Recently I have been doing a series of articles on creating space in your life, how nature abhors a vacuum, and this one is about intentionally using the space you create.

​Once you have created space you have to be really careful what fills it.  If you aren’t intentional with what you fill your space with then someone else is going to fill it for you.

Alan Donegan Screen Writing Santa Monica

Sitting outside our Airbnb this morning next to Santa Monica Beach writing my screen play
Have you chosen how you spend your days? How much of your time do you spend doing the really important stuff? Could you be making more progress?

What are you doing with your time?

As you know I have recently flown to Los Angeles to come and write a screenplay.  If you don’t know then start here, Movies, Hollywood and Screen plays.

The first thing I did was create space in my life for this to happen by letting go of things that I used to do.  I knew that Nature Abhors a Vacuum so by creating space I would allow new things to come into my life.

What I didn’t understand was just how careful you have to be with your time when you have created it.  I thought I would come to LA and spend 6 hours a day writing my movie and I would be done in a few days.

Maybe I was naïve?  Maybe my expectations were too high?  Maybe I haven’t actually been that strong with what I have done with my time?

So I am writing this article as much to remind myself of what I need to do as to offer you advice on how to get your most important projects done.

Be intentional with your time

One of the most important things to do is to decide what you are going to do with your time before you start.  At the beginning of the week or month, be intentional with when you are going to do the most important work, how you are going to fit it in, and how long you are going to spend.

Planning everything out doesn’t work for me because I tend to fail to live up to my own plans but what does work for me is setting intentions. For example:

  • It is my intention to start the day, every day, with writing.  I will get up early and the first thing I will do is to work on my most important task (for me this is writing my movie while in LA!)  Today I did this and wrote 9 pages for my screen play in the first hour!
  • It is my intention to write a movie by April 19th. I wrote this commitment down and then told everyone!  Check out the Big Commitment blog post here.
  • It is my intention to write every single weekday while I am here

What are your intentions for your time this week?  What are you intending to do with your time next week?  How are you going to spend your time?

​Be intentional and put the most important shit first.

Do the important shit first

We all know this one.  We all understand it, but why is it so hard to do!?  I was talking to my friend Paul on Skype today about this, and he was telling me how he gets a few pieces of admin done first thing in the morning just to get them out of the way, and then the day vanishes.

This happens to me too!  Yesterday one of our flats had an electrical fault, which needed sorting quickly (urgent) so it took up an hour and a half of my morning, and before you know it, I had not written anything before lunch!

Why is it so difficult to get the most important thing done first?

  1. Checking your phone/emails in the morning.  I have noticed this habit is a tough one to break.  People turn their phone on first thing in the morning and they check it or the first thing they do when they hit their desk is check their emails!  If you check your emails first thing in the morning you are responding to other people’s agendas, which rarely tie up with what is most important for you
  2. The important stuff is rarely urgent.  Stephen Covey writes brilliantly about this in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  The important thing is often not urgent but it is what you need to do.  Then along comes the urgent thing: a phone call, an email, a text message or something that flashes in your face and says “deal with me!”  These things are urgent but 99% of the time they aren’t important. Stop getting distracted by the urgent stuff, turn your phone over or off, put headphones on, hide from your friends and get on with the important things
  3. Zero instant gratification.  The most important things tend to be the stuff you have to work at for some time before you get any rewards at all.  I have to work at screenwriting for months before I will see the pay off, I have to continue investing for years before I see the power of compounding, and I have to make sales calls for months before I see the return!  In a world where we put a post on Facebook and get rewarded with instant likes and comments I have found it hard to focus on doing the important work and delaying the gratification.  Do the important work first, not what gets you instant rewards.

If you can get the most important thing done first it is AMAZING how much progress you will make!

Don’t get distracted by the shiny shit

This week, Rebel Business School and I were featured on PBS NewsHour and that has been amazing.  I got so excited and I knew it was a big opportunity.  I worked with the team to POD group the piece on NewsHour and drive it further.  I replied to comments and got things going and I spent a day working on it.

I convinced myself that it was (and I might still believe this) a good use of my time.  The cost of doing this is that I lost a day of writing movies.

Then the opportunities started to come in with people reaching out to bring us to their city, town and state.  This was so exciting and I had to work so hard to trust that Henry was on top of it and that the team were on it!  This was so tough.  This shiny one I resisted and managed to get some movie work done!  Yay.

Then I got one email directly asking if I was interested in doing a TV show on how to start a business with no money!  I replied and then we Skyped a day or so later.  Bang goes another half day!  I wasn’t able to resist this shiny thing!

What am I trying to say?
Whilst this stuff is exciting and shiny, none of it is actually helping me write a movie.  It is distracting me from my mission and using up the time and space I have created.

Are you able to stay focused on what is important? Are you distracted easily?  How do you make sure you get the important shit done first?

​If you want to see the PBS piece, here it is:​

Work expands to fill the time you have

If you have created lots of space in your life and started your project there is a real danger that work will expand to fill the time you have created to complete the task.  If you give yourself a month to write a screenplay then it will take a month, and you will just keep editing to make it perfect rather than getting it out there.

If you give yourself a week to build a website then it will take a week.  If you give yourself a year to build a business then it will take a year.  Work expands to fill the time allowed!

The counter to this is to have an UNREASONABLE sense of urgency.  This is what my business partner Simon says I have masses of. I just want to get on with it!  I just want to make it happen as quickly as possible.

Don’t set yourself a deadline and then allow the work to expand.  Have a drive to work on it every day and make it happen.

Get excited by the work and drive into it at every available moment.  Have a desire to get it done, get excited, bounce around, play dramatic music whilst you work.  Do everything you can to increase your energy and sense of urgency!

Set an intention

You have all read my big commitment, which is to write a screenplay by the 19th of April I have a drive to do this and am going to make as much happen as I can.

What is the big project you are working on?  What are you committed to making happen?  What are your intentions for the next week?

Write them in the comments and then I will check in with you in a few weeks time to see how you are getting on.

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