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The Trick to Time Management? Treat Your Passion Projects Seriously

The Trick to Time Management? Treat Your Passion Projects Seriously
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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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Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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