How many times have you found yourself complaining about not having enough time to do all those things you’ve been procrastinating to do like working-out often, reading, writing, eating healthy?
I’ve found myself so many times not doing a lot of things that I know I should be doing because I told myself I don’t have time. I used to skip going to the gym, meditating, and writing because I felt there weren’t that many hours in the day to do all of that. But then I learnt that sometimes you don’t have to have time. You need to make time.
I will touch on a few methods that have helped me “make” more time. I’ve learnt these methods by studying some great people. Some of the most successful people we know have mastered the art of managing their time very well.
The first of these methods I’m going to talk about is using a to-do list.
Use a to-do list
If you know you have a lot that you need to do, a good starting point is to write it down on a to-do list. Don’t rely on memory. Us humans, we’re really terrible at remembering things. The truth is sometimes we just forget to do certain things, but not because we don’t have the time.
Having things written down creates a mental picture of how your day will go. “I’m going to go to the gym, and then do my groceries; and come home to start meal prepping, after which point I’ll call Chris”. A to-do list is only part of the plan of what you’re trying to accomplish – it’s not the whole picture. But it’s very important. To-do lists keep us organised and structured. The lack of planning always tends to lead to sub-optimal results or certain things not being done.
And the best part of having a to-do list is checking things off. When you see the list of the things you’ve completed you feel motivated to keep going and getting more done. This gives us a sense of achievement.
But even then, a to-do list is not effective enough without prioritization. Take time to go through your list and focus first on those important tasks. A good method is to pick the top three tasks from your list that are the most important and urgent. Once you’ve got those done you can go through the rest of the list knowing you’ve got the major stuff out of the way.
Knowing when and where you’ll do something is also important in making sure you do it. I find what’s more effective for me is using a calendar along with a to-do list. Just as you would put a calendar reminder on your phone for that important doctor’s appointment, I would also schedule a time for going to the gym, let’s say, or studying.
In his book, “Atomic Habits”, James Clear talks about the concept of implementation intention which is a plan you make beforehand about when and where to act. “When situation X arises, I will perform response Y.” This is what a calendar helps with.
Imagine running a multi-billion conglomerate called Virgin Group. I’m sure you’d probably be a very busy person, right? With so much on his plate, Richard Branson still makes time to wake up at 5 AM to workout. He does it first thing in the morning before he gets on with the rest of the day which helps him stick with it.
I too have a routine which I try to follow most of the days. My day starts the night before just when I’m about to go to bed. I prepare for the following day by packing my lunch, putting aside what I’ll wear the following day and getting my workout gear ready. I also draw out a detailed timeline of how I wish to carry out my day’s tasks. I’ll also check my calendar for any appointments or meetings I need to plan around.
I prefer to use the classic pen and paper to plan my day and then add those to my Google calendar as events. I can access my Google calendar from across multiple devices. All together this takes about 30 minutes. By the time I go to sleep I’ve got a good idea of how my day will pan out from the time I wake up. While I’m lying in bed I visualise my whole day plan. When I get up in the morning I know exactly what I’m waking up to do and not trying to figure out what I need to do first.
My mornings’ tend to look like this:
04:30 Wake up and freshen up
05:00 Have coffee/tea
05:15 Read my current book
06:15 Write or contribute towards a blog piece
08:30 Get on with the rest of my day (my 9-5 etc.)
Those are some of the things I deem important to start my day with before I tackle some of the tasks on my list. All in all, this morning routine lasts 3-4 hours. I do my best to stick to it but I also allow some flexibility here and there because, let’s be honest, things don’t always go as planned in life.
“Things don’t always go as planned in life”
Another benefit of scheduling your time is that it teaches you to stop when it’s time to stop. That discipline is important because what you’re doing now affects the next bit of work. If you carry on for too long on one particular task, that chips into the time of the next task meaning that next task suffers. Even when you’re in the zone when it’s time to sleep, stop.
Cut down on TV/Netflix
This is a touchy one. A lot of us really do have the desire to do all the important things we keep putting off. How can I really start learning to play an instrument when all I want to do is to relax after a long day’s work? The only thing you want to do is chill, sip wine and turn on Netflix. Or whatever it is you do to relax (although you could use an instrument to relax – just saying). That’s understandable because your work could be stressful. So you relax and the whole cycle repeats the following day. With this type of lifestyle, it’s easy to say we don’t have any time.
The question then comes down to how badly you really want to achieve these goals. Better than you want to spend your whole evening/night watching Netflix or browsing social media? Playing on your PlayStation all evening? It’s so easy to have our time taken by the addictive habits that waste our time. And the worst part is, the more you relax and not do the things you need to do, the more you feel bad. And the more you feel bad about not doing the things you need to do the more you need to relax and not think about those things you should be doing.
Sometimes you only just intend to distract yourself briefly to get your mind off stuff by getting on Instagram for a “quick check” and then find yourself having spent an hour on there! And by then you would have lost that will to even do the important things.
So what can you do instead?
The morning routine I follow which I showed you earlier is meant to work as a guide on how you set out your day. If you follow a structure on how to tackle your day you’re creating substantial habits that will help you in the long run. Planning your day the night before not only helps me have an idea of how I’ll spend the time but also saves me that morning panic when I’m preparing for work and makes getting ready for my day easy and less stressful.
Delegate or Drop
Of course, some times life does get in the way. Children come along, workloads increase because of the new job promotion at work; the exams period is cropping up at you.
Wherever possible you should delegate. If you live with a partner or friend it’s easier to split some of the house chores and maybe even get a cleaner to come in every so often to clean the house while you focus on the more important things.
Maybe use the time to wash up dishes to also listen to an audiobook. Or just get a dishwasher. Just think of the things that don’t necessarily help you achieve your goals and try and get someone else to do them for you.
Sometimes maybe the best option is to just drop some things. Maybe you’re just taking on too much. I’ve fallen into that trap so many times by committing myself to too many things and spreading myself way too thin. It happens to a lot of the extremely ambitious selves out there. A bit of a reality check with a friend or partner may help.
Another thing, living with a friend or partner may help to stay focused. I found when I got married and started living with my wife, that helped me stay focused because we encouraged each other. So make sure to set some time aside for your partner as well. That’s super important.
If you’ve read this far, thank you for taking the time from whatever you were doing. Now make time for all those things that you really need to get done.
I know we all have different situations that affect our everyday lives. Pick what works for you. If you got kids maybe consider waking up earlier before they do. Same if you have housemates or have to care for someone. But then again, sometimes you may you just need to slow down.