To jog your memory: We're using the month of September to bust our mental blocks—you know, those thoughts, belief systems, and inactions that stand between us and our creating the thing we want to create before the end of 2017. If you missed it, here's where I give the full scoop on what we're doing, here's the first distinction, and here's the second distinction.
All right, you're up to speed! Let's dive into the third distinction of the month:
The Busy Action/Clarified Action Distinction
This one is deceptively simple.
To be busy is to be occupied. To have lots to do—often some combination of tasks and time commitments—and to focus your attention on the thing at hand (with, perhaps, a peripheral awareness of all the things that need your attention next).
When you're busy, your overarching objective is to strike through as many items on your list as you can, and to do so as efficiently as possible.
You might say the objective is to become less busy.
It's pretty vague as far as intentions go (and it's such a fleeting outcome!), yet we're all guilty at some time or another of using it as our sole guidepost when making our daily and weekly plans.
(After all, why do you think so many stationery companies create those adorable little weekly to-do lists for us to buy? Because we love to collect all of our busy-ness in one spot, then tick through it like the efficient go-getters we want to be.)
The problem here is less about our method (I love those Monday through Friday notepads as much as the next gal) and more about our mission. Rather, more about the absence of a real mission.
Let's look at the other half of this distinction for some contrast.
To clarify something is to remove its impurities. To refine. To eliminate confusion. To filter.
When you clarify your intentions for the day, you get really clear on what it is you want to accomplish (and we're not talking a whole list of things—pick a maximum of three) or who it is you want to be in the world (both your given and chosen roles), and you ensure all individual actions you take are in service to those intentions.
You apply discernment because you already know there's no end to the things you could do, chores and errands and fulfilling other's expectations of you.
The objective is to stay in alignment with some greater mission. To view the individual daily and weekly plans as stepping stones to achieving the bigger picture—the long-term goal, the long-range plan, the higher purpose of your existence.
Clarified action is supporting action. It's conscious action. It honors your big mission, whatever that might be, because it prioritizes your must-dos (instead of your infinite to-dos), all while maintaining the ever-present awareness that you have this one lifetime. And that's it.
If you don't feel high purpose when you think about your existence, fear not.
All you need to know is this:
Your reason for being is far more magnificent than the sum of your to-do lists (and your ninja-level ability to tick through them).
'Become less busy' is not your big-picture objective, even if it feels like it is in this season of your life.
You can shift from busy action to clarified action by bringing more consciousness to your planning. By contemplating what your mission statement would be if you had one. By setting aside the adorable Monday through Friday notepad in favor of a different approach, one where your guidepost is a single question you ask yourself:
What would I like to have achieved a year from now?
I can guarantee you that 'make the bed 365 times' won't be what springs to mind. Nor will 'write all birthday/holiday/event thank-you notes.'
What might spring to mind is something you started, but eventually abandoned because your time was hijacked or you had to pick up a side-gig to pay the bills or you just plain got scared. Something like, 'finish writing the novel.' Or 'host private dinners for small groups.' Maybe 'book a solo art show.'
If you're stuck in an endless loop of small-fry to-dos, what behaviors need to shift today (this week, this month) in order for you to get closer to achieving your dream thing a year from now.
Now, for your challenge:
It's time to refine! Imagine running your task lists through a filter, one that separates those future-vision must-dos from the myopic (and perpetually regenerating) to-dos. This week, your mission is to make time to accomplish as many of the former items as you possibly can.
Between now and next Tuesday, put the latter items on hold (it's only seven days!) and observe how your relationship to your dream thing changes.