Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Making Time

Status update: barely begun due to critical lack of free time. Lots of preparation, though, so this story should be fast. It also looks like it's going to be fun as hell to write, so I'm kinda chaffing at the bit. Caffeine supplies still plentiful and tasty.

One of the main objections that people often give to starting any habit that will require more than an hour or two of effort per month is that they lack time for it. Sometimes they'll even go out of their way to inform you of this fact. You tell them you're writing or you've taken up jogging or knitting and you'll get what's evidently a carefully rehearsed spiel about how their schedule is packed front to back from dawn to dusk, how they're already running themselves ragged. But they'd love to do it.

I call shenanigans on that. While, yes, there are days where you will get up and then be on the go from six to midnight, there's always room for something, if you make that something a priority. For example, between various social and work commitments, I usually have evenings spoken for. If I'm not very careful, I can go weeks on end without having an evening to myself. I have to put my foot down and reserve Wednesdays. In fact, I just flat out tell friends not to call or text me on Wednesday evenings because that evening is "Mike Time."

I also get up a couple hours before work every day and do plot work and revisions. The early morning hours are a nice quiet time when I can concentrate and it's kind of nice to roll into work with a few cups of coffee in me, already awake.

I eke out extra time by chiseling hours out of the weekend: mornings and occasionally afternoons. Sometimes I burn off personal time from work and spend that time catching up on reading and writing.

The point is, there are always bits and pieces of your schedule you can salvage to get something done if you keep your eyes open. A lot of times people get stuck in a routine. The natural human tendency is to get into comfortable ruts. You don't do it consciously, but your schedule is guaranteed to have a ton of "filler" in it. You get home, you eat supper, then you watch some TV. Before you know it, it's time to go to bed. Is that TV doing anything for you? Not really. You don't even interact with your friends and family much while watching it. Does it matter, really, if you chip an hour away from that and go for a walk instead? Nope. You probably wouldn't even miss it. I guarantee you 100% that one month from now you'd remember that walk or that chapter you wrote much more than the television show you would've watched instead.

There are tons of these little time traps hidden in your routine if you know how to look for them. Activities that only take up time while only delivering a very small pay-off of fun (and/or productivity). For me, it was surfing the internet and alcohol. I could probably spend hours not doing much of anything with either of those (hellooooo Facebook). And even a single beer seems to throw a monkey wrench into my evening. So I try to minimize them in favor of writing (or reading) instead. I'm happier in the long run when I have something concrete to show for my free time.

You would think that since there are only 168 hours per week that there's a limit to what you can accomplish, and yes, there definitely is, but that limit is much higher than what most people would think. You just have to prioritize. If you think you don't have enough time to do something cool, and it's something you really want to do, then there are always ways to make it happen.

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