In 2017 where do I find the time to do the things that I tell myself are important to me? All of us know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and rushed. We also all know what it feels like to have time seem to be moving quickly ahead and not getting to that important project or task we know we should be doing.

As someone humorously once said, ‘Life is like a toilet roll. The nearer you get to the end the faster it goes, and the more your realise you have wasted!’

In the 10 minute TED talk below time management expert Laura Vanderkam describes her work learning about how busy productive people spend their lives. She’s discovered that many of us drastically overestimate our commitments each week, while underestimating the time we have to ourselves. She offers a few practical strategies to help find more time for what matters to us, so we can, as she puts it, “build the lives we want in the time we’ve got.” Taking a few minutes out of your busy schedule to watch this video could reap rich dividends in your use of time:

[ted id=2647]

What is particularly fascinating is the group she chose to study and her means of studying them. She chose to look at 1,001 days in the lives of extremely busy but productive women. One woman for example, was running a small business with 12 employees as well as looking after 6 children!

The important point she makes is opposite to what we naturally think. As she says, “We don’t build the lives we want by saving time. We build the lives we want, and then time saves itself.”

The reason is that time is highly elastic….

In other words, we cannot make more time, but time will stretch to accommodate what we choose to put into it. She gives an example of someone having to find 7 hours in a week to deal with the consequences of a leaking and broken water heater. I can identify with that in my own life in terms of having to find time in 2016 with the consequence of  a flooded flat as well as my mother in hospital with a broken shoulder and elbow. On one level I did not know where the time to deal with those needs would come from. But I chose to make those needs a priority and the time to deal with those major concerns became available.

Here are the words of someone Laura Vanderkaum interviewed:

“Everything I do, every minute I spend, is my choice. And rather than say, I don’t have the time to do x,y or z, I say I don’t do x, y or z because it’s not a priority. I don’t have time, often means it’s not a priority. If you think about it, that’s really more accurate language. I could tell you I don’t have time to dust my blinds, but that’s not true. If you offered to pay me $100,00o to dust my blinds, I would get to it pretty quickly.”

The key then is to get to treat what we say are our most important priorities like that broken water heater or, in my case, the flooded flat or my mother’s broken arm. And we do that by putting them into our schedules first. We do this by thinking through our weeks before we are in them.

Do I feel I have mastered this? Absolutely not! However, when it comes to priorities if we can think in terms of putting the most important priorities in our schedules first then that will go some way into not necessarily being driven just by the urgent things and emergencies in our lives. The truth is that there is more time available than I tell myself.

How do you find time for the things you tell yourself are the most important things you have to do?

For more on this also see Podcast #024 Making Sense of Time