Exploit Don’t Expect

One of the big things that has made a difference for me in the last few years is starting to look at how I approach my goals. Instead of planning for the two hour writing session on the weekend or trying to find the perfect gym schedule, I’ve started looking to see how I can make the most of the little nuggets of time that are left throughout the day.

I work about 50 hours a week on average, with a good bit of drive time, and I’m recently married: That two weeks of time I can devote to planning my big novel, or the standard gym time that will allow me to have multiple two or three hour workouts just isn’t going to materialize for me. I hope to have kids in the next few years as well, I’m going to have less, not more, free time in the coming years.

I spent a lot of time in the past few years frustrated that this or that was getting in the way of me pursuing my dreams, and it really hamstrung me when it came to makin the most of the time that I did have.

So here’s a few of the things that I’m in the process of learning that seem to be helping me actually make progress.

  1. Look for 10-15 minute windows. I can write between 250-350 words of a story in 15 minutes, and that adds up over a week. Instead of looking for 30 minute or hour long writing sessions, take the fifteen minutes you spent on facebook  or the downtime between classes to do a little writing or a little planning for your next writing session.
  2. Plan! We spend so much time counting the words we’ve written, squeezing in another hurried workout, or trying to do one more thing that we often fail to utilize our time efficiently. We get burned out, tired, or lost in the bustle of everything we’re trying to do that we forget what we’re trying to achieve. Take some time each weekend and think about what you want to achieve. I try to think about how much writing I’d like to get done, what general types of workouts I need to do, and the things I want to do with my wife. Then later that week, when I see an extra few minutes, I can evaluate which area needs it the most instead of just latching onto the closest task I see.
  3. Be Patient. Success takes time. A. Lot. Of. Time. I’m talking years. If we’re trying to achieve our goals in a matter of weeks or months, we’re going to be frustrated. Over time however, making sure that we get those little sessions in here and there will make a significant difference.  If I write for two fifteen minute windows every day for two weeks, I’d wind up with, on average, about 8.400 words, or about three lengthy two hour and twenty minute sessions. I have not had a single writing session over 1 hour in the last year. If I were to try to carve out two hour writing sessions every weekend, I’d always be frustrated when they were interrupted. I’d be annoyed when I was too tired to push through the last half hour and my writing dropped off. Instead, because I’m looking for fifteen minute segments, I’m able to stay more motivated and up beat, which in turn leads to better writing.

All of this summed up comes down to being disciplined enough to work hard on a daily basis and being focused enough on what you can control and ignoring what you can’t. I’d love to tell you the secret to achieving both of those quickly, but I haven’t found it. If you’ve got some tips let me know, I’m still trying to apply this on a consistent basis.  Life happens, random things mess up our carefully planned schedules, but if we’re focused on how we can make the most of what we have, maybe we can spend more time moving forward and less time being frustrated.

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