I’ve been working with a friend of mine on building my business. I really love coaching, but learning about entrepreneurship and business development has not been an area I’ve been particularly excited about. My friend and I have a great partnership, as we inspire, inform, and challenge each other to broaden our ways of thinking and continually clarify our intentions of how we want to bring the best of ourselves to our work. She’s a coach as well, so we both have a big bias towards accountability and structures that support us in taking forward-moving actions (which is a cornerstone of coaching). One of the things that have come up recently for me is a longing for more flow and ease in my schedule. This runs completely counter to my natural tendency to plan and schedule every item on my to-do list! (A trait that served me well as a scientist but isn’t the most fun way to work.) As much as I was yearning for less structure and planning – which often seem to stifle my creativity – I was terrified that if I “let go of the reins” I wouldn’t get anything done. I felt pulled in opposite directions.
So last week I decided to do an experiment. Instead of setting goals for the week and planning exactly what tasks I would accomplish, I challenged myself to practice “intuitive time management”. In other words, I would trust myself to decide what was the most important task to be done at any given time, based on how I felt and what I was inspired to work on, rather than a set plan I had organized (outside of my scheduled appointments and meetings, of course). My prediction was that I would enjoy my week more using this method, but that I probably wouldn’t be nearly as productive in getting things done as I normally would. I also wondered about how efficient I would be, given that I would be starting and stopping work on different tasks by following my ever-changing whim instead of doing one thing to completion.
I was literally shocked when I reviewed my week in regards to how I felt and what I actually got done. Even though it appeared that my method was totally chaotic and inefficient, by the end of the week I had indeed worked primarily on the projects and tasks that were my top priorities, but with a new sense of freedom and choice rather than a feeling that I “should” or “had to”. In the end, I think I was actually more efficient than usual, and I definitely enjoyed the process more! My friend had a very similar experience, and we explored at length what she coined “The Productivity Paradox”. Even though we were less structured and more open to what we wanted to do in each moment, we still achieved the same outcomes as when we set detailed goals and planned exactly what tasks we would do and when. In fact, by letting our workflow develop organically, it seems we actually enhanced our productivity! We wondered about what would it be like to practice “intuitive goal setting”… Could we trust ourselves to just know what we goals we wanted to work towards without going through a formal rational process or carefully documenting them? I haven’t experimented with this one yet but am excited about the possibilities. I love the feeling of ease and freedom in using intuitive time management, and am working on adopting this as a permanent practice. I have to laugh at how many times in the last week I’ve felt an initial pang of discomfort when the fear of not getting enough done sneaks in, and I have to remind myself that I can trust that whatever is important for me to do will get done.
What’s your experience? Do you work best with structured goals and to-do lists, or do you thrive by trusting yourself to naturally do what feels good in the moment? What areas in your life to do apply the “intuitive” philosophy? I know several people who say when it comes to decision-making, their intuition always wins. They might make lists of pros and cons to soothe their intellect, but when it comes down to it it’s really just to find the justification for what their gut has already decided. I’d love to hear your comments below!