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10 Ways to Find Time to Follow Your Dreams

10 Ways to Find Time to Follow Your Dreams

10 Ways to Find Time to Follow Your Dreams

    What would you do with an extra half-hour a day? Is there a “One Day Novel” in you (as in, “one day I’ll write a novel”)? Have you been thinking of learning a new skill but don’t know how to free up the time? Or would you just spend a few extra minutes with your family, really sharing?

    No matter how busy we are, most of use can free up a half-hour a day. We may have to make sacrifices, but they’re not big sacrifices – a TV show, the freedom of driving your own car, the freshest possible food every night, stuff like that.

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    A half-hour doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up – even if we just count weekdays, that 250 half-hours a year, or 125 hours. That’d over five days of free time a year, straight through, or three-plus full-time working weeks. What could you get done if you could take three weeks off and work 8 hours a day on your own projects?

    Here are ten ways to “rescue” a half-hour a day (at least). Not all of them will be feasible for everyone, or have the same return, but at least one of them should be what it takes to give yourself a little extra time.

    1. Cut out a TV show every day.

    Eliminate TV altogether if you can – I promise you won’t miss it – but I know some people need that bit of mindless entertainment at night, and it might be the only time you can get your kids to sit still with the rest of the family. Fair enough, but surely you can cut out at least one show. Whatever filler is on between your comedy and your crime procedural, for instance.

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    2. Ditch your car.

    The average commute in the US is something like 25 minutes. If you carpool or take public transportation, you gain an average of 50 minutes each day (maybe every other day or two out of every three days if you have a driving turn in your carpool). You lose some time for “overhead” – finding a place on the bus, changing trains, exchanging pleasantries with your carpool partners – but you should be able to squeeze 15 minutes of productive time each way out of your commute. Get a PDA or smartphone and you can be writing, doing research, or filling out spreadsheets on the go.

    (Personal note: I worked full-time all the way through graduate school, and wrote dozens of papers on a Palm Pilot hanging from a strap on the NYC subway. I deeply miss that hour-and-a-half of productive time now that I live too far out from town to make public transportation an option.)

    3. Wake up earlier.

    Getting up at 6 instead of 6:30 (or whenever) can give you a good half-hour of quiet time before your day gets going – perfect for writing or working on other personal projects. The idea here is not to sleep less, though – you’ll pay a cost in lost productivity as your lost sleep adds up, and be back where you started. Instead, cut the last half-hour of TV or whatever else you do at night and shift that time to the morning, when everyone’s still asleep, there’s nothing tempting on TV, and you can start the day with a half-hour well-spent behind you.

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    4. Batch chores.

    Instead of responding to household clutter as it arises, let a little clutter build up and take care of it all in one fall swoop every few days or on the weekend. This will be especially painful if you’re a particularly committed neat freak, but the daily cleaning never gets done, and in the end, you’re not going to regret not picking up the kids toys nearly as much as you’ll regret not having written a few more pages or not having spent more time on your studies.

    5. Go to your kids’ practices.

    Instead of dropping the kids off at soccer, karate, or gymnastics, driving home, and driving back an hour later, find a nearby place (the bleachers, a coffee shop, even your car) to sit and work. Get a small laptop or PDA, or carry a notepad with you. You’ll save the drive time and the slack time in between where, let’s face it, you were just going to clean house or watch TV.

    6. Cook in advance.

    Just like you can batch housecleaning to save time throughout the week, you can batch your cooking and save 20 minutes or so of meal preparation each night. Cook large quantities of food on Sundays and freeze them, or cook food whose leftovers can provide several nights meals. For example, I make a big pot of chili that will last two nights and leave enough leftover for chili dogs the 3rd night.

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    7. Reclaim your lunch break.

    Bring your own lunches to work, find a quiet place, and eat and work during your lunch break. Make it something with little preparation – a sandwich, chips, celery or carrot sticks, or similar foods are great. You’ll save the time of walking or driving somewhere, ordering, and walking back – and you’ll eat more nutritiously and save money to boot.

    8. Have a YOYO night.

    Another way to save time on food preparation is not to prepare food. This won’t gain you time every day, but can gain you an evening for yourself. Instead of cooking and sitting down for family dinner, make one night a week for “You’re On Your Own” (YOYO). Kids and spouses make their own dinner (using leftovers or food chosen in advance – obviously you need older kids for this to work) and entertain themselves while mom or dad gets to work undisturbed. Don’t do this every night, though, or your kids will forget who you are and will be frightened if they ever accidentally meet you in the hallway!

    9. Use slack time.

    Set yourself up to make use of those little scraps of time that come along when you’re not expecting them – standing in lines, waiting for a meeting to start, while on hold with your power company, whenever. It might only be 5 minutes here, 8 minutes there, but it adds up.

    10. Shop with a list during non-peak times.

    Grocery shopping after work can easily suck up an hour-and-a-half as you fight through crowded aisles and wait in interminable lines to check out. Make up a good, solid list that’s organized according to the aisles in your grocery store, and go early in the morning on the weekend or late at night when the store is empty. You’ll walk in, walk up and down empty aisles, hitting each aisle only once, and waltz through the checkout. I can do the same shopping trip on Sunday morning at 9 am in 45 minutes that takes me over 90 minutes on a weekday evening. And having a good list with everything you need for the week – make sure you plan out your menues! – minimizes those “short” trips to the store throughout the week to pick up a gallon of milk, an extra loaf of bread, or whatever else you ran out of. We all know that a “short” trip is at least a half-hour!

    You’ll need a little bit of discipline to make any of these tips work, or the time you save will just get filled with something else. Just keep telling yourself that what you’re giving up isn’t nearly as important as what you’re gaining – the time to move yourself closer to the fulfillment of your dreams!

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

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

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

    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

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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