Time Flies- How the hell do I get it all done?

It’s been almost three weeks since I published anything, reminding me that part of developing anything, including a calling, is the time and discipline to work towards what you are going for on a regular basis.

So- what does that look like exactly?

A prevalent line of thought in creative discipline is: if you really want something you must spend time every single day working towards that goal. You must find the motivation within yourself to create that discipline by sheer force of will. Or, if this is really your calling, you will magically find the time, energy and resources to create something- it will pass through you as if by magic. Like JK Rowling, barely scraping by financially, writing Harry Potter out long-hand in coffee shops, to become one of the world’s most beloved writers.

Yeah, no.

Right now I am visiting my sisters and their families. Between the two of them, there are a handful of children. They are amazing children, each one of them a light in my life. And yet, I watch my sisters, their spouses, and their schedules and I can’t imagine any of them squeezing fifteen minutes out of their day to deep dive into a creative activity towards a larger work.

So, if this is you, recognize: in the world we live in today, free time is often a privilege. Part of this is due to wage stagnation- so in order to survive, we are working more hours. At the same time, the cost of housing has gone up, especially in cities. So, free time is a luxury many of us don’t have.

If this is your reality, give yourself a break and stop listening to people who tell you “you don’t really want it, or you would find the time”.

You can make more money, but you cannot make more time.

So, how do you carve out a way to create the time that you need?

Start with small steps

Break down your goal into the smallest steps imaginable. And I mean TINY. And, if that seems too huge, don’t even do it all at once. Give it 10 minutes tops. Or just break down one of your goals.

Once when I was teaching swimming, I had a student who was struggling to learn how to dive. She was perfectly capable, but something wasn’t clicking for her. So we broke it up into steps:

  1. She sat on the edge of the pool with her feet in the gutter (it was like a step) and slid in. Something she had done a million times.
  2. Next she rocked from sitting to bringing her weight into her legs and jumped in.
  3. We added in the arms in the right position. She looked adorably ridiculous.
  4. We added more of a roll to get into a better position
  5. We added a push off to the roll into the water
  6. That push became a jump.
  7. Then she was diving.

Each of these steps is called an “approximation” in training. You can train yourself, your kids, or your pets to do any number of things if you break it up into tiny enough steps. Of course, it helps when you actually want to do the thing.

Do these seem like an enormous number of steps for a simple action? Probably. But once you get going, you will get through them faster than you think. And you will find as you learn you can set yourself up for more successes where once you only saw an abundance of steps.

So break it down. To the smallest steps possible. This list is for you and no one else. If that step is “touch my guitar” or “unroll my yoga mat” – that is a valid step even if the only thing you do is touch that guitar for two weeks straight. Eventually that will become a minute of practice, then five minutes, until you are rocking a half hour.

What can you outsource?

Okay, here is the part where the more money and privilege you have, the easier it is to figure this out. So if this is a stumbling block- take a deep breath. There are ways around this.

Look at your schedule. How much stuff are you doing that someone else could be doing for or with you for a faster go of it?

Things that help:

  • Auto bill pays
    • This is a huge timesaver if you can set it up right.
    • This requires multiple checking and savings accounts.
    • Use one account for your automatic deposit from your paycheck
    • Set up a checking account for your housing, transportation, food, phone, internet, utilities. You can combine them as you see fit, go with what makes sense to you.
    • Set up your accounts to automatically take your paycheck and divide it up to the various accounts you need to cover on a schedule that works for you.
    • Set up those accounts to automatically pay your bills on schedule. If I have to trigger it manually (rent) I like it in a separate checking account than auto payments like my cell phone and internet bill.
    • Check it every so often to make sure everything is running smoothly.
  • Laundry & Cleaning
    • If you are spending time on your cleaning, that you could be spending doing other stuff, ask yourself why.
      • How many people are in your household?
      • How many adults are capable and not doing their fair share?
        • If this is the case- let me remind you- your time to develop yourself is just as important as every other adult’s time in your household.
      • How many kids, and teenagers are not helping?
        • Side note- I’ve known three year olds who were trained to sort their laundry.
        • We have a ton of young adults who don’t know how to do basic cooking and house cleaning. The upfront time might be an investment, but in the long run, they need these skills when they live on their own.
    • A lecturer I listened to once got herself 30 outfits for 30 days because her grad school left her no time to breathe. She went to the laundromat once a month to have one full day where she studied while laundry was going. More expensive? Depends on your living situation. But she had a designated day where no one bothered her.
    • House cleaners. Seriously. If you can afford it.
    • Working from home- if your job allows it, having a day or two a week from home can open up your schedule. You have no commuting time, you don’t have to dress up, and you can often flex your work around your needs. This can free up a couple of hours per day plus gas money.

It is okay to get brutal with cutting or swapping things out. This is a dance of trial and error. It will never be perfect, so think of it as a percentage game. In fact, think of almost everything as a percentage game.

Now, take the steps you broke down and the swaps you just made in your schedule, and make a list. See which steps you can hit each week without making yourself nuts. (Remember, percentage game.) See what works, see what doesn’t. See what moves you closer to your goal, let yourself get rid of or push pause on the steps that don’t. Slow movement is just as valuable as deep fast changes here.

And of course, good luck! You’ve got this! Just take it one step at a time.

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