Dedicating Time to Your Time

Does anything good come easily? That depends. If someone hands you a great cup of coffee which they made for you, then you might say that came easily. But making the great cup of coffee for yourself takes time and self-education. At some point, you learn by doing.

I love a good cup of coffee. When I was young and silly, I had my first cup at a Christmas party. I also won six games of pool that night against my older cousins, which I naturally attributed to the coffee I drank! My, my, the disappointment that set in me later when I realized that wasn’t how coffee worked…

Like a good game of coffee or a great cup of pool, you need to accept that everything good in your life comes at a cost: time is your largest investment, next to spending some hard-earned money. But there may be other sacrifices, like devoting your mental energy to one pursuit vs. ten others that easily take up your time. And nothing really good ever happens by accident, or sugary coffee. Good things happen for the diligent.

When I was 11 years old I knew I wanted to write fiction. I sat down and wrote some short stories that I thought would be made into motion pictures someday, because if I thought they were good everyone would. I even wrote a rip off of It’s a Wonderful Life, doing my best to make Clarence the angel less of a buffoon than he was in the film. Writing stories was so simple when I thought that simply writing anything was a great achievement. Soon I realized writing grows on you, and the more it grows, the less you may be comfortable writing. With more writing experience, I realized that if I wanted to become a good writer I would have to plan out time to make it happen.

In those early years, and even now, I find that I write, and I write, and I write, and I still don’t feel as though it comes naturally or easily. I may have a moment of inspiration, but that doesn’t take the labor out of the equation. Anything worth doing is worth doing right, and it will cost you some of your effort to make it happen.

This is where time management lives, in that place where you make lots of planned effort to make your plan. Over the years, I’ve heard many people complain that they haven’t got enough time. Others say life is too complicated, and they don’t know what happened to the time. Others are more reflective, using journals to keep a record of where all the time went, yet still struggle to keep up.

We all like to daydream some of the time; considering the future and what glorious potential it holds. We feel like the future will be different, becuase it’s perfect and unmarred by the demands of the present. We waste time thinking like this…

In all our time-consumption, we still wrestle with how on earth are we going to get things done now? We’d like to believe, that much like a fleeting moment of inspiration to write the next great American novel, that we will have a burst of insight into life that will tell us exactly how to get things done: quickly and easily.

Because, after all, our inner id tells us that anything that’s good must come easily.

Let’s be realists for a moment, and try to be realists as often as possible. The truth is anything worth doing will take time, even if what we’re doing is managing our time itself. Unlike my pool game winning streak, getting the day-to-day done means I need more than sugar-loaded coffee. I need to take time out to capture what I’ll do with my time on a daily basis.

For years I thought scheduling was silly. My parents didn’t seem to need a schedule, yet my dad kept one religiously. He would write one a week in advance, where every half hour of the day was accounted for. He never seemed to lose sight of his plans, so I thought it was silly that he wrote them in the first place—because, after all, why does an organized person need to track their time if they are already self-disciplined?

You realize that because my dad wrote his schedule he was able to keep it. Because he spent a couple hours a week to write it, he made better use of his time. Like anything good worth doing, it came at a price. He needed to put some mental energy into it, and a little time to write it free of distractions. It paid off each week when he got things done, but there was the upfront cost of his time planning his schedule.

My schedule for today

Likewise, I keep a schedule. Like many people who do, I can vouch for it’s effectiveness and tell you why it works for me:

  • I write it the day before, so I can objectively consider what needs to be done. Then executing the schedule is easy, as I don’t have to think about what I’ll do with my time.
  • My schedule starts with the time I get up and ends with the time I’ll go to bed. Nothing is left undecided to let free time erode my schedule’s effectiveness.
  • There is time set aside for work, family, reading, play, exercise, meals, travel… it’s all there so nothing is overlooked or undone.
  • It gives me satisfaction knowing that a great number of little things were accomplished, like fulfilling my schedule itself. And there are three times I’m gratified in my success: when I finish planning it, when I’ve finished a day’s work keeping it, and when I look back on the many little successes of keeping the seven day schedule at the end of the week.
  • My mental energies are clearer, so when I have time to share with others, I don’t feel the burden of my mind wondering to something elsewhere. I know in the back of my mind that the time I’m spending with them is accounted for, and that’s what my purpose is at that very moment: giving them my attention.

My Fantastical schedule

But to get to this point I had to write my schedule many times over and make the habit of reading it. Impulsively. Like breathing—to the point I don’t even remember doing it. I open my Calendar, whether in the Calendar app or Fantastical, fill in all the available time of the day, then read it while the day is unfolding.

Then good work is accomplished. I have the time to play video games with my son. I remember to take out the trash because that was on the schedule too.

It pays off much better than daydreaming or keeping no schedule whatsoever; just thinking that in your random life plans will all come together on their own by way of evolution.

I reflect on my success, and remember that anything worth doing doesn’t come easily. So I schedule it.

Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.