A few months ago I was going through a stretch where it seemed there just wasn’t enough time in the day to get everything done that I wanted to.
It seemed like every time I crossed something off my To-Do list I was adding two more things.
I was sacrificing sleep so that I could finish work and respond to email. My early morning workouts turned into lackluster movement sessions where simply getting through them exhausted me. I was constantly eating on the run, overwhelmed, and taking on too much.
I’m sure you’ve felt the same way before or maybe are even feeling it now. Telling yourself if you just had a bit more time in the day to get things done you’d be good to go.
- You’d be able to fit in those workouts
- You’d have time to prep your food
- You’d have time to pursue other interests, hobbies, and experiences
- You’d have time to invest in a relationships
- You’d have time to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do.
It must have been 2 or 3AM one morning and upon realizing I was going to have to get up in a couple of hours I noticed that I was telling myself these things as I was finishing up some work for clients, answering a couple emails, and editing an article for Limitless.
I then realized that there are so many people doing such great things and none of them have more time then I do. We all have the same 24 hours in a day to work with, it was just that I wasn’t using my time effectively.
I went to bed that night committed to change. I would now be CREATING time instead of trying to FIND time to change my life.
DO YOU EVEN REALLY WANT THIS
In order to create more time you first have to decide if that’s what you really want. We’ve been conditioned to be busy little bees since a young age. The more you do, the more you take on, the less time you have the more important you are (or so the perception).
The good news it’s not all our fault that we have shitty time management skills and associate being busy with being important. Dyana Valentine put it best in an interview with my buddy Srini over at the Unmistakable Creative.
“… We have all these responsibilities, and we’re suppose to want all of these responsibilities, we have a script we expected to follow. Working through our lives to check of these boxes…”
For me, when I have any down time I associate it with being lazy. I feel like I should always be working on something, being productive, and getting shit done. Work has always been a priority over everything else; relationships, health, fun and leisure. I’ve had my fair share of experiences but I’ve also given up a quite a few because I just didn’t have time for them.
Something that has helped me recently is getting clear on what I want more time for.
FOCUS ON ONE THING AT A TIME
You can use the Wheel of Life to help you figure it out.
What specific area of your life are you looking to create more time for? For me I’m trying to find more time to strengthen my personal relationships with friends, family, and significant other. Using the Wheel you may find yourself trying to bring up a different lagging area.
- Personal Finances
- Fun & Leisure
Maybe something that isn’t even listed on the wheel. Going back to school perhaps, reading more often, or learning a cool skill like playing the guitar.
Now it’s super easy to say, “Hell yeah I want it!” But do your behaviors really suggest that?
I recently started using Rescue Time to track how I am spending my minutes on the computer. I thought I was being extremely productive researching and writing articles. As it turns out I was spending some of that time checking a little Facebook here, Twitter there, jumping in my email (and not even responding to emails, just going in to see what’s there, read some, and move on).
As it turns out all those little bites, licks, and tastes were really adding up. I was wasting at least an hour everyday, if not more sometimes bull-shitting on the internet.
TAKE ACTION EXERCISE
When I first start to work with someone on their nutrition I have them do an initial Food Log for me just to see where their current habits are. When I present this to people I always get this response.
“Oh, I eat pretty well.”
Cool I say. Then just eat normally while filling out the log and we’ll see what the best approach for you might be.
A week later I get the Food Log back and it’s always the same response.
“This week was not a normal week of eating for me. There was this thing, that thing, a friends thing, I was so busy doing this that I didn’t…”
Long story short, you never really know what it is you’re doing until you start keeping track.
So for this week take notes on how you’re spending your time:
- Watching TV
- On the internet
- Junk reading
- Running errands/housework
- Paying bills
- commuting (work, school, the gym)
- Apps on your phone
Are you willing to give any of these things up in order to CREATE more time for yourself and areas of your life that you want to improve? If you can’t give them up are you willing to streamline some of them by making certain thins more convenient or easier to do.
- Can you start to wake up 20-30 minutes earlier without sacrificing too much sleep?
- Can you automate all of your bills and savings so that you are not spending time doing these things?
- Can you workout at home instead of commuting to the gym?
- Can you cook simple recipes in bulk to save time on food prep?
