The one thing we all want, yet can’t create is more time. Our limited time forces us to prioritize the endless list of things we intend and want to do. But we can’t get to everything. So the things with the greatest immediacy end up taking precedence. The problem is that our perceived immediacy does not always always align with importance.
Important = be a good person and positive influence on society
Less Important = respond to emails, read today’s headlines
Immediate = respond to emails, read today’s headlines
Less Immediate = be a good person and positive influence on society
This enigma is why we nonchalantly walk by people who need our help. It’s why we put altruistic aspirations in the “when I finally get some time” bucket. So what’s a busy person who wants to be successful and a thoughtful member of society do?
I’ve found that integrating a few small practices into my life that collectively take less than 10 minutes a day have made me a more thoughtful person. They also make me do bit more good from my hamster wheel.
Start the day with thankfulness
Before entering nuclear GTD mode, I’ve given myself permission to focus on thankfulness for a few minutes. It’s the first thing I do after I eat breakfast. I start by reading this passage from the Dalai Lama in the back of my moleskin:
For those of you who can’t read my chicken scratch:
“Today I am fortunate to have woken up, I am alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others, to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings, I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others, I am going to benefit others as much as I can.” – H.H. The 14th Dahlai Lama
After this I write down 3 people and things I’m grateful for. I forget where I stole this practice from, but I know this awesome TEDx video about happiness mentioned it.
Doing these two things each morning the past couple months has not only made me happier, but also just a more considerate person.
Total time < 2 minutes.
Always respond to everyone (in the real world & virtual world!)
I brought this up in a previous post about giving people dignity. The practice is pretty simple: if someone engages you, be it on the street or over email, give them the dignity of a response. Any remotely polite response is better than no response at all. Why? Because everyone appreciates the acknowledgement of their existence.
But I’m so busy!? I can’t possible respond to everyone who wants something from me. Last time I checked a simple “no thank you” or “sorry I can’t right now” never prevented anyone from moving mountains. It really doesn’t take much time. People appreciate it.
Most people who don’t give to the needy rationalize their actions by fear of “being taken advantage of.” This convenient little crutch (which is often true) is a speed bump that should not stop your altruistic big wheel from moving forward. It can be circumvented through buying food on the spot or giving them snacks you packed dedicated to this purpose. I’m busy, so I opt for packing snacks. I try to have 3 or 4 granola bars in my bag at all times. If I see someone who looks like they haven’t had an American sized plate of food in a while, I’ll offer them some bars.
On average, 90% of people gratefully accept the bars with extreme gratitude. And it feels damn good to give it to them.
Doing this once a day with a little conversation sprinkled in takes less than 1 minute.
Don’t make commitments you can’t keep
Busy people are really good at stretching themselves thin with commitments. It’s why we’re busy. This can be a dangerous game. In an effort to maintain commitments when we’re stretched thin, opportunities to sacrifice our integrity present themselves.
Maybe you borrowed money, but can no longer pay it back. This might inspire stealing. Maybe you told someone you where going to go somewhere when odds are you probably won’t make it. This might inspire dishonesty. You get the picture.
Bottom line, don’t make commitments you can’t keep. Forego the short term comfort agreeing to something can provide, in order to prevent situations that will be ethically challenging.
Note, this actually saves you time.
Compliment people in the service industry
My friend Shaun shared an awesome habit that he practices which I’ve been slowly integrating into my life. Every time he interacts with a cashier, waiter, or anyone else in the service industry he makes sure to pay them a compliment. It’s usually something small like “I really like your earrings” or “hey that’s a really nice hat.” These compliments may appear incredibly trivial, but there impact is definitely not. Why? Because no one else does it. It makes people feel special in a scenario when they often don’t.
If you buy things at stores you can do this…so you can do this. This takes no additional time.
Send one thoughtful email a day
This is pretty self-explanatory. It feels good to let someone else know you care about them. I’ve recently been using this tool called Contactually which has been great for reminding me to send at least one thoughtful email each day. I used to use a spreadsheet and bundle this thoughtfulness in the relationship management department.
So there it is. Integrating these practices into my life takes less than 10 minutes a day and has helped me step it up in the “good person” department. At least it feels that way. Considering where we spend our time and money is the biggest indicator of what’s important to us, the 10 minute threshold is definitely something I want to increase, MUCHO (and am not proud of). You need to walk before you can run I guess.
If you’re at all looking to integrate some of these practices into your life take the walk before you run approach: start with one at a time. Consistently doing one thing leads to the development of a habit more than intending to do many things, but only accomplishing few.
Anyone else have any good practices?