Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

Carving Out the Time To Do What You Want

Time. There just isn’t enough of it. And there’s definitely never enough for you to do what you want to do.

There’s a lot of advice floating around about how to carve out the time to do what you want. Most of that advice tells you to wake up an hour earlier than you usually do, or go to bed an hour later. You can try that if you want. But you’ll find that it will wear on you after a while. Yes, I’m speaking from experience.

There are other ways to carve out time. Ways that won’t put a dent in your lifestyle, and which won’t cause you to lose much, if any, sleep.

Let’s take a look at three of those techniques.

Think Small

To do the things that you want to do, you don’t need to make radical changes to your life. Take small steps.

Thinking small means just that. Tweak your day. Don’t hack it. Don’t analyze your day, don’t deconstruct it down to the minute. Instead, get an overview of your typical day and focus on portions of the day that you carve time out of. Chances are, those portions will be the same most days.

Give Something Up

This is probably the most difficult and most radical suggestion that I make to most people. That something could be television time, time spent aimlessly using the internet (do you need to watch another funny animal video?), or something with which you’re not engaged.

Weigh what you’re giving up with what you want to do. Which is more important? Which will have a bigger impact on your life or on your well being?

Several years ago, I gave up watching TV. Doing that didn’t make me uber productive or put me on the productivity treadmill. It did, however, free up time for me to write, to read, to exercise, to learn, and to spend time with my family. I wasn’t rushing around trying to cram everything I wanted or needed to do into an evening. My stress levels dropped. I was, and still am, a lot happier.

Use Dead Time

Dead time is a short interval, or series of short intervals, during which you’re doing nothing. That interval can be a few minutes. It can be up to a half hour.

During the day, there are any number of opportunities to take advantage of dead time. While you’re waiting for the laundry to finish. While you’re doing the dishes. While you’re riding transit. During lunch at the office.

Take, for example, a friend of mine. Years ago, he started learning a foreign language. But he was having a hard time doing review. Until he twigged on to the dead time during his day. On his short commute to work and while doing dishes, he’d listen to tapes and practice vocabulary and building sentences. His abilities in the language gradually improved. Taking advantage of dead time contributed to that improvement.

Let’s say that you want to do a bit more exercise, especially on the days you don’t feel like going to the gym. Your average commercial break is enough time to knock off a set of push ups, a set of crunches, and a set of squats. Do that for the duration of an hour-long TV show and you’ll get a decent workout. It might not be intense, but it’s better than nothing.

Taking this route means that it will take you longer to reach your destination or goal than if you put in longer, regular periods of effort and work. Let’s be honest: you can’t always put in that concentrated effort. There are times when too much gets in the way.

Doing a little here and a little there adds up. It’ll help get you where you want to go faster than doing nothing.

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