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Show Notes:

Welcome to Hello Rebecca Ray, our collective home for courage, growth and human to human connection. I’m your host, Dr. Rebecca Ray, human, clinical psychologist, author, and educator. I know only too well how fear, comparison, and self-doubt can stifle your potential. This podcast is all about brave and meaningful living and how you can make your authentic contribution to the world today and every day.

Lovely ones, welcome to Episode 60 timeboxing and my process of undistracted myself, for those of you that listened to Episode 54, I think it was, I talked about how I read the book Indistractable by Nia Eyal and how I decided at that point that the book, because it was so incredibly great, I absolutely loved it, was going to change my life. Now, it’s been quite a journey, six weeks for it to change my life. And as I show you what I’ve done, what has worked, what hasn’t worked and what I’m now doing, I just need you to know from the outset that this is not an ad. So when I talk about various pieces of software, and also the book Indistractable itself, please note that I’m not sponsored in any way look, I wish I was. But I’m not.

So six weeks ago, I arrived at Indistractable because my intuition was telling me that when I have so many big goals for this year, actually there’s not so many big goals, I need to kind of clarify that I don’t work from a place of burnout anymore, I don’t load myself up so much that I can’t possibly get it all done. But I have several important goals that are going to take quite a lot from me, effortful work, work that requires a lot of mental space for me to do. Primarily writing books, three of which are being written this year, not all the same size. So don’t panic, that don’t panic is literally just for me to are small and one is big.

But there’s also other stuff as well. I’m running my signature programme Intentional Business for the third time this year that goes for seven months. And there’s a whole series of other things that I’m working on in the background that are not quite as big as writing books, but still require me to be present. And so I arrived it Indistractable because I really wanted to work on my process of productivity. And I felt intuitively that it wasn’t as good as it could be. Reading Indistractable just confirmed that. Like, honestly, I realised as a result of reading that book, just how distracted I was, and how much my schedule controlled me rather than I controlled my schedule. So listen to that episode, if you want to find out more about what I learned at that point. And I want to talk about what has happened in the six weeks since because, you know, this is the same thing that comes up with any kind of self-help book, you can read a self-help book that makes you feel inspired and motivated. And then the minute you close the back cover, or you turn off the audio version of it, it can be a much different experience to try to consistently apply the techniques that you learned in the book. And I think this is really important because I think one of the reasons self-help gets a bad rap. And you know, I write it, I’m a big fan of self-help. But the reason I think it gets a bad rap is because it can be very rah rah rah, you know, yay, go you, encourage yourself, do all the things. And yet there can be a kind of vacuous approach to how, how do we do it? And then of course, because it’s self-help, it’s up to you to go and put those things into process. So I want to take you through how I’ve applied these things.  Because Indistractable was such a significant book for me that I really have turned it into changing my life and the way I do things and the way I manage my time. Now, I’m not great at doing this all the time, but I don’t want you to think of but you write self-help and you write on these kinds of topics. So therefore, of course you do that, of course this is how you roll. It’s not necessarily always how I roll. I’m no different to any other human in terms of the difficulty that comes with changing habits, especially habits that have been in place for quite some time and are unhelpful. So this is absolutely required effort. And it’s been stop and start, some bits have worked in some bits haven’t.

So what I did as a result of reading Indistractable for the first time was after that I took a Google Sheet, literally just a Google Sheet, and I decided to time box. So for those of you that aren’t aware of what timeboxing is, it’s essentially creating your schedule, building your schedule from the ground up in terms of boxes that are devoted to various values and tasks that you need to do in your life. So essentially, we’re talking about the schedule that is created on what’s important to you, rather than a schedule that’s done to you around just what you think you should do or what you need to get done. And so that’s what I did, I opened a Google sheet and I did a very pretty weekly schedule, and I coloured it all in various colours that aligned with various values. And then I tried to operate to that schedule. So there was a box for walking my dogs, there was a box for social media creation, there was a box for content creation, like these podcast episodes, there was a box for spending time with my wife, spending time with my son, etc, etc, etc.

How did it work? Pretty good for the first few days. I really wish I could say it worked really well for weeks and weeks and now here we are. But it didn’t, I actually found the Google Sheet incredibly frustrating. Now, this could be my fault, because I like things to look pretty. And I think sometimes that’s a problem for me. And so I had merged the boxes in Google Sheets and then coloured in that box. And so if the box was going to change, if the boxes or days were going to change from week one to week two, then honestly, it was just an annoying process to have to unmerge and then re-merge and then move everything around and re-colour it. It just was not workable the effort to spend time adjusting that Google Sheet according to the changes in my schedule, just did my head in.

