I was asked this question last week after launching my new site. The truth is, time is there hidden in plain sight. You just have to use it.
There are 24 hours in a day. Everyday. It never changes. The time is there. What changes are the activities we fill our time with—the minutiae of the daily grind.
I once heard the phrase...
“You’ve got just as many hours in a day as Beyoncé does.”
Ok, yes technically that is correct, but what does that have to do with me?
After the silliness of being compared to Beyoncé wore off, I pondered the thought more deeply and it’s something that has stuck with me.
It's true. You, reading this right now, have just as many hours in a day as Beyoncé. You can make an excuse or make a way.
So with that, I believe there are 3 things you must do to find time.
- Stop complaining that you don’t have time
- Prioritize and execute
Number one—Stop Complaining
Listen, I get it. I have four kids and I wake three of them up every weekday at 6:30 AM to get them ready for school, with the help of my magnificent wife of course.
It’s easy for me to feel justified and complain that I don’t have time to workout, to write, to work on personal projects, etc.
I do, for all intents and purposes, have a tight schedule.
I get up, get the kids ready, take them to school, go to work, come home, play with the kids, have dinner with as a family, put the kids to bed, hang out with my wife, go to sleep.
90% of the time that is my exact schedule.
What’s not mentioned in that list are the extra things I really want to accomplish that require more effort. Most of them have to be worked into the cracks, but none of them would ever get touched if I only complained about how my schedule was so tight.
“Oh, but they get so much done because they don’t have kids.”
“Oh, if I could just…”
“Oh, if only…”
That type of thinking has to stop if you want to make any progress whatsoever.
Ok, you've stopped complaining, now what?
Number Two—Prioritize and Execute
I've been a long time fan of ordered lists, but this is a fitting term I recently picked up from Jocko Willink, a former Navy Seal.
Prioritize. What is the highest priority item in your to-do list? Aside from your daily grind, all of the things you have to do. What is most important? What will have the biggest impact if you accomplish that? Once you’ve decided what that is, you can execute. Do it. It’s that simple.
One thing I will note. My wife and kids are the most important thing in my life. I will not prioritize anything above them, long term. Occasionally things get in the way and I have to steal and hour or two here and there from my family to squeeze in a workout or finish something with work, but I try very hard not to make that a habit. Likewise, I encourage you to draw a line in the sand for yourself on things that matter the most to you.
Prioritizing can be tricky though. For example, in this very moment I need to finish writing this post AND I really want to go for a run before my meeting at 8:30.
Side note: At the time of this writing I’m in Houston this week for a client workshop—so no normal schedule for me.
It took me a while to decide whether I should write first or run first. It might seem like a silly decision to make, “Matt, just freaking pick one and do it.” Exactly. Stop wasting time worrying about what to do first and just freaking start doing it. Ultimately I decided I wanted to write this before I ran, so there you go.
Execute. Once you determine the priority you plow through your list one at a time until things are done. If tasks are to big, then you break them down into bite-sized pieces.
I realize there are more complex situations with work and personal aspirations that require more planning and more thought, but the simpler you can make the scenarios the better.
I’ve got lots of plans for personal projects that I’m actively thinking about and/or working on. To name a few: re-release public AIUX enrollment, work on my Adobe MAX presentations, start working on some new courses, finish writing my freelancing book, continue development on my course software, publish an article every Monday.
Just typing that out makes me anxious and that list doesn’t even include the client work I’m doing day to day to pay the bills.
So in the case for my website last week, I just decided that I wanted to finish it. I put it as the number one priority in my side project category. I put all of that other stuff on hold for a few days and blistered through it with as much focus and intensity as I could. It’s not perfect, but it’s done enough where I can comfortably move on to the next thing.
The next thing… I’m still trying to decide on that and I can assure you, I will make no progress until I make one of them THE priority and execute as furiously as I can.
Now you have to do it again.