We all want to do things we aren’t doing. Some of us want to go to the gym. Some of us want to learn Spanish. Some of us want to crochet more.
Whatever it is, everyone’s excuse is usually the same: I just don’t have the time.
You wake up, take a shower, and head to work.
You get back at 6pm, eat some dinner, and watch a little TV to decompress.
You chat with your significant other, play with your kid (if you have one), and then you’re tired. Maybe you read a little bit to slow your brain down, and by then you’re ready to go to bed again.
There’s just no time, you keep telling yourself.
Not true: there is time—you just have to make it.
Today I’m going to share the method that allowed me to write ~900 blog posts (many of which helped me get a new job), a bunch of short stories, and the time to learn some HTML and CSS.
It all starts with finding the time.
Finding the Time
Pretend you’re at work and you need to have a meeting with your boss. What do you do? You find open time on both your calendar and you schedule it.
Same thing here. Take a look at your daily calendar and see where you can steal some time.
For me (and for a lot of people), the early-morning hours are the best time. I like to write, and I have a hard time being productive after a long day. My brain is like a computer: the longer I have it on, the weirder it starts to behave.
I wake up an hour and 15 minutes before I have to wake up. Why? Because I have the house all to myself, no interruptions, and that’s exactly what I need when it comes to writing. It’s easier said than done, but that’s where the next step comes into play.
Have a Treat
OK, sorry for talking to you like a toddler, but when it comes to motivating ourselves, a treat is a powerful thing.
Because at 5:30am when it’s still dark outside and you really don’t want to get up, a treat will do the trick.
This is where you need to personalize things a bit and add your own style to the mix.
I get the coffee pot ready the night before and it automatically starts brewing at 5:20. So by 5:30 I have a hot, steaming pot of tasty coffee waiting for me. I might be laying in bed under the covers, but I can’t wait to get up and get me some tasty coffee.
I used to have a coffee pot that would start beeping loudly after 20 minutes if didn’t get up to turn it off—talk about a powerful motivator. No way I was going to let this machine wake my wife and daughter up at 5:20am.
Without the coffee, I’m not sure I’m able to make this a regular routine.
And if I was, I’d be real bitter about it.
Maybe you don’t drink coffee, so you’ll do tea. Maybe that’s not enough. Chocolate? Cereal? SOMETHING. Find something that you can look forward to in the morning that isn’t going to kill you because whatever it is, it’s likely going to become part of your routine, and that means you’ll be doing it automatically at some point.
For those of you that want to work out, you may not want coffee or food first, but maybe you can save it for afterwards for your treat.
Plan for it
Don’t just set the alarm and then go “I’m ready for tomorrow.” If that’s your plan, you suck at planning and you’re going to fail.
You need to do a lot of the heavy lifting the day before. Have your workstation ready and waiting for you. Have your gym clothes laid out on the floor (outside your room, so you have to get up). Sharpen your crochet needs (or whatever you do to prepare to crochet).
Make it so after you get that treat at 5:30am you just have to sit down and get to work.
If it’s something creative, settle on what you’re going to work on the night before so your brain can think about it overnight. If you have to sit there and think of what you’re going to paint or write or whatever, you’ll lose interest fast and wind up checking your email for an hour and 15 minutes, which isn’t helpful.
Grit it Out for 7 Days
There’s no way to sugar coat it: the first few days you do this won’t be easy. Your body will be off, your mind will be exhausted, and you’ll be wondering why the hell you listened to this guy with 17 Rs in his last name.
So just commit to 7 days for now. Come hell or high water, just push through. Keep going. Stick to it. If you can’t do 7 days out of sheer will, then you suck and probably have no friends.
Sorry, but it’s true.
And while sheer grit is great, it’s not sustainable. In a perfect world, sheer grit gets you through seven days and then the routine takes over.
But between the treat and the satisfaction of your work, it might still not be enough. So you also need to tell people that you’re doing this.
Friends, family, strangers, your Twitter followers—everyone.
A little external pressure to keep you honest. Tell everyone you’re trying to lose 10 pounds. Trying to write a novel. Trying to learn to code. Trying to learn how to speak Mandarin.
It’s a great way to stay in touch with people, but it’s also a great way to keep you honest.
When I lay out my clothes the night before and my wife sees me doing it, it sets a precedent. If I wake up and I’m exhausted and just don’t want to do it, I know I’ll hear from her about it.
“So what happened?”
That’s just one more little bit of motivation to go through with the original plan.
Unless it rains. Then I’m screwed.
Power of Routine
I’m not saying this will work for everyone, but it has worked for me. It started in 2007 and now my body and mind is used to it. Which is great because regardlesss of what I want to do, I know i have a solid hour and change to work on it every single day. I don’t even need an alarm clock anymore, my body just wakes up and is like, “Where’s my treat, yo?”
And you know what I do?
I drag my ass to the coffee pot, pour some into my mug, head to the desk and start writing.
Good luck and get to work.