How Do You Find The Time?

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One of the things I’ve heard most in my career is “how do you find the time to do all the things you’re doing?” - especially before I took the plunge to go full-time and was still juggling a 40-hour per week job and a family and, well, life.

One thing I found, early on, is that you have to take time to nurture your passions or else:
(A) they won’t flourish
(B) you are left feeling dissatisfied

Dissatisfied, that is, because you know you love this thing and you know you want to get better at it. NOT doing it leaves a hole.

“But”, you might say, “I don’t have the time I need to let that passion flourish. That’s my problem. I KNOW I could be a great photographer/guitar player/painter/singer/mountain climber/friend if I only had the time. I just don’t have the time.”

Well, at the risk of sounding like a used car salesman…you DO have time. We all do. We have more time than we think we do. Time is there. We all have the same amount, every single day. 24 hours come, 24 hours go. It’s how you use the time that counts….but I think you already know this, inherently.

I used to make excuses. I used to struggle with time. But then I started looking at how I used my day - my precious time (because it’s one of our most important resources) and I realized just how much time I wasted. There were the not-so-fun time-suckers that I couldn’t avoid, of course (my job, chores, errands) and “great” time commitments (family/friends), but it was the other moments that I looked long and hard at.

For me, I realized how much time I spent watching television and movies. Sitting in front of a TV and - at least a decade ago before the advent of Netflix - and channel surfing. An hour would turn into two which would turn into sometimes four or five hours per night. With this kind of habit, too, comes other bad habits: junk food and inactivity.

About a decade ago, I made a change. TV wasn’t going to rule my life anymore. I was going to make a hard change. “Even, I thought, if I made a small change a cut out an hour of that time and did something productive with it…”

Rather than just that hour, though, I pretty much started turning the TV off. For long stretches. Sometimes days and weeks at a time. It's not uncommon, now, for me to go a straight month without watching TV.

Imagine if you even had an hour, per day, to dedicate to your passion. Let’s say that passion is photography (go figure). An hour, admittedly, is not a lot of time…but it’s a start. Those initial hours, for me, didn’t mean always using the time to go out and actually shoot (more on that later) but I started using those initial hours to dedicate myself to the learning process. Books. Blogs. Researching techniques. Looking at images and being inspired.

I became hooked…addicted, even. I found that this extra time I spent “book” learning (or internet learning) translated to real gains when I had shooting time. I went out more inspired, or with more purpose. I had ideas I wanted to try. My former TV time became inspiration time.

Around the same time, I also started doing some “hard dedications” to shooting time. What that meant, for me, was to make a sound commitment to myself to set aside creative shooting time. To the stage of actually setting this time aside in my calendar weeks and months in advance. Every single month I would ensure - and still ensure - that I have in my calendar AT LEAST TWO blocks of time dedicated for creative shooting. Whether that’s a sunrise down at Canoe Cove or a creative portrait session…I bet you if I went back through my calendar for the past ten years I would find 99% of the months have at least two of these creative times set aside.

Why is it important blocking these off in advance? Well, if I actually leave it to a given weekend…life happens. The morning comes and you lose yourself to the weekend shuffle. Or laziness. Or a wine night. When it’s in my calendar I almost ALWAYS stick to it.

TV probably doesn’t take away as much time for most people as it once did with attentions shifting more to smartphones and Facebook and the internet….but what if, in the evenings, you promised yourself even for one day a week to not pick up your phone for an entire evening and instead do “Passion Time” with those minutes/hours (you know as well as I how much time these things suck)?

I know not every person is the same and we all have different commitments/obligations (family/work/sickness/stress) but I’m willing to be that almost every single person has more time than they give themselves credit for. It’s about shifting how you use that time.

For me, my new obsession is the guitar. I’m loving it. And despite being incredibly busy I am actually finding time to practice. Not as much as I’d like, mind you, but when I’m hanging out with the kids, or wake up and have my morning coffee, I usually pick up the guitar even for 10 or 20 minutes. Not a lot, but enough that almost every day I find this 20 minutes. And I’m seeing progress as a result.

In short (after a long essay, here): find the time. Look at your time-suckers or your non-productive time. We all have it built into our lives. Look at it, long and hard, and make choices. Do you really need 3 hours for Netflix or could you spend only one hour a day watching something and spend those other two hours (or even 20 minutes) for your passions? I bet you could.

Footnote: I still love binge-watching Netflix like most people. But it's in very dedicated blasts. It's time, too, that I hold dear...because, like, Game of Thrones....