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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

More by this author

Matt Girvan

Founder, My Gung Ho

The Trick to Time Management? Treat Your Passion Projects Seriously

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Last Updated on September 20, 2018

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

8 Ways to Train Your Brain to Learn Faster and Remember More

You go to the gym to train your muscles. You run outside or go for hikes to train your endurance. Or, maybe you do neither of those, but still wish you exercised more.

Well, here is how to train one of the most important parts of your body: your brain.

When you train your brain, you will:

  • Avoid embarrassing situations. You remember his face, but what was his name?
  • Be a faster learner in all sorts of different skills. No problem for you to pick up a new language or new management skill.
  • Avoid diseases that hit as you get older. Alzheimer’s will not be affecting you.

So how to train your brain and improve your cognitive skills?

1. Work your memory

Twyla Tharp, a NYC-based renowned choreographer has come up with the following memory workout:

When she watches one of her performances, she tries to remember the first twelve to fourteen corrections she wants to discuss with her cast without writing them down.

If you think this is anything less than a feat, then think again. In her book The Creative Habit she says that most people cannot remember more than three.

The practice of both remembering events or things and then discussing them with others has actually been supported by brain fitness studies.

Memory activities that engage all levels of brain operation—receiving, remembering and thinking—help to improve the function of the brain.

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Now, you may not have dancers to correct, but you may be required to give feedback on a presentation, or your friends may ask you what interesting things you saw at the museum. These are great opportunities to practically train your brain by flexing your memory muscles.

What is the simplest way to help yourself remember what you see? Repetition.

For example, say you just met someone new:

“Hi, my name is George”

Don’t just respond with, “Nice to meet you”. Instead, say, “Nice to meet you George.”

Got it? Good.

2. Do something different repeatedly

By actually doing something new over and over again, your brain wires new pathways that help you do this new thing better and faster.

Think back to when you were three years old. You surely were strong enough to hold a knife and a fork just fine. Yet, when you were eating all by yourself, you were creating a mess.

It was not a matter of strength, you see. It was a matter of cultivating more and better neural pathways that would help you eat by yourself just like an adult does.

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And guess what? With enough repetition you made that happen!

But how does this apply to your life right now?

Say you are a procrastinator. The more you don’t procrastinate, the more you teach your brain not to wait for the last minute to make things happen.

Now, you might be thinking “Duh, if only not procrastinating could be that easy!”

Well, it can be. By doing something really small, that you wouldn’t normally do, but is in the direction of getting that task done, you will start creating those new precious neural pathways.

So if you have been postponing organizing your desk, just take one paper and put in its right place. Or, you can go even smaller. Look at one piece of paper and decide where to put it: Trash? Right cabinet? Another room? Give it to someone?

You don’t actually need to clean up that paper; you only need to decide what you need to do with it.

That’s how small you can start. And yet, those neural pathways are still being built. Gradually, you will transform yourself from a procrastinator to an in-the-moment action taker.

3. Learn something new

It might sound obvious, but the more you use your brain, the better its going to perform for you.

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For example, learning a new instrument improves your skill of translating something you see (sheet music) to something you actually do (playing the instrument).

Learning a new language exposes your brain to a different way of thinking, a different way of expressing yourself.

You can even literally take it a step further, and learn how to dance. Studies indicate that learning to dance helps seniors avoid Alzheimer’s. Not bad, huh?

4. Follow a brain training program

The Internet world can help you improve your brain function while lazily sitting on your couch. A clinically proven program like BrainHQ can help you improve your memory, or think faster, by just following their brain training exercises.

5. Work your body

You knew this one was coming didn’t you? Yes indeed, exercise does not just work your body; it also improves the fitness of your brain.

Even briefly exercising for 20 minutes facilitates information processing and memory functions. But it’s not just that–exercise actually helps your brain create those new neural connections faster. You will learn faster, your alertness level will increase, and you get all that by moving your body.

Now, if you are not already a regular exerciser, and already feel guilty that you are not helping your brain by exercising more, try a brain training exercise program like Exercise Bliss.

Remember, just like we discussed in #2, by training your brain to do something new repeatedly, you are actually changing yourself permanently.

6. Spend time with your loved ones

If you want optimal cognitive abilities, then you’ve got to have meaningful relationships in your life.  Talking with others and engaging with your loved ones helps you think more clearly, and it can also lift your mood.

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If you are an extrovert, this holds even more weight for you. At a class at Stanford University, I learned that extroverts actually use talking to other people as a way to understand and process their own thoughts.

I remember that the teacher told us that after a personality test said she was an extrovert, she was surprised. She had always thought of herself as an introvert. But then, she realized how much talking to others helped her frame her own thoughts, so she accepted her new-found status as an extrovert.

7. Avoid crossword puzzles

Many of us, when we think of brain fitness, think of crossword puzzles. And it’s true–crossword puzzles do improve our fluency, yet studies show they are not enough by themselves.

Are they fun? Yes. Do they sharpen your brain? Not really.

Of course, if you are doing this for fun, then by all means go ahead. If you are doing it for brain fitness, then you might want to choose another activity

8. Eat right – and make sure dark chocolate is included

Foods like fish, fruits, and vegetables help your brain perform optimally. Yet, you might not know that dark chocolate gives your brain a good boost as well.

When you eat chocolate, your brain produces dopamine. And dopamine helps you learn faster and remember better. Not to mention, chocolate contains flavonols, antioxidants, which also improve your brain functions.

So next time you have something difficult to do, make sure you grab a bite or two of dark chocolate!

The bottom line

Now that you know how to train your brain, it’s actually time to start doing.

Don’t just consume this content and then go on with your life as if nothing has changed. Put this knowledge into action and become smarter than ever!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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