Probably the single biggest obstacle to making projects is the simple excuse of not having enough time. "How do you expect me to make projects? I don’t even have time to do all the stuff that I HAVE to get done."
It’s true. That’s one way to look at it. Life gets in the way. Work. Family. Errands. Emergencies. Chores. Someone has to change the litter, make dinner, go to the store to pick up milk. You’ve got to bring home the bacon, and you’ve got to fry it up in the pan. Then you have to wash the dishes, and make sandwiches for the next day at lunch, and deal with the complaints about BLT sandwiches, again.
But just like you get all that stuff done — the way you’re able to hold down your job and run the household and remember birthdays and plan vacations and call about the newspaper that keeps not getting delivered and bring in your computer to get fixed and get the car an oil change on schedule — you can make time to start and complete projects.
If you really want to.
So that’s some simple advice to say that it can happen. Easier said than done, you say? It always is. Here then, are some basic, practical ways to make time for projects-making.
Turn off the television. This is the biggest time magnet of all. You flip it on in the morning to check out the weather, or the traffic, or just to have a little background noise. You turn it on while you cook, or maybe while you eat dinner. You want to catch the news. There’s a new show you’ve been wanting to check out, or you have to see the show you’ve been a fan of for years. Then there’s the news at 11, and then Nightline or Leno or Letterman. Is turning off the television the last thing you do before turning out the light and hitting the sack? Hour upon hour, every darn day, your television is burning up your spare moments. Turn it off and keep it off. You just bought yourself some serious project time.
Get rid of cable. That way, even if you do turn on the television — admittedly, we all need a little down time in front of the boob tube — there aren’t so many options to suck us in and keep us clicking on the remote. It just makes it easier to shut if off if there are only a few channels to choose from, instead of all those endless choices that cable offers.
Limit the time you surf the web. I’m all for checking out cool websites. But one click leads to another, and another, and so on and so forth, and when you finally look up from the computer screen, several hours have passed you right on by.
Stop wasting time reading those silly celebrity and fashion magazines. PR spin, paparazzi shots and gossip collide in an attempt, I think, to instill the idea that our own normal lives are simply inadequate. Total BS. Do we really need to know the sordid and/or PR-cleansed details about Britney and Ben and Christina and whoever happens to be the reigning throwaway king and queen of the reality television this particular week? No, we don’t. It’s that simple.
Schedule in time for projects. Sometimes it’s as easy as taking a look at the schedule book and marking off time for your project. Just like at the office, when you schedule meetings or training sessions or block off time to complete a major report, if you fill in open slots with your project in mind, you will instill a regimented sensibility into your project-making routine.
Incorporate projects into other things that have to get done. Instead of just sitting there reading a magazine while you do the laundry at the laundry mat, use that time to make a project. Or, instead of just making dinner and serving it up, start documenting the process with your camera, or collecting the recipes you use in a booklet, with stories about what happens during the meals at your kitchen table, a sort of culinary diary.
Prioritize project-making just like you prioritize the fact that you have to eat. Don’t simply relegate project making to the status of a recreational activity you partake in when all of your other tasks have been completed — after the dishes are done, the car is washed, the lawn mowed, all the phone calls returned, and the burned out bulb in the garage is changed… As you can see, the list of things that need to get done never, ever ends. So fit project-making in there, somewhere. There is time for projects, if you make a point of making the time.
Wake up an hour earlier than you normally do, and work on your projects then. Being productive from the moment you roll out of bed is a great way to start out the day.
Use your lunch break at work for project-making. This is either a good solid hour or half-hour to do as you please. Instead of surfing the web or reading the paper or your book, or going and spending money that you don’t have on $10 lunches with co-workers that you don’t particularly like that much anyway, use this time to work on your project.
Do your project on company-time. Why the heck not? Sneak in some time while you’re on the clock. Do you know how many novels, screenplays, plays and more have been written on the job? This is an old tradition. The main issue here is not to get caught. Don’t miss deadlines. Get your "work" work done, of course. But factor in some time here and there to work on your project. You’d be surprised how much time there really is in an 8-hour work day to find time for yourself if you plan things out and work efficiently.
Involve your kids. Surely between work and managing the household, keeping the kids fed, safe, clean, and occupied is where all your time is spent. So create projects in which they are either the subject, helping you out, or collaborating with you.
Incorporate your schoolwork into the projects. Create projects that are simply extensions of the various homework assignments you have to complete — term papers or research, books that you have to read, words or history lessons that you have to memorize. Building personal projects around school work doesn’t just allow you to make projects, but might make doing the homework seem a bit less painful.
Change one habit that eats up a consistent amount of your time on a regular basis. Stop watching a soap, waking up late, surfing the web for nothing in particular, renting a movie every single night of the week, staying up just to watch the sport recaps of games for which you already know the final score. By taking this one habit out of the equation, you can open up your schedule for more inspiring, productive project-making time.
Instead of talking and talking and talking about your project idea, just get to work. Procrastination is a huge time magnet, and it sucks up a lot of energy. It also breeds negativity, and lets your mind wander into the mine field of dangerous rationales for avoiding the project, such as finding all kinds of excuses as to why you can’t get started, or all the materials that you’re lacking and don’t have access to, or the fear that you won’t do a good job. Just shut up and get to work. The momentum you create just by getting started will move you up and over the challenges that you might be confronted with as you make your project.
Here’s a project: make a list of all the stuff you always have to get done, and how long it takes you to do it all. Document your time. Not just your work schedule, or your monthly calendar, but how you spend your minutes during the day. How long does all this stuff really take? How much time do you spend spinning your own wheels, either sorting out what to do next, worrying about what’s not getting done, or fretting that you don’t have enough time to make anything happen? Write it all down. Next, write down all the things you want to do: All the things you feel you never have enough time to actually get started on and fully sink yourself into. Once it’s all written out, spend some time thinking about how you can strike a better balance between the items on the two lists. Be sure to make the things you want to do a part of what has to get done.
See also the Not-To-Do List.
"Making Time For Project-Making" is an excerpt from the 52 Projects book.