You want to work on your project or business. You’re ready to go. You just don’t know how to make time.

Making time is about priorities.

In order to get anything done or make any changes, you need to decide what in your life is necessary, what you want to do, and what is optional.

Making time is like budgeting.

When talking about budgeting your money, financial expert Dave Ramsey says that first you cover the necessities–housing, utilities, food and clothes–and you keep adding in your other expenses until every dollar has a job.  Making time in your life for your goals is a similar process.

What is necessary?

The first things you plan time for are the things that absolutely have to happen:  your job, your family, your home and your health.  You have to earn a living.  Not many of us have the luxury of not working, in or outside the home.  You have to feed and take care of yourself and your family–spouse, children, pets.  You can’t cut back on those things, although if you do have a spouse or partner, or teenagers, you may be able to have them take over some of the tasks needed so you can free up some of your time.

After work and family comes your home.  There is a certain amount of cleaning and maintenance that has to happen.  Whether you do a little each day, have one big cleaning day each week, or a combination of both, you need to get the work done.  Again, you can delegate some of the tasks if you have someone to delegate to.

Now add in your self care.  I know what you’re thinking.  “That’s not as important.  I can be further down the list.”  WRONG!  This is not optional.  This is not a “want.”  Taking care of yourself is a need.  You need to eat well.  You need to get enough sleep.  You need to get exercise.  All of these things are necessary to keep you healthy and performing at your top level.

Think about it.  When  you’re tired, hungry and run down, how effective are you?  If you’re like most people, the answer is “not very.”  We make mistakes.  We forget things.  We aren’t our best selves and we don’t do our best work.  If we don’t take care of ourselves, all areas of our life suffer.

You now have work, family, home and self taken care of.  This does not necessarily mean that you have specific times for these scheduled (although if you can do that, great!), it just means that you have an approximate idea of how much of your day is taken up by these things. These are your “needs.”

What do you want?

What do you want to accomplish?  What do you want to learn?  What do you want to change?  This is when you start fitting in the things you need to do to meet your goals, whatever they may be.  You’ve cut the things taking up your time to just the basics.  How much time does that free up?

Even if you can only make time to work a half hour or an hour a few days a week, it’s still more than you are doing now.  As mentioned above, you can’t always schedule everything from your “needs” but you now have a skeletal structure of your day–when you get home, when you eat dinner, after-school sports or activities, bedtimes, etc.  Now is the time to schedule your work periods.

Yes, I did say schedule.

As in: write it down on your calendar, in your planner or put it in your phone.  Think of it as a promise to yourself.  This is an appointment, and it is as firmly scheduled as your day job, or getting your kids on/off the bus.

Pick specific times and put them in your schedule, and tell your family that you will be working during those times.  That way they know in advance that you won’t be available at that time.  Have the kids go to dad for juice, have your roommate tell you about her day later, let all calls go to voicemail.  If you schedule the time, and let the people in your life know you’re serious about it, you have a better chance of getting things done.

If your favorite show is on when you have scheduled work time, DVR it for later, or watch it on demand.  Don’t get sucked into Pokemon Go or Dragon Age.  Don’t check Facebook or Instagram.  Just do what you had planned for this time.

Don’t I get to have ANY fun?

Only after you’ve scheduled needs and wants can you actually see if you have extra time for those optional, fun things.  That includes TV, apps, video games, social media, talking to your friends, etc.

After a week or so, you may realize you have more time available than you thought.  If that’s the case, decide how you want to use it.  Add it to your work time, add it to your “play” time or just use it as time for yourself. Whatever you do, you’ll find yourself getting a little more done each week as you work toward your goal.  And you’ll feel much better after that than you would if you’d just watched TV.