How often have you thought about something you would like to do, and then thought sadly, “I just don’t have enough time”?
We’ve all been there. Most people’s lives are busier than they would like.
But if you resign yourself to that fate, you may never accomplish some of the things you would like to do.
What are you hoping to do? Exercise so you can be more fit or lose some weight? Learn to play an instrument? Learn French? Read more? Do something to make the world a better place?
Many of us have goals that we hope to achieve and lists of thing we would like to accomplish. Some of the goals are short-term, while some stretch over the course of years.
I was one of those people, too, until an experience with one of my piano students gave me a new approach.
What My Piano Student Taught Me About Going After Your Dreams
I was sitting at a lesson watching one of my students (let’s call him Thomas) play.
I could see the self-confidence of familiarity in his fingers as he played; a familiarity that only comes with dogged repetition.
“Thomas,” I asked, “you practice every day, don’t you?”
“Oh, yes,” he answered, “I try to. Even if it’s only for fifteen minutes.”
“That’s excellent. It shows in your playing.”
“Well, I try,” he said.
After his lesson, I began to think about what he had said. Given the demands of my busy teaching and performing schedule, it was hard for me to find enough time to practice myself.
While I counseled my students to practice every day, even if it’s just a little bit, I often failed to follow my own advice.
Thinking about Thomas’ approach, I realized what my error was. I had always tried to set aside at least two hours at a time to practice. If I didn’t have two hours, then I thought I couldn’t practice. So time went by, and no practicing got done.
Inspired by Thomas’ success, I completely revamped my approach to practicing. I stopped worrying about having a certain amount of time to practice. Let’s say I only have twenty minutes to spare. So what? It’s better than no practice at all! Not surprisingly, it worked marvelously.
I started looking for other ways to incorporate this lesson in my life. If it works for piano, it could work for other things: writing, household chores, exercise.
There are just not enough hours in the day to do everything…but there are half hours, or spots of five or ten minutes scattered throughout where you can do something.
These little snippets of time often get wasted because we feel like there’s not really enough time to start anything. But there is.
Ways You Can Utilize Your Time To The Max
1. Do mini exercises
Try this strategy: If you’re waiting for the coffee water to boil, use that time to put dishes away, or do leg lifts or squats. You don’t have to do a half hour workout all in the same half hour.
Sometimes we put off a task because it seems like a big commitment. How many of us dread our half hour or hour workout? I never dread fifteen minutes; certainly not five. Fifty sit-ups once a week is intimidating; ten sit-ups five days a week is not. It’s such a short time that it’s over before I know it.
This also decreases my stress; the stress of worrying that I won’t get everything done, the stress of facing a daunting task, and the stress of not doing things I need and want to do. Without really cramming my day full, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I am managing to accomplish the things that are important to me.
2. Take a book with you
Having trouble finding time to read? Carry a book with you everywhere—at the doctor’s office (always more time than you planned there!), or in line at the bank (if you still do your banking in person).
3. Keep a time log
While you’re at it, start counting the number of minutes you spend on other things.
Related: How To Plan Your Day
For example, I’m highly addicted to Spider Solitaire, and usually play a game in the morning on my computer while eating breakfast. That’s okay, but if I’m not careful, a ten-minute session can turn into a half an hour – thus losing twenty minutes I could have spent on something else on my list.
4. Use the time you save!
Obviously, some goals cannot be achieved in five or ten minutes a day. If you want to visit Hawaii, you’ll need a big stretch of time. But if you manage the time you have well enough, you might be able to save enough time to do things that take longer, like volunteer, or take a trip, or join a reading group.
Whether you believe it or not, you do have enough time. Five minutes, ten minutes, fifteen minutes or a half hour may not seem like much, but over time the little bits accumulate, and you achieve some of your goals. When you do something almost every day, it gets to be a habit. In a few months, with what seems like very little effort, you can accomplish a great deal.
Photo by meg.reilly
Julie Moffitt is a full time professional musician; teacher, composer and performer. In her spare time, she is a free-lance writer of poetry and non-fiction, with a focus on self-improvement and personal introspection. She is co-editor, with her sister Sally Zaino, of the poetry journal Earthshine. She maintains a blog of self-improvement essays as well.