In his 2015 book, 5 Gears – How to be Present and Productive When there is Never Enough Time, Jeremie Kubicek talks about these 5 gears that we all have that mirror that of an engine. Each gear has its place, but the trick is being ‘fully engaged’ in each one at the appropriate time.
Gear 5 – Fully Focusing On a Single Project
This is the state of Flow or ‘in the zone.’ This is the state where you are laser focused on completing the task at hand. This is where meaningful work and creativity happens.
Gear 4 – Working On Multiple Tasks
This is the most common gear for day to day action. This is checking and responding to e-mails. This is paying bills online. These are tasks that are important and need to get done (at some point) but maybe aren’t your fullest potential. Unfortunately 85% of leaders spend most of their time in this gear. These are the shallow tasks that do not move the needle of success or give you satisfaction in your work life.
Believe it or not, the more time you spend in this ‘gear’ or ‘state’ the longer your to-do list gets. Which means there’s this never-ending compound effect. Dr. Jarrod Spencer likens the mind to a computer and that before we open ‘new files’ in our mind, we have to close ‘old files.’ If we don’t, we will suffer in the areas of focus at a minimum, and potentially suffer physically in the areas of sleep or much worse including health challenges.
Most of us will jump straight into this ‘4th gear’ by way of checking e-mails or social media. Responding to text messages. This is like putting your mental engine straight into overdrive and it is not sustainable or beneficial to your health. So you really need to start in the lower gears and work your way up to the tedious and menial elements of your day. Putting in the time to individually recharge first.
Gear 3 – Casual Socializing
This is the gear that many introverts or people less interested in casual small talk might cringe at. And though I enjoy social settings, in many ways I cringe at this too. Owen (me) only likes to talk about what Owen likes to talk about. But we need to be curious about others in our social circles. We need to develop a genuine curiosity about those around us.
Gear 2 – Connecting Deeply with Family or Friends
This is one of the most soul strengthening areas. This is where love and true friendships happen. This is where you find your muse and inspiration and these are the things that go in the diary of your life. The problem is, is that too often we get this confused with deeper connection and focus with loved ones.
This is the area where I struggle most. I can give you a real life example where I messed this up recently. My wife and I were talking and I suggested we invest in a personal nanny for 1 or 2 days a month. And I quickly hijacked that to a ‘we can use that time to invest time into our businesses and work together without distraction from our lovely kids.’ And while that is important. An area we need more uninterrupted time together is relationally where there is no agenda except for intentional care and time with that person.
Gear 1 – Individual Recharge
This is not binging on Netflix, checking social media, spending time in your e-mail inbox or otherwise. This looks like: Analog activity in the areas of exercise, taking a walk, reading a book or journaling, meditating, prayer or a time of solitude. It may for some look like connecting with someone in Gear #2…
How do you be more present in your life?
Here’s the secret I think. Especially in the area of partnership with a spouse or otherwise. You have to both be consciously acknowledging times where phones and distracting tools need to be put aside so that you can be together. You can kindly request this of your partner or friend, but you must give them the opportunity to make this decision for themselves.
– This is very difficult in practice. Especially if you have drastically different schedules. For instance, I work a 9-5 and while I’m at work I am glued to a computer monitor and no kids are coming to me or asking anything of me. And while it’s hard work and commitment, it’s my time and pace and isn’t dictated by tiny dictators (children) telling me what to do. So when I get home and want to shift out of 5th / 4th gear and drop into 2nd gear, it’s not fair to expect my partner to be able to commit to that unless it’s a mutually decided time of intentionality.
That’s why date nights and intentional time together is necessary. If your partner isn’t able to be in that ‘gear’ with you, don’t take it personally. Instead respect their personal space and boundaries and use that time to slip into 1st gear (the individual recharge) OR use the wrestling tag team and give them the room they need to be in first gear (this is what love and sacrificial commitment looks like!) What can you take off their plate to help them do that?
Short of caging your children which I wouldn’t recommend.
How do you always apply the right gear to each situation?
First is an honest review of each of these areas of our life and acknowledging how much time we spend in each area. And truly calling out what areas are lacking the time they deserve. I think you’ll find that as you assess, you’ll see your time & effort is mostly dominated by gear 4, and a fake version of gear 1. This is a sign that you are giving into workaholic tendencies and deserves major life adjustments.
Employ a Shutdown Ritual at Work
Cal Newport, Michael Hyatt and other experts in this area recommend each day setting aside x amount of minutes to a shutdown ritual. This is where you mentally and strategically get out of 4th gear. Here’s how you put this into practice.
1) Do a Final Comb Through of Your Task List and Inbox from the day and make sure there are no pressing responses that require your input. If there is further action needed, put that into a task on your task-board or schedule it in your digital or analog calendar for adequate time to focus on that matter. Do not order your inbox like a to-do list. This will overwhelm you every-time you have to checkin for the day’s ‘fires.’
2) Plan the Next Day, listing out your most important task first and the less important further down. This is important that you don’t just put the most ‘recent’ task that was assigned to you, as this will cause more important items to drift further and further away from your attention and cause you to procrastinate. If you see that there is a gap in your schedule that you can claim for yourself in the following day, grab it. Block out that most important thing priority into your calendar. Once you’ve finished acknowledging the agenda for tomorrow:
3) Say an Audible Phrase to Complete Your Work Day. Some use the phrase ‘Shutdown Complete.’ I’ve been watching LOST with my son and The Dharma Initiative would always say Namaste. So for no cultural significance (to me) other than I’m really into LOST lately, my phrase is “Namaste Work Day Complete.”
4) Turn Off E-mail and Work Messaging Platforms outside of work hours. Then absolutely do not check your inbox or any work related communication until your office hours start the next business day. If necessary, activate an out of office message of ‘I am out of the office until 9am tomorrow, but will respond as quickly as possible. ‘Turn off your work notifications and do not let your mind engage with work activities until you get to your workstation the following day and begin your day with your startup phrase. you can use mine: “Namaste work day start.” (Lately I’ve been lighting a candle when I say it.)
In closing, here are 3 things to consider when not in 4th Gear…
Turn Off Your Cell Phone or silence notifications / activate do not disturb / When It’s a Meaningful Relationship Building time you’re in. If you want to take this a step further, the past few months I’ve committed to using a dumb phone or web browsing deprived device like the The Light Phone 2. It’s been a game changer for me personally.
Review Your Life – Acknowledge what modes/gears you desire to spend more time in and make actionable plans to change that. Share those plans with your partner or loved one. Lead by example and love. It might catch on to others and improve the whole world. Awesome!
Don’t Steamroll – Acknowledge the areas where you’ve gotten this out of wack. Apologize and actively work towards making a new normal with your loved ones, colleagues and the way you do business.
Consider joining the Laughing Dad community where we are exploring these conversations weekly. You can get a free habit tracker when you do. Sweet! I mean…Namaste…