If Only I Had More Time…

Short on time? Here's how to reach your goals anyway

Short on time? Welcome to the 21st century, where a 5 second wait for a web page to load seems like forever, and “busy” is the watchword of the day.

Unfortunately, being constantly on the go can mean that goals creep along at a glacial pace — or worse yet, get pushed to the wayside in favor of things that feel urgent but are not really all that important in the long run. So how do you combat the lack of time and get to what matters? It can be done.

Secret #1: Quit battling the clock

If you truly want to start that side business, write those morning pages, or reach whatever goal is nearest and dearest to your heart, wishing for more time in the day isn’t the answer. Facing up to a few realities is.

We’ve all got the same amount of time each day. 24 hours. That’s it. You can’t battle the clock and win. Yes, some of us have more stuff going on in our lives than others. We have kids, jobs, volunteer work, pets, family members to care for, household responsibilities — and sometimes all of the above at once. (Plus it’s nice to sleep now and again too.)

But we’ve all got two things in common: those 24 hours, and the things we want to accomplish that are really important to us. So admit that you can’t do it all. That isn’t giving up before you start. It’s being smart.

Secret #2: Prioritize

You knew this was coming, right? You’ve got to prioritize. Since you can’t do everything (not even superheroes can), you have to figure out what you want most. Here are questions that can help:

  • What would you regret not doing, if you were to die today?
  • What do you often wish you had time for?
  • What’s your number #1 goal right now?

Answer those, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’d do “if only you had more time”. Put those puppies at the top of your list, because now is all any of us have for sure.

I know, you’ve got other stuff you need to do too. And maybe some of your goals are pretty huge — like climbing Mount Everest or even just getting 15 minutes of quiet time to yourself at the end of the day. Put them on your list anyway. At the top, because you said they’re things you want most.

Secret #3: Do something every day that matters

This is the important part. Lists don’t matter if the things you cross off on them are always stuff like “Check email” or “Make dinner”. You have to do something every day that matters.

So maybe you can’t climb Mount Everest today. But you can do a 5-minute Google search about it to find 3 web sites that might help you figure out what’s involved. And then tomorrow you could make a list based on what you find, and then you could break down the smallest steps another day. And then work on the first one.

Because climbing a mountain — and reaching every other big goal — is all about the steps along the way. You’ve got to take them, one by one, and each one brings you closer. Until one day, you’re at the top.

So make sure your daily list has something that’s important to you on it. And then do that thing (or teeny little part of that thing), first, whenever possible. No matter how busy you are, you can get up five minutes earlier. Or lock yourself in the bathroom with a notepad, or whatever it takes. You can.

Listen to yourself

Finally, listen to yourself. When you hear yourself saying, “Oh, I don’t have time for that” remember that what you’re really saying is “Oh, that’s not a priority for me right now.” And that could be just fine. Some things aren’t a priority.

Just make sure you’re saying that about the right things. Don’t let guilt or exhaustion prevent you from living your dreams. Baby step those dreams into reality instead.

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10 comments

  • I always wish I had more time. However, like you said, I just need to be better with prioritizing! :)

  • Third secret is my biggest problem right now. I want to go to bed in the evening knowing that I did something for myself or someone I love. I want to fall asleep and be able to tell myself that it was a good day. It’s 2pm here right now so I still have some time to do something like that today :)

  • Thanks for the great tips. I agree that a little time spent on working toward that goal every day is better than nothing at all. I’ve found that there are many hours every day that I waste, and I stay very busy. If only I could motivate myself to do something constructive instead of watching that TV show I’d be much better off! I think starting with small goals is the key to unlocking the potential of this “lost time.” It has been working pretty well for me so far!

    • That’s great that small goals have been working for you. They can definitely help you make a lot of progress in the long run.

  • I have to admit I am one of those busy people who always wish there should be more time. In the end I learned that recognizing the right priorities and doing them first is very important for a more organize life no matter how busy we may be.

  • Learning how to manage your time and knowing your priorities get things done. It’s true that sometimes 24 hours a day doesn’t seem like enough but just like you said, with the right organizing skills, it can be done.