Work, household chores, errands, the internet, TV, family and more. There are a lot of things vying for our time, some we like to do and some we don’t, and it often seems as though our to-do lists are never ending. So in our fast-paced lives, how in the world are we going to make time for our dreams?
Like with money considerations, prioritizing is key. If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, here is a little exercise that can be an eye-opening experience, as long as you actually do it that is.
Start a list of everything you spend your time doing today, with the amount of time you spend on it, from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. If today happens not to be a good example of your average day, then wait until an average day and do it then. Once you’re done, take a good critical look at your mapped out day.
All of us have the same number of hours in the day to work with. You probably know someone who always seems to be on top of things no matter how much is on their plate. The secret to getting a lot done isn’t just working faster and being more ‘productive’ (Ugh, productivity, such an overused word), but learning to subtract the things from your day that don’t further your goals, aka: prioritizing.
Was television or the internet on your list? Yes, these two things might provide temporary happiness and can be educational depending what you watch or search for, but they’re also major vehicles for escaping our dissatisfaction with our current situation. It’s all too easy to lose an entire night in front of the TV or surfing the web, and that’s valuable time that could be spent working on that language you want to learn, or practicing that delicious recipe you’ve been dying to try – things that in the long will will provide not just happiness but a sense of fulfillment which is longer lasting. So do yourself a favor, cut back on the sort of activities that exist primarily just to waste time.
The next group of things on our list are things you only think you have to do. For example, paying your bills is something that needs to get done if you don’t want collection companies coming after you. But on the other hand, if your job is taking up too much of your time, you do have a couple options.
If you have vacation time saved up, well, use it silly. According to a recent survey by Expedia, the average American forfeits 2 vacation days a year.* Instead of letting it slide, get out there and do what your heart is telling you to do. If you don’t have vacation time, you could always try asking for leave without pay as long as money isn’t an issue (and money should be less of an issue if your following my advice of saving more and spending less). The worst your boss could say is “no”, in which case you at least know you tried. You can even go one step further with this, and if you can afford to work less hours in a week, go for it! Just because most folks think you have to work 40 hours a week, 52.17etc. weeks a year doesn’t mean you have to. Life is about living, not just working.
Other things that fall under this category might be things you use to do for entertainment or educational value that have since stopped being helpful or entertaining – yet you continue to participate in them just out of habit. Some examples might include news feeds, blogs, or magazines. Also, are you a part of any committees or other other groups that you are going to only because you feel obligated? If the meetings aren’t something you’re interested in, what would the consequences be like if you decided not to go?
Then there are the things that need to be done, and these fall into two different categories. Some of them need to get done, but maybe not as often as you are currently doing them. Checking e-mail and social media are two great examples of this, those e-mails and Facebook status updates will still be around later. Think of other activities that you participate in, could any of those be done less frequently to save on time, like grocery shopping? Some people go a little crazy with this, such as waiting as long as possible between doing laundry, the dishes, or showering. Use your own judgment and what you feel comfortable with.
Lastly are the things that need to get done and can’t be done less frequently, but there is still hope even for these. Obviously if you have several errands that need to get done, plan to do ones in the same area together to save on time and gas. If you have several e-mails to respond to, answer the ones about the same topic together so that you don’t have to get back in the right mindset. Basically, group similar activities together when possible.
So in conclusion, once you start looking at how you’re spending your time:
1. Cut back on the activities like television and internet browsing that exist to waste time
2. Let go of the things that aren’t important to you any longer, and don’t need to be done
3. Figure out ways to batch groups of similar activities together, or do them less frequently
Just as important as what to cut from your day is what not to cut. Keep as much time as you want for doing stuff with your family and friends, as life is a much more rewarding experience when you’re sharing it with those who matter to you. Also, some things that you spend your time on may be considered frivolous or senseless by others. If it’s something you truly enjoy though, it’s worth keeping – it’s your time and your dreams.
Now that you have a bit more time to work with, it’s onwards to tackling the things you want to do but didn’t previously didn’t have time for – I’m talking about the dreams on your dream list. Go out there and make some magic, and feel free to comment below and let the rest of us know about your progress!
* Source article can be found here
This post is third in a five part series. For part 4, click here.
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