Often we find ourselves with some great ideas we’d like to try out, but we can’t seem to get the time to work on them. At work, there’s always another deadline looming, so getting your manager to allocate you some time for your idea is tough. At home there’s a million things pulling your time one way or another (binge watching another season on Netflix sure seems tempting). So what’s the secret to finding a bit of extra time to get sh%t done? Set some time for yourself!
Ever noticed that at certain times during the day you’re not super productive? Perhaps it’s the first half hour after you sit down at the office. Maybe it’s the hour after lunch when you’re body is screaming at you to sleep those two pizzas you ate off. It could even be that last hour before you head to bed where you mindlessly browse the internet for any new cat videos. These are the small windows of time that you should start setting your sights on.
The idea is to identify a block of time during your average day that you’re currently not making the most use of. To start off easy, pick a small block of around 15 minutes. You’ll want to experiment a bit to find which part of the day works best for you; morning, lunch time, afternoon, evening, whatever time you feel like you’d be awake enough to get sh%t done!
The block of time for me varies week by week, but I often find the first 15 minutes of my day to be quite productive. I’ve usually got the feeling of immortality as caffeine begins to pump through my veins and the feeling of power as all my motivation is sitting there at the ready. Getting something that I value done first thing in the morning is also a nice way to boost my motivation for the rest of the day.
If you’re not careful, that beautiful 15 minute block of time you chose will fly past and you won’t have gotten anything done. To counter this, you need to do a bit of planning.
Now don’t get too scared off by the word “planning”. What I’m talking about here is figuring out what tangible thing you can do inside that block of time. If you wanted to learn to code, that could simply be working through a “learn to code” course for 15 minutes. If you wanted to write a book, you could realise it’s a fools errand and instead resort to writing blog articles for 15 minutes each day. Focus on figuring out what you can actually do with that 15 minutes each day; you don’t want to spend all those blocks of time stuck thinking how to spend them!
In some cases, having a more concrete plan will help. This could be along the lines of “add a fancy feature to my app”. If this is the case, try to look at what you want to do and chunk it in to pieces of work that fit your time window. Ideally, you’ll ‘deliver’ something after each window, be it a class of code (with tests!), or a button on a screen. By working in this fashion, you’ll be building on your successes every day, and there are few things more motivating than that!
It’s quite likely that you’ll find out that the “ideal” block of time you’ve carved out for yourself isn’t so ideal. It could be that your cat chooses that time to drop it’s business off each morning. Or perhaps that cute sleeping child of yours has read this article and decided to make their very own 15 minutes of “look at me!” time. Don’t let this disparage you! Chances are there are several points throughout your day that you can squeeze 15 minutes out of, so just move on to another one. Eventually you’ll land on a time of day that works well for you (at least for the near term) and you can get back to business.
You’ll also likely find that different tasks are better suited to different points in your day. Working on my fitness goals usually works out most effectively during lunch time, but trying out a new software library (looking at you AppMetrics!) works best first thing in the morning. Don’t try to cram an afternoon activity in to your morning if you don’t need to, you’ll likely feel less motivated to do it and won’t get the best return on investment from your time.
And that’s it, it really is that simple. Pick a time, figure out what you want to do, and go do it. If you are able to stick with this for a couple of weeks, you’ll be well on your way to getting to where you want to be!