Everyday, many of us struggle to achieve our goals. Those goals may be simple things we thought of doing, important documents we have to submit, or things we want to try that end up never happening.
People often ask me: “How do you find time to do that? When do you work on that kind of stuff? I don’t have time.”
The first thing that comes to mind is that I don’t have time usually means it was not important enough.
Well, it is probably true. Not getting something done means that, after all, it was not as important as it seemed—or that it was not urgent—so you didn't do it. The thing is, that even when you consider something important and urgent, you need time get it done, time to get your hands dirty.
What works for me—and for many others—is to write down the things you really, really want to do on an actionable list and take your time seriously.
Decide what it is you want to focus on the next time you sit down to work. Make your projects a part of your life—no matter if your plan is to spend time exercising, writing, or learning Chinese. When you have a clear idea of what projects you want to focus on, you will know what to do when you have time for it. Then, ruthlessly ignore everything that does not contribute to move the ball forward to your goal.
After deciding what to do, you need to convert those things-to-do into actionable steps. For instance, instead of Learn Chinese, your to-do list should split the project of learning Chinese as: Search for a Chinese course; Sign up to a course that fits my schedule; Study Chinese; Do homework.
Notice how every task in your list starts with a verb, an action you need to perform to fulfill the task? It's important to follow this structure, so when you read the task in the future you can directly take an action to complete it. If you want more detail, see this post.
This to-do lists seem so silly for many people, who think that just by knowing what they want to do, they will. Wrong.
When you have a 30-minute break, or an unexpected free morning, or a whole day to do stuff, it is way too easy to waste your time doing nothing (you have to consider what wasting time means for yourself, as nobody else can do it for you). Some people may consider productive spending the afternoon watching movies or series, while others may rather write, paint, or exercise instead.
In these dead moments is when your list comes into play. Like a message in a bottle, you can message your future-self with a set of things you intended to do.
Maybe, you wanted to go for a run, or to write an article, or to email required documentation to your real state agent, or to spend more time with your family. The thing is, you don’t have to think on what to do, you can just choose among a set of things that, apparently, you want to do, and are written down in your list.
One day, you will embark an 8-hour flight back home. Your to-do list will remind you of one thing: an article you wanted to write, a document you wanted to read, or some other thing you are curious about. You will get hands on it and, maybe, will get out of the plane with one more thing done.