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Productivity for Creatives

Planned Neglect: The Art of Acting Like You Want It

How do you know how important something is to someone? It’s not how much they talk about it, for sure. People can talk about things till they are blue in the face, but that doesn’t mean it is a priority for them. The real test of importance comes when people do something about it. 

The Concept of “Planned Neglect” 

I recently heard a story that helped me understand how my actions communicate how important something is to me. This story came John C. Maxwell’s book Developing the Leader Within You (1993 edition). In his book, Maxwell cites a story about a young violinist who found she needed to reprioritize her practicing if she actually wanted to succeed and be great.

She explained that when she would come home every day, she would do her homework, clean her room, and any other things that were important and that needed to be done first. Once she completed all those things, she would practice her violin. But what she realized was that by the time she began practicing, she didn’t have the energy or motivation she needed for quality practice.

So, she tried an experiment. Instead of doing chores and homework before she practiced her violin, she planned to neglect them until after she practiced her violin. With practice done, she figured out how to fit the rest of her responsibilities. This strategy helped her become a successful young prodigy.

This story resonated with me and encouraged me to look at how I was arranging my life and what it said about what was important to me. 

“Planned Neglect” Applied

Writing is something I want to excel at, but I realized I was fitting my writing time in the cracks of my day. Most of these times occurred when my energy was low or when I couldn’t pay it my full attention. My writing productivity was minimal, my ideas came sluggishly, and I was not progressing the way I wanted to.

The violinist story motivated me to take a critical look at my day and decide I was going to schedule my writing like a priority, rather than just talk about how important it was to me.

Realizing that my highest energy levels came in the morning, I analyzed my morning routine to see if there was anything I could change to give me the kind of writing time I wanted. As I did so, I realized something interesting. 

Generally, I showered in the morning and got ready for work, taking up all the time I had until I needed to leave. Because I couldn’t change the time I went in to work, I realized if I started getting up a little earlier and showered at night, I could use that time for writing instead.

I gave it a shot. 

At first, it was really hard. It was hard to get used to going to work without showering, and it was hard getting up and going to bed earlier, but the payoff was amazing. 

I started to get more done. I made significant strides in drafting, and I was able to use that morning time when my brain is more active to generate better ideas and hone my writing skills. 

I’m still keeping up this routine, now. I’ve found I prefer showering before bed because it helps me wind down for my early bedtime. I also feel better about my skills and writing progress because I am doing my hard work that is important to me during the sharpest part of my day. It has been a change I don’t regret, and has paid huge dividends since. 

Now, think about your life and your creative projects. What have you always dreamed of doing, but have never gotten around to it? What projects are hard to spend time on because they are crowded out by all the “necessary” activities in your life? Are there things that you could put off until you’ve taken that time for yourself to work on your dreams and aspirations? What sacrifices could you make in order to make these things happen?

Take time today and write down the answers to these questions. Make a plan to choose one thing on your list and fit it in your schedule. Plan to neglect all else until that thing is done. Do that for a week and measure how you feel. Are you satisfied with your progress? How can you adjust your schedule to make your chosen priority fit better? Let me know in the comments below!

 

Sources

Julian, K. (2017, June 02). Planned Neglect. Retrieved July 20, 2020, from https://liveitforward.com/planned-neglect/

Maxwell, J. C. (1993). Developing the Leader Within You. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

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