A frequently asked question about my productivity is, “How do you find the time to do all that?” I often joke that I don’t sleep (and well, I don’t really sleep enough), but the truth of the matter is that I’ve spent a lot of time really examining the way I spend my time, and I’ve made decisions based on what I’ve decided mattered to me. Let’s talk about it, and see if any of this resonates with you.

Passion versus Hobbies- Do you have a lot of hobbies? Lots of folks that I know in the GTD/productivity world seem to be early adopters, engaged learners, and tryer-outers of all things new and interesting. If you regularly subscribe to Lifehack.org , Lifehacker.com, MAKE Magazine, 43 Folders, and a good dozen other sites, there are LOTS of opportunities presented to you to try new things, explore ideas, grow new hobbies.

But how many of these new hobbies are passions? How many of your attempts to get things done end up becoming new multi-hour projects that aren’t directly related to that thing you’re doing? It becomes a game of sharpening your saw for the eventual chopping down of the tree, but with no main event.

Are these hobbies detracting from your true work? Are they getting in the way of your passion? Is the relentless pursuit of following these trends, tips, reminders, howtos, and other interesting things a series of “shiny object” moments keeping you from your main events?

Distractions count as friction on your life.

Television Excuses- People get really itchy when I tell them I don’t watch television. I’m not snobby and snide about it. I just choose not to watch TV. I do, however, watch DVDs and I even catch up on TV series in chunks, thanks to Netflix. And people make fascinating excuses for the amount of television they watch. It’s perfectly okay if you watch television, but you can’t then wonder why I’m churning out twelve posts a day, drawing, recording podcasts, and doing all the things I want to do, and how come you can’t. Isn’t it obvious? Consumption of content is in direct disparity to CREATING content.

If you want to do more with your time, then choose to do so. Choose to cut things from your time that don’t bring you the same return and value. Oh, and here’s one for me to think about along with you: the internet and using a computer are often only marginally more “valid” than watching the average fluff television program.

Eliminate Distractions- I’m a very big fan of the first Matrix movie, and I like to use it to illustrate points often. The scene where Morpheus and Neo (whoa!) are walking down the busy street in the Matrix and Neo’s getting slammed into by folks is a great way to illustration distractions. There are lots of these at your job. There are even more outside of work. Everywhere you go, there are chances to be very distracted, and these distractions count as FRICTION on your life.

Learning to see what parts of your job are distractions is a great way to deal with time starvation. Are you putting FAR TOO MUCH detail into your emails, your status reports, the communication around what it is you do? I had a friend that used three fonts and four colors in his weekly status report to the boss. I used plain text. He used four paragraphs per project. I used two lines. Yes, occasionally, I had to clarify something I’d sent, but that was the exception.

Where are the other places where you’re putting in too much for too little back? Because every one of those effort points is time you can reclaim for your life.

Time/Money Balance- I pay six dollars a week for someone to deliver my groceries for me. This saves me one hour of effort, whatever gas it takes to get back and forth to the store, and keeps me very attentive to what I spend and how. I’m looking into paying someone to help with the housework, because I loathe cleaning the house, and because I want to use that time for creative pursuits that are more useful to me.

The seesaw is simple: If you don’t have money, you make up for it with time. If you don’t have time, you make up for it with money. It’s up to you to choose which you have, where you need time, and go from there. For instance, if you book flights several weeks in advance, it cuts the cost. If you return your books and DVDs on time, you avoid fees. But, if you pay someone to do your laundry, it might free you to do something that’s worth more than the few dollars you save expending the time it’d take to do that chore.

Summary- It’s your life, and you can make your own choices, but you will only have one life. If you are spending yours wondering why everyone else is doing interesting work while you can’t find the time, you might want to review. If you’re happy, it’s a great thing. Be happy. Happy certainly trumps most advice anyone can give, right? Here’s the summary:

  • Try trimming hobbies to make room for passion.
  • Television is a condiment, not a meal. Use it that way.
  • Trim distractions and excess from your day.
  • Spend money over time, if you need more time.

The broad goal of everything I say to you is this: examine your life, the way you’re engaging in it, and determine if you’re walking straight towards the goals you’d like to accomplish, or if these things I’ve mentioned aren’t pushing you off into the brambles that crowd either side of the road. We’re here to help. Ask us anything.

–Chris Brogan finds time to write about creativity and self-improvement at [chrisbrogan.com]. He generates content at Grasshopper Factory.

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