Whether we realise it or not we are continually allocating our time to one activity rather than another. This happens all day every day. And yet, are we aware of the decision-making process?

For example, how will you decide what exactly to do today? Or even next?

More specifically, how did you decide to read this?

As Henry David Thoreau mused:

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?”

This question is continually on my mind. I have a vision that underpins everything I do. This is not only a vision for the future but equally encompasses how I want to live each day – what is important to me and how I broadly want to allocate my time.

This allows me to build out a plan for the day around blocks of time that will allow me to attend to what is truly important now in each area of my life. I even know how my day will flow in theory. Then the world intervenes and tries to distract me and therein lies the challenge (for me at least).

I try to minimise distractions and yet, just now as I was writing the above sentence, I got a message on LinkedIn and saw the flashing notification in an open tab. That suddenly became my priority. It is about the only notification I have turned on but there are obviously a whole series of other ways the world endeavours to intrude.

That is its job. Mine is to stay focused on what is essential for me. Remember, although many of these decisions can seem small and insignificant, collectively they shape our lives, careers, relationships and general satisfaction.

Ultimately this boils down to acceptance and awareness.

Firstly, whatever you are doing has become your priority. You may not want it to be and yet our bandwidth is limited so if you are doing something you are not doing everything else. Right now, this question has become your priority. Acceptance is key because it means taking responsibility and then being empowered to respond differently.

Secondly, we need to be constantly aware that we are making choices. The more we become aware the more power we have in the moment to stay on track and tune out the distractions. Also, please go easy on yourself – it is a constant learning process!

So, let me leave you with a question:

“What do I want my priority to be today?”

Questions in the Image:

  • How do I allocate my time?
  • For example, how did I decide to read this now?
  • How did this become my priority?

Want to Explore More Around This Topic?

Episode 15 How do I Allocate Time? (Part I) and Episode 16 How do I Allocate Time? (Part II) of my Time Academy Podcast explore this theme in more depth. The key message is that we do allocate our time. It may be something we do by default, but we are making that decision each and every moment. The question really is “How do we decide what gets done in any moment?

Nurturing Curiosity – Daily Practice: This is part of the Nurturing Curiosity series of tools, insights and questions designed to help nurture curiosity as part of our daily practice. In point of fact, every interaction we have is an opportunity to question what we are observing and how we and others are seeing the world. Also remember that questions come in many forms throughout our day. This moment-by-moment decision-making process truly fascinates me. We can make a plan for the day and even follow through on it and yet there will likely be a whole series of moments (tens if not hundreds) where we decide to do something different – search the web in response to some random question, respond to messages from others, arrange calls. Some are clearly important and yet many are not. In truth, however, many days many of us are being led by other people’s priorities rather than our own. How then do you distinguish between what is important to you and urgent for others?

About Tom O’Leary

My mission is to help others think differently – meaning more broadly and deeply – and thereby make better decisions. The key to thinking differently lies in our curiosity.

The more we question, the more possible answers we uncover, and the more we expand what we thought possible. Life has taught me that possibility lies not so much in seeking answers but in learning to ask better questions – the ones that help prioritise what is truly essential.

And yet, in a culture obsessed with efficiency and productivity, the paradox is that much energy and resources are wasted by a bias towards action over contemplation. If you are answering the wrong question, it doesn’t matter how ‘hard’ you work, you are still answering the wrong question.

That is why I am a big advocate of nurturing curiosity and innovative thinking at all ages, particularly amongst leaders because of the impact they have on us all. In my vision, leaders aren’t boxed in by traditional thinking or established playbooks. They are curious, open to fresh ideas and diverse perspectives, fostering a culture of exploration and learning.

What Thoughts Would You Like to Share?

I welcome your thoughts, feedback, or personal experiences related to these questions or any insights they may have sparked.