Making Time to Tackle Big Challenges
by Taylor Slattery | October 14, 2021
Somewhere deep in the recesses of our minds, we’ve all got these daydream notions of alternate versions of our lives where we’re able to spend our time doing things that we find fulfilling, rather than wasting away, stuck at a desk staring at a screen. Does your daydream consist of something lavish, like spending afternoons on a yacht, island-hopping or is it something more simple, like starting a vegetable garden and learning how to play the ukulele? If it’s closer to the latter, then honestly, what’s stopping you from taking steps to make that a reality?
We all have things we’ve always wanted to do, but have never got around to taking the first steps. Of all the reasons that may prevent us from getting started, a lack of time seems to be the most common. Whether or not there’s any validity to this lack of time or it’s just a misperception doesn’t matter, because the fact is—we’re all busy. And things aren’t slowing down anytime soon.
Whether you choose to let time pass you by, allowing your work schedule to dictate your life and prevent you from doing the things you really want to, or choose to take control and carve out time for yourself is exactly that—a choice.
It is possible that we make this choice without realizing it, though. It may be the case that we do have the time but we lose it to distractions in small increments throughout the day without realizing it. Another possibility is that we tell ourselves we don’t have the time because we’re afraid that were we to actually try this thing we’ve spent so long daydreaming about, we might fail or find it’s something we don’t even like.
Keeping it as an idea brings us comfort, and by taking steps to bring the fantasy to life we risk losing this comfort altogether. It’s easier to live in the grey fog of having never tried than the harsh black and white clarity of having tried and failed. Failure hurts all the more when it’s something that matters to us.
Other times it’s the scope of the challenge that prevents us from getting started. Something like learning a language or an instrument, that we know will take a lot of time, feels incompatible with our current lives, and so we put our aspirations on the back burner until we have the sort of time such an undertaking demands.
The major error in this way of thinking is that we’re making this judgement without any real frame of reference. It’s impossible to know how long something like learning to play the guitar will take before actually getting started. You may find that you’ve got incredible dexterity and a virtuosic sense of musicality and playing guitar just comes to you naturally. Will this actually be the case? Probably not. But the point is that you’ll never know until you actually dive in and get started.
By treating tasks as monumental undertakings that require a complex plan of attack, we’re placing undue pressure on ourselves to succeed. It’s natural to want to get it right, but rather than nail the trajectory from the get-go, just get started and see where things go. You will course-correct along the way as you gain your bearings and learn more. You’re venturing into unknown waters and there’s no map that shows you where the aha moments are lying in wait—you just need to jump in and find them for yourself.
No matter what it is you’ve been waiting to do, whether that’s learning Polish, making sourdough bread, or learning how to skateboard, every journey begins with a single step. The true measure of success isn’t whether or not you master this skill, but whether or not you’re able to stick with it and enjoy the process.
You can’t wait until the perfect time presents itself because that time may never come. You’ll never find the time to do the things you want to do unless you make that time for yourself. Carve out portions every day or every week that you can dedicate to this pursuit and focus on optimizing the process to get the most out of your time. Most importantly, just keep going. Five minutes a day is less than ideal, but if it’s all you can afford for now, then it’s enough. If you’re willing to just get started and put your faith in the process, you’ll find that there are few things that can’t be overcome through dedication and patience.
Taylor is the Managing Editor of Notes on Design. Taylor is a graphic designer, illustrator, and Design Lead at Weirdsleep.