It’s hard to believe that it’s the end of the year – and decade! As you celebrate the holiday season, you may find yourself reflecting on what you’ve accomplished this year.
But if you’re like me, you also might think about resolutions you broke, goals you failed to meet, and habits you quit practicing.
When you think back to why your excitement and commitment to goals faded, there’s a good chance you’ll say – I just didn’t have the time.
And that makes sense because you’re so busy! But it probably bothers you because each of those resolutions, goals, or habits was important to you too.
You know that successfully accomplishing your goals next year will require you to find more time.
Taking Control Of Your Time
I get it. I’m guilty of using “not enough time” as an excuse for not meeting some reasonable goals I set this year too. In an effort to ditch excuses, I finally decided to look for new ways to take more control over my time.
I came across a 2016 TedWomen Talk that’s been viewed more than 9 million times – Laura Vanderkam’s – How to gain control of your free time. And it was well worth my time!
I’ll highlight a few key takeaways. But if you struggle finding space in your busy schedule, do yourself a favor and give Laura’s 11 minute talk a listen.
I don’t have time = It’s not a priority
You might not totally agree with that point, but I’ll admit it’s definitely true for me. Laura does point out that some people have it much harder than others and that life challenges may prevent them from reaching their goals.
But for many people this is also true…
If you don’t have the time, you don’t really want to do it.
I’ve been lazy about priorities. I don’t spend enough time prioritizing what matters and when I do, I get easily distracted. Then, I make excuses for things not getting done when I’ve really just wasted a lot of time.
Laura goes on to explain how to take charge of your free time. She gets you thinking by showing the number of hours available each week.
7 days/week x 24 hours/day = 168 hours/week
When you add up how much you work, sleep, side hustle, and take care of normal household jobs like laundry, cooking, and shopping – you might be surprised by how many hours you have left!
Even if you have 60 hours of work/side gigs (which Laura points out can often be exaggerated), 56 hours of sleep, 7 hours of exercise, and 21 hours of “miscellaneous” each week, it still leaves you with 24 hours of “free” time.
(Note: If you have kids or aging parents to care for, you might only have a few hours of “free” time each week – or less. That might explain why you’re struggling to meet your goals! But it also gives you information that can help you make more realistic goals in the future.)
We don’t even need that much time to do amazing things.
Whether you have one hour a week or twenty (or more), you can make progress if you decide you want to make a goal a priority.
Even if your free time is broken up into a few minutes here and there each day, Laura says to consider this mindset:
Small moments can have great power. I can use my bits of time for bits of joy！
Instead of getting frustrated about not having time to do everything you want in the time you have, prioritize something you can do in that time. Take a short walk, read a few pages of a book, meditate – whatever brings you joy.
A New Way To Approach The New Year
You’ll still be reflecting and determining what goals you want to accomplish next year. But Laura suggests an approach you probably haven’t used in the past.
Write Next Year’s Performance Review and Holiday Letter Now
Before you make a list of professional or career-related goals for the upcoming year, write next year’s performance review now. By the end of December next year, what do you want to accomplish?
Make a list of 3-5 things that would make it a great year for you professionally. (If your “free” time is really limited, you might list one or two things!)
- Apply for and land a promotion
- Make 4 Toastmasters speeches
- Take an online course
- Attend networking events
- Obtain a professional certification
- Start a new side business
You’ve probably received holiday cards with letters tucked inside that share wonderful things your friends or family members did during the year. For your personal goals, write your own “holiday letter” a year ahead of time.
Make a list of 3-5 things that would show your great personal accomplishments for next year.
- Read a book for pleasure each month
- Learn to speak a new language
- Take your child to the local library each month
- Train for your first 5K race
- Max out your 401(k) or other retirement accounts
- Pay off all credit card debt or a student loan
Using Your Free Time To Do What Matters
With your list of 6-10 things that really matter to you – your priorities – you can now figure out how to find time to make them happen.
Once your priorities are set, figure out the steps needed to meet each goal. So that you don’t leave anything or anyone important out, Laura suggests your planning involve a three-category priority list – Career, Relationships, and Self.
Each week, jot in what steps you’ll take to work toward your goals in each of the three areas. Then, add them to your weekly calendar before anything else you want to do.
Friday afternoons are a great time to plan out the following week according to Laura. But it really doesn’t matter when you do it – as long as you follow through, focus on your priorities, and take steps each week to achieve them.
“When we focus on what matters, we can build the lives we want in the time we’ve got. We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.”
I’ve spent plenty of hours thinking about resolutions, personal and professional goals, and growing positive habits. But I haven’t been that successful meeting some of the goals I wanted to achieve or habits I wanted to stick for the long-term.
I like the idea of “writing” my success story and then working backward to make it happen. It’s called backward design in my career field and it’s a very successful strategy when done right.
So I’ll give it a try here in my “second act” of life because when something isn’t working for me, it is crazy to keep doing it again.
What do you do to protect your time? Do you struggle to meet your goals? Do you put everyone else first? How can you shift your mindset to take time for you and to achieve the things you really want to do?
Feel free to share your thoughts and what you’ve tried in the comments!
Want to read more by Laura Vanderkam? Check out some of her books below.