Late last week I trekked into town, looking for a change of scenery and a boost in productivity. I sauntered into one of my favourite haunts where coffee is on tap and powerpoints are plenty. Unfortunately, productivity alluded me for the first hour of my visit. But I wasn’t disappointed, as I caught up with a freelancer friend who I hadn’t seen for months.
We got to talking about my emails, which he’s been dutifully reading (you can too). He told me he’s rather enjoying my thrice-weekly ravings, especially as I seem to be promoting one message over all else.
What’s my message?
Run your decisions through this filter:
Does this add value to my life?
It’s the one question I ask myself before say ‘yes’ to anything.
The value filter and work.
In late 2018, I started a part-time job as a cycle courier. Does it add value to my life? Hell yes, it does. I now consistently cycle 3–4 days per week. I’m the fittest I’ve been since I applied to join the Police Force in 2013. I’ve overcome my fear of riding in the cold and rain. Oh, and I get a few extra notes in my bank account every Tuesday.
However, last Friday night, I came home from work early. It was 7.30 and I had planned to ride until 9 pm. The first 90 minutes had been great, followed by 30 minutes of standing around waiting for an order to arrive.
The worst part, the mercury was hovering around 2 degrees. So when my partner text me to ask if I wanted a lift home, I jumped at the chance. Did standing in the freezing cold for another 90 minutes for perhaps another £10 add value to my life? Nope, because I rather value my toes.
The value filter and business.
In mid-2018, while I was trying to figure out my next step in business, I started working with some marketing clients. One, in particular, was a nightmare. I agreed to work with the client, even though they pushed me for a half-price first month because I needed the cash.
Big mistake. I ended up refunding the money and firing the client because they were causing me a lot more stress than any money was worth. Did that client add value to my life? Not a chance.
Now, I set my prices where I need them to be to make a living. I do not negotiate on these, and if people try to push me, I will simply walk away. I do not need to work with anyone who does not value my work and/or does not respect my right to earn a living.
As a result, I am quite selective about who I work with. This has served me well as I now work with great clients who appreciate my knowledge and expertise, and more importantly, who I love to work with.
The value filter and nutrition.
In 2016, I was diagnosed with a long list of food intolerances. I’ve really struggled with this as I had to remove most of my staple foods from my diet overnight — dairy, wheat, eggs, soy, bananas, peanuts… aaaahhhh.
It’s taken me a long time to get used to replacing these foods with options that don’t wreak havoc on my digestive system. But 3 years on, I’m finally starting to realise the instant gratification that comes with cheating — hamburger anyone — simply isn’t worth the pain I feel the following day.
I’m now starting to shy away from burgers, ice cream and pizza (even gluten-free) because I don’t feel like it adds value to my life anymore. In fact, I’ve recently started making half of my meals vegan and this transition has proven to provide more value than any other nutrition decision I’ve made in my lifetime.
The value filter and relationships.
I used to be the queen of difficult relationships. With all my previous partners, I eventually realised the bad far outweighed the good. Sometimes this led me to end the relationships and other times, it was long after I was dumped that the realisation hit home. In hindsight, none of those relationships added value to my life, so I am glad I moved on.
I’m now in a very happy relationship with my partner, Charlotte. I’ve finally realised what a good relationship is like, and I will hold onto her for dear life because I value every minute I get to spend with my girl. We rarely argue and are polite and respectful even when we disagree. We both compromise for each other, and we’re always there for support. I couldn’t live without her.
The value filter and friendships.
Friendships form such a large part of our lives, and sometimes they carry on so long, it’s hard to take a step back and analyse. In many friendships, one party always takes while the other gives. In this instance, for one party, there is no value in this friendship.
However, when both parties get value out of a friendship, that makes it healthy for both people. Over the last 18 months, I’ve re-evaluated some of my friendships, and the value filter has helped me to determine which friendships I want to work to maintain.
The value filter and possessions.
I’ve been decluttering recently. Partly because I’m moving soon, and partly because I’ve been watching a few too many Netflix shows about minimising possessions. I’ve started to morph my wardrobe into a capsule style, ensuring every new item that comes in goes with at least 3 items already in my collection.
This move has made me look at clothes I’ve had for 12 months, that haven’t moved from the hanger I hung them on last winter. They’re not adding value to my life by just hanging in the closet, so if it hasn’t been worn in the last 6-months, I donate it to charity.
The same goes for non-clothes items like ornaments. The only exceptions are books, because I love them, and true love lasts a lifetime (yes, that’s a Love Actually quote).
The value filter and time.
Applying the value filter to my time management was the first, and most important decision I’ve made in my life and work over the last year. I’ve finally started to value my time above all other things, and it’s now my priority to spend it being the most productive I can.
When I say productive, I mean being completely focused on whatever I’m doing. That may be writing, training, resting, sleeping or spending time with Charlotte. I now consistently plan my time in focused blocks so I can complete my work tasks efficiently, putting enough cash in the bank. If a task isn’t going to put cash in the bank, or it’s not directly related to meeting my obligations as a business owner (e.g. doing taxes), it doesn’t make my to-do list.
This focus on using my time to only complete essential and high-ROI tasks leaves me with plenty of time to pursue my interests, like reading, exercising, drinking coffee and exploring the South-East of England with my girl.
Regardless of the area of your life, the value filter can help you declutter your life, prioritise your health and increase your happiness.
The examples above are just a few areas where I use the value filter in my life, but you can use it anywhere you see fit.
Try it, and let me know how it goes.