You know that book you want to write… or that guitar you want to learn how to play… or that exercise plan you want to commit to… or that side business you want to launch?
What’s stopping you?
“If I had more time,” you say, “I would be able to get it done.”
That’s bullshit — and I know this firsthand.
I quit my day job because I wanted to create more meaningful media.
I have aspirations to be a screenwriter.
So, how much meaningful media have I created since I quit?
How many feature-length screenplays have I written since I quit?
And I have all day.
Time is not your problem. Your problem is how you spend the time you already have.
If you really want to get something done, you’ll get it done. You’ll find the time. You’ll stop doing other, lower-value things, and actually do this thing that you believe has a higher value.
But you don’t. And it’s not because you don’t have enough time. It’s because you don’t think you have the time to do it the way you believe it should be done.
You have an idea of what a successful writer — and what a successful first novel, and “overnight success” — looks like, so you don’t want to start writing your novel until you have hours of free time to immerse yourself in it.
You don’t want to start that side business because you read all these articles about what it takes to run a successful startup or entrepreneurship, and it makes you feel like you can’t focus and give yourself a fighting chance unless you have more time.
You don’t want to start practicing the guitar because your only free time is late at night when you’d wake someone up with your imperfect pluckings, annoying them and embarrassing yourself in the process.
So you never get started because your circumstances don’t make you feel infallible.
This is all self-deception.
You’re talking yourself out of pursuing your dreams because your life isn’t perfectly arranged to make them come true? That’s a terrible excuse.
And ten years from now, when you still haven’t written that book or started that business, guess what: you’re not going to have any more magical time to yourself then, either. Because life has a way of filling its gaps with needs and obligations and worries.
You will never have enough time.
So, instead, let’s get better at working with the time we do have.
I have an idea.
I think it’ll help you do what you always tell yourself you want to do… but, somehow, never actually get done.
And all it takes is 30 minutes, for 30 days.
I’m calling it “30 March 30” because I’m writing this in March. (If you read this in August or January, the same concept still applies.)
Here’s what you do:
- Announce what it is that you want to work on. (To yourself, at least.)
- Spend 30 minutes working on it today.
- Do the same thing tomorrow… and every day for the next month.
In 30 days, you’ll have worked 15 hours on that thing you always say you never have time for.
Now, let’s be honest here: in the big scheme of things, 15 hours isn’t much.
15 hours is not quite two full workdays [according to our outdated industrial-era concept of a workday]. You’re not going to launch a business in 15 hours. I’m not going to write a screenplay in 15 hours.
At the end of the month, you’ll see the fruits of 15 hours’ worth of work that you’re not doing otherwise, all spent pursuing the thing you allegedly love and want to accomplish. (Or, more specifically: that thing you dream of having already accomplished, but which you never seem to begin.)
More important than spending 15 hours on it, though, is developing the dedication and the willpower to work on it for 30 minutes a day. Because once you develop that habit, you won’t need to stop. You can keep doing your daily habit through the next month… and the next…
Do it for a year and you’ll have worked toward your goal for 180 hours.
That’s over a month straight of 40-hour work weeks.
In essence, that’s a month’s worth of a full-time job, all dedicated to you achieving your goal.
And it’s time you already have, right now, that you’re spending doing something else.
So, how can you find that spare half hour?
- Watch one less half hour of TV every day.
- Get up half an hour earlier.
- Do it on your lunch break.
- Spend less time online.
You have ways. Find them.
Can you do more than 30 minutes a day? Maybe. If so, hey, great! But 30 minutes a day is all you need to commit yourself to up front. Don’t overdo it (“I’ll write for four hours every day after work!”) and then fail by day two because “something came up.” Once you misstep, you’re less likely to try again, so make your buy-in as low as reasonably possible.
Do you have to do it EVERY day?
That’s up to you. We all have our own work ethic. When I wrote a novel during National Novel Writing Month, I took whole weeks off and then binged at the end to catch up. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked.
Personally, I think doing something for 30 minutes a day is more beneficial in terms of forming a habit than the act of working for 15 hours is, but your experience may vary. So, hey: you do you.
(And yes, I know March has 31 days. Consider this your free day to figure out what you want to do and how you’re going to find that spare half hour. Then, start on it tomorrow.)
Lastly, if you want to be public about your attempt to create a positive work habit, I’ll be using the hashtag #30March30 on Twitter all month while I document my own process.
30 minutes a day.
It’s not hard.
You can do it.
You just have to get started.
Are you in?
Image by Peter Lee on Flickr.