I recently setup my annual goals for the year, but I knew if I didn’t plan out time to devote making progress, I likely wouldn’t. The key is setting up a system so that the time is automatically part of your day and you don’t have to think about making time. Waiting until you “feel like doing it” is a failing strategy. There’s too much noise going on in life to not deliberately plan out the time. Without a system in place, it’s too easy for an entire year to float by without any progress.
I used to fit in at least an hour at the end of the day, when everything was quiet and I could focus on work. But my life has drastically changed in the last few years. I”m now married with an infant, which means quiet and focused is replaced with chaos and loud noises. Planning anything for the evening is a wild card. Even if I have the time, I”m exhausted from the work and family activities of the day, and find it hard to focus.
So, this year, I”m trying a new strategy that seems to be working quite well so far. Set aside the first hour of the day for yourself. Before you check your phone. Before you check your email. Before you login to your work computer. Before work is even on your mind, start the day by focusing on yourself.
Why First Thing?
- You will have the most energy out of the entire day
- Your mind will be fresh and not be burdened with other thoughts of work
- By doing it first thing in the morning, you can ensure it actually gets done, since it’s no longer the last thing on your agenda for the day
- By doing your personal goals first, you are placing a priority on personal development over other things, leading to a sense of accomplishment and meaning outside of your daily work
What Should You Do?
Ok, so I’ve set aside the time. How do I spend it?
I split up each day of the week to focus on a certain goal. Each day now has a theme thats related to a goal. Here’s how i setup my week:
- Monday: Work on a side project or business
- Tuesday: Brainstorm and research ideas
- Wednesday: Workout (gym, running, cycling, etc)
- Thursday: Write (journal or a blog post)
- Friday: Read a chapter of a book on my reading list
Sometimes I”ll swap days or duplicate a day if I’m feeling a lot of traction on a specific goal or simply enjoying a certain book, but this gives me a system to work from. You will likely have different goals and themes, so decide what works best for you.
What About Weekends?
Weekends seem like a natural time to work on personal goals since most of us don’t have a day job for those two days. However, I avoid scheduling the weekends for two reasons:
- Weekends are unpredictable since there are often different family activities every week and I don’t want to sacrifice family time. This is not a good trade off for hitting my goals.
- Weekends should generally be a time of rest and recovery. I know this isn’t a popular concept in many other blogs that promote the grind, but I do think it is important. This doesn’t mean that no work can be done, but crunching for an entire weekend will more likely leave you burnt out and unproductive for the days following the weekend. Sometimes it’s better to rest and be prepared for another week and often this will be more productive in the long run. Taking a mental break from something can provoke new ideas as you approach a goal with a fresh set of eyes.
Note that just because I avoid scheduling time on weekends doesn’t mean I never spend time on my goals on Saturday or Sunday. Sometimes I do have the time, I just don’t want to be pressured into it, so this is considered bonus time. I use the week to schedule purposeful time.
So far, this system is working great. I typically get up around 6:30am, before most of the world seems to be awake, and set aside 7-8am as my time. I can still get into work at 8:30am and have already worked on something that will outlast my job. If you are serious about personal development, you’ll need to setup a system to devote time to yourself.