Data suggests that American workers toil the most hours in all of the industrial world, while a recent survey said that 58 percent of Americans would pay $2,700 cash just for one extra hour a day. Just one. Another recent poll found that almost one-fifth of Americans would gladly take a 20 percent pay cut for 20 percent less working time, which roughly translates to a 3-day weekend.
While there’s no doubt that many of us are over-worked, “busy” is also a mindset. It can often be an excuse— and the catch-all word given when our mind is overwhelmed with ideas or worries. It doesn’t necessarily mean we are actually swamped with work, family stuff, or errands—it’s a way of conveying that we’re mentally and emotionally preoccupied and just feeling bogged down by life.
The problem is that we don’t really understand where all our time goes—time flies when you’re having fun, or not.
“We can’t make more time, but it will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put in it. The biggest challenge in finding extra time is deciding that you do have time to do what you want! Once you believe that, it’s just a matter of logistics,” she says.
Vanderkam recommends that it could be very revealing to make an inventory of how you use those 168 hours in a week. If you can manage to keep track of your work time and free time for a whole week (not an easy task, let me tell you), you may be shocked to find that you waste hours doing stuff you don’t really care about—or doing nothing at all. Those are the moments you can reclaim to work on your meaningful projects.
You’ll end up having to rethink your daily and weekly routines, Vanderkam points out, once you figure out how many hours you need each day or week to work on your extra project. “Look for what plans you can cancel or rearrange, look for gaps where you can squeeze in an hour or even 30 minutes of work,” she adds.
But Vanderkam also has other ideas on how you can take back the time that’s rightfully yours:
Shift Your Priorities
“Prioritizing is key when you have lots of things going on. I recommend taking a bit of time on Friday afternoons and making a three-category priority list for the next week: career, relationships, self.”
“Using all three categories reminds you that there should be something in all three categories! Just put two to three top things in each. Then look at the whole of the next 168 hours, and figure out where they should go. If you’re creative, the time will be there.”
Focus on One Project at a Time
You may be really excited about a dozen projects and want to work on all of them at the same time, but that’s the exact way to get none of them done.
If you have a dozen, try to get only one done each month, and in just a year, you will have accomplished all of them. What a great year that would be.
Stop opening social media or distracting websites that you usually check in your free time, or simply turn off your phone and/or internet. This also means you’ll have to stop binging on Netflix! Yes, it’s true–free time can be yours with just the push of a button. Vanderkam adds that you may feel bored when you go offline, “but that’s a good thing. Boredom is where we get our best ideas.”
If you have kids, get a friend or family member to watch your kids for a few extra hours, or have the babysitter stay a little longer once or twice a week. Ask your family to help out with some chores or errands so you can have some extra time to work on your side project.
Try the Early Bird Thing
Still stuck on how to find extra time? Get up earlier. No one else will be around to distract you. And unless you’re really not a morning person, you’ll be at your freshest. Going to bed a little earlier can transform unproductive evening time into productive morning time, Vanderkam says.
But what happens if time isn’t enough? Read the rest over at Creative Live to find out how shifting your mindset and creating rituals around your projects can be just as valuable as extra hours in the day.