How To Make Time For What Matters.

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If you’re like most people with a demanding job, then you’ve probably found yourself working more hours than you’d like.

It’s not like you don’t enjoy working, but some days you just wish you had a bit more time. Time to pursue what your heart calls for.

For how cheesy that may sound, there is probably some activity that immediately comes to mind. Something you’ve been avoiding.

Whether that’s painting in nature, writing, traveling the world, or just getting lost in a nice book, most likely than not, you probably haven’t been able to dedicate the time you’d like to it.

The most common excuse, which is reasonable, don't get me wrong, is somewhere along the lines of:

“I’d like to do it, but after I come home from work I have no energy left. I need to rest to be fresh the next day.”

While this is reasonable, it doesn’t make the situation any better.

The True Risk Of Delaying

Before I get into the specifics of how to attack the issue, I feel it is crucial to understand what’s at stake here. Because while it may seem trivial at first glance, the more you avoid these “passions”, the more you’ll find yourself devoid of meaning.

Sure, just one day doesn’t really make a difference in how your general experience of life goes. You still have tomorrow to get started, right?

Of course. For now.

If you resonate at all with the title of the article, then my guess is that you’ve delayed more than once. Maybe for a week, maybe a month, and most likely, unfortunately, you’ve been delaying your whole life.

Always promising yourself that tomorrow is the day, only to be left disappointed when the motivation isn’t there in the morning,

It’s something that makes us feel quite powerless, in despair even. To see success in our career but not being able to apply the same discipline when we are exclusively accountable to ourselves.

I don’t think words can describe the feeling of emptiness and lack of fulfillment that arises when we fail to give our best effort to these ventures that our hearts are calling for.

To add insult to injury, deep down you know that if things keep going like this, then one day, you won’t be able to delay anymore. You’ll be too old, too tired, and too close to your final breath to get your body to respond to what your brain is asking.

How do you think you’ll feel then? To have lived your whole life waiting for the moment you’d be stronger than your habit of delaying, knowing full well that the moment never came?

Regret, resentment, emptiness, anger, pain?

Whatever it is, my guess is that it’s a reality too hard to imagine. However, a likely one if you keep following the same course of action.

The Time Will Never Be Right

I’m sorry to break it to you but the stars will never align.

There won’t be a moment when all of a sudden you have less work to do, more energy, and increased focus. Even if for some reason that moment came, do you think you would have the right habits in place to actually pursue this calling, or do you think you’d just have more time to procrastinate?

My guess would be the latter one, not because I have something against you, but because those who successfully pursued their passions never waited for the right moment.

For example, take a look at the story of Sylvester Stallone. A man with a dream of starring in his own movie who decided that the right time is when you make it to be.

He relentlessly pitched his idea to studios only to get an endless stream of rejections. Despite it, he kept going.

At some point he was so poor he had to sell his dog to buy food. Now, would you say that he should have quit? That the time just wasn’t right?

Absolutely. But Stallone didn’t allow that to get in the way of his dream. He kept pushing, kept improving, and eventually, “Rocky” got made with him in the main role.

(Sidenote: Before, you start fuming that selling his dog was inhumane and despicable, I get it. This is not to prove that you should do “whatever it takes” to win, but instead, to show that people in a worse position then you were able to overcome it. If it makes things any better, Sylvester Stallone ended up buying the dog once he got some money in his pocket.)

Now, do you know what happened to those who waited for the perfect time? For everything to be in the right place to get started?

They’re still waiting.

If you find yourself in a similar position, this doesn’t mean you have to quit your job tomorrow and pursue your passion full-time, as a matter of fact, I wouldn’t advise it to anyone.

A much better option is to start right now, with what you have. Slow and steady.

However, to get started there are some things you probably have to fix first, namely, lack of time and energy.

That being said, let’s start with…

#1: Time

If you have a demanding job this will be one of the most common justifications as to why you aren’t getting anything done.

You may justify that whatever time you have when you get home from work is for you to rest for the next day.

While I’m a big fan of resting, my guess is that what you’re calling “rest time” could more accurately be described as “entertainment time”. Netflix, Instagram, youtube, and pornhub aren’t giving any peace to your brain.

They feel good, no doubt about it, but they’re not resting.

They cause big dopamine spikes over a short period of time, which makes your brain crave these highs more and more. This tends to lead to not only a mind unable to quiet down and properly go to sleep but also, something you may have experienced, it leads to delaying sleep time for more entertainment.

This, in turn, is experienced as tiredness and mental fogginess the next day. A never-ending cycle of time/energy wasting.

So the first step in taking your time back is to identify where you are investing it when you aren’t at work.

To guide you, use the structure below:

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Once you fill it, you’ll have a much clearer idea of where all the time in your day is actually going towards.

That’s just the start though because what you do with that information is what actually matters.

The activities you’ve identified as “time-wasters” are where you’re going to be looking to take control. To get started, find the one that takes the most of your time, usually the one you do so as soon as you get home, and circle it red.