- Can you run all your errands in bulk on one day of the week instead of having them spread out randomly over the course of a week (my roommates and I have started grocery shopping, doing laundry, cleaning the house all on the same day.)
- Can you set time limits on when and how you work? I’ve started limiting responding to email for an hour once per day. This use to be one of my biggest time commitments.
- Can you start doing the little things immediately. Washing dishes right after you use them for example instead of letting them pile up.
- Can you learn to say NO more often? (Saying no does not mean you’re not coming through for other people.)
Perhaps the single biggest mistake we make when we say No is to start from No. We derive our No from what we are against — the other’s demand or behavior. A Positive No calls on us to do the exact opposite and base our No on what we are for. Instead of starting from No, start from Yes. Root your No in a deeper Yes — a Yes to your core interests and to what truly matters…” – William Ury, The Power of a Positive No
WHERE ARE YOUR PRIORITIES?
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to’.” ―Lao Tzu
No time just means other things are more of a priority and by saying we don’t have time for things it allows us to believe that our current circumstances are ok. It makes not being exactly where we want to be in life ok. It justifies it.
It’s not ok to not be doing work you love, to be out of shape, to be unhappy, etc… All because you haven’t had enough time to work on those things.
It makes purchasing junk food in a box or wrapper ok because it takes less time to open a bag then it does to prepare a healthy meal from fresh produce and grass-fed proteins (or so we think. See here, here, and here for ways to simplify cooking to save time).
“…From a cognitive point of view, guilt is an emotion that people experience because they’re convinced they’ve caused harm (to the self or someone else? . In cognitive theory, the thoughts cause the emotions. The guilt of emotion follows directly from the thought that you are responsible for someone else’s misfortune, whether or not this is the case…” –Psychology Today
“…Change your language. Instead of saying “I don’t have time” try saying “it’s not a priority,” and see how that feels. Often, that’s a perfectly adequate explanation. I have time to iron my sheets, I just don’t want to. But other things are harder. Try it: “I’m not going to edit your résumé, sweetie, because it’s not a priority.” “I don’t go to the doctor because my health is not a priority.” If these phrases don’t sit well, that’s the point. Changing our language reminds us that time is a choice. If we don’t like how we’re spending an hour, we can choose differently…”
TAKE ACTION EXERCISE
Next time you catch yourself saying you don’t have time for something, instead change it to it’s not a priority. I’ve been doing this myself the last few weeks and it’s amazing how it changes my mindset.
ARE YOU JUST PROCRASTINATING?
We’re not very good at estimating how much time we’ll have to perform certain tasks. Often over estimating how much time we have. Always telling ourselves we can just do it tomorrow.
I often underestimate how long it’s going to take me to write an article, answer emails from clients, or from the Limitless community. And usually I’m waaaaaaaaay off (getting better now tho).
Sometimes we forget about the commute to the gym (or the traffic that day), that getting back to some of those emails might take longer than we think, etc…
What are some tasks you perform that you often underestimate the time it will take ?
We’re even worse at estimating how much motivation we’ll have to complete future tasks. This is where a case of “The Mondays” comes in. You know, the old “I’ll just start on Monday line.” All good things start on Monday’s.
- Workout plans
- Your side project
The list goes on and on. EVERYTHING gets a better start on Monday (I’m oozing with sarcasm today).
A lot of this has to do with feeling the need to be in the perfect situation, right mindset, the best mood, or the perfect time. Well, there really is no such thing. There never will be the perfect situation, mindset, mood, or time. There is always going to be something.
That’s life – it’s really good at throwing us curve balls.
There are 15 reasons why people procrastinate:
- Not knowing what needs to be done
- Not knowing how to do something
- Not wanting to do something
- Not caring if it actually gets completed or not
- Not giving a darn when it gets done
- Not in the mood
- Developed a habit of waiting until the last minute
- Convincing yourself you work “better under pressure.”
- Believing you have time/can finish it at the last minutes
- Lacking drive to actually get started
- Plain ol’forgetful Jones
- Blaming others, circumstances, environment, or health
- Not the perfect time
- Needing more time to think about it
- Putting one task on the back burner while pursuing another
Psychologist Piers Steel tells us that those who rate high conscientiousness are more likely to not procrastinate. Also associated with high levels of conscientiousness are high levels of persistence, responsibility, and discipline.
