By: Guest Post by Kelli Dougal from Pocketful of Brilliance

I am so excited that Ashley gave me this opportunity to post here at! I love her focus on helping others live passionately. After all, I ran off to live in China because my passion is adventuring. (Life’s short, right? Might as well live adventurously.)

But what happens when your daily life lacks passion and purpose? What happens when you don’t have time to do the things you love?

I was recently talking with some bloggers about what they wanted most for Christmas.  When one of them suggested, “I’d love a few more hours in the day!” the others in the conversation agreed. More time to create content, more time to brainstorm and write, more time to do the things we feel passionately about. Doesn’t that sound great? (I can see you nodding your head in agreement.)

Stop Reacting: How to Take Back Your Time

What if I told you that you’ve already received that gift? You have all the time you need to reach your ultimate goals. “Okay, so where is that gift?” you might demand.

Well, it’s hiding in those emails you’ve been answering. It’s hiding in the comments on your blog you’ve been responding to. It’s hiding in the Buzzfeed articles you’ve been guiltily clicking on at work when you think no one is looking.

Each day, we are inundated with the demands of others insisting that we respond immediately, that we give advice, that we get something done RIGHT NOW. The truth is that we can’t escape the responsibility we have of responding to and helping others. But, using too much of our energy to answer others’ demands leaves us feeling drained and unfulfilled. And, more often than not, it’s a waste of that precious gift of time.

Last week, I found myself stuck responding to others’ work with a literal stack of “to-dos”. This was the unfortunate task facing me last week: 150 papers that needed to be graded. Yuck!

I ended each day feeling tired and worn out because I wasn’t creating anything. I wasn’t doing the things I loved. I was spending my time responding to others’ work. I like teaching, but grading a stack of essays? No thank you. I doubt that most of you are passionate about grading English papers, either.

But how many of you are passionate about responding to emails? How many of you love to spend your days scrolling through pointless Twitter feeds? Do you feel like it is your life’s calling to watch cat videos that your friends post to their Facebook walls?

I’m assuming very few of you answered affirmatively to those questions. Then why do you spend so much time being a slave to someone else’s priorities….or worse, to their distractions?

You may not have a stack of papers on your kitchen table. But, if all of the distractions and demands that you encounter during a day materialized into paper form, your stack would look a lot like mine. Since so many of the demands on our time are in digital formats, it’s difficult to visualize just how much time and effort we have spent responding to them. This makes it easy to lose track of how much work we put into answering emails, scouring the Internet for information, and sitting on Pinterest.

Now, before you throw a fit, I realize that responding to emails is important. Doing research is necessary. Pinterest may be a key part of your advertising campaign. But unfortunately we often let these menial tasks become the focus of our attention. We fail to look beyond these things to see if the morning hours spent in our inbox are actually moving us closer to our goals. If we continue repeating this pattern, we will find ourselves obsessed with crossing off our to-do list and spending time on every trivial pursuit that comes our way. Is this living purposefully? No! A lifetime of responding and reacting to others’ crises will never allow our inherent brilliance to surface.

So, how can we become more intentional during our 24 hours? We’ve got to break out of this cycle of reactivity.


The first step to breaking any habit is becoming aware of it.

Tomorrow, I want you to take stock of how often you spend your time responding or reacting versus actively creating and following your own agenda. Set a timer on your phone for four random times tomorrow (preferably not times when you plan on sleeping). When those alarms go off, take note of what you are currently doing. Are you drafting a new blog post about something you are passionate about or are you scrolling through Facebook? Write it down. Next, take a moment to think over your actions during the last hour. How did you use your time? If you were in a work meeting, were you actively suggesting ideas and strategies? Or were you silently allowing others to add tasks to your already immense workload? Write these realizations down, too. At the end of the day, look over your notes and analyze how you spent most of your time.


The fatal mistake most of us make is starting our day in a reactive mode. When you wake up, where does your sleepy attention go first? For many of us, it’s to our phones. Did we receive any important emails while we were asleep? Did we miss a text? Better check and make sure our life isn’t ending today!

By beginning our day in a reactive state, we set the tone for a day that will be focused on responding to others. I don’t doubt that you’re important and that your advice is valuable. But so is your time. Jump on your email when you wake up and you are likely to find those precious morning hours gone in a flurry of responding to other people’s whims. I challenge you to go at least a half hour in the mornings without jumping onto your phone. Better yet, go an hour! Spend some time establishing focus mentally and physically–do yoga, meditate, write down your dreams, or whatever it is that helps you get grounded. Next, sketch out an outline of your day. If there are people you know you need to respond to or that you are waiting to hear back from, make a note of it. Only then are you allowed to get into that inbox! Don’t scroll through and start answering random email inquiries. Look specifically for messages from those people you are waiting to hear back from and send any of the responses that you already deemed necessary.


Set aside time in your day to both act and react. The truth is that you will have demands that need to be met and phone calls that need to be made. If you’re a teacher, occasionally you’ll have to grade a few essays. Set aside a specific time to do these things. Similarly, set aside time when you will stay out of your inbox and off of your social media accounts. Set time that is specifically designed for creating, designing, writing, or whatever it is that allows you to express your inner ambition and move your closer to your ultimate goals. Not sure you can trust yourself to stay out of that tempting inbox? There are a couple of useful apps to help you out. Mac users can try SelfControl ( and PC users can use Freedom (

china headshot squareIt’s going to take some adjusting. It will be hard to keep your fingers from the phone when you wake up. I promise that if you keep at it, you will find yourself with more time to do the things that matter!

So, are you ready to take back your time? Set those alarms for tomorrow and get ACTING rather than REACTING! I’d love to hear what you discover about your time usage.

Pop over to and let me know how it goes!