This is the one you’re going to replace with whatever it is that you want to do.

That’s it. Sounds doable right?

“But how do I actually avoid these temptations? Is that the only advice you have, to replace it?” — I can imagine you questioning furiously if I left it at that.

If that was it you would have solved it already.

The truth is, most of the time, the reason you indulge in these things is that you’re so tired after work that you have no effort left to give.

So, yes. You have to replace these habits, but if you don’t feel the energy and clarity to do them, you’ll always fall prey to instant gratification.

That being said, energy alone won’t do it. The problem with habits is that the more you do them, the more likely you are to keep doing them. Whether they’re good or bad.

So don’t expect to remove your procrastination habits in a week if you’ve been keeping consistent with them for the past 5 years.

The same goes for the new habits you’re trying to set. If you haven’t been consistent with them for quite some time, don’t expect it all to be solved right away.

Sorry to disappoint you, but to go into detail on how to properly change these habits would be an article of its own. Because of that, let’s focus first on how to get in the best state to get started.

Energy

Or more specifically, how do we achieve the state of clarity and energy we need, to at the very least, be able to start overcoming these impulses.

Surprisingly enough, it’s much simpler than you would first think. Simple. but not easy. At all.

Because contrary to popular belief, that states that something is missing, consequentially implying that the solution relies upon finding the missing piece, it is much more beneficial to find out what is holding you back, focusing first on removing it before starting to add up on top of a shaky foundation.

For now, I’m going to focus on 2 crucial aspects that are sure to bring you a giant boost in focus and clarity if you solve them, those being:

#1 — Morning Routine

While it’s no secret that mourning routines are rising in popularity, as is evident by the increasing amount of content on the subject, it feels to me that the actual importance of having one gets lost in the details.

When you look past the novelty of it, you really start to understand why most highly successful people have one.

For starters, if your morning is one that benefits you(with mindful practices), such as meditation, reading, journaling, etc, it will act as a refuge of peace and calm that is always there for you.

Regardless of whatever chaos is tormenting your life, by having this moment where you embrace what is, not what you’d hope to be, you’re allowing yourself to slow down from the daily chaos, bring yourself to the moment, and most importantly, bringing yourself toa state where you’re not looking for constant stimulus.

The more you maintain consistency with this practice, the easier it becomes to access this state, which, in turn, makes it much easier to focus on what’s in front of you.

Of course, this all sounds lovely in theory.

Because what happens when you wake up feeling like a grenade exploded inside your head? All of a sudden Instagram becomes much more appealing than 10 minutes of meditation. And if the habit isn’t there yet, you aren't going to meditate.

That being said, in my opinion, it becomes a priority to focus on what happens before you go to sleep, instead of what happens after you wake up.

Think about it, if you properly finish your day, ensuring you are getting the most you can out of your rest time, you are ensuring your mornings go as well as they can.

Thus, we must first identify how we can end the day properly and get the rest we so much need after a day of hard work.

Night Routine

I’m not going to pretend as if I’m a sleep expert, at all. However, I’m going to borrow the research of those who are to guide you in the best direction possible.

For starters, according to research, you should be turning off your electronics ideally, 90 minutes before you go to bed. This is due to the fact that all the screens you’re staring at emit what is called “blue light”.

This is the same type of light that you get from daylight, which is good during the day, as Nick Littlehales puts it “It sets the body clock, presses melatonin, and improves alertness and performance. Once it’s dark, however, these are all undesirable qualities.”, “…it will lead to(…) junk sleep — disrupted and diminished sleep as our lifestyles and gadgets inhibit the production of melatonin and push our body clocks later.”

Since your electronics are going to be turned off, you’ll feel the need to engage your brain in some way. Obviously you’re not going to be staring at the wall for 90 minutes. What you want to do instead is to engage in activities that are going to slow you down and get you in the mood for sleeping.

The one I prefer is reading a non-fiction book. I find it best to avoid fiction because if it’s a good book you won’t want to put it down and go to sleep.

To make the transition from working/entertainment to rest time, I suggest a quick meditation session to allow your brain to reset and avoid the impulses of email and social media.

That’s it.

If you manage to stick to it, you’ll see a drastic increase in the quality of your sleep, which in turn will make your mornings much easier.

Once you have this on lock, you can proceed to focus on your morning routine and getting consistent with that.

What you’ll progressively notice is that energy will start to rise, focus as well, and on top of it all, you’ll be in a much better state to starting to replace the time-wasting habits for the ones that allow you to pursue your passions.

Want more?

If you’d like to know more about how you can actually implement these night and morning routines, without falling prey to procrastination, then stay tuned for next Monday.

I’m releasing an article on how to implement good habits and get rid of bad ones, without the usual frustration of succumbing to our emotions.

Subscribe here to get noticed when it comes out.

Written by

Stoicism & Philosophy | Building @pathsofmeaning

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