How To Make Time For Things That Matter
We all have things that matter to us. Perhaps it’s getting in shape. Or becoming a better writer. Or building a business. Or a platform for future success through having a popular blog.
Or, perhaps, it’s everything of the above.
How do we get everything done, especially when you also have family, work commitments, and social life to care for?
I’ve asked myself this question many times over the past few years, as I was juggling freelance work, building a business, advancing personal projects, having a relationship, and taking care of my body, health, and family commitments.
If you’re looking for an easy answer, a “hack,” a routine, I’ve got bad news for you. Daily routines won’t save you.
Seth Godin says, “If you have a typical day, you’ve got a problem.” In my experience, striving for an “ideal day” turns life into a straightjacket and kills creativity.
But whenever I’ve achieved anything in life, it was because I carved the time from each day, like a sculptor carves a marble block. I learned that we wouldn't get ahead unless we proactively make time for things that matter to us.
It’s as simple as that: figure out what you want and build time in each day to move just a tiny bit closer to your goals.
Here are the steps that help me manage my hectic life. Follow them, and you won’t ever have a feeling that time slips through your fingers, like sand.
Define A and B
Understanding the end goal is key. You can’t expect to get where you want unless you define where it is you’re going. But it’s also important to know and accept your starting point.
You can’t move from A to B unless you understand exactly where A and B are.
This requires both brainstorming and reflection about where it is you want to end up. Most importantly, it requires you to be radically honest and accept your truth with all its potential drawbacks, ugliness, and discomfort — which not everyone has the courage to do.
Yes, your life might suck now. Yes, the four of you live in a one-bedroom apartment and don’t have enough income to pay the bills.
But after all, that’s your life. That’s your starting point. Nobody says that’s what it’s going to be forever.
As Theodore Roosevelt taught us, “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.”
All you need is to stop hiding away from your truth and start moving forward.
Building good habits
People are creatures of habit. This means, no matter whether you build habits consciously or not — your mind will build habits, and if you don’t control it, it’s usually going to be bad habits. The key is to notice when your brain is building bad habits, get rid of them, and replace them with good ones.
Once you know your goals, you can break them down into Daily Action Steps (DAS). Something small and tangible that you can do each day.
- If you want to become a writer, a daily step could be writing every day for two hours.
- If you want to build a business, a daily step could be taking key meetings, putting in deep working hours, and making X sales pitches per day.
- If you are getting in shape, a daily step could be working out for 30 minutes.
If you were paid $1,000 for every mile you ran, what would you do? Exactly: you would run as fast as possible to get as many miles done before bedtime.
Figure out what that point of maximum ROI (return-on-investment) is for your goal and do it every day.
It almost doesn’t matter what it is as long as you’re moving forward.
I call the process of advancing toward your important goals “daily practice.”
Like any practice — spiritual, meditative, healing — it should be revered and have a dedicated time and place. But if you don't like routines, you don’t need to do the at a certain time each day. Simply making sure that you’ve done what you needed to do is enough.
When it comes to daily practice, remember the law of compounding. Just a 1% advancement in any field will guarantee you an x37 improvement over 12 months.
Don’t believe me? Open your calculator: 1.01³⁶⁵ = 37.8… (it’s one of the many life hacks I’ve learned from James Altucher)
It’s the small steps that make all the difference. As long as you’re making a 1% incremental improvement, everything is going to be fine.
Setting priorities straight
But I don’t recommend creating too many daily practices — it’s easy to overcommit. Prioritization is key — and remember: priority is a single word. You can’t have priorities.
For example, I know that the two most important things for me are being in shape and improving my craft.
Which is why I carve out time to:
- Work out every morning for no more than twenty minutes per day.
- Write every day. Usually, I set my timer to two hours and write.
This doesn’t mean I don’t do anything else. It simply means that these two things are my priority, and I am happy if the day passes, and I get only these things done.
It doesn’t take me more than 2 hours and 20 minutes to get it done — which is easy to do on any given day, even if I “don’t feel like it.”
Most self-help advice revolves around the same idea: do the same things at the same time each day. And while there’s a lot of truth to that, personally, I wouldn’t say I like having each day the same. It takes away responsibility and control over my life.
After all, we’re people, not mindless effective automatons. We not only want to be effective, but we also want to be happy and live rich, colorful lives while achieving our goals.
So if you take away one idea from this piece, let it be this: don’t have routines.
Instead, be in control over your life. Figure out what you want, what’s the highest-ROI action around your goal, and build in the time each day to advance in your goals.