What to Do When You’re Too Busy to Work on What You Want
It’s Saturday and this is the first article I was able to write this week. When people asked me about it I answered “I have no time”.
And I believed that. I mean, this week…
😅 I had my first week of working 32 hours for a new employer
😅 I commuted over 3 hours per day between Rotterdam and Amsterdam
😅 I continued to work on 3 freelance e-learning projects on the side
😅 I continued to work on KREW and planned ahead for Q2
This, combined with a few workouts, feeling a lot more tired than usual because of my new schedule and, well, the need to eat… I didn’t feel like I had time for much else.
Like, writing articles for my website.
The funny thing is, of course, that I did have time. I just chose to spend it differently this week than the weeks before it. My priorities changed. I wanted to spend my energy on the new job, to make a good start, to get to know my colleagues. So my personal projects took a backseat for a bit.
And that’s OK.
For one week.
In this article, I will set new priorities that fit my updated schedule. The truth is that I do have less time available than I did before, so the need to block and prioritise my time more efficiently is much higher. I’m not as flexible as I used to be as a full-time freelancer and entrepreneur.
If you’re feeling too busy to do what’s important to you as well, grab a pen and some paper (or fire up your favourite note-taking app) and let’s walk through this 6-step prioritisation exercise together!
Step 1: Determine what you want ⭐
The first step is also where a lot of people get stuck: determining what you want. Most of us don’t know what we want. Ask us to think about it for weeks, months, or even years… and we still won’t know.
What I’ve learned over the years is that you don’t have to know for sure what it is you want. You just have to be interested in something. Then, over time that little spark of interest can grow into something you actually want.
Maybe you’re interested in creating a passive income? Or maybe you’re interested in learning to draw or to create NFTs? Or maybe you’re interested in coaching people for a living?
The trick is to believe that nothing is impossible and to stay away from judging yourself or the activity.
You’re just interested in something after all. That should make spending time on it fun. And if it really is fun, you could grow it into something bigger. And if it’s not as fun as you thought, you can always pursue a different interest.
What matters is that you start pursuing something. Anything. And to do that, you can write down one or two ‘wants’ that you’re interested in. Not more than two, because: priorities. One is more than enough for most.
I wrote down two ‘wants’ for myself today:
⭐ I want to create learning experiences that make it easy and fun to become the best version of yourself.
⭐ I want to grow KREW into a global community of entrepreneurs that makes networking personal and fun.
These are my biggest two interests at the moment and I’m already pursuing each of them seriously.
Step 2: Determine what you need to do 💪
Once you’ve figured out what you want, you’ll need to figure out how to get there.
Just like when determining what you want, it’s easy to get stuck here because you can’t know for sure what it is that you need to do to get to where you want to be. You could research this forever and still feel unsure. As a result, you may never start. Here is a quote that may help:
“Keep moving ahead because action creates momentum, which in turn creates unanticipated opportunities.” — Nick Vujicic
Nick was born without arms and legs. Can you imagine how hopeless he must’ve felt at some point in his life? The quote above comes from his book Life Without Limits. He is now living what he says to be “a ridiculously good life”. Why? Because he started to take action.
I believe that all roads (or actions, in this case) lead to Rome eventually, as long as we’re willing to keep moving ahead. So let’s write down the things we think we need to do at the moment in order to get to Rome. Again, these may change. But these actions will create momentum and this momentum will open up roads you weren’t even able to see before.
I’d say, try to write down between 5-15 ‘need to dos’ to get to where you want to be. That’s plenty. Here are mine:
💪 I need to work out
💪 I need to keep reading books
💪 I need to have a stable — ideally passive — income
💪 I need to improve my e-learning knowledge and skills
💪 I need to share daily content on learning and self-development
💪 I need to write a book on self-development
💪 I need to create an online course on self-development
💪 I need to create an e-learning platform
💪 I need to organise amazing events for entrepreneurs
💪 I need to enable others to organise amazing events for entrepreneurs
Do I know for sure that these are the actions I should take? No. But this is my best guess based on where I am right now.
Step 3: Allocate your time ⏰
There are 168 hours in a week. About 56 of those I spend sleeping and about 12 of those I spend on eating and grocery shopping.
That leaves roughly 100 hours to spend each week. One fifth of that, I like to keep open for relaxing and social activities — such as playing the guitar, watching a TV show or hanging out with friends.
That means I still have about 80 hours left to work on my need-to-dos from step 2. While 80 hours is not very little, it is a limited amount of time. The nice thing about that is that it forces me to prioritise certain activities over others and divide my time in the most efficient way possible.
