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The Trick to Time Management? Treat Your Passion Projects Seriously

The Trick to Time Management? Treat Your Passion Projects Seriously

You have a Pinterest board with about 80 things you’d like to attempt: oil painting, redecorating, a movie you’ve had in mind for years. Maybe you’ve got a business venture you’ve been casually pursuing, and the folder full of bookmarked links to prove it. Occasionally you add things to it, pinning inspiring quotes or color palates, but mostly it’s a daydream.

It seems we’re all over-scheduled and often left without the energy to pursue our passions. When we do score an extra 15 minutes or an hour in our days, many of us will spend them watching TV or catching up with a friend rather than pursuing a project. And that’s perfectly fine, but if you do want to find time in your day to pursue a passion project, you probably need to re-think not just how you plan your days but also how you think about your passion project.

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Start by trimming down the ol’ to-do list, editing it to include only what’s essential to your day. This will give you some extra time, but just making the time is not enough, you also have to be in the position to use that time on your project. In other words, it’s time management, not just time, that’s the key. For so many people, it’s much easier to spend extra time focused on the things we need to do, and quite difficult to give the same level of importance to the things we want to do.  However, by indulging in our aspirations, in conjunction with prioritizing our time, we can help ourselves to create better time-management habits overall, which will help us find time to do everything – including that which genuinely makes us happy.

Here are a few tips for doing just that:

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Set Reasonable Expectations

Be realistic about what it will take to accomplish your goals. If you only have about 15 minutes a day of free time, then adjust your goals and timeline accordingly. This might also require that you challenge some assumptions about what is needed for you to work on this passion project. Creatives, for example, can often be tricked into thinking that a 15-minute chunk of time is not enough to get anything done — they may believe they need to get into a creative mindset first, have relative quiet, and know that any flow they get into will not be interrupted. If this is an issue for you, think about ways to make that time work. Perhaps a one-minute meditation to get in the zone could help maximize your time, or perhaps it’s just a matter of practice. You may also need to adjust expectations: Maybe this passion project will take a year, or a few years, instead of a few months. So be it! Small, incremental accomplishments toward a larger goal are still better than doing nothing and wishing things were different. By valuing that precious 15 minutes a day, you’re also keeping yourself dedicated to a purposeful schedule that allows for free time – which will help you to not over-schedule yourself, in general.

Carve Out Time

If your to-do list is an immovable object and your passion project is an unstoppable force, then we’ve got ourselves a classic shield and spear paradox. For some people, their written-in-stone life cannot accommodate other ventures — this is often true for working mothers, who have immutable demands placed on their time, or for those whose income is directly tied to the precise amount of time they work. So, what’s the workaround for this scenario? If your life is such that you absolutely cannot substitute one task for another, or can’t cancel certain parts of your day to make room for a project, then steal a few minutes from every task on your list. Even if it’s as little as 5 minutes from each, it’ll add up. Glennon Doyle, a popular author and blogger, has said she started getting up two hours before her kids in order to give herself writing time … and in order to do that she had to do something parents of small children everywhere would find difficult: give up nighttime TV. No one said it would be easy, but if a project is important to you, creating the time for it is the first step toward making it real.

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Take It Seriously

Valuing a passion project means being consistent with all of your daily tasks and taking the project seriously enough to schedule daily time for it. If you treat these tasks as optional, the entire project will become optional. Making a to-do list can help with this; include your daily, weekly, and monthly goals. Create milestones that you can brag about. Post work-in-progress pictures to social media. Do whatever it takes to legitimize the experience for you, thus making you stay on track with all of your tasks, and propelling you forward.

Ultimately, making your dream come true is all about finding the time, managing the time, and making your goals a reality.

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Featured photo credit: monkeybusiness images (iStock) via istockphoto.com

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Matt Girvan

Founder, My Gung Ho

The Trick to Time Management? Treat Your Passion Projects Seriously

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The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

The Productivity Paradox: What Is It And How Can We Move Beyond It?

It’s a depressing adage we’ve all heard time and time again: An increase in technology does not necessarily translate to an increase in productivity.

Put another way by Robert Solow, a Nobel laureate in economics,

“You can see the computer age everywhere but in the productivity statistics.”

In other words, just because our computers are getting faster, that doesn’t mean that that we will have an equivalent leap in productivity. In fact, the opposite may be true!

New York Times writer Matt Richel wrote in an article for the paper back in 2008 that stated, “Statistical and anecdotal evidence mounts that the same technology tools that have led to improvements in productivity can be counterproductive if overused.”

