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Time vs Intensity

Have you ever felt that your plate is full? As if you can’t take on any more work? If you have, I’d like to pose the following question for your consideration: Was it time or intensity that was filling your plate?

Let’s start with a few definitions:

Time: Time measures how much of your physical time is blocked from doing other tasks. When Lucy Ricardo worked on the chocolate packaging line her time was overfull.

Intensity. Intensity measures the level to which you are cognitively full. In other words, your brain cannot handle anymore thinking. When Einstein was working on the Theory of Relativity, skipping sleep and basic hygiene, his intensity was full.

How does this show up in our work lives?

Busy but low Intensity. If you are in meetings all day, you might feel very busy, but you may actually have available brain space. You can be very busy, but not maxed out on productivity. It sounds counterintuitive, and it’s actually a very empty, frustrated feeling. It feels as if you have more to give but you’re too busy to give it. This is a common feeling in the vicious cycle of poverty. People take on two jobs but then have no time to left to go back to school or look for a higher paying job.

When people are in unproductive meetings or spend time with bureaucracy and cumbersome processes, they feel busy but not productive. Not a good feeling.

Try this…. reduce the busyness and increase the intensity. Decline a few meetings, and block out some time to frame out a new project or idea. For many people this is easier said than done, sometimes we don’t have control over our time. All we can say to that is try looking for opportunities and they will eventually appear.

High Intensity but low Busyness. When people are heavily thinking but not busy, they still seem busy. These are the folks that are lost in thought, and not there even when they’re there. These folks might flounder around because their brain cannot decide what to focus on. There’s a sense of overwhelm because there are simply too many things to think about.

Try this....create some busyness around your ideas. Many time management gurus will tell you to break it into tasks, we agree. Carve off a piece and get real tactical with it. Shrink the work to a smaller time horizon (1 day?) and create some tasks. Of course, we love using sticky notes. When you end up with an overwhelming number of sticky notes, it’s ok, prioritize and again carve off a few for today.

Thinking and Doing. Our friends at Leadership Mastery Inc. use a similar model with quadrants between the spectrums of “thinking” and “doing”. They suggest we strive for a balance by cycling through “thinking”, “doing”, “thinking and doing” and “not thinking or doing”.

How have you managed your Time vs Intensity? Let us know!

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