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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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Last Updated on March 23, 2021

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

Manage Your Energy so You Can Manage Your Time

One of the greatest ironies of this age is that while various gadgets like smartphones and netbooks allow you to multitask, it seems that you never manage to get things done. You are caught in the busyness trap. There’s just too much work to do in one day that sometimes you end up exhausted with half-finished tasks.

The problem lies in how to keep our energy level high to ensure that you finish at least one of your most important tasks for the day. There’s just not enough hours in a day and it’s not possible to be productive the whole time.

You need more than time management. You need energy management

1. Dispel the idea that you need to be a “morning person” to be productive

How many times have you heard (or read) this advice – wake up early so that you can do all the tasks at hand. There’s nothing wrong with that advice. It’s actually reeks of good common sense – start early, finish early. The thing is that technique alone won’t work with everyone. Especially not with people who are not morning larks.

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I should know because I was once deluded with the idea that I will be more productive if I get out of bed by 6 a.m. Like most of you Lifehackers, I’m always on the lookout for productivity hacks because I have a lot of things in my plate. I’m working full time as an editor for a news agency, while at the same time tending to my side business as a content marketing strategist. I’m also a travel blogger and oh yeah, I forgot, I also have a life.

I read a lot of productivity books and blogs looking for ways to make the most of my 24 hours. Most stories on productivity stress waking up early. So I did – and I was a major failure in that department – both in waking up early and finishing early.

2. Determine your “peak hours”

Energy management begins with looking for your most productive hours in a day. Getting attuned to your body clock won’t happen instantly but there’s a way around it.

Monitor your working habits for one week and list down the time when you managed to do the most work. Take note also of what you feel during those hours – do you feel energized or lethargic? Monitor this and you will find a pattern later on.

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My experiment with being a morning lark proved that ignoring my body clock and just doing it by disciplining myself to wake up before 8 a.m. will push me to be more productive. I thought that by writing blog posts and other reports in the morning that I would be finished by noon and use my lunch break for a quick gym session. That never happened. I was sleepy, distracted and couldn’t write jack before 10 a.m.

In fact that was one experiment that I shouldn’t have tried because I should know better. After all, I’ve been writing for a living for the last 15 years, and I have observed time and again that I write more –and better – in the afternoon and in evenings after supper. I’m a night owl. I might as well, accept it and work around it.

Just recently, I was so fired up by a certain idea that – even if I’m back home tired from work – I took out my netbook, wrote and published a 600-word blog post by 11 p.m. This is a bit extreme and one of my rare outbursts of energy, but it works for me.

3. Block those high-energy hours

Once you have a sense of that high-energy time, you can then mold your schedule so that your other less important tasks will be scheduled either before or after this designated productive time.

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Block them out in your calendar and use the high-energy hours for your high priority tasks – especially those that require more of your mental energy and focus. You also need to use these hours to any task that will bring you closer to you life’s goal.

If you are a morning person, you might want to schedule most business meetings before lunch time as it’s important to keep your mind sharp and focused. But nothing is set in stone. Sometimes you have to sacrifice those productive hours to attend to other personal stuff – like if you or your family members are sick or if you have to attend your son’s graduation.

That said, just remember to keep those productive times on your calendar. You may allow for some exemptions but stick to that schedule as much as possible.

There’s no right or wrong way of using this energy management technique because everything depends on your own personal circumstances. What you need to remember is that you have to accept what works for you – and not what other productivity gurus say you should do.

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Understanding your own body clock is the key to time management. Without it, you end up exhausted chasing a never-ending cycle of tasks and frustrations.

Featured photo credit: Collin Hardy via unsplash.com

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