There’s a strange paradox when it comes to productivity. Rather than an exponential curve, our productivity will eventually reach a plateau, even with advances in technology.

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So what does that mean for our personal levels of productivity? And what does this mean for our economy as a whole? Here’s what you should know about the productivity paradox, its causes, and what possible solutions we may have to combat it.

What is the productivity paradox?

There is a discrepancy between the investment in IT growth and the national level of productivity and productive output. The term “productivity paradox” became popularized after being used in the title of a 1993 paper by MIT’s Erik Brynjolfsson, a Professor of Management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, and the Director of the MIT Center for Digital Business.

In his paper, Brynjolfsson argued that while there doesn’t seem to be a direct, measurable correlation between improvements in IT and improvements in output, this might be more of a reflection on how productive output is measured and tracked.[1]

He wrote in his conclusion:

“Intangibles such as better responsiveness to customers and increased coordination with suppliers do not always increase the amount or even intrinsic quality of output, but they do help make sure it arrives at the right time, at the right place, with the right attributes for each customer.

Just as managers look beyond “productivity” for some of the benefits of IT, so must researchers be prepared to look beyond conventional productivity measurement techniques.”

How do we measure productivity anyway?

And this brings up a good point. How exactly is productivity measured?

In the case of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, productivity gain is measured as the percentage change in gross domestic product per hour of labor.

But other publications such as US Today, argue that this is not the best way to track productivity, and instead use something called Total Factor Productivity (TFP). According to US Today, TFP “examines revenue per employee after subtracting productivity improvements that result from increases in capital assets, under the assumption that an investment in modern plants, equipment and technology automatically improves productivity.”[2]

In other words, this method weighs productivity changes by how much improvement there is since the last time productivity stats were gathered.

But if we can’t even agree on the best way to track productivity, then how can we know for certain if we’ve entered the productivity paradox?

Possible causes of the productivity paradox

Brynjolfsson argued that there are four probable causes for the paradox:

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  • Mis-measurement – The gains are real but our current measures miss them.
  • Redistribution – There are private gains, but they come at the expense of other firms and individuals, leaving little net gain.
  • Time lags – The gains take a long time to show up.
  • Mismanagement – There are no gains because of the unusual difficulties in managing IT or information itself.

There seems to be some evidence to support the mis-measurement theory as shown above. Another promising candidate is the time lag, which is supported by the work of Paul David, an economist at Oxford University.

According to an article in The Economist, his research has shown that productivity growth did not accelerate until 40 years after the introduction of electric power in the early 1880s.[3] This was partly because it took until 1920 for at least half of American industrial machinery to be powered by electricity.”

Therefore, he argues, we won’t see major leaps in productivity until both the US and major global powers have all reached at least a 50% penetration rate for computer use. The US only hit that mark a decade ago, and many other countries are far behind that level of growth.

The paradox and the recession

The productivity paradox has another effect on the recession economy. According to Neil Irwin,[4]

“Sky-high productivity has meant that business output has barely declined, making it less necessary to hire back laid-off workers…businesses are producing only 3 percent fewer goods and services than they were at the end of 2007, yet Americans are working nearly 10 percent fewer hours because of a mix of layoffs and cutbacks in the workweek.”

This means that more and more companies are trying to do less with more, and that means squeezing two or three people’s worth of work from a single employee in some cases.

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According to Irwin, “workers, frightened for their job security, squeezed more productivity out of every hour [in 2010].”

Looking forward

A recent article on Slate puts it all into perspective with one succinct observation:

“Perhaps the Internet is just not as revolutionary as we think it is. Sure, people might derive endless pleasure from it—its tendency to improve people’s quality of life is undeniable. And sure, it might have revolutionized how we find, buy, and sell goods and services. But that still does not necessarily mean it is as transformative of an economy as, say, railroads were.”

Still, Brynjolfsson argues that mismeasurement of productivity can really skew the results of people studying the paradox, perhaps more than any other factor.

“Because you and I stopped buying CDs, the music industry has shrunk, according to revenues and GDP. But we’re not listening to less music. There’s more music consumed than before.

On paper, the way GDP is calculated, the music industry is disappearing, but in reality it’s not disappearing. It is disappearing in revenue. It is not disappearing in terms of what you should care about, which is music.”

Perhaps the paradox isn’t a death sentence for our productivity after all. Only time (and perhaps improved measuring techniques) will tell.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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