A friend told me I should go to Agile Life if I wanted a mindset overhaul. Mindset is at the center of their methodology. That's all the information I needed to get my own Agile Life coach.
My coach showed me where my mindset needed to change, then we integrated productivity tools that would support the shift.
The curriculum describes five parts of the Agile mindset. I had to choose which parts were the most challenging for me. Honestly, they were all challenging on some level, but I circled "willingness to fail" and "transparency" because I knew those were my biggest sticking points.
I made a commitment to see failure as a natural step on the path of growth and to be more honest with myself and others.
To integrate these mindset shifts into my life, my coach and I made it tangible: I had to estimate how long each task I had planned for the week would take me.
Since my foray into productivity tools had made me extra organized, I decided to write out my tasks in my planner with the time estimations next to them, like this:
Guided meditation recording – 45 minutes
PayPal invoices – 30 minutes
First Draft of Article – 60 minutes
Estimating my tasks forced me to embrace failure and honesty: if I said a task would take two hours, I had to stick to that instead of dragging it out for four hours just to make sure it was perfect.
And once I started measuring my time, I saw how valuable it is; I didn't want to spend another couple of hours trying to perfect an article or sign up for a low-paying client request. I found myself saying "no" to clients for the first time. I realized that there is a trade-off with each choice I was making; I couldn't squeeze it all in. If I spent an extra hour on a low priority item, it actually took away from my ability to receive more work or meet other deadlines.
Before Agile Life, I thought I wasn't able to get all my work done because I was distracted and chaotic. But the truth is, I just I didn't respect my time and its inherent limits. My Agile Life coach helped me stick to firm time allotments that allowed me to spend my days on high priority, well-paying work and trim the fat on less important, time-consuming tasks.
Suddenly, I had time boundaries.
My tasks went from being drawn out and endlessly tweaked to precise and punctual. It felt like I had billable hours. For the first time as a professional, I saw that my time is something to guard and protect. My workdays, which had previously been filled with endless small tasks, became united around overarching goals. Each action was connected to a bigger purpose. I still had small tasks, but they fit into bigger deadlines instead of feeling random and distracting.
My clients noticed. My emails to them were more sincere, my memory sharper, and my response time more reliable. I had seen client communication as a nuisance because it got in the way of my organizational tools and demanded more of my time. This stopped being an issue once I felt like I had control of my day. I no longer saw clients as taking my time; I was offering it to them as part of our work together.
Time boundaries helped me build my work on a foundation of worthiness. I didn't owe my clients or my business all of me.
My days unfolded with a new set of priorities. I didn't choose my tasks based on which was causing the most anxiety; I started doing creative work in the morning and reserved my mundane work for the afternoon, when I was low-energy and able to do rote tasks. That mundane work used to give me the most anxiety, and sometimes it still does, but I don't make decisions from a place of anxiety anymore. I know it will all get done.
I loosened my grip on perfectionism and started to let myself fail.
Once I opened up to failure, I realized how multifaceted it is. It meant allowing myself to be rejected, criticized, and fired. But it also meant trusting that I could survive these things, and even appreciate them. I asked for more time to do a project when I realized how involved it was, sent off my newsletter without rereading it four times, and even hired a virtual assistant because I realized I didn't have to do everything alone. And without the pressure to be perfect hanging over me, I became more creative and intuitive with my work.
The willingness to fail made transparency inevitable. It was okay for me to admit I didn't understand what the client wanted and express that, instead of asking a third party for their opinion or doing unnecessary research.
My inner dialog went from, "I am not enough, therefore I have to work twice as hard” to “My time and work is valuable; here are my terms.”
All this time I had been operating from an invisible hierarchy where the client is the boss and I am the lowly employee. When I adopted the belief that my time is valuable, we entered an even playing field. My communication was self possessed and confident. I was no longer losing sleep to do surprise requests and adding on work as a favor. Instead, my actions came from a place of worthiness.
Agile Life transformed my relationship to time, which in turn transformed my business. It was the stable foundation I'd been missing.
Now, my time boundaries protect me from mental clutter, over-performing, and seeking approval. I don't "squeeze in" an extra assignment or feel guilty if I have free time in the day.
My time is limited; I use it wisely. I know its worth.
This new mindset has inspired a wealth of new productivity tools, many of which I learned from Agile Life and have tweaked for myself.