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Have time or make time?

Most people talk about having time. Few people talk about making time. The distinction is that those who make time have a very clear understanding of their priorities, while those who talk about having time are often managed by their circumstances.

It’s a big difference and it says a lot about you.

“I don’t have time.” One of the most heard (or expressed) sentences during our busy lives. You are regularly exposed to these four words or use them yourself more often than not. 

The problem is you actually do have time. 

Stop making excuses

It’s just not important enough for you to prioritize what is asked, or it’s not important enough for the person you’re asking to make time. It’s not a matter of having time; it’s a matter of making time. And you are not willing to make time. It’s as simple as that. 

So stop making excuses and be honest with yourself and the people you talk to. 

Say, “it’s not a priority to me right now,” say, “I’m not interested,” or say something else that makes it clear you’re not willing to make time for this. 

But stop hiding behind excuses. You also make time to eat, drink coffee, hang out at the water cooler, look at your smartphone, and work out. You make time for those activities, so you can also make time for other activities. It’s a matter of priorities.

Get your life back

If you recognize yourself often using the “I don’t have time” excuse, it’s time to get your life back. It’s time to acknowledge and admit you don’t have control over your calendar. It’s perhaps even time to assume you’re always ON and continuously distracted. It’s time to acknowledge that your hours, days, and weeks run away with you without accomplishing some of your more meaningful long term ambitions.

In the past two years, since I left corporate life, I got full control over my agenda again. Done were the days that I pretty much knew what my calendar looked like for the next two to three months. 

Suddenly I had a blank calendar staring at me, asking me what to do. 

I have to admit two things. 

First, I was never bad at blocking time in my calendar and prioritizing those things that mattered to me in life. But I still had my corporate officer role, so I had a significant number of obligations and meetings I needed to attend. 

Second, even when I thought I was pretty good at managing my own time, the past two years, I learned that I could have been much better. It took me some time to figure out that I still made many mistakes. 

Love the journey

The two years were great in many different ways, both on a personal and professional level. After many years of weekly commuting, I reconnected with my family, and we completed some major milestones, like building our house. I started building up my local network again that dried out after being away professionally for almost 13 years. 

The reader I am, I started reading books, articles, and blogs. For a learning & development professional, I had overlooked my learning for many years. 

And I started writing. I had to learn what writing practice fits best with me. I learned that at least 500 words per day is a reasonable target I manage almost every day. Most days, I exceed that target, ensuring I move forward with my writing. 

Long story short. I got my life back. Or better said, I made my life come back to me. It’s something I did myself.

Act with intention and focus

With the help of some of the books I read, which I will discuss in greater detail in some of my blogs, I started to be more planful about my year (divided in quarters and months), my weeks and my days. 

For each of these (and the corresponding quarters and weeks), I plan the big 3. What will be my highlights on a yearly, weekly, and daily basis? Starting with the year and the key priorities I want to accomplish in a year, I then work my way to weekly and daily goals. 

The biggest wins were the focus on three and then the translation to concrete tactics on a more short term and granular level. Worded as highlights with a real outcome. Another big success was the review and the lessons learned, which I most of the time skipped. 

After many years of making fun of people who were time blocking in their calendars, I got convinced. And I started to be more planful of my time on a monthly, weekly, and daily basis. With a clear plan for the week, based on my plans for the month, quarter and year, I started to plan my days in detail. I was prioritizing what needed to get accomplished that day, the big 3 for the day. 

Learn as you go

It worked. 

I started to make time for the things that mattered, instead of having time for them. I gave up on my thought that I needed to allow spontaneity time, always my biggest argument while discussing with’ time blockers.’ 

I learned that doing what needs to get done, enjoying the sense of accomplishment, seeing things moving forward on medium and long term, results in less stress, less distraction, and more time for spontaneity. Because the nagging little voice that tells you you’re not accomplishing anything was gone. 

Design your progress

Empty calendars are great, but you need to fill them with your priorities. And make sure you plan time for the things that matter in life. You are in control of the design of your life.

I could write a book about the many tips and tricks I learned about and applied in life. Many of those books have been written. The book I’m writing will incorporate those tips and tricks and tie them to becoming a better person and leader, growing a better team, and building a better business.

With all the tips and tricks, the main conclusion remains the same. 

Just do it

It’s all a matter of your mindset, attitude, and discipline—the discipline you can build with some tips. But your attitude and your mindset are up to you. 

Your turn. Have time or make time? 

Erikjan

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3 replies on “Have time or make time?”

Mooi onderwerp, tijd. We hebben er mee te maken, ook al is tijd een illusie. Ik merk zelf steeds meer hoe fijn het is om uit het concept tijd te stappen, omdat dit minder ruimtelijk voelt. Tuurlijk ben ik me bewust van de tijd, ik ben ook graag óp tijd, omdat ik de tijd van mezelf en de ander respecteer, maar door het leven (situaties, mensen etc) naar mij toe te laten komen en te vertrouwen dat er precies gebeurt wat er mag gebeuren voor mijn eigen groei, ervaar ik steeds meer ruimte en voel ik me minder gevangen door tijd. Wat er nodig is, laat zich zien in het moment, en het is aan mij of ik daar ja of nee tegen zeg.

Ben ik nog even, je blog inspireert mij en ik wil je niet stalken, maar wil toch even een overpeinzing met je delen. Ik kreeg vandaag de vraag wat ik in mijn vrije tijd doe. Ik stond even stil bij deze vraag, omdat ik merkte dat ik niet zoveel met dat woord ‘vrije tijd’ heb. Is er dan ook zoiets als ‘niet vrije tijd’? Onze manier van praten en woordkeuze rondom het woord tijd zegt voor mij veel over onze relatie met tijd. Door te vragen wat ik in mijn vrije tijd doe, zeggen we daarmee: er zijn igg twee soorten tijd(en). Eentje is vrij (ik weet: daarmee bedoelen we als je niet aan het werk bent) en dan is er dus ook nog een andere tijd (als je wel aan het werkt bent, dat is dus onvrije tijd). Maar wat als het nou gewoon één tijd is (dus één ruimte) waarin we ons voortbewegen, dan is die hele splitsing er niet. Zo ervaar ik het zelf althans. Ik heb dus toch ook maar ‘werken’ ingevuld als antwoord, want dat doe ik ook in mijn ‘vrije’ tijd. Volgens mij voel ik een blog opkomen….dank voor de inspiratie.

I could not agree more with what you’ve written about time and priorities. Just a thought popped up in my mind reading it through….

Why don’t we prioritize? Especially when it comes to younger people. We do not prioritize because we do not value time. The younger we are, the less we value time believing we have it all. The need for prioritizing and the benefit (hardly this is the right word) of it comes with age, losses, and pain. It is only when we realize time we have is limited and may end any second that we start prioritizing. And prioritizing comes not only for making time but also for making room in our minds and hearts for who and what is genuine and ultimately makes us deliver the best of who we are.

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