Ready to exponentially boost your daily focus and priority-based output? Sounds like a corny sales pitch from an efficiency ‘guru’ who’s cracked the secret to cracking secrets. But if you want to get a hell of a lot more actually accomplished in a day then here’s what I’ve learned recently: Buy a puppy. Not a dog. A puppy. I did. Bought one two weeks ago. Labrador. Male. His name is Bo. He’s mushy. Mushy with eyes and big feet. He likes to lay around and chew on things. He also likes to go to the bathroom a lot. Mostly outside. Mostly. I have a kitchen drawer filled with baggies and am learning to find poop in the dark. It’s an art.
I’m learning to arrange my time around a puppy schedule, which is radically different from a work-a-day human schedule. Most people get up and grind it out all day without much more than a lunch break. Puppies don’t tolerate this. They need attention and they need patience. They need time. My time. And as busy as we all are and as easy as it is to be stupidly distracted a puppy forces (literally forces) me to reduce the white noise to an absolute minimum. To finish something well before the next loll in the grass. Post-puppy-purchase I’m finding my schedule as follows:
1. Up early. 5:30 a.m. and the puppy is ready to head outside. That’s not a bad time to get up. By 6 a.m. the puppy is ready to go back to bed and I’m ready for coffee.
2. 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. Bo sleeps for a good 2.5 to 3 hours. It’s precious little time but the ‘to do’ and ‘not to do list’ are finished and organized with clear emphasis on the “Must do before he wakes up and needs to go outside” category.
3. 9 a.m. Bathroom break. A puppy can’t hold it for very long. Small bladders. So by 9 a.m. I’ve had coffee, maybe breakfast (most likely not–need to work on that), and have finished at least one high priority task. So walking away from the computer at that point isn’t a bad thing. Regroup. Refresh. Watch the puppy eat blackberry leaves. Listen to the sprinkler hissing water everywhere. Feel the grass under my feet.
4. 9:30-noon. Another 2.5 hours of solid work. Moving down the list of priority items.
5. Noon. Bo is awake. Most likely needs lunch and a short walk. So do I. We underestimate the importance of just walking away from it all for a little bit. After all, what’s going to happen if that email isn’t answered immediately? If that voice mail takes another 20 minutes to answer? Probably not that much. Not in my world. I don’t work for NORAD. Plus, it’s nice to watch a puppy flop down the beach and chew on the corner of a kayak. Or gnaw his foot. A good laugh is a brilliant reminder of how silly most of what we pursue actually is in light of being able to chew your own foot.
6. 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. The puppy goes to sleep. Or eats. Or chews something. But most likely sleeps. Another two hours to finish something else before the afternoon. Another two hours to focus. Fresh from the noontime puppy walk. Fresh from the gut-laugh that happens when your dog careens in to an air mattress.
7. 3 p.m. Bo likes the three o’clock wake-up. It’s cooled down outside and he’s a little bit rangy. Good time for a bowl of food or pummeling a squeaky toy. This may last a long time. It signals the beginning of the end of the day.
8. 5 p.m. If he hasn’t eaten yet then he’s eating now. The early evening meal is a nice combination of dog food and my Converse low-top shoe. Time to slow it down. Time to play with the dog. Time for me to sign out of most things.
9. The evening. Patio door is open. Bo is splayed out somewhere. Things are finished. The right things are finished. The planet didn’t implode because a Tweet wasn’t answered. Remarkably, the list of “10 Things I Simply Have to Know to Be In the Know” don’t matter all that much. Instead, I’ll peel off a bit of smoked turkey and work on “Sit.”
It’s incredibly easy to confuse the quantity of the things you do every day with the quality of the things that you actually accomplish every day. To some extent I think we’ve all been duped. Or accepted the dupe: Fill your day. Fill it to the top and then add a couple things that won’t get finished so you can wake up the next day with a burning fuse under you. Irrational stress must mean you’re doing it right, right? Puppies call bullshit on all of that. More is not better. Better is better. Better demands deeper, slower focus rather than the frenetic compulsion toward martyrdom-over-extension that so many people feel all to frequently (and pride themselves on). Overextended to the point that the ‘to do’ list never ends and the items on the ‘to do’ list feel partially finished for weeks on end has become some sort of sick merit badge. Illustrative of our connected era? Most likely. But I’m over it. From here on out I’m building my schedule around puppies. Fewer things are finished at the end of the day, granted. But they’re the important things. The things that absolutely have to be finished, and finished very well. Everything else can wait.
Then Bo and I are going to the beach.