Recently, I transitioned from working freelance to a full-time job. I also got married and bought a house. These changes in my life have been nothing short of joyful. But it’s taking some adjustment.
With two people working full-time and a house to take care of, I’m finding that I have less and less opportunity to work on the personal projects than I used to. I recognize that even with how busy I feel, I’m still blessed with a whole lot more free time than most. I also know that as life goes on, I’m likely to only get busier.
Gradually, I’m re-learning my time management in order to find time for all those things I want to do related to self-improvement. I’d like to share what I’ve learned with you, and perhaps you fine folks will have some advice for me in return.
When I talk about personal projects, these can take the form of, well, anything really. Whether you want to write a novel or commit to working out more, we’ve all got those goals.
How to Find Time for Those Personal Projects That Never Get Done
When you waste a moment, you have killed it in a sense, squandering an irreplaceable opportunity. But when you use the moment properly, filling it with purpose and productivity, it lives on forever.
– Menachem Mendel Schneerson
Showing up is the hardest part
Nope, it’s not the waiting! One of the most critical things I’ve learned about managing my time is impetus. The energy you create steers your course. The longer you do it, the harder it is to course correct — but it’s always possible to change the way you look at life.
Plucking up the energy to sit down and start something, to get out of the door, to set aside the time, has always been the most difficult part of the process for me. Once I’ve shown up, I’ve created an effort, an energy, an impetus, which carries me through whatever I’m doing. But when I have a precious free hour, finding ways to make myself do something constructive instead of sinking into the couch has always been a struggle for me.
Get a buddy
One of the biggest motivators for me to “show up” is a sense that someone else is relying on me, or that they would be pleased as a result. Bringing family members and friends in on your plans to improve your work-life balance, for example, can provide you with an essential support network. I find this works best if you find someone who wants to work on the same thing; a workout buddy, or someone interested in similar crafts — whatever your interests happen to be, find someone who shares them. Including a cooperative, social element in your personal goals lifts them out of your head and into a real space, into a relationship.
Find creative ways to multitask
One of my goals, for a while, has been to read more books. Reading time is always the first thing to disappear when life gets busy, and so I’ve discovered an alternative strategy: audiobooks. At every opportunity, when I’m cooking, cleaning, or on the work commute, I load up an audiobook. Right now I have two going at once, one for commuting and one for housework!
In an effort to get more fit, I’ve started walking on my work breaks. Instead of grabbing a snack or sitting in the breakroom, I get together with a small group and we walk around the outside of the building. It’s half an hour more walking in the day than I’d otherwise get, and every little step helps.
Identify and use “captive time”
I use the term “captive time” to refer to time during which I am held captive by a responsibility or unavoidable situation. Not in a cop TV show sense, just in a sense that we all have unavoidable dead time: sitting in waiting rooms before appointments, using public transport, flying, waiting for our car to be serviced or for someone to show up and repair the furnace.
This time is especially useful for people who want to set up a small business or freelance on the side. All you need is a connected device and you can work. Internet connectivity is becoming more and more common. Even some airlines and mobile carriers offer wi-fi connections while you travel.
Make a specific, trackable commitment
I rarely find time for something if I just tell myself “I should find time for this.” It’s not enough to want. If you’re busy, fitting in time for personal development is going to require schedule discipline. To have any success, I need to set a block of time aside and not allow other obligations to sneak in. Because they’ll try.
I had a lot of success using a paper day planner when I was freelancing. These days, I prefer to track my goals using project management tools as if I were working from home. I don’t do this for all my goals, as it can get somewhat intense — but for important changes that I want to make quickly, treating a goal like a project has been very successful.
Don’t cheat until you’ve made a habit
Finally, I want to share the biggest reason that I sabotage myself once I’ve started on a goal-achievement journey. Cheating is fine, it really is. But if you start giving yourself cheat days, or deciding not to use allotted time, before you’ve turned your new routine into a habit, you’ll lose all of your momentum. This has happened to me over and over again.
Recent data about habit-forming suggests that the length of time it takes to form a habit is dependant on the task itself. Simple tasks don’t take very long, whereas tasks that require a lot of effort or a considerable change in your routine can take much longer. 66 days is an average based on recent psychological study. Making a dramatic change to your life, and having it stick, requires a lot of impetus.