These days, it’s not enough to simply know what you want from your life and career—you have to be ready to take big, intentional steps to get there. And can you guess what ends up being people’s biggest obstacle? Time management. It’s not as if choosing a path, creating a plan, and sustaining your creative inspiration along the way is ever easy (let me speak from experience, it’s not). But the one thing that can hold us all back from getting those super important points in motion is making the time to do so. In many cases, time management ends up being the root cause of all the different obstacles we face when pursuing our passions.
Have you ever found yourself feeling super excited about starting a new project, or getting to work on something that you thought up a few days prior, only to find that as soon as you’re about to sit down to do it, you get distracted by every little thing? Or you start making excuses for why you shouldn’t work on it? Then chances are you’re familiar with thoughts like, “I don’t have the time today,” “I should focus on my actual work,” “I’m not ready to work on this yet,” “I’m just not feeling inspired right now,” “I don’t know where to start,” or the classic “I’ll start tomorrow.” This sort of thinking is the result of a toxic combination of fear and unintentional time management.
Our lives are so complex and filled up every day by an ever-changing array of demands and unanticipated hiccups, which can make it really hard for us to focus on the tasks at hand, be it in your day job or your passion project. For example, have you ever started out a week with a specific intention, but found that it kept getting pushed off day after day? What happened? And what do we do to keep this from happening again? Let’s find out.
First off, no matter how hard you wish and hope, you are never going to magically find time—you have to make time. And this often sounds harder and scarier than it really is. Which is why I’ve put together a whole series of tricks that will help you regain not just a few extra minutes to dedicate to your passion projects every day, but entire hours that have simply been scrolling past you (both literally and figuratively—I’m looking at you, Instagram!).
So, if you’re ready to start making time for your passions instead of just waiting for the time to find you, here is a great place to start:
Take a close look at how you spend your days.
…And when I say “a close look,” I mean get out a pen and paper and literally break down every hour, half-hour, minute of your day—whatever it takes—and figure out exactly how you’re spending all your time. Do this for a few days in a row and I guarantee you that some particularly time-sucking patterns will emerge right before your eyes, and often from places that you wouldn’t have expected.
Write down when you woke up, how long it took you to make and eat breakfast; write down what you did once you started work and—most importantly—track how often you took breaks to scroll social media and for how long (there are apps for this, too!). How do you spend your time after work? This will help you figure out where you are losing time to unintentional activities that are more time-wastes than they are brain-breaks. Just make sure you’re being super honest with yourself, that way you’ll be able to clearly see the gaps where you can make time.
Find places in your daily schedule where you can make adjustments.
Did you do the above exercise and find that you wake up at seven every day to get ready? What would happen if you got up 30, or even 45 minutes earlier? What could you accomplish with that extra time and a second cup of coffee? It’s important to realize that any extra time you can dedicate to your dreams and passions, even if it’s just jotting down ideas and brainstorming (thinking about your work is work, too!), can make a world of difference in how motivated you feel to pursuing them.
Then consider the activities you spend most of your down time on—are you going out too many nights out of the week, or watching too many Friends reruns to decompress at the end of the day? You can definitely make time for all of these things, but what if you decreased the time spent doing those things by half—how much extra time would you have? An hour, three hours a week? This is time you can dedicate to your photography and passion projects—and by dedicate, I mean set aside with intention.
Make a list of all your priorities for the week ahead.
Priorities come is all shapes and sizes, some are huge and abstract while others are smaller and more manageable—in this case I’m talking about the latter. Make a list of all the things that you need to, and want to, accomplish in the week ahead and arrange them by how important they are to your life overall. Doing this will help you make sure that you’re getting all the essential tasks done but will also help you envision your own progress and goals when it comes to your passion projects. Sometimes our greatest goals feel far too big to tackle, so listing them out helps break them down into manageable steps forward.
Invest in a planner and plan.
Call me crazy, but there is something truly magical about planners. They not only help you visualize your days and weeks at a glance, but they help you make sure that you’re staying on task and prioritizing your activities with thoughtful intention. So, grab a planner and the list of priorities you came up with for the week and divide them up throughout the days, making sure to prioritize your work and your passion projects equally throughout the days. Plus, writing down your tasks and intentions has been statistically proven to give you a better chance of actually achieving the goals you set—so get writing!
When you start organizing your days and weeks with a clear set of priorities and intentions in mind, the time that you had previously been losing starts to reveal itself to you. You’ll not only be able to make more time for your work and passion projects, but for yourself as well. Trust me, it sounds unreal, but it works. It’ll help you stay away from common distractions and stay focused on what you really care about. Plus, if you combine this with setting aside distractions like cell phones, television, and even the internet, you’ll end up with more time and energy for what you really care about. Imagine how much closer all of this newfound time will get you to your goals in the next week, month, or even year?!
Creating your daily and weekly schedules with more intention will help you make sure that you’re really getting the most out of your life, and honestly will bring you so much joy in the process. And, at the end of the hectic days and busy weeks, finding joy in what you do is really what it’s all about. So, why not find time to add a little bit of extra joy into your life by prioritizing you and the projects that are close to your heart? Any creative pursuit, including photography, requires patient dedication—and pushing past the fear and discomfort associated with it will help you find your success. Afterall, as they say, “nothing changes if nothing changes,” right? So, change the way the you approach your days and you will inevitably see a change in the amount of time and energy you have for your photography in the process.