Here is how I divided my time per week:
🎓 32 hours: improve my online-course creation skills (4 days)
💰 8 hours: expand my passive-income streams (1 day)
🎬 8 hours: create a weekly YouTube video (1 day)
✍️ 3×2 hours: write a weekly article and newsletter
✍️ 6×1 hour: write my book
✍️ 2 hours: write social media posts
🌈 2 hours: grow our KREW community
📙 4+ hours: learn from books and podcasts
🥊 6×2 hours: work out
You might’ve noticed is that I differentiate between batch work and fractured work. I prefer batch work, because I like to get deep into a task — I feel more efficient that way. In some cases, however, I like to divide my time over the week a little — like with working out, writing articles and my book.
Also: you can see that not all my need-to-dos are on this list. That’s because having limited time forced me prioritise and leave some things out.
As for what to leave out and what to include, two things help me. First, I use the Eisenhower’s Time Management Matrix, popularised by Stephen Covey through his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. The golden rule here: only go for the activities that are not urgent, but important. Second, I think about which activities enable other activities. For example, articles and social media posts could enable a book; a book could enable an online course; and an online course could enable a tool to create online courses. Naturally, I choose to work on the enablers first.
Step 4: Schedule your time 📅
Now that we know how much time we want to spend on what, we can schedule the activities in our calendar. In doing so, we make the decision of what to work on when ahead of time.
Planning ahead can be incredibly powerful, because it minimises the risk of any type of internal resistance kicking in. Like decision paralysis, for example. Or saying ‘yes’ to a last-minute meeting.
Here is how I scheduled my new need-to-dos in my calendar (using the same icons from step 3):
There are two things you might want to consider here: 1) don’t overplan, and 2) be realistic.
With overplanning I mean that it may be tempting to schedule every single hour of your week. But that’s a promise to yourself that’s near-impossible to keep. You need some time to transition from one activity to the next… maybe you need to commute, and you might want to keep some time open for in-the-moment type of activities. We’re not robots after all.
While being realistic applies to not overplanning as well, it also relates to the activities themselves. Are they long enough to make the progress you want to make? Or are they too long? Also: is this manageable or do you need to keep more open space available for your ongoing activities, like freelance projects you still need to finish.
The latter is the case for me, which is why I’ll use the ‘passive income’ time for freelance work until my current batch of freelance projects is finished. After that, I will only take on new freelance projects if they will directly help me to build passive income.
Oh, and in case you were wondering: yes, I also scheduled all of this as recurring meetings in my actual calendar! ⚠️
I just liked to have one visual representation of my ‘master plan’, because my agenda looks a lot messier than this. You can draw up a similar visual in your notebook and hang it on your fridge if you like.
Step 5: Stick to your plan 🪖
For 1 week, stick to your plan.
When an activity pops up in your calendar, do it. Don’t think. Just sit down and do the work. You’ve already made the decision that you want to do this, now all you have to do is just do it. And again, just for 1 week.
This is not an easy step. You’ll probably mess up a lot of times by not sticking to your schedule. But in those cases, just make a note and move on.
(I’m writing this as much to you as to myself. I’ve gone wrong in this department a million times already. What matters is, that you want to improve and get a little bit better every week.)
Step 6: Improve your plan 🚀
After 1 week, it’s time to review your notes and improve your weekly schedule.
I recommend sitting down for about 15 minutes every Sunday — with your favourite notebook or note-taking app — to answer the following questions:
✍️ What did I like this week?
✍️What didn’t I like this week?
✍️ What do I want to change going into next week?
Of course, you can add more questions if you like. Like your weekly wins, lessons learned or moments you’re grateful for. But I know myself and the more questions I add, the less likely I am to answer them. So I keep it simple with three questions and I write a little journal entry from it. Sometimes it’s more like a story, and sometimes it’s simply a list of bullet points.
Once I wrote my journal entry, I plan my schedule for the next week. In my actual calendar.
Good luck and have fun 🙌
I hope this article helps you to feel more in control of your time and do the stuff you truly want. Let me know if it does!
And remember: it’s a learning process.
I’m actually looking at my new and improved calendar now and I wonder whether I wasn’t a little too ambitious. Even if I was, that’s fine. I’ll just improve again next week. A lot of the fun is in getting a little bit better every week.
Making time for the things you want to do is exciting. It should make you feel good about yourself and the work you’re doing. Even if you only do half of the stuff you planned, that’s still a lot of awesome work done!
Over time, you’ll get better at planning and executing within the time blocks you set for yourself. To get there, focus on the wins. The progress. Because in the end, a plan is just a plan. What matters is that you make it.
“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower