A member of my Fearless Training Program has a full-time business that she loves, but it isn’t the meaningful work she’d like to do in the world. She struggles with finding enough time for that meaningful work.
Can you relate to this? The rest of our life fills up all the space—how can we find enough time to focus on what’s really important?
This is a common problem for anyone who wants to launch a new venture, volunteer, create art, write a book, or build an audience or a brand. How do we create the time when we’re already busy and overloaded?
I’m going to share some ideas in this article:
- Create structure for all the stuff in your life
- Create even more space
- Really pour yourself into it
- Bring some zen to disruptions and frustrations
- Replenish yourself
- Bring freedom, joy, and energy to any activity
These are all meant to address various problems we face when we’re making time for our meaningful work. You can decide which ones apply to your life.
Let’s take a look!
Create Structure in Your Life
Our lives can feel overwhelming, with too many things to do. We have chores, small tasks, messages to answer, bills to pay, dishes to wash, people to contact, and much more. So how do we handle all of this?
First, it can feel overwhelming when it’s a huge pile of stuff and seemingly not enough time.
Second, the small stuff will overwhelm all the available space, because it always feels urgent when we’re feeling behind and overwhelmed.
So one good answer is to create structure. Create spaces to deal with all the things in your life:
- Bill Pay Mondays
- Inbox Zero Tuesdays
- Admin Fridays
- House Chore Party Saturdays
- Email and Messages Happy Hour—daily at 4 p.m.
- Morning Planning and Intentions
- Monthly Taxes Day
- Meaningful Work Play Time at 10 a.m. daily
- And so on
You don’t need these specific spaces; your structure will be different than these. But if you have a space for all the stuff, you can relax and know that it will be taken care of at its assigned time.
With structure, you can then create intentional space for your meaningful work.
Create Even More Space
Let’s say you’re so busy that you can only find 30 minutes a week for your meaningful work. That’s a great start!
Maybe you can create more time by bundling your emails and messages into a certain hour each day. Maybe you can free up some time by hiring a babysitter, a house cleaner, or someone on Craigslist to haul away your junk for you. Someone to answer your customer service emails, or an administrative assistant to take care of routine tasks.
Or maybe you can eliminate or simplify some things to create more space. Get out of commitments. Tell people no. Ask for postponements.
Sometimes we can cut out distractions, such as social media or video watching or news/website reading. If we’re honest, there’s a lot of wasted time in our days that can be streamlined for the sake of what’s truly important.
Get creative. Sometimes it takes a little time investment to simplify, but then it pays off in space in a week or two.
Really Pour Yourself Into It
Once you have the space, it can be hard to focus. All the other stuff is calling to you. Maybe you spend the first 20 minutes of the 40 minutes you’ve carved out just getting ready. Maybe the whole focus block gets pushed back until later because you feel something else is more urgent.
Create the structure to make the meaningful work happen. Sometimes it means doing it on a video call with someone else and each of you does your meaningful work on mute for an hour.
But when you’re in the focus block of time, pour yourself into it. Give it your full being. Be all in.
Bring Some Zen to Disruptions
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we get disrupted. Our kid interrupts wanting a snack. Our spouse interrupts with their latest frustration. A message comes in that sidetracks us.
And then we can get frustrated or angry. That’s normal. Give yourself a breath or two, and some compassion.
Then let it go. Relax, breathe, and accept the interruption as just a natural part of the chaos of life. It doesn’t have to derail you completely. See the gift in the interruption. Find the gratitude for having this person in your life.
Then simply return to the meaningful task, with your whole self.
It can be hard to find focus when we’re drained, anxious, exhausted, or feeling resigned and resentful. We just don’t have the focus or capacity to face anything.
So it can be a great act of leadership to recognize this and take care of it. This is an act of generosity to yourself and your meaningful work.
Recharge your batteries, give yourself nurturing and nourishment, and replenish yourself so that you can return with full life force.
- Get more sleep. Shut down earlier and let yourself relax into deep, nourishing sleep.
- Get outdoors daily. Go for a walk or run, enjoy the quiet beauty of nature.
- Take a hot bath. Drink some tea while doing nothing else. Take some space.
- Any kind of self-care is helpful: a nap, yoga, a workout, therapy, talk with a friend, get a massage, meditate.
More space, more relaxing, more nourishing.
Bring Freedom, Joy, and Energy to Every Activity
We can feel trapped because we’re craving freedom, but our day job isn’t allowing for it. We can feel drained and discouraged because our day job feels draining, stressful, dull.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can bring joy and freedom to any activity, including our routine work.
What would it be like to do the activity you normally experience as suffocating with a sense of freedom and joy?
What if you could do the dull routine activities with vitality? What if you could be lit up in any moment you liked?
This is a possibility few people allow themselves. I encourage you to explore it.
What could your life be like, bringing freedom and joy to anything you liked?
Leo Babauta is the author of six books; the writer of Zen Habits, a blog with more than 2 million subscribers; and the creator of several online programs to help you master your habits. Visit ZenHabits.net.