I used to hate planning. It felt unnatural and forced. Life felt like less of a grand adventure. I enjoyed the thrill of spontaneity, improvisation, and watching things naturally fall into place.
For a while, this approach worked. I did things that interested me and opportunities fell into my lap. I felt in touch with the flow of life.
But then a point came when life stopped moving so smoothly. I found myself spread too thin, spending my time and energy on things that didn’t matter. I knew the work and purpose I was meant to birth into this world—but I wasn’t focusing on it. This felt devastating.
Going with the flow had led me to say “yes” to everything except my own interests and needs. A few months ago, I decided to focus all of my energy on changing this. I began refining the foundation of who I am and what I bring into the world.
If you’re in a transition, ready for change, or just want to tap into your highest creative potential, here’s the process that brought me to feeling like the very best version of myself:
1. Evaluate priorities.
One evening, I made myself a cup of tea, put away my computer, and pulled out my Moleskine. I asked myself three very important questions:
- What is most important to you?
- What makes you happy?
- What would you do for free?
My immediate visceral responses were writing, helping others make positive personal changes, and inspiring people to do the things that inspire them. Aha! This is what I was meant to be working on.
What’s most important to you? What makes you happy? What would you do for free?
2. Let go of the things that don’t serve you.
Our best self feels energized, alive, and like contribution and progress are being made. With this in mind, I took a close look at my life and all of the things that I was doing. For each activity, I asked myself: Does [X] energize me? Help me move my priorities forward? Provide opportunities for learning and growth? Play a positive role in my life?
These questions shed light on what I needed to change. I ended side projects that weren’t aligned with my purpose, left New York, cut out alcohol, and let go of acquaintances who sucked my energy.
I moved to Boulder, drank more water and herbal tea, started working with a personal trainer, and surrounded myself with a tight-knit group of people who challenge me, share values, and make me feel like the best me.
What (or who) is no longer serving you? How can you let go?
3. Commit to three priorities.
Jim Collins says that if you have more than three priorities, then you don’t have any at all. Taking his advice, I picked three areas of focus: 1) Hey Amber Rae (content creation), 2) Passion Experiment (helping people make positive personal changes), 3) revolution.is (stories that inspire meaningful action).
The thought of working on only these things deeply excited me. That’s when I knew I was on the right path.
What are your three priorities?
4. Create a schedule structure that works best for you.
Inspired by Paul Graham’s Maker’s Schedule, I structured my life so that I could be as creative and productive as possible. Being creative is about giving my brain the space to make more connections. When I have appointments all day, I lose that space.
I use Tuesday and Thursday for clients and appointments. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are “Amber Days.” This means zero appointments and my entire day is open for what I want to work on and do.
How can you restucture your schedule to give you space for creation? What isn’t working about your current schedule? How can you create blocks of time to make it work for you?
5. Plan for inspiration.
Based on my priorities and promises, every Sunday, I map out a week that gets me excited. I feel the most inspired when I do good work, am active, and include play. That’s why I created a work/fit/play framework.
Here’s how it works:
> Work. I have no more than three priorities each day. I map the priorities based on T/Th for clients and M/W/F for Amber.
> Fit. I make sure to do some form of exercise every day (and working with a trainer has totally changed my life). This gives me a surge of energy each day and helps my brain make creative connections.
> Play. Every day, I make time for play. (The play calendar wasn’t complete when I took this picture.) Play typically involves spending time with someone I care about and doing something creative or new. (For example, on Monday, I painted and cooked with a friend.) I also work in weekly “heartstorming” play dates with friends who make my heart and brain feel on fire.
> Schedule spontaneity. I love adventure, randomness, and the unknown. That’s why I leave Saturday open to whatever comes my way. It definitely keeps things interesting.
All in all, if you want to do work that matters, if you want to prioritize your purpose and continually build momentum toward it, you’ll need to plan your life accordingly. Life doesn’t happen to us; life works with us when we learn how to work it.
PS. If you implement any of the above and it works for you, please tell me your story! I’d love to hear about your positive changes. They’ll make my day.
Amber Rae is a passion catalyst, authority challenger, and motivational muse. In the last 365 days, Amber worked with Seth Godin to launch The Domino Project, helped Derek Sivers turn his book into a best-seller, created revolution.is which shares stories of remarkable people living unconventional lives, and launched a “Passion Experiment” program where she helps people give their dreams direction. She’s been seen in The New York Times, Inc., Forbes, BBC, and on ABC World News. For more about Amber you can visit her website orTwitter.
February 18, 2012