“… Better health habits is an obvious explanation for the connection between conscientiousness and good health. Research has borne this out. People with conscientious personalities are less likely than others to engage in harmful behaviors (smoking, heavy drinking, risky driving) and more likely to adhere to healthful ones. But it’s more complicated than that. For one thing, some aspects of conscientiousness seem to be more closely tied to good health than others. In some research, self-discipline has stood out as the important attribute. Other findings have pointed to conventionality—adhering to societal norms.
Stress can erode good health, and a conscientious personality can be one that avoids stressful situations, while the neurotic personality may be drawn to them. Conscientiousness may shape career choices, friendship, the stability of marriage, and many other aspects of life that affect health and, ultimately, longevity…” – Harvard Medical School
Developing more conscienctiousness has a lot to do with awareness. However, awareness can often be a difficult trait to acquire. With so much going on around us it can get difficult to concentrate and easy to overlook some things.
Just check out this story about how famous Violinist Joshua Bell was somehow overlooked in a crowded DC area.
This is where focusing your efforts on habit building may save you some time.
WHAT BENJAMIN FRANKLIN CAN TEACH US ABOUT BUILDING HABITS TO CREATE MORE TIME
Benjamin Franklin’s 300 year old philosophy on building habits can help to simplify the process a little for us. Here are his three principles for saving your self some time by making things automatic.
1. Commit to a new behavior: One way I like to do this is by making behaviors easier to establish. Performing kitchen makeovers when starting a nutrition program to eliminate temptation. Running around the block instead of having to commute to the gym to run on a treadmill. Putting a website blocker on my laptop so that I cannot navigate to “those sites” (you know what I’m talking about) while trying to work.
2. Focusing on one thing at a time: Many studies show that we’re piss poor at multi-tasking. Estimates of up to 40% of productivity is lost when trying to multi-task. It also takes time to switch from one task to another and although a minute or two here and there might not seem like a lot initially, over the course of a day, weeks, or months and this can really become significant.
We also tend to make more errors when trying to multi-task because we are asking several different parts of our brain to operate at one time. Brain scans being conducted during multi-tasking have shown that there are four areas of the brain that fire.
- Pre-Frontal Cortex – Involved in focus, attention, and selecting which tasks to do when
- Posterior Parietal Lob – Establishes rules or refers to previous rules already established to perform tasks
- Anterior Cingulate Gyrus – Checks for errors while performing tasks
- Pre-Motor Cortex – Gets you to go or move in some way
This is why giving your attention to one thing at a time might be in your best interest. Instead of trying to overhaul your diet in one day why not just work on one simple healthy habit like including veggies with every meal?
3. Remind yo bad self: As humans we forget stuff. Birthdays, events, anniversary… YIKES! Make it easier on yourself by using visual reminders as often as possible. Screen shots on your phone reminding you to do something, alarms, sticky notes posted in places you know you’ll see them.
KEEP IN MIND TO SAVE SOME TIME
We sure did cover a lot today didn’t we?
Just a few things to keep in mind as you start CREATING more time to make changes in your life.
- Think about letting go of any negative relationships. Not only are they energy draining but they are often very time consuming as well. Your time is better spent invested in positive relationships with folks that contribute to your wellbeing and success as well as you for them.
- Be honest and take responsibility for all of your actions. It’s very easy to place blame on our circumstances, events, or others. Where you are right now is a collection of your habits and choices over time.
- Limit priorities. My good buddy Joel likes to break his down to fun, making money, and helps people. Now the real key is turning down things or using the power of that positive NO that doesn’t represent your true priorities.
- Set aside time to do this. In this post we discussed how important it is to schedule time for in order to make progress. What’s your schedule looking like this week? Where can you create time for some of the changes that you’re looking to implement (hint: make time early in the day if your bio-rhytms allow for it. You’ll have more willpower.)
- Plan coping strategies: When sh*t hits the fan many of us don’t know what to do and trying to figure it out can be very time consuming. When starting your pursuits what are some obstacles you feel you may have to overcome? If things go array what are some strategies you can implement to bounce right back?
How do you perceive time now? Hopefully you understand that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. Some of us just choose to use it differently.
Where will you be placing your priorities now?