Of our seven personal productivity and goal management resources, nimbleness is the most difficult of the resources to define and the most individualized to the specific person. It’s so individualized that it’s difficult to give great examples.
This morning, I lived an example, so I decided to share.
First, let’s define nimbleness:
Nimbleness is the ability to act long term when the short term world rears itself.
That’s nice-sounding, but what does that actually mean?
Seeking Opportunities to be Nimble
Fifteen minutes here, fifteen minutes there; it happens throughout the day. When given these unexpected moments, you can either check Facebook or Twitter (the short term world’s pets), or you can get something done. Maybe there is a list of e-mails you can quickly reply to. Maybe you can edit a single page of something you’re writing.
If we’re nimble, we can take advantage of these opportunities.
But you must be prepared to be nimble. Otherwise, it’s a lot harder to get something done in those spare moments. Either because you’ll spend most of the time deciding what to do, or you’ll pull out your phone. It’s just the way we’re conditioned to operate in this short term world.
When other resources are lacking, nimbleness can really help.
For example, I took a job commuting an hour-plus each way. I was bummed; it really ate into my writing time. So I learned how to transcribe effectively using my phone, challenging myself to speak/write 1,000 words to and from.
I love NPR, but listening to it isn’t directly associated with any of my goals. And transcribing/writing is certainly better than listening to whatever radio station happens to not be playing a commercial at the time.
Parrying the Thrust of the Short Term World
Even if you’re squirreled away, and your phone is off, interruptions will occur. You cannot predict when they occur, but you can predict that they will occur. They are predictably unpredictable.
Nimbleness is not just about seizing opportunities; it is about making the best of situations as they develop.
Keep a pad of paper nearby so you can quickly jot down where you left off in a given task. This will save you a lot of time in the long run.
If the interruption forces you to stop doing what you were doing entirely, then bullocks! But that needn’t be the end of it — at least some of the time.
Example: I’m putting on running shoes, about to announce my intentions to fit in a run before the rainstorm, when the wife asks me to keep an eye on the napping baby while she runs to the store. At first I’m selfishly (but secretly) annoyed.
I could easily check my Twitter feed…
Or I can do push-ups and sit-ups and such while the baby sleeps. Seems like a better choice.
While I didn’t go for a run, I still got a bit of a workout in. And in the long-run, that’s what counts.
Once you get in the habit of thinking like this, it becomes much easier to identify
The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.
— Marcus Aurelius
When a Project Requires It
Most mornings, I wake up a few hours before the wife and child, make coffee, write in my journal, and then type away on my AlphaSmart Neo. This morning was different. I’ll let my journal do the talking (a typed transcript follows this picture because my handwriting is awful and I hadn’t planned on sharing this page when I began writing.) I preserved the misspellings, odd grammar, and personal idiosyncrasies. Most of it won't make sense to you... but that's the point. Journaling is not meant to be public. (Maybe I'll explain it in a future post.)
Thur 4/13/17 6:09 AM
13 turns of the pencil.
In a weird productivity place this AM because I have so much writing in the ‘higher-end’ of the triaangle that I can’t use my AlphaSmart Neo to write. Gotta use the Mac and Bear, ruins my Monk Morning. Instinctively I headed to CNN and other waste-of-time sites. Made myself go sit down with my coffee. It was a quasi-meditation; I definitely let my mind wander quite a bit, said hi to my cat, but I’m checking it off anyways. Told myself I’d come directly to the journal and write a page, hit the clock, then get to work. So here I am.
My morning routine was thrown off, but I had no choice. It wasn't pretty, but I eventually got to work.
If you practice nimbleness (and the world will give you plenty of chances), you will accrue hours upon hours of productivity.
All for the price of not knowing what your second cousin’s ex-girlfriend’s new Facebook status says.
What benefit does checking Facebook five times a day provide that once a day doesn’t?
Where in your life can you be nimble?