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!

Intentions on the water at sunrise.

This morning was especially early. I got a surprise upgrade on my hotel room (more on that later), so after a wonderful night of sleep, I woke up very early to go walk along the banks. As I was sitting there, a dog came up and started making noises at me. I started packing to go (maybe I was in his spot?), and he nudged my leg.

Wild dogs are kind of scary to me, since, well, you know. And these dogs are filthy. They literally sleep in trash. And this one looked like it had been in many fights, so I wondered if my hand was going to be bitten off, but I tentatively patted his head. He was blissed out with happiness. And yes, I had hand sanitizer, and washed my hands a lot, but he was a sweet dog and the kindness we showed each other was welcome.

Monkeys in Varanasi, India

  🐒 These monkeys were on certain gants, playing, climbing, scavenging, and generally being monkey awesome. I asked the guide, and he said if you don’t lock your window and you’re staying in a gant (the big buildings made by Rajes from different areas), the monkeys will come in and steal your food. Cute! Our guide assured me they are quite mean and said I shouldn’t attempt to cuddle them.

Stairs in Varanasi, India

Varanasi is NOT an accessible place. I walked along the river bank yesterday morning, and everywhere I went was hundreds of stairs. I hiked up and down the stairs just to stay on the path, and, of course, since I’m only here once (as far as I know), I didn’t want to let stairs get in the way of seeing anything, so if I wanted to get a good look at something, up I climbed.

My knees have been pretty bad in the past few years, and I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to manage all the stairs. None of the guides I read really mentioned how non-stair people would just NOT be able to experience the most beautiful part of the city.

I am so grateful to Krista, my trainer, for helping me rehab my knees and get them to the point where I can manage stairs – maybe not as easily as others, but as easily as myself.

My dad, on the other hand, had trouble with the stairs. The hotel had no elevator, and the restaurant was on the top floor. It was too much. I don’t think he had much fun in Varanasi. He committed to getting his knees replaced when he gets home, and I am hopeful we can come back again so he can enjoy the city as much as I did.

In sickness and in … India

So, I succumbed to the cold that has been hot on my heels for a week. Today, I had the exciting adventure of crossing a Mumbai street TWICE(!!) to get to the pharmacy.
Me: I have a cold. Do you have pills?
Pharmacist: [turns to assistant, says something in Hindi]
Me: also, tissues?
Pharmacist: wet or dry?
Me: dry.
Pharmacist: [more direction to assistant]
Assistant brings two tissue packs.
Me: More?
Pharmacist: How many more?
Me: like… 6? How many do you have?
Pharmacist assistant brings out 10 packs.
Me: All of them.
Me: [feeling lucky] Do you have lip balm?
Pharmacist presents a vast array of lip balm.
Pharmacist: 350 rupees ($5.60)

I feel like I made a major breakthrough today. I am usually too shy to do things like go to a pharmacy and ask for what I need, but today I couldn’t not do it. I feel so fortunate to have gotten a million tissues and some decongestant, and lip balm, which I’ve been missing sorely.

Cups in India

Somehow, 8 – 24 oz cups are an American thing. Getting what I consider to be “a cup of coffee” means 5 or so “cups of coffee” in most places. I think the generally-referred to “cup” here is a teacup (thanks to the British). To my big American self, the first few days were spent trying to break the language barrier enough to convince someone I really DID want what must seem like a bucket of coffee.

It’s these little cultural differences that fascinate me. How something as invisible as the size of a vessel is not standard around the world.

Fancy Meal in Cochin, India

Steve took Dad and I to the local Ramada resort. Cochin is kind of the Hawaii of India, so as you can see, there’s a full and gorgeous resort here! Wow, right?

We had a meal that was more incredibly delicious food than we could eat, and Dad and Steve had fine drinks, and the bill was $56. I thought it was a misprint, since a meal like that would have easily been >$100 in the US.

We have a trip to Hawaii next month, and the cost of the flight was about the same. I wonder how the relative cost will look on the ground.

Now, I’m back in my (non-resort) room resting and trying to get my energy back. I am so glad that I made a pretty quick recovery. ☺️ Things look very different when I am not super sick.

Dogs: they are everywhere. – Notes from Varanasi, India

“Free life,” said the guide yesterday.

But they are literally starving to death. I saw a dog laying with its head in the river, dead. I saw a dog with its head in the gutter, dead. I won’t post photos of them here, but I felt it was important to witness their cycle with open eyes.

I wanted to give them a home. They are so friendly and kind, wanting nothing but a scritch on the head. They are all good dogs.

 

There are active campaigns to reduce the dog population and monitor against rabies. So, there’s that.

Small margin for error

Here we are in Alleppey taking a river tour. People live right on the river. Kids go to school on a school boat instead of a school bus.

But with climate change, the people here have had to change their lives. On the way here, we passed rice paddys that are now fish farms because of rising sea levels. A few inches rise in sea level can make a dramatic change of life.