The most frequent question I’m asked is, how do I manage my time? My most common and likely annoying reply to hear is, you are as busy as you allow yourself to be. You need to prioritize the things you need to make time for, and inversely, only the things you make time for are you actually making a priority. This post is going to be brief and touch on two things: habit and mindset.
For me, some aspects of my day never change. I make time to run every morning, I eat meals at around the same times of the day every day, and I go to sleep/wake up at the same times every day.
The very first step to making time is to understand what time cannot be renegotiated and is already occupied. For everyone, with no exception, you have to account for sleeping and eating. Outside of these necessities, there are other parts of the day you can easily block out. Perhaps it’s a job, school, or some kind of daily errand.
While it may not seem like it, these are top priority because you’re consistently doing them without realizing that they’re actually a priority. Sleeping and eating are priorities by survival. The key to prioritizing other things is to obtain this same level of prioritization—one of passiveness or even survival.
To follow along an example, my priorities by default are sleeping and eating. On top of those, I prioritize running. These three things I generalize as health. By consciously prioritizing my health, I’m constructing a limited time frame to do other things. I’m naturally breaking up my day, and in a way, creating mini deadlines. I only have so much time to work each day, so this forces efficiency.
If you’re feeling like you’re lacking focus, motivation, or discipline, the best thing you can do is develop a habit of exercise.
By adopting the habit of exercising, you will, in turn, force yourself into a sleep routine and begin to time box the rest of your day. Not to mention the importance of daily exercise, especially for creatives. Adopting the habit of exercise is also valuable for the sake that it’ll make you more conscious of your sleep. This is the start to naturally reformating your day and how you prioritize tasks and goals.
To reiterate, you make time for the things that you prioritize. Some may argue that they’re perhaps prioritizing too many things. My counter-argument would be that to over prioritize is to not prioritize at all. The point of prioritizing is to intently and deliberately focus on a few things, not many. The other problem is, how do you even prioritize something?
The reality of prioritizing something is abstract and thus difficult. We often make commitments and try to stick to them, but as many of us know, it can be easy to compromise on your commitments. Outside of the tangible advice of developing habits, on a psychological level, I believe it takes a shift in mindset.
I don’t look at my priorities as commitments. The things I prioritize, I visual are already done (even though they aren’t). Meaning, I don’t think of certain tasks as something I need to complete, but rather, they’re something that will and is thus already complete.
The things I prioritize aren’t necessarily things I feel committed to, they’re a part of me. That’s a very important distinction. A commitment is a labor, but when something is a part of you, it’s integral to you as an individual.
When people ask me, “how do you get up and run every morning?” My reply is always, “it’s just what I do.” Because the act of running isn’t a task to me, it is something I’ve adopted as a part of me—a part of my identity.
The same goes with this newsletter and my writing. How have I been able to consistently put out newsletters for the past 79 weeks? It’s not a laborious task or a vexatious burden—I’ve made it an integral part of who I am.
I spoke very little of habits because it’s a large issue to properly address, but I can assure you that merely developing the habit of exercising regularly will drastically change how you manage your time. Furthermore, it’s much more important to understand yourself first which is why I talked about changing your mindset. It’s integral to recognize the flaws in your current mindset so you can then consciously alter it.
You are as busy as you allow yourself to be, and the things you make time for reveal what you truly prioritize. If you’re wanting to make time for something, whether that be a simple task or a major goal, start by writing it down and then make it an integral part of who you are. I will run for the rest of my life, and I will write for the rest of my life, not because they come easy to me, but because I’m making them a part of my identity. And don’t forget—exercise!