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Finding Time

Finding Time

A frequently asked question about my productivity is, “How do you find the time to do all that?” I often joke that I don’t sleep (and well, I don’t really sleep enough), but the truth of the matter is that I’ve spent a lot of time really examining the way I spend my time, and I’ve made decisions based on what I’ve decided mattered to me. Let’s talk about it, and see if any of this resonates with you.

Passion versus Hobbies– Do you have a lot of hobbies? Lots of folks that I know in the GTD/productivity world seem to be early adopters, engaged learners, and tryer-outers of all things new and interesting. If you regularly subscribe to Lifehack.org , Lifehacker.com, MAKE Magazine, 43 Folders, and a good dozen other sites, there are LOTS of opportunities presented to you to try new things, explore ideas, grow new hobbies.

But how many of these new hobbies are passions? How many of your attempts to get things done end up becoming new multi-hour projects that aren’t directly related to that thing you’re doing? It becomes a game of sharpening your saw for the eventual chopping down of the tree, but with no main event.

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Are these hobbies detracting from your true work? Are they getting in the way of your passion? Is the relentless pursuit of following these trends, tips, reminders, howtos, and other interesting things a series of “shiny object” moments keeping you from your main events?

Distractions count as friction on your life.

Television Excuses– People get really itchy when I tell them I don’t watch television. I’m not snobby and snide about it. I just choose not to watch TV. I do, however, watch DVDs and I even catch up on TV series in chunks, thanks to Netflix. And people make fascinating excuses for the amount of television they watch. It’s perfectly okay if you watch television, but you can’t then wonder why I’m churning out twelve posts a day, drawing, recording podcasts, and doing all the things I want to do, and how come you can’t. Isn’t it obvious? Consumption of content is in direct disparity to CREATING content.

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If you want to do more with your time, then choose to do so. Choose to cut things from your time that don’t bring you the same return and value. Oh, and here’s one for me to think about along with you: the internet and using a computer are often only marginally more “valid” than watching the average fluff television program.

Eliminate Distractions– I’m a very big fan of the first Matrix movie, and I like to use it to illustrate points often. The scene where Morpheus and Neo (whoa!) are walking down the busy street in the Matrix and Neo’s getting slammed into by folks is a great way to illustration distractions. There are lots of these at your job. There are even more outside of work. Everywhere you go, there are chances to be very distracted, and these distractions count as FRICTION on your life.

Learning to see what parts of your job are distractions is a great way to deal with time starvation. Are you putting FAR TOO MUCH detail into your emails, your status reports, the communication around what it is you do? I had a friend that used three fonts and four colors in his weekly status report to the boss. I used plain text. He used four paragraphs per project. I used two lines. Yes, occasionally, I had to clarify something I’d sent, but that was the exception.

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Where are the other places where you’re putting in too much for too little back? Because every one of those effort points is time you can reclaim for your life.

Time/Money Balance– I pay six dollars a week for someone to deliver my groceries for me. This saves me one hour of effort, whatever gas it takes to get back and forth to the store, and keeps me very attentive to what I spend and how. I’m looking into paying someone to help with the housework, because I loathe cleaning the house, and because I want to use that time for creative pursuits that are more useful to me.

The seesaw is simple: If you don’t have money, you make up for it with time. If you don’t have time, you make up for it with money. It’s up to you to choose which you have, where you need time, and go from there. For instance, if you book flights several weeks in advance, it cuts the cost. If you return your books and DVDs on time, you avoid fees. But, if you pay someone to do your laundry, it might free you to do something that’s worth more than the few dollars you save expending the time it’d take to do that chore.

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Summary– It’s your life, and you can make your own choices, but you will only have one life. If you are spending yours wondering why everyone else is doing interesting work while you can’t find the time, you might want to review. If you’re happy, it’s a great thing. Be happy. Happy certainly trumps most advice anyone can give, right? Here’s the summary:

  • Try trimming hobbies to make room for passion.
  • Television is a condiment, not a meal. Use it that way.
  • Trim distractions and excess from your day.
  • Spend money over time, if you need more time.

The broad goal of everything I say to you is this: examine your life, the way you’re engaging in it, and determine if you’re walking straight towards the goals you’d like to accomplish, or if these things I’ve mentioned aren’t pushing you off into the brambles that crowd either side of the road. We’re here to help. Ask us anything.

–Chris Brogan finds time to write about creativity and self-improvement at [chrisbrogan.com]. He generates content at Grasshopper Factory.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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