You have a problem. You know you do. If you don’t know it, maybe you suspect it. Or maybe you have no idea, and this is the first you’ve ever heard of it. Read on for a paragraph or two and you’ll realize it and think, “Oh shit, I have a problem. F*** you for telling me.”
If you’re reading this post you probably write in your free time. If you don’t write you probably have another hobby that you work on late at night, something you wish you could turn into a career.
And you probably also have a day job.
I do too. I work at a consulting firm in DC. I leave every morning at 7am and get home every evening at 6:30pm. If I’m going to get 8 hours of sleep I need to go to bed at 11pm. That gives me 4.5 hours of free time. But I also have to eat dinner, go to the gym, see my friends, watch the Wizards and Capitals games, go to the Wizards and Capitals games, read good books, watch good TV, watch bad TV, watch horrible but addicting TV, get ready for my day tomorrow, go to happy hour with my coworkers, write on this blog, and generally anything else that makes life fun. After all that, it doesn’t seem like I have a lot of time left in my day.
There are a million articles about time management, how to get more writing done when you don’t have enough time, how to make time, etc. But you can’t put more hours in the day.
What you can do is decide what matters to you. And the fact is that most of us are lucky to have something that matters enough to us that we do it during our free time. Take a second to think about that.
I get messages from my friends every day telling more how bored they are. How there’s nothing to do. How they have 2 hours to kill before going out and there’s nothing good on TV. And I always say, ‘Damn that sucks, have you seen this show? This movie? Maybe you should go hang out with this person until heading for the bar.’ In my head I’m thinking, ‘You’re the luckiest person in the world. Do you know what I could do with 2 hours of free time?’ (Probably write for 30 minutes and watch Netflix for an hour and a half, if we’re being honest).
My point is that we have something we love, something that means we’ll never be bored. And it’s important to realize that. Much more important than you think. You thought I was going to tell you how to write with a day job, but I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. You do know it, you just might not have thought about it before.
The time management stuff is the easy part. Now I’m not a crazy person, but I make a helpful list every once in a while.
I have two screens on my laptop that I swipe between. One has everything on it: Google Chrome, iMessenger, Spotify, Email, whatever. The other one has two things on it. Scrivener, which I use to write. And the Notes app, which has my list on it.
It’s a list of what matters to me. And I’m not talking about friends and family. I’m talking about what I need to do every day. It’s in order, and I’ll share part of it with you right now. The first half of the list goes like this:
- Go to work
- Go to the gym
- Read and write
The second half (abbreviated) goes like this:
- Hang out with my friends
- Watch TV (insert the shows I like here)
- Write a blog post
- Watch the sports game
It’s simple, and it changes every once in a while. If I have to go to the doctor, I’ll add that to the first part of the list, then take it off after I go. Same with going to a sports game, or needing to pack for a trip. These are the things I need to do that day. The things that, if I do them, will mean I can move down to the second part of the list without feeling guilty. The sooner I’m done with the first half, the more free time I’ll have.
I decided what matters to me day in and day out. What makes me feel like I’ve had a successful day when I get in bed. Because knowing you have things to do, but not what they are, can sometimes stress you out, and that stress can stop you from being productive.
A few paragraphs earlier I wrote out a list that was so long it seemed like I had no time to do anything. Ever. But after figuring out what I care about, it seems like I have plenty of time to write. Sure, it would be nice to have more time to relax, with my only worry being how I’m getting a ride home from the club on a Wednesday. But I can still do those things. I just do them after I finish working.
I started this post off by saying that you have a problem. At this point I think we might all be looking at it differently. It might seem like a problem, but problems get a bad rap. Getting out of bed is a problem. The solution is swinging your legs over the edge and heaving yourself to your feet. Eating is a problem. The solution is preparing food and sitting down to eat it. Finding time to write with a day job is a problem. The solution? Deciding what matters to you.
You don’t have a problem. You have a life. My feeling is that it’ll be a fun one if you want it to be.
Maybe one day you can write a book about it.
P.S. Want to know a fun fact? I originally wrote this post during my lunch break. At my day job.