A few years back, I believed that I lacked the time to work on the things I cared about.
Do you have the same feeling of not having enough time in the day? “Damn, if I had free hours, I would work on ….. for sure,” you say as you slap your fist against your palm.
But is that really true? What about the time you spent making your Instagram more famous or checking out what your friends were up? How about the video on Youtube you laughed heartily at? Was the chit chat in the WhatsApp group necessary?
So, do you really have no time to spare or are you lying to yourself?
Many people have a misconception that their schedule is packed and they cannot fit in anything more into their day. If you take a second look at your day to day life, you will realize that you can make time if you want to and long-term increase your sense of purpose and achieve success in doing what you want to do.
Here are 10 reasons why you do not find time for things that matter
1. You approach your day as it comes
If I asked you in the morning, “what are the important things you want to work on today?”, will you have a clear answer? Most people don’t.
If you approach your day as it comes, you will leak time one way or the other. Having a to-do list does not suffice because a to-do list grows in size over time.
Before you start your day, you must be clear about the top 3-5 things you will work on which help your long term goals. If you don’t, random tasks will take over your schedule. Before you realize what’s going on, the end of the day will arrive.
When the same routine persists, you enter a never-ending cycle of bumping from one task to another which does not help you achieve your real goals.
2. You work on urgent tasks
Stephen Covey put together how our tasks fall under urgent and important sections. If you do not control your day, you will inevitably work on urgent and important tasks first.
When you receive an email or a call, it seems urgent. No matter what you’re doing, you give in and attend the immediate noise. The problem is, such tasks never end. One after another, they consume your time little by little, until you have no more left.
Unfortunately, the long term goals which matter to you fall under the section of important but not urgent. If you do not force yourself to work on these, you will not find spare time for them at the end of the day.
You only have 24 hours in a day. Only if you set aside time for the tasks which help you in the long run, you will make progress towards them.
3. You work on tasks you shouldn’t
Look back at your day and ask yourself if you should spend time on all the tasks that you do? I can bet you will find many which you do out of routine or for no clear reason.
For example, when I started this blog, I tried to tap into various channels that could help bring users on the website. I was spending time as a daily routine on different platforms. Many of these did not help a tad bit in bringing in users.
Over time, I shifted my focus on areas that were helping my blog grow and stopped spending energy on the rest.
You will encounter many such cases in your life too, especially if you work as a full-time employee.
What about the report you send every day? Does any value or action come out of it? Do the calls you make help anyone?
Look closely and you can identify what sucks your time into thin air without your knowledge.
4. Your emails are always open
I had the habit of checking my emails as soon as the notification popped up in the corner of my screen. I always assumed that I have to keep checking my emails. I would pull my hair thinking,
- What if I receive an urgent email?
- The other person will be waiting for my reply
- I won’t be up to date if I do not check my inbox
All of these assumptions are false. When I closed my mailbox and my notifications, nothing broke. By checking my emails only a few times in a day I could focus more and work on the things that mattered.
Unless you work at a job that involves monitoring a system that can go wrong anytime, you do not have to check your emails as soon as they show up. Checking them once every 4 hours will not cause all hell to break loose.
Don’t believe me? Try it for one day and find out for yourself.
5. You do not know where you leak time
I used to complain that I did not have enough hours in the day. Little did I know that my minor habits were the reason why I had no time.
I would check my phone every now and then, read group messages, scroll through social media feed, watch YouTube videos and whatnot.
If you do the same while you are working, you cannot complain about not having time. Such activities seem small on the surface but eat your time away to glory.
Let us do some math. Assume you check your phone 10 times an hour. In today’s world, that’s quite common. You need about a min to check the phone. You spend another minute on the thought which lingers from what you read on the phone. Finally, you need another min to refocus on the original task.
Total that up. You end up wasting 30 mins every hour. That’s 50% of your hour gone down the drain.
If you do not put your phone away while you work, you will leak time one way or the other. The same applies to reading the news, chatting and gossiping.
You can take up this activity to identify the places where you waste time. The 2 days spent self introspecting yourself will be well worth it.
6. You multitask
During my first business venture, I was working on all kinds of tasks throughout the day. I would write code, co-ordinate projects, talk to clients, manage accounts and whatnot. I would pat myself on the back because I was doing many different things.
I was wrong.
