On “Finding Time”

I hated school as a kid, but learning was always a big part of my life. It wasn’t uncommon to see me with my nose in a book soaking up whatever esoteric thing I could find that day. (Seriously, I read a book on the pasteurization process in middle school. I’ve never lived on a farm but I can tell you a lot about milk.)

As an adult, I’ve found that my time gets split amongst various things like work, hobbies, and random adulting tasks such as fighting with Comcast. The result of this is that I don’t have enough time to read books and learn new things like I used to. Or at least, that’s the excuse I make for not doing the things I desire to do.

You see, I do have enough time. The issue is not that time is finite, the issue is that I prioritize other things over these goals. It’s not that I don’t want to learn new things or that the things I spend my time on are a waste of time, it’s just that I spend a lot of time on things that don’t move the needle towards my goals.

An example of this is that I “don’t have enough time” to keep my apartment spotless. It’s a goal of mine that I regularly fail at achieving. I travel a lot for work and I’m only home for 3-4 days at a time. As I’m unpacking from the last trip and re-packing for my next one, I tornado through my apartment and leave a path of unorganized destruction in my wake. As I write this, there’s an unopened box from Amazon in my living room that contains a paper shredder I ordered 6 months ago. I just “haven’t had time” to open it and start shredding papers.

Lies. All lies. I could have tackled the stack of papers 6 months ago, but I chose to go out with friends instead. I could have shredded those papers 3 months ago, but I chose to wrap up some last minute work projects. I could have shredded those papers last weekend, but I chose to fold laundry and organize my closet. That weekend I chose to binge watch Orange is the New Black again? I definitely could have taken care of those papers while that was playing in the background. None of these choices are wrong, and I’d argue that it’s important to find time to unwind and relax, but none of these choices resulted in my apartment becoming less cluttered. Organizing my closet actually made a larger mess. As I decided to do these other things, I didn’t even realize I was prioritizing them or making a choice — it just happened on its own as if I were on autopilot. The stack of papers never entered my mind as something to do instead of these other things.

How we spend our time is a choice that we make every day, but we often don’t realize we have a say in the matter. Every time something “comes up” we’re making a decision to tackle whatever it is that came up. There’s nothing wrong with these choices — you spend your time how you want to, and that’s your business. However, you should become aware of these choices and evaluate whether these choices are the best for you and your goals.

Once we start to focus on the things we spend our time on rather than the things themselves, we can start to manage our time a bit better. Suddenly, we “find time” to accomplish the things we want to accomplish. We can stop feeling like we’re spinning our wheels on all of these projects and ideas and start moving the needle in the right direction. We can start to feel like we’re getting something done.

Just as we budget our money every month (we do do that, right?), we should focus on budgeting our time. Allocate time to the things that REALLY matter (which includes leisure activities, by the way) and stop allocating time to things that don’t matter as much. For 2017, my challenge to you is to start recognizing how you spend your time and start spending time on the things that are important to you. Whether that’s family, learning new things, writing a book, or watching the entirety of the Netflix catalogue, you can always find time for your goals.