Notice the title of this post is not “Making Time for the Things You Love”.
You can’t make time. Nobody can; it’s the one truly egalitarian resource, where everyone gets the same amount and uses it in the same way.
Which means, when I say to myself I don’t have the time to do… and I insert any of my neglected hobbies/skillsets in there, it’s true, but not in the sense that I have any less time than the people who do practice those hobbies.
No, I don’t have the time because I’ve misplaced it.
And what I need to do is find it.
The Simplest Hardest Things
There are a lot of strategies people use for finding time that they’ve lost. You could “just” get up earlier — which works great for some people, and for others (such as the parents of infants) seems like the most ridiculous idea ever in an existence where even a five minute nap (or an uninterrupted trip to the bathroom) seems like a luxury.
Another is scheduling. Personally I’ve found this pretty effective in the short term; I put together a “zero-based calendar” which simply means I schedule every hour of the day, including blocks for “read” or “exercise”. I don’t have to find time, I know exactly where it is! The only problem is that a zero-based calendar doesn’t really have any slack, so when you have the unexpected errand or delay it tends to throw everything off.
One of the big truisms of personal development is: If you need more time, stop watching TV. Of all the ways to find time, that should be the one that’s easiest, right? Just don’t turn it on. That’s too hard? Hide the remote. That’s too hard? Hide the power cord. Or hey, get rid of your TV!
Wait a moment. That seems…draconian for something as simple as “stop watching TV.” Yet many people have done it, or advocate it. Why would it take such a drastic step to reclaim your time (thank you, Rep. Waters)?
The answer is simple to state and hard to solve: it’s not just time that you need.
The Energy Trap
Many times I get to the end of my day — when I normally end up watching TV — and I realize that now is the time. Now is the time to fire up Duolingo and learn Spanish, or open my sketchbook and grab my pencils, or fire up xCode and build that iPhone app, or finally learn to play the blues on my guitar.
There’s only one problem: I’m tired.
Sure, all those things are things I’d like to do…but by the end of the day, the thought of doing them after all the other tasks and problems I’ve dealt with is exhausting. And that makes sense; an active life is tiring.
It’s easier to scroll through Facebook than play with Duolingo. It’s easier to binge on a TV series than it is to practice guitar. It’s easier to play a video game than to — no, actually I take that back. I find video games at the end of the day very tiring as well.
As it turns out, finding where I’ve misplaced my time is easy. What’s hard is finding my energy there as well. We’ll talk about strategies and tactics for doing that in another post, but meanwhile this post (like pretty much all of them I write) is simply a reminder to my overachieving workaholic self:
It’s not that you don’t love those things. You’re not letting them down. It’s ok to be tired, and it’s ok to not do the things. Rest.