If you’re anything like me, there are a lot of things that you’d like to do, but somehow you never have enough time to actually do them. Perhaps you want to learn something new, or you want to start a new projects.
I used to have the same problem, and even though I’ve not yet figured out how to do everything I want, I’m pretty happy with the system I’m currently using.
I’ll use my current situation as an example here, but the concept should apply to everyone in a similar situation.
Step 1: What do you want to do?
Let’s start with a list of the things that I currently want to do. Here’s an example from my personal list:
- study internet marketing
- write blog posts like this one
- study mac/iphone programming
- study math
- study general programming (algorithms, interpreters, compilers, etc)
Note that I included only the things that I really want to do right now in my life. There are other things that I’d like to do like learning new languages or practicing some new sport, but these are the ones that I genuinely want to do right now in my life.
I suggest making a list like that with the things that you’d like to do on a daily basis.
Step 2: How much of it do you want to do?
Now it’s time to figure out how much time you’d ideally want to spend on each activity on your list. You may want to group similar activities if you want. For example in my case I can group together writing blog posts with internet marketing, and studying general programming with studying math.
The reason I’m grouping together similar activities is that it’s perfectly fine for me to switch between them. For example I can study math one day and programming the next day.
Make a second list with your grouped activities and the time you’d ideally want to spend on them on a daily basis. Here’s my new list:
- internet marketing/blogging – 2 hours
- mac/iphone programming – 4 hours
- math/programming study – 1 hour
- workout – 1 hour
Now that you know what to do, and how much of it, it’s time to figure out when you’re going to do all these things.
Step 3: Finding the time
If you sum up the hours I wrote aside each activity, you can easily see that I would need 8 hours each day to accomplish them. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’m having an hard time finding all that time each day.
The truth is that the number of hours that I wrote aside each activity is the ideal time that I’d like to spend, but I can do less hours if needed. Each day when I wake up I carefully plan the activities that I want to do based on my time available. You can do this task the evening before if you wake up early. For example let’s say that you want to exercise thirty minutes and work on your side project for 2 hours. You can plan to exercise from 6:10am to 6:40am, take a shower and then work on your side project from 7am to 9am. You can do something similar in the evening if you are a night owl.
There is nothing new here that you didn’t already know. Yet I found that it’s easy to get sidetracked when you don’t have a clear list of things that you have to do. When you know that from 10pm to midnight it’s your time to work on your side project, you’re not going to procrastinate on other activities like browsing news online.
One of the most common causes of procrastination is that you don’t know exactly what to do. On the other hand, trying to plan everything in your day can easily become overwhelming, that’s why I’m not a big gtd fan anymore. My idea is to only plan for the big things in your day, the rest will follow up by itself.
My last advice is to keep a daily log of the activities you do, and to review it weekly. Here’s an example from my own log:
There will be days when I can accomplish more, and days when I get less done. The important thing to remember is to know exactly what you want to do, and then to plan each day in advance. Once you have a plan, follow it, don’t spend time checking email or reading news. If one day you fail to follow your plan, don’t feel bad, instead learn from your experience and do better the next day.
Note that some activities may have more impact in your life than others, so try to do more of them if you’re in doubt.