Being busy is often worn as a badge of honour these days. Let me ask you: are you busy doing the things you really want to do, things that make the most difference to you and those around you?
If your answer is ‘yes’, then congratulations, as you’re on track to realising your dreams. If your answer is ‘no’, then this article will help you.
When it comes to things that really matter to us, we often find we’ve run out of time, and therefore we say that we don’t have the time for them.
So how do some manage to get ahead with big projects, create big success, and cultivate amazing relationships, in the same 24 hours, whilst so many others do not?
We’re going to share with you 4 strategies that will find you the time for things that mean the most to you.
STRATEGY 1: Be the master of your time.
Time doesn’t ‘happen’ to you, time is something that you CREATE!
Yes, you heard it right. YOU CREATE TIME!
Think back to the past week/month/year, how many times have you said ‘I don’t have the time for XYZ’, and yet when push comes to shove, you managed to squeeze in XYZ? I’m sure we’ve all experienced something like it.
What does this tell you? It tells you that you CAN create the time to do the things that really matter.
When you don’t do it, it’s not because you don’t have the time, it’s because you CHOOSE not to.
So own this choice.
Why is it so important to own this choice? Because it gives you a better mindset. Rather than feeling like a victim of time i.e. time is something that happens to you, you’re now in control of your time.
A victim mentality stops us from getting creative, coming up with solutions to problems, it holds us back from being resourceful, and it makes us feel helpless. None of these help us become productive, and make better decisions.
When we feel like we’re in control, we can actively make decisions that give us a better or different outcome.
So step 1, OWN your choice! Even it feels bad to say it out loud –
- Rather than saying you don’t ‘have the time’ to catch up with this friend, instead say: I choose not to catch up with him/her.
- Rather than saying you don’t ‘have the time’ to exercise, instead say, I choose not to exercise for now.
- Rather than saying you don’t ‘have the time’ to manage your finances, instead say, I choose not to look at my finances right now.
Simply by owning these choices makes you feel empowered, because you are actively making the decisions!
What if you don’t like the decisions you’re making? Well, read on.
STRATEGY 2: Clarify your priorities.
I once coached a mother of 3 who listed her health as one of her priorities, and said she couldn’t find 30 minutes in her day to exercise to improve her health.
I asked how she spent her day. She said ‘I get the kids ready for school, drop them off, then I get on with grocery-shopping, washing, cleaning, cooking… Before I know it, it’s time to pick up the kids, and get their homework done. Then hubby gets home, we have dinner, wash up, and I’m exhausted by then to even think about exercising.’
We listed all the activities in her day, and I concluded that her health wasn’t her priority based on how she spent her time. She prioritised having everything organised for the family before her own health.
Wondering what your priorities are? Take a look at how you spend your time – it shows how much you value the activities that you do, or don’t do.
Then have an honest conversation with yourself: all those activities that you wish to do but don’t, how high on your priority list are they? How aligned are they with your values? How well are you living your values?
If you say you value your health, and struggle to find 30 minutes every day to exercise, is exercise really that important to you? If it is, then take a look at how many 30 minutes you have in a day, and what activities fill them up, and how aligned are these activities to your values? If they don’t align, perhaps it’s time to highlight them as potential culls.
Do I hear you object? – ‘Oh no I can’t cull them, because…’
Ok if you can’t cull them, then let’s look at how we can find an additional 30 minutes in your day.
STRATEGY 3: Track where you spend your time.
Just like managing our finances (plan, budget, track), start by accruing data about where your time is going. Do this for 7 days, without changing anything in your current regime.
Note: leave the judgement at the door, remember this is an exercise that’ll help you, not a reason to self-sabotage.
You can use pen and paper, or you may choose to use an app on your phone to help you do this. E.g. iPhones have a tool called Screen Time to help you track which applications you spend the most time on. Samsung phones have a tool called Digital Wellbeing. There are also free apps, such as Flipd, which does the same job. Try them!
At the end of the 7 days, list all the activities and add up the time spent on each. You may be surprised at some of the most common time suckers – social media, emails, Netflix, technology in general.
It’s unsurprising that a lot of people who say they don’t have the time to do XYZ often spend hours watching Netflix or on social media every day.
Oh no, but they make me feel good! Yes, they definitely give you that instant gratification that our brains are so accustomed to, however, do they give you that sense of fulfilment that only comes when you do something truly meaningful with your time?
Which is more appealing to you? Think back to STRATEGY 1, if it’s the instant gratification that you’re truly wanting, then own it and live it proudly. If that isn’t what you want, then it’s time to make some changes.
STRATEGY 4: Figure out the stakes.
By now you would’ve identified your priorities and found snippets of time that you can devote to them. But you may still not take action. Why?
A common reason is fear. Perhaps the fear of failure, the fear of hard work, the fear of the unknown…
If you feel that you’re being held back by fear, here’s an exercise recommended by Tim Ferris – an entrepreneur, author, and podcaster, called Fear Setting. It’s tremendously effective at overcoming your fears to get you started!
Fear Setting puts your fears under the microscope – ‘what if I …’ (e.g. started exercising, made healthier food choices, asked for that promotion etc). It forces you to define all the things that could go wrong, come up with ways to prevent them, and plan out how to repair the situation should they go wrong.
It also forces you to list the benefits of doing what you’ve been fearing to do, so you can logically and analytically compare the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’.
Last step of this exercise is to calculate the cost of inaction in 6 months, 1 year, and 3 years, so you can objectively see how much it is costing you to do nothing.
If you want to have a go at the Fear Setting exercise, you may download a worksheet here.