Whatever your life looks like right now, I suspect that you wish you had a bit more time to pursue the things that really matter to you.
Maybe you want to write a novel, or travel around the world, or switch to a new career, or get fit and healthy … whatever your dreams are, they’re important. The trouble is, it’s so hard to find the time to actually work towards them.
Here are seven ways to make the time for your dreams. Even if you only try one or two of these, you’ll find that you’re making progress. And the more progress you make, the easier it’ll be to continue.
#1: Set Yourself a Minimum Target
It’s easy to slip into an all-or-nothing mindset when you’re working on big goals. If you’re on a diet, for instance, you might give up entirely after one bad day. If you’re trying to write a book, you might think that you have to have two hours free before you can sit down to work on it.
Instead of setting yourself challenging targets (and beating yourself up for failing to reach them), try setting a minimum target. That might look like:
- Eating a healthy breakfast every day
- Writing for 15 minutes every day
- Removing five items of clutter from your house each day
- Exercising for ten minutes every day
Whenever you reach your minimum target, put an X on the calendar. Your aim is to create a whole string of Xs.
(Your minimum target doesn’t have to be daily, but if you can manage that, it’s a great way to build up momentum.)
#2: Cut Down Your Commitments
Do you feel as though you can never quite catch up with all the things that you need to get done? Maybe you’ve got a tendency to jump at every shiny new idea that comes along (I know I do!) or you hate to say “no” to anyone.
If your commitments are stopping you from having time for your dreams, look at ways to cut down. That might mean:
- Stepping down from a voluntary position (even if you need to give a few months’ notice)
- Asking family members to take on more chores
- Delegating some of your tasks at work, so you can go home on time
Once you’ve managed to get rid of some commitments, don’t immediately sign up for more. Practise saying “no” … or if that’s too tough, tell people that now isn’t a good time, but they’re welcome to ask you again in a few months.
#3: Beat Procrastination
Hopefully, your dreams inspire you; they help give your life meaning, and you feel motivated to reach towards them.
At the same time, your dreams might seem intimidating. Perhaps you’ve got a very long way to go before you reach your goal, or you face a lot of hard work in the process … and it’s easy to fall into a pattern of procrastination.
If you constantly find yourself making excuses for not doing anything towards your dreams, procrastination is to blame. Maybe you really want to lose some weight … but you always put off starting your diet until Monday, or after a friend’s birthday party, or after your vacation. Maybe you really want to write a book … but every evening, you end up watching TV for three hours and writing precisely nothing.
To get on top of procrastination, try one of these tips:
- Tell yourself “I’ll just do five minutes.” I find this works brilliantly for both exercise and writing! Once you get going, you’ll almost certainly be able to do more.
- Write a clear list of next steps towards your goal. It’s easy to procrastinate when things are unclear.
- Make a commitment to someone else. Arrange to work out with your sister, or tell all your friends on Facebook that you’re going to declutter one room this weekend.
#4: Improve Your Finances
Whatever your dreams are, a stronger financial situation will help you reach them faster. If you’ve got plenty of money in the bank, you’re in a great position to:
- Cut down your hours slightly at work, so you have more time for your dreams
- Buy tools, equipment, or supplies that you might need
- Attend conferences or courses that will help you towards your goal
You’re also likely to feel more secure and motivated. Ideally, you’ll want to work towards having an emergency fund; several months of living expenses in the bank. If your dream involves switching careers, travelling for an extended period, or working for yourself, then a financial safety net makes it much easier to take the plunge.
#5: Plan Ahead
Although it would be nice if hours of free time would magically appear from nowhere, that rarely happens! If you want time to work on your dreams, you need to plan ahead.
Take out your diary and look at the next few weeks. You might have a lot on during the next few days … but by looking further ahead, you can carve out some time. Put appointments with yourself into your diary, and honor them. Aim for:
- One full weekend in the next six months (perhaps for a creative retreat or a vacation that ties into your goal)
- One Saturday or Sunday in the next two months
- One full afternoon in the next month
- Two hours in the next week
(If you can find more time, go for it … these are minimums to get you moving.)
You might want to look around for events, group meetups, conferences, and so on that fit in with your dream. If you’ve got a specific event in your diary (especially if you’ve paid for it) then you’re even more likely to stick to what you’ve planned.
Whatever your dreams are, they matter, and they’re worth spending time on. If you’ve got a great tip to add, or if you’d like to share your goals and your next steps with us, just leave a comment below.
Photo credit: ‘Bench on Green Grass‘ from Big Stock
How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.