So I decided, well, there must be a different way. Okay, I’ll still go with the Google sheet as the idea, the overall idea of how I want my schedule to look, but perhaps there’s a way that I can do this with what I already use. So I went to Asana. Asana is a project management app, I use it to set out all my projects. It’s an just an amazing to-do list app, basically. And I use it with my team, so I can assign tasks to my team. And they can assign tasks to me, I’ve often been told what to do, which is really, really helpful sometimes. And I’m able to then see what needs to be done as well as just use the app on my phone if I’m on the go and set task, you know, that I don’t want to forget. And so I tried that was like how can I make this Google Sheets somehow be reflected in Asana because I had a, this time boxing on the Google Sheet that reflected my personal life and my work life. But I didn’t know then how to connect that to Asana. So for example, let’s say I had a content creation box. I wasn’t then in Asana, there would be all these different types of content that needed to be created across different projects. And it wasn’t easy for me to remember what I needed to do next in that particular box.

So what happened was, I just ended up in a hole of distraction and frustration. I tried, I thought, surely I can make Asana do what I needed to do. But the answer is, I could not, it didn’t work like that. So I ended up really frustrating thinking there must be a better way to do this, because I loved those few days that my time was so aligned with my values, because I followed the plan of the time boxing. So what I did at that point was I came back to a place of self-compassion and essentially gave myself permission to start again. I thought, all right, I’m trying and that’s what matters. I’m really trying to take control of my time in a more values aligned way. And then I thought, okay, let’s start this again with a different set of options. So I then ended up down the rabbit hole of timeboxing apps. I literally sat on my iPad and Googled time boxing apps and there was so many blog posts about what to use. And I spent a couple of days trying to decide which one I would try out, and then trying to decide what the features were that I needed. And honestly, I’m not a tech-head. So that process was annoying as well. I promise you, the annoyance gets better. And so what I did was I contacted a friend of mine, Dave, who’s he’s just really great and working on his productivity and is usually over or across the apps that come out. And I just thought I need someone to answer this question for me. And Dave said, I explained to Dave, what I needed I was I explained the flexibility that I wanted in my time, I explained that I wanted it to be able to be communicated to my team. So I want my team to know when I’m involved in deep work in particular, and won’t be available to be contacted. Deep Work is things like when I’m creating content like this, or when I’m doing writing, especially when I’m doing writing. So for me to concentrate, I turn off everything else, my phone gets removed from the room, etc, etc. And so I explained that to Dave, and he said, I think you need some sunsama, that’s S U N S A M A. And I was like, where have I heard that word before? I did some research on Sunsama after Dave said that. And it turned out that it was exactly what I needed. And then I went back to the resources that are included in Indistractable the book and of course, I just have to shake my head. That’s exactly,it was Sunsama that Nir Eyal uses what he recommends as well. But I remembered that I ignored that in the book because Sunsama is not free. So I don’t pay for Asana. You can upgrade but I’ve never needed to. And so I was a little bit on my high horse and thought, No, I don’t want to pay a subscription to another piece of software. Anyway, Dave said, just try the 14 day trial. And I was like, okay, well, and honestly, the 14 day trial really has been life-changing. I love this software so much that I am completely prepared to pay for it.

It’s got a really clean and attractive user face that’s really quite intuitive to use. You divide your time into different contexts, I have a work context and a personal context. And for the first time ever, as you know, I’m not a tech-head. As I mentioned, I’ve actually been going through the guide videos to make sure I’m getting the most out of the software. Because I can see the potential. This thing allows me to just drag and drop, I can drag an email in from my outlook and make that a task. I can drag a task in from Asana and make that a task at timebox in Sunsama. It gives me a visual coloured because I love pretty coloured by channels for various values that I’ve inputted. It gives me a coloured time box schedule for each day. And then it allows me to send that schedule to my team on Slack each morning so they know exactly what I’m doing. It just has blown my mind it was exactly what I needed. And the software is also very much created to prevent burning out. There’s just something about being reminded, you know, I’ve got the amount of hours of work I want to do each day set. And if I go over that I get a warning from Sunsama that says just be mindful of the fact that you might have an unrealistic workload set up and then as I’m scheduling each day, it prompts me to push back work that is not essential for today. That’s been a really great reflection place to be able to come to. And what it also encourages you to do is to set two major goals for the week. And then you can connect different time boxes to be aligned with those goals. So I can actually see reports based on how much of my time has been aligned with my major goals for the week. Really, really helpful. Now, like anything, it takes effort to learn and take on a new habit. And what I’m not doing so well is taking heed of those cues for preventing burnout. So I’ve noticed that I tend to overload my day and I think I need to work on creating more whitespace. So I see that there’s a gap in the schedule and think oh, I can fit that particular thing that I want to do in there. But there’s been a couple of days where I’ve followed the schedule and lost steam as the time goes on, because I’m essentially exhausted because I’ve scheduled too many things. But what it has done is it’s really allowed myself knowledge to be increasing exponentially, about what causes my distraction. And I’ve noticed that it’s primarily two things. One is, like I said, I’ve scheduled too much, and then I run out of steam. So I get to a point in the day where I just don’t want to do any more, because I’ve actually scheduled too much in the morning. And my brain just burns out. I’m not someone who has infinite energy throughout the day, especially not infinite mental energy. I wish I did, but I really don’t, I really only got for deep work, I’ve really only got about three to four good hours in me, if we’re talking about writing, then it’s less, it’s actually about two to three hours. And so I really need to account for that to make sure that I’m not asking too much of myself during that time.

