Making Time for Your Dream Project

This won't give you more timeWe’ve all got a dream project – something we’re telling ourselves that we’ll get around to one day. It could be that novel we want to write, that new career we want to launch, that skill we’d love to develop, that language we’re keen to learn, the level of fitness we’d like to achieve, etc.

The problem? For most of us, we’ve also got a lot of other things going on: work, family, friends, chores, volunteering… The seems to infinitely continue and those dream projects might seem destined to remain just dreams. A big long-term project could take an hour a day to make progress on.

Where are you going to find the time?

The quick answer is – you’re not. You’re going to make the time for your dream project. Here’s how:

  • First: Pick One Thing
    Don’t try to pursue twenty dreams at once. This might be the year when you write a novel. It won’t be the year when you write a novel, run a marathon, save $10,000, learn Mandarin, publish a daily webcomic…

    Many of us are very good at starting new projects – and very bad at finishing them. Most life and career coaches advise sticking to one key project at a time, until it’s complete, or (if it’s something ongoing like a fitness program) until it’s firmly established in your life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to try a ton of different things. However, you have to admit that it would be tough to find the time for that let alone mentally focusing on them all.

  • Second: Identify Unproductive Time
    Most of us, however super-efficient we might be, have some gaps in our day of time which we rarely use productively. Perhaps you always spend your lunch hour reading blogs, or you sit straight down in front of the television when you get home in the evenings. Maybe your weekend mornings are non-existent because you lie in till noon.

    Where do you have chunks of time that could be reclaimed for your dream project? Try to find at least a couple of hours a week that you could use: perhaps on Tuesdays, there’s nothing good on television, so you’ll commit to spending 8pm – 10pm pursuing your dreams. I am not saying that you have to give up everything that you have deemed as downtime or the things that you use to relax, but if you are serious about accomplishing a dream project, be prepared to make some choices.

  • Third: Double-up Your Time
    A great way to make more time is to double-up. That means engaging in two activities at the same time. I don’t mean working on your dream project while you should be working for your employer, I mean using periods of time like your commute or the time you spend chopping vegetables for dinner. Identify any time-consuming parts of your day which involve mainly physical, rather than mental, effort. For some projects, these are ripe for doubling-up.

    Here are just a few ideas of how your time could double-up:

    • Writing poetry on the bus to work
    • Listening to language CDs during your workout
    • Playing audiobooks about the new career you’re planning whilst making dinner
    • Knitting that afghan while you listen to the radio
  • Fourth: Get Your Time Back
    If you can’t find enough time for your dream project by using unproductive time and by doubling-up, you need to look into some ways to get your time back. There are two possibilities here: either you negotiate with a partner or friend, or you pay for assistance.

    For example, if you find that an hour of your evening is spent cooking dinner and washing up, why not ask your partner to cook every other day? While they’re doing so, you can work on your project.

    If you don’t have a partner, or if they’re unable/unwilling to help out, look for paid help. Personal development blogger Sid Savara found that the price of pursuing his dreams was just $60/week:

    For just $60 a week, I’ve bought myself some time to chase after some dreams: more time to workout, play guitar, and write in this blog. For $60 I managed to free up 10 hours every week!

    Some other ideas are:

    • Rope in your kids to help with chores or basic kitchen tasks (you may have to bribe them, but it’ll be cheaper than employing someone else!)
    • Do all your shopping online – no more Saturdays spent battling the crowds.
    • Cut back on some of the committees or voluntary groups that are eating up your time. Don’t feel you have to say “yes” to every request.
    • Swap child-care duties with another family: you have their kids round one evening a week, and vice versa. This could give you several free hours to work on your project.

What’s your dream project? How have you made time for it – or how are you going to?

Written on 2/2/2009 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: nertzy


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