If you are relying on a schedule to force you to act — to practise a skill or a craft— you are not scheduling to practice, but practising to schedule. It’s not that scheduling isn’t a useful thing to do. Rather, scheduling is only useful to the person who has already decided to act. 

Scheduling, excuses and time

Many believe scheduling is a magic solution to action things that they aren’t already doing. Yet, they often find themselves eternally scheduling without ever properly actioning. These otherwise quite intelligent individuals rarely ask WHY they need a schedule as a stick to make them act. A more fertile question is ‘what stops you from acting in the first place’? Lack of time is the commonest response — yet this only begs another question.

Why not create time if you are so keen? 

If you truly want to do something, you must be willing to move heaven and earth (or close) for it. The fact that you aren’t, likely points to a lack of genuine motivation. 

Getting away from ‘should’ 

When we say we want to do things, how clear are we about our true motivations? Many of our desires and behaviours are often unconscious — led by socially conditioned ideas of what we should be doing and desiring. Perhaps, because mummy or daddy said so when we were children, or perhaps because pop-culture tells us that’s what’s necessary for status and acceptance in a peer group.

But, if you sense in your heart-of-hearts that something is bogus, can you really bring yourself to engage in a sustained way? Think of the archetypal example of pushing yourself along a career path in a field that you have zero interest in.  How sustainable is it, and at what psychological cost?

External reasons for doing things are almost never sufficient to bring out the best in you — to propel you towards mastery in a field. This can only happen when the action is intrinsically motivated. When it’s done for its own sake — for the sheer heck of wanting to engage in it.  Becoming aware of your relationship to why you do anything is then fundamental to sustained and high-quality action.

The real skill is saying NO 

The second thing to become aware of is the hidden skill of saying ‘no’. We tend to focus on being good at doing things (positive action) and on finding strategies, like scheduling, for making sure that we do these things. What we forget the power of, is being good at NOT doing (negative action). We forget the power of not-drowning in the daily noise, of not-wasting time with bullshitters, of not-doing soul destroying work. This is where saying ‘no’ is so powerful.

Not-doing creates a fertile void of mental space and energy that enables doing what you really want to. What’s more, these two aspects support each other. Finding the courage to say no, along with finding clarity into what intrinsically motivates you, removes the need for any forced scheduling. You no longer need sticks to beat yourself up with. You will automatically create more time than you ever imagined possible. 

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Harsha PereraHarsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.

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