The world has the wrong notion that working on many things in a day is the ideal way to spend the day. But the more things you work on, the more diluted your focus gets.
Human beings by nature cannot multitask as per science. Only a small population of 2% have the ability to do multiple things at the same time. The funny part however is, the rest assume they are a part of the 2%, while the people who have the ability to multitask are not aware of their abilities.
You will deliver superior results by channeling all your energy towards a few major tasks than trying to get everything done.
7. You do not work in time blocks
I had a habit of working long hours. If I started with a task, I would go on with it until I wanted to. I wanted to finish it off even if it was not a priority.
For example, I have tried to fix minor bugs in the code for a whole day when I had other things to do.
Human beings have a natural tendency to spend time on a task longer than expected even if another needs your attention. Especially if the other task isn’t urgent, procrastinating becomes an automatic choice.
For example, your long term goal of starting your venture does not seem urgent. Therefore, if you start a routine task at your job today, you will keep going at it. You could use that time to work on your long term goals, but you shake your head instead.
Set aside time to work on things that matter. Breaking your day into time blocks is the most effective way of balancing long terms goals and daily activities.
If you want more about how to squeeze more in one day, read our post about Pomodoro Technique which already helped millions to boost their productivity.
8. You accept all meetings/invitations and hang out with people who pull you down
It’s nice to be social, but sometime it’s just not worth that. Better invest your time in practicing what you love, than on chats which don’t bring you anything, and sometimes even drain you from energy.
Whenever a meeting notification popped up on my screen corner, I would go ahead and accept it. Once accepted, I would check when and what the meeting was about.
The same applied to invites from friends for parties. Call my name and I would show up with a case of beer and wafers.
Today, my approach is the opposite. The mindset I start with now is to decline a meeting or an invitation. Only if I feel it is a good use of my time do I say yes.
Most meetings yield no results. People set them up because everyone else does. Meetings have become a medium for people to showcase that they’re doing work.
The recurring meetings which occur every day or week are bigger culprits where a 10 min conversation gets dragged all the way to an entire hour wasting the time of all the attendees. No wonder people yawn, start typing and opening their phone during meetings.
you decline 2 meetings a day because you know they’re useless, boom, you just
made 1 hour to work on your goals. Sure, you will feel uncomfortable declining
meetings at first but with time, you will do so with pleasure.
You are said to be the average of the 5 people you hang out with most often.
If the people you meet everyday believe that working on your long term goals isn’t feasible, they will convince you too. They do not have any bad intentions but they truly believe going after their dreams is only for the extraordinary people.
The truth is the reverse. The successful people start as ordinary people who make the time and put in the effort to get things going.
If you hang out with people who complain each day, so will you. If you hang out with people who believe massive goals are out of their reach, so will you. If you hang out with people who enjoy gossiping and chatting during their free time, so will you.
Consider the other side. If everyone in your group works out, so will you. If everyone in your group spends time learning and reading, so will you. If everyone in your group is aiming for goals as high as the stars, so will you.
Sometimes the negative people in your life are your best friends. You do not have to cut ties with them completely, but try to mingle with successful people more often. You will change for good.
9. You do not say no
During my first business venture, we were building websites and web applications for clients. Our plan was to build our own product as soon as possible using the profits we make.
But every time a new client or a request came in, I went after it. I just could not say no. I kept pushing our actual goal time and again for a couple of years.
You must have heard the saying, “if you buy things you don’t need, soon you will have to sell the things you need.” Similarly, if you do not say no to the things you shouldn’t work on, you will end saying no to things you care about.
Decline those meetings. Say no to some projects. Reject some opportunities.
Will you miss out on some chances by saying no? Yes, you will. But if you chase too many things you will end up with nothing. Keep your eye on your target and make regular progress.
No matter who you are, no matter what you do, you can still sneak in more time in your day if you want to. The only way you can take the first step is by admitting that you are wasting time in some shape or form.
I have met enough people who shoot down the idea the minute they hear it. “You don’t know my schedule”, is the most common justification to not try. Hell, I was also the guy who thought so.
Today, even after tweaking my schedule to make more time, I am well aware that I still have more gaps that I can fill. I haven’t managed to optimize my schedule to the brim yet, but I keep trying all the time.
When you make more time, you can spend that on your loved ones, your dreams or for yourself.
The question is not if you can make more time, the question is, will you?