3. Actually do the things that need to be done

This is actually the hardest part for me, and I have been trying my darndest to figure out a way to be sure to actually do the things that need to be done. From the beginning of my time management journey, I have been trying to craft systems. The Checklist of Doom was one such attempt. I still do believe in that and am going to be incorporating it into my future time management system, but I am shamed to admit that I don’t use it now.

For now, I just have a bunch of pieces of paper with daily lists on them.

I know. It’s not fancy. There are online tools like Asana I have tried to use, but the tasks build up.

Since most of the tasks are timely, if I don’t finish a task list in 24 hours, I decide what to carry over (what still fits in the 10% of things I need to do) and throw out the rest. There’s no point in doing tasks too late (except taxes). Let them go. It has been proven time and time again that letting shit go (and self-compassion is a big part of this, which I’ll discuss later) is the best way to reduce stress and build enjoyment of life.

My most recent attempt is this daily worksheet:

planner sheet

(click to download)

The best explanation I have come up with so far is this: As long as you are only attempting to do the 10% of tasks that create meaningful progress toward your actual goals, even if you don’t do all of them, you’re still making measurable progress.

Perfection is not the goal here, incremental improvement is.

Assorted other rabble

Once those Big Three Principles guide your time management, you’re doing great. Not only will you be living on purpose, you’ll be making progress toward your measurable goals in a stress-free way.

There are a few other things that you can add to the mix like salt:

  • My friend introduced me to the 1 Minute Rule the other day, and I have been dabbling with implementing it.
  • Delegation: I am really blessed to have capable, competent people around me. If I delegate something to Ruth or Russ or Alyssa, I know it’s going to be done right 99% of the time.
  • Ask for help. People really do want to help you. And yeah, in some cases, you have to ask them, and you feel like you shouldn’t have to ask them… but do you want to be offended, or do you want to get the shit done? It is what it is. Get shit done.

Ok, that’s it! Those are my principles! And now I’m off to conquer the day!

* Yes, I do believe that I can get divinely-inspired messages

Making a mess of asking

“You might as well just ask” / “Just go for it?” / “What’s the worst they could say? ‘No’? That’s not so bad!”

Worm's personal purposeI have read and given this advice a hundred times. It’s good advice. Mostly.

We don’t even think to ask for what we want, because a lot of times, we feel like if we ask, we’ll get turned down. There’s something else we need to do first: There’s some credential we need to get; we need to shoot some photos first; we have to put together the pitch or the catalog first.

There’s a window of opportunity and we aren’t prepared to go through it just yet.

So the advice is to just go through it anyways — barge in there with who you are, let them tell you “no,” and maybe let them tell you “yes.”

Is this advice any good? Should you prepare? Or should you just wing it?

When we first started the business, I would reach out to press and retail shops hoping to get coverage or make sales. I look back on these awkward messages now and I cringe: Did I really send those crappy photos? Did I really spend so much time talking about the our business, and so little time talking about the products? Couldn’t I have spent a little more time crafting our offering so we didn’t seem like such amateurs?

These bridges are probably behind me. I can’t reach out to them again even though our pitch is much more refined and optimal.

I went for it anyways, and because of that, I have a whole bunch of cringe-worthy pitches to companies who were, frankly, out of our league at that time in our business.

Having done that – the thing most of us are not willing to do – I lived, and I’m here to share the results with you.

90% of those pitches went unanswered.
Of the 10% who got back to us, probably 8% said something nice like “No, thanks. We’re focusing on [xyz other thing] right now.”
Of the 2% who didn’t politely decline, we’ve had mixed results:

  1. One was our first wholesale account, Marion & Rose’s Workshop, in Oakland, California
  2. One was Cowboys & Indians Magazine, who featured us and opened a whole new channel for us (the cowboy crowd)
  3. One was UNFI, the largest natural food distributor in the US, who started carrying us

Not one said “Get your fucking act together, you amateurs!”

That’s our worst fear, right? Well, that or the silent dismissal of people who think we aren’t even worth responding to… which arguably, that 90% could be interpreted as (it sure feels that way) — though it’s important to remember that it actually isn’t that way, we just imagine it is.

And of those 90% of people who didn’t respond, we are free to follow up again once we’ve got ourselves differently positioned. In fact, that different positioning gives us a great excuse to follow up: “Howdy! I thought I’d reach out since we have this new product line / set of photos / because I saw you recently posted about [subject that is related] and found your post very insightful.” Be nice, but be persistent.

I can tell you from experience, it is non-fatal to act before you’re ready, and you might even get some great contacts and results out of it!

How to survive panic attacks

Fear is a ridiculously insidious thing.

“But it’s all in your head,” as the saying goes … well, that may be true, but inside our heads is the absolute worst place for it, because we can’t escape!

It’s like that moment in the movie when you realize the killer is inside the house.

Grant Cardone (and maybe others, but he’s the one who I first heard it from) says FEAR stands for False Events Appearing Real. Basically, your mind creates scenarios that feel like you’re about to be eaten by a tiger, but in actuality, there’s only the slimmest of possibilities that you’ll really be eaten by a tiger (or face any other mortal danger).

This time of year – and I’m not exaggerating here – I feel like I am constantly having a heart attack. Like, a real, honest-to-God heart attack.

The first few times it happened, I wasn’t sure what was going on, and I was pretty sure I was actually dying. I wrote a couple of my entrepreneur friends on the third day asking, “Um, is this normal? because… it can’t be normal.” But now I know it’s just end-of-November,-beginning-of-December panic attacks.

And despite feeling like I’m going to die, I have somehow failed to die for the past four years.

Panic attacks are not fatal.

It’s OK to be uncomfortable. It’s OK to have panic attacks. It’s OK to be scared.

It’s OK to feel paralyzed…

… as long as you remember that you are not literally paralyzed. You can still move. You can still walk. You can still write. You can still make calls.

“But I’ll be so much better at it when I don’t feel like I’m dying.”

Yes, that’s probably true. You may absolutely suck at it because you’re freaking the fuck out. But the only way that you’ll get better at it while you feel like you’re dying is by actually doing the thing while you feel like you’re dying.

But you’re not dying. You’re living.

Because life is sometimes scary. And to people like me (us?), our body sometimes has inappropriate physiological responses to fear… specifically, panic attacks.

But we have to remember that this truly is just an inappropriate physiological response. It’s not real. The only thing that’s real is the effect of not doing the thing (which is likely something like not getting the sale, not making the product, not writing the blog post, or whatever).

And that’s something to be afraid of.

I’m not telling you that panic attacks or depression or anxiety doesn’t exist — I’m absolutely never going to tell you that, since I know how real they are — but I am telling you that sometimes you have to force yourself anyways, because retreating from that scary thing has more real-world bad effects than the False Events Appearing Real.

Have you successfully overcome FEAR? Share how you did it, so that we can all get better at it!

Free Worksheet: Time Management Starts With Priorities Management

In this Sunday’s video, I talk about my three foundations for an awesome life:

  1. Excellent time management
  2. Prioritizing your tasks for impact
  3. Building great relationships with amazing people

The first step in managing your time is deciding what projects are most important to you (so you can decide where to spend your time).

I’ve created a handy way of prioritizing your projects so you can see mathematically where your time is best spent. Because numbers don’t lie.

Download the Excel file here

Want to go a little further? Sign up for my (free) Goal Setting Workshop.

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