And the other thing is, I just don’t want to do the task, so I get distracted, I’ve really noticed that if it’s a task that I don’t like doing or that requires a lot of mental energy, then sometimes I can just throw a tantrum internally and not want to do the task. So I go and read the news, or I scroll my feed, I do something that is not using my time in an effective way. So this has been really interesting. And it’s got a place in my life now in my work life and in my personal life. And so what I want to then work on from here, is just give myself more space to practice, because the habit is now to sit down at the end of each day and plan for the next day on Friday, I plan for the following Monday. And what this is allowing me to do is to just make sure that I’m across the app and the way it works, because you can do things on some Sunsama, like press the start button, and then stop buttons so that it actually helps you to realise how long things really take. So one of the problems that I’ve had is I’ve scheduled not enough time for a task or too much time. Now, too much time isn’t necessarily a problem, because I just get to move on to the next task. But when I’ve not scheduled enough time, because I thought the task wouldn’t take me that long, it’s been really interesting to note just how long things actually take when you need to do them. So the practice is around scheduling more effectively. But it’s also around remembering to press the start button and remembering to plan certain repeated tasks that occur during the week.

I’m also going to bring more self-compassion to the practice rather than use it in such a way that sometimes I can get a bit excited and think, how much can I do like how much can I get done in a day. And for someone like me, that’s just a recipe for burnout, that’s not at all helpful, and it’s attached to a really old story in my head, about the fact that my worth is attached to my productivity. I don’t believe that anymore. But that story still exists in the background. And it can sometimes sneak up when I’m not paying mindful attention to my mind.

So I’m going to come at this with more whitespace from a place of self-compassion, and from a place of being able to remember that the more whitespace I give myself, the better I get at doing things that require a lot of mental energy, and to give myself credit, even for doing this process in the first place. And then I just want to breathe into this commitment. You know, sometimes it can feel like if I’m committed I’m locked in. But what the commitment to planning actually does is it gives me so much more creative energy and mental space when it comes to doing the hard things. So I know a lot of people, especially creatives don’t like to be locked into a particular schedule. And they just want to create when it comes to them when the inspiration comes to them. But in the place I am I would probably say that I used to be like that. But one of the problems with that is I ran the risk of actually never creating because I didn’t feel like inspiration was strong enough or only creating on such an ad hoc basis that there was no consistency. And that is not helpful when you’re on a contract to write a book. So when you know part of your art becomes attached to your work, there needs to be systems or at least for me, I need processes around it to make sure it gets done. And to make sure that I don’t hit up against a deadline so intensely because I procrastinate so long that I ended up causing myself some kind of emotional breakdown to get the book written. So in doing this, I’m going to use this process to continue to test it out with my writing. And I have tested it out so far. And guess what it works. I’m so excited about this because I had a block scheduled yesterday. So I’ve done some writing before now, but it’s been editing and editing is not hard. It’s writing in the first place that’s difficult. And so yesterday, I started a new book. And there’s always a bit of stress and pressure attached to page one, this kind of white page that is staring at me, and the pressure around that. But when I got to the time block, as per Sunsama, I pressed play to start my time and I actually did it. I actually did, I spent two and a half hours on that time block. And it was just so incredibly rewarding to sit there and make myself do the thing. And to find that not only did inspiration come, so did all these other ideas to help me kind of plan the book out in an effective way. Now, I’m not saying it’s going to happen like that every time. But because the block was planned, it made me feel very empowered that I was actually starting on the task and getting it done. I wasn’t waiting until nine months time when the book is actually due. So there’s a lot of empowerment associated with that. Now I would say empowerment is the word that describes my entire response to this time boxing plan.

So in a nutshell, time boxing, I highly recommend it’s definitely enabled me to come back to a place where I feel like I’m controlling my schedule, where my schedule is aligned with my values, and where I get to see that I’m living in such a way that would please my 80-year-old self. And Sunsama as a software for timeboxing is really working for me. So you don’t have to do it that way. I have a friend who just literally uses a word document and fills in the boxes in her schedule. So you don’t need to do it that way. But the digital version is working for me. So it’s all a process right? Please go forward with self-compassion and giving yourself permission to continue practising. I’ll catch you very shortly for the next episode of Hello Rebecca Ray.

Lovely ones. Thank you so much for listening to Hello, Rebecca Ray. If you’ve got something meaningful from this episode, and the most meaningful thing you can do is jump on over to wherever you listen to your podcast episodes and leave a review. Because it’s those reviews that help this podcast stay. Make sure to subscribe, and if you’re generous enough to share this episode, thank you so much. I love seeing your shares on social media. So please tag me, catch you next time.