Find pockets of time to make progress on your goals and get stuff done
“I don’t have time to exercise during the week,” an acquaintance lamented to me recently. Finding time to pursue our goals and hobbies is a common dilemma.
I’ve faced the same challenge, and found some simple solutions over the years. This article explains where I’ve found pockets of time to make significant progress toward my goals.
1. Reduce Time on Digital Communication Tools
The typical American consumer spends a staggering amount of time — five hours each day — on mobile devices. That’s precious time and mental energy that I can put toward writing an article or reading a book.
I’ve written previously about Cal Newport’s notion of digital minimalism, and how it’s helped me reduce the time I spend using digital communication tools, like email and social media. And it can help you, too, save time and mental energy.
Newport suggests removing “low-value digital noise,” or digital tools that don’t provide value to your life, and improving your use of the tools that matter. For me, that involved deleting my Facebook account and removing many apps on my phone. A digital minimal lifestyle has not only reduced the digital distraction in my life, but also freed up loads of time.
2. Use the Hours Before and After Work
Say that you work a standard eight-hour day and sleep for eight hours each night. That leaves you eight — yes, eight — hours each day to use as you choose. Use a portion of this time to work on something that’s meaningful to you.
I use the early morning hours to make progress on my writing goals before I head to my day job. My energy and attention are at their peak during this time, and working toward something meaningful is a great way to start my day.
To use my non-work hours effectively, I need to know how and where I’m spending my time. That’s why I make an hour-by-hour plan each evening for the day ahead. So on Monday night I create a plan for Tuesday. I allocate time for my goals and note previously scheduled meetings. For example, “6 A.M. to 8 A.M. write ABC blog post” and “4 P.M. to 5 P.M. attend XYZ meeting.”
This planning process is a simple but powerful way to get the most out of my day. I not only know where my time is going, but I know what my priorities are. When something is a priority, I find a way to make time for it.
3. Commute Effectively
My commute has taken different forms over the years, and I’ve used various methods to get the most out of it. When I had a long train ride, I’d bring my laptop with me and work on an article. When I drove, I listened to lectures. When I rode the bus, I’d read. And when I walked to work, I’d listen to lectures by The Great Courses Plus or Lynda.com to increase my knowledge on a range of subjects, from ancient civilizations to creativity.
Despite your mode of transportation, use your commute to increase your education or make progress on a goal.
4. Take a Lunch Break
A 30-minute break is plenty of time to make progress on a goal and leave me feeling mentally refreshed for the afternoon ahead. I often leave my desk and read a book during this time. Reading a few pages each day adds up to a few books a year, just from lunchtime reading! Working out is another option, if your job allows the flexibility. This is a great way to get your exercise in for the day and get a boost of energy.
Above all, simply being aware of how you spend your time is an effective first step. Oftentimes people don’t realize how much time they spend checking email or social media, for example. Ten minutes here and five minutes there checking email add up over the course of a day, let alone a week. Then, cut out the unimportant stuff and find the most efficient way to complete everyday tasks. Doing so will undoubtedly give you more time each day to get stuff done.
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