Privileged brain planning
When my coach told me that the reason, I was so busy was because I was ‘slopping in my time management’, and that when I told her ‘I don’t have enough time’ that I was lying, I felt a bit affronted. She said that I didn’t need to be so ‘busy’ that I just needed to manage my time better.
The idea that the problem with my busyness was me, and not all the things that I had to do, was a bitter pill to swallow. My brain kept saying ‘yes but, she doesn’t know how much I have going on’.
I feel that ‘coping with having so much to do’ is a part of my identity. The thought of moving on from that and not being busy any more was, and still is, tough to wrap my head around.
My coach tells me that detailed planning of my life and my day and throwing away my to do list creates freedom and takes away the busy feeling and overwhelm. I have yet to master this skill, but I wanted to share the practice with you because it is something that I am working on for myself right now.
The privilege of being human is that we have a prefrontal cortex that we can use to plan things and make decisions ahead of time. As humans we know that we can delay immediate gratification for more gratification later. No other species can anticipate and create that. And yet, so many of us are still only using the primitive part of our brain, reacting to the present moment and just doing whatever gives us the most instant gratification.
So back to the premise that if you say you don’t have enough time you are lying. We all have the same amount of time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, so time just is. When you tell yourself that there’s not enough time, you’re lying because enough, of course, is subjective. You’re the one that decides what is enough.
So, I am practising believing that I have enough time, even that I have plenty of time. I think that how I manage my time is 100% on me and I know that if I don’t have enough time it is because of how I am choosing to run my life. However, I am still learning to believe that I have plenty of time without changing any of my circumstances. That is tough for me to wrap my head around.
And I know that the reason that I am struggling with that is because my primitive brain keeps disagreeing with my pre frontal cortex. The pre frontal cortex is the most sophisticated part of your brain, that we need to utilise that in order to overcome our primitive brain. The primitive brain means well. But all it wants is for us to survive. We need to use our more sophisticated brain that to supervise the primitive brain, because the primitive brain always thinks that we’re going to die and that we should stay in the cave. The prefrontal cortex helps us plan beyond our instincts, to be able to create the exact life that we want.
What is it in your life that prevents you from getting what you want done? What would be different if you always kept your word to yourself, if you always did what you said you were going to do, if you were disciplined in the actions that you wanted to take, how would your life be different than it is now?
How would your life be different if you always honoured your plans? Now, some of you don’t even make plans. You know that you won’t honour your plans, so you don’t even make plans. And I want to tell you that that brain that you have, as a human, is the only brain on the planet that can make plans. That prefrontal cortex, we can make plans for tomorrow, for next week, for ten years from now. Does your dog, if you have one, make plans? It knows it wants a walk or food, when it is time for its walk or food, but that is about it.
But you have the privilege to plan and to supervise your primitive brain to enforce the plan. And if you follow this process, you can become one of those people who always honours their commitment to themselves and always follows through on the actions that you say you’re going to take. It takes much more effort to overcome our primitive brain than it does to live on default, to just keep doing what you’ve always done.
Do you want to be a person who when you put something on your calendar, when you say you’re going to do something, you can trust yourself to do it? Think about that for a minute. Not only does it mean that you get to do all the things that you want to do in your life, you get to create the results you want in your life, but the self-confidence that you get because you can trust yourself, because you know you’ll follow through, that you would never make a promise to yourself and then back out on it, your relationship with yourself becomes so much more sold and your self-confidence increases tenfold.
In order to overcome your primitive brain, which will be the loudest brain in your brain, you must plan ahead. You must consciously and deliberately supervise the primitive brain. This is because the primitive brain likes to get immediate pleasure and expend minimal effort. Our brain is so demanding and it’s well-intended, it’s just leading us off the track of what we want.
Some of us aren’t using our brains for what we want our brains to be able to provide us. It’s like you’ve gotten this amazing package of software in the mail and you’ve just left it in the box. That’s how some of us are not using that higher portion of our brain.
The practice of planning
To adopt the practice of planning first identify and set aside the best time for you. I suggest a Sunday or first thing on a Monday morning. Then the first thing that you are going to do is a To Do Download. Sit down with a blank piece of paper and write down everything that you want to do and that you must do. Write down everything. What is it you want to do? What is it that you must do? What is it that you need to do? And what would it be awesome if you did? What do you wish that you would do?
Now, as you start writing, more and more things will come. Just keep writing. Then ask yourself, what else? Get everything that you think you can get done, any unfinished business, that wardrobe that needs to be cleaned out, the car that needs to be taken to the wash. Get out of your head all these unfinished to-dos in your brain. You probably don’t realise that having to think about them repeatedly creates negative feelings that you don’t need to feel or expend energy on thinking about.
Remember to include work things, personal things, family things, future things, vacation things. All of it. Don’t be concerned if you feel overwhelmed at this point. Just allow the overwhelm to be there and carry on. The practice of doing this is so powerful. It gets everything out of your brain and onto paper so that you no longer need to remember them.
When you are done take a break for a couple of minutes and then review the list and write down all the obstacles that are in the way of achieving the things on there. So, what will happen is that when you’ve done this list, your brain will have nothing left to complain about because it will all be on the list.
Next check the list for any big chunky things on there that will take multiple steps to complete and break out all the steps. You want that list to be as comprehensive as possible. Now, some of you are thinking, ‘I don’t have time to do that’ but you need to see that the time spent planning now is going to save you so much in the execution. The To Do download clears out the brain of all the cobwebs, all the mess, all the unfinished things. And if you do it weekly, the first time you do it, there’ll be a lot on there. But after that, it will start to dwindle.
Once you have this list and all the obstacles and all the things, then you’re going to look at the list. Now remember, there’s not one thing on that list that you must do! You don’t have to take care of your children. You don’t have to eat. You certainly don’t have to vacuum. So, stop telling yourself that you must do any of it and start telling yourself that you chose to do it.
Now, look at that list and decide anything on it that you don’t want to do because you don’t have to do and eliminate it. There will be things that you think you should do, but you don’t want to do them, and you don’t have to do them. So, go through that list and decide whether there anything you want to eliminate.
Now, you are probably going to have a pretty long list. Next, take the time and prioritise it in terms of importance, not urgency.
Next you are going to put everything on your calendar. Before you do that, I suggest you schedule in your free time, exercise time, self-care time. Everything that is vital to your wellbeing and not on your to-do list put those things on your calendar first. Then I suggest you allocate some spare time and then I suggest you add all the items on your to do list. Now some of them will be for the coming week and some can maybe be done in six weeks – it doesn’t matter. Just put everything on your calendar and then throw away your to do list.
Now all you need to do is follow your calendar. It’s likely that your primitive brain is going to resist. When you get to 6 pm on Wednesday evening your primitive brain is going to be like ‘I don’t want to do’ whatever it is and will think it’s a good idea to watch Netflix instead. This is where you can honour your commitment to yourself and do what your prefrontal cortex decided was best for you in your planning session.
Work with me
If you would like to master your time management, book a free ‘Life Consultation’ on my calendar.