How to Find the Time for That Important Project

Almost everyone has some important project they can’t seem to get to. Maybe it’s starting a blog, writing a book, or launching a new business initiative. You just can’t seem to find the time to tackle it.

Busy Calendar

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/zstigler

Whenever I speak on the topic of Platform, the first question I always get in the Q&A is this: “How do I make time for building a platform? I am so busy; I don’t know how I could possibly add one more thing to my schedule.”

I totally get it. My calendar is jam-packed too. But this belief—and that’s what it is, a belief—also keeps us from making the progress we’d like to see.

Here are seven steps for getting unstuck and finding time for those important projects:

  1. Accept reality. You only have 168 hours a week—the same as everyone else, including presidents, captains of industry, and the homeless man you passed on the way to work. Time is finite. You can’t borrow, beg, or steal more of it.

    Starting and finishing that important project is not about time management as much as it is about priority management. It’s not so much about efficiency as it is about courage.

    The question is this: How important is this project compared to everything else in your life?

  2. Get off your but. No, not your butt, your but—that excuse that keeps you mired in the status quo.

    • “I could do it, BUT I just started a new job.”
    • “I could do it, BUT I just don’t have the energy.”
    • “I could do it, BUT I have small children.”

    In order to move forward, you have to accept responsibility for where you are now. Your current situation is the result of choices you have made—not all bad, by the way, but yours nonetheless.

    The question is this: Are you ready to make new choices? Yes or no. (It’s okay to choose No. Just be intentional.)

  3. Set a clear goal. The momentum begins to shift when you chose a different destination. The way to turn a dream into a goal is to put a due date on it. This one act will often create the urgency you need to get going.

    And while you are at it, make the goal S.M.A.R.T. You can read more about that, in “The Beginner’s Guide to Goal-Setting.”

    The question is this: What do you want? Can you clearly articulate it? Can you see it?

  4. Understand what’s at stake. The is perhaps the most important ingredient in finding the time for that important project. You have to connect why your why.

    The way to overcome inertia (or keep going when you want to quit) is to understand clearly what you gain if you do your project and what you lose if you don’t.

    The question is this: Why is this important to you? Write down your reasons as a series of bullets. Keep them handy—you’re going to need them.

  5. Schedule time on your calendar. This is where the rubber meets the road. What gets scheduled gets done. You literally have to block out time on your calendar to focus on your project. It won’t happen otherwise.

    I literally set these up as appointments with myself. If anyone else looks on my calendar, they see that I am busy—and I am busy. I have set aside this time to work on my project.

    The question is this: When will you set aside time to begin? Or re-start? Or finish?

  6. Keep your commitments. Too often, we sacrifice the important on the altar of the urgent. We can always do it later, right? Wrong. The key is to honor your commitment to your project as though it were an uber-important meeting with an uber-important person.

    I just faced this again today. Someone wanted to book an appointment with me when I had scheduled time to work on my pet project. I said, “No, I’m sorry. I can’t meet then. I already have a commitment.” I didn’t provide any detail. My response was enough. And guess what? We found another time.

    The question is this: Do you really want to get this project done or not? Are you brave enough to say No to other demands, so you can say Yes to this?

  7. Make time to celebrate. Honestly, I am not very good at this. I’m better than I used to be, but no where near where I want to be. As a recovering Type-A personality, as soon as I check something off, I refocus on the next objective. Ultimately doesn’t serve me or the people I work with well.

    It’s important not only to acknowledge what you have accomplished but thank the people who helped you. Otherwise, you wear out your team and eventually yourself. (Don’t ask me how I know this.)

Yes, it really is possible to find time for those important projects you want to accomplish. You just have to be intentional and use the right strategy.

Question: What is an important project you would to tackle? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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  • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

    Number 4 is the real kick in the pants for me. “What’s At Stake” motivates me to do the projects that I don’t enjoy. They need to be done because, well, I have a lot of corresponding decisions to make after getting that project done.

    Great post, Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      That’s, Chris. That’s the one that gets me emotionally invested. So important.

  • Jody Noland

    Michael, you continue to write the most helpful, clear, generous blog posts. Thank you!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jody. I appreciate that.

  • BruceCross

    I agree with Chris and you touched on the answer in your response to my listener question on the last podcast….WHY!!
    At this point, my prime project is to write consistently (2 posts per week) and to GET AN EBOOK WRITTEN TO OFFER AS AN INCENTIVE FOR SUBSCRIBING TO MY BLOG.

    I am in major ASSESS mode and doing just what this post is recommending, i.e., gauge PRIORITIES!
    Thanks again for the immense value of your post!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Bruce. “Why?” is such am important question!

      • BruceCross

        I have more than enough WHY’s. I want to do work that has a purpose…..I want to write to make a positive impact on people, helping them live the life they were truly meant to live….I want time freedom……..I want income lids removed and to enjoy the benefits thereof, whether personally or to share with others….etc…etc…thanks again….this really helps me keep the focus!!

    • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jon D Harrison

      Bruce – I’m with you on the Ebook to offer subscribers!

  • http://JonDHarrison.com/ Jon D Harrison

    What gets scheduled gets done – this is true if you respect your calendar. I know I have gotten into the habit of using my calendar as a to do list. If you use this approach, it weakens the power of the calendar, since it becomes easy to treat the start/stop time as negotiable.
    Then you being to treat everthing on your calendar as negotiable.
    Then you show up late or miss meetings.
    I really like David Allen’s GTD system for using the calendar better – it’s made all the difference for me.
    Great, great post Michael.

  • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

    To answer your question, the one big project I want to tackle is writing a book. My biggest obstacle is confidence. Not confidence so much to go through the process, but confidence related to value and relevancy. Having a structure helps to push through these feelings & to move forward in doing what needs done. Structure is such a key component in every area of life. It allows for comfort in order to be uncomfortable. It allows for stability in change. Your post speaks to creating the sort of structure needed to move forward in a large project that might be uncomfortable and difficult.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’ve yet to meet a writer who didn’t struggle with some measure of confidence. It’s part of the process. Pressfield calls it resistance, and the greater the resistance, the more worthy the work.

    • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ J.D. Meier

      I find it helpful to help one person deeply, and write for that person.

      Then, it doesn’t take long to find four more people that the same book helps deeply.

      If you then deeply help five people while you write the book, and use them to sanity check, keep it real, and keep you honest, by the time you are done, your five people will most likely represent 50, 500, 5,000, 50,000 or more.

      The key is to go deep with the vital few to create high value and high relevancy.

      • http://www.struggletovictory.com/ Kari Scare

        Your tip reminds me of what Stephen King says in “On Writing” about having one person you’re writing for while you are working on a project. Thanks for the reminder of this idea. I’m going to try that. Well, once I figure out who that would be for my current project.

  • Leigh Hall

    I want to write a book. I’ve been working on it off-and-on for over a year now, but I think the biggest thing that is holding me back is no deadline. I need to set a due date and find ways to keep myself accountable for this! Any realistic suggestions? Thanks for these great tips, Michael!

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      You might create a small writer’s group of fellow writers. You could all encourage one another and hold each other accountable.

  • http://convergenceinthecommons.com/ Deborah Owen

    Wise words, as always, Michael, thanks. I especially resonate with the “priority management”, goal setting (I always set too many and then get distracted), and connecting to “Why”. Reminds me of Simon Sinek’s book (I just wrote a couple of blogposts about it), “Start With Why”. Will now set my priority goals for today, not get distracted, and remember why I am doing them! :-)

  • http://taylormarshall.com/ Dr. Taylor Marshall

    Great advice. I’m trying to launch a member site and it’s tough. Thank you the inspiration to create one and finish the project!

  • http://storiesmadepowerful.com/ Arlen Miller

    I’m reminded how I was corrected a number of years ago when I mentioned ‘time management’. It’s not so much time management as it is ‘managing myself in time’. I like #4. Why the why. I have started a blog… and I’m committed to focusing on that… without getting carried down bunny trails. Thanks for all the practical advice, Michael. You add value to my life.

  • Atulkumar

    Really Mr. Michael wonderful, great post dear……..be expect same in future.
    Thanks.
    Atulkumar -

  • B Chris Scott

    Thought it was missing meat on my first read (a quick scan), but went back and re-read it and it sank in. Thanks for the Post.

  • Deborah Wipf

    This post came at a perfect time for me. One of the hardest things about being an entrepreneur has been figuring out what to work on next and then not getting distracted by all the other items on my to-do list. I’m printing this one and posting it in my office as a reminder – thanks!

  • Ann Byle

    Just what I needed after a summer of reassessing my writing/professional life, saying no to good things to make room for best things, and digging into two big projects. Thanks for the “but” kick.

  • http://www.theredcabbage.com/ Jonathan Wilson

    I think working out the “how” of any project also depends on the size of the project. For instance, getting a book published will take dedicated effort over time and will require a different approach than DIY projects around the house. Scheduling that time is critical. Also, I have found that doing the project first thing in the morning (depending on the project) ensures it gets my best effort. If the project waits until after work, dinner, and putting the kids to bed, then that project gets only my tired attention.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      I’m the same, Jonathan. If I don’t do it first thing in the morning, it doesn’t get done. RIght now, I’m getting up at 5 to write for a couple hours before kids get up. I do more later, after they leave, but those first couple hours are critical to the day’s success.

  • Melissa McCutcheon

    I want to write a book on psycotherapy, and the traditions of the Orthodox Church for the average layman. It is simply not out there. Will take time and commitment which I am willing to create.

    • http://www.MicheleCushatt.com/ Michele Cushatt

      What’s your first step? Can you get the first step on the calendar?

  • Cash Car Convert

    As I have just started my blog and I am working to start a podcast, I will be utilizing these tips to keep me on track and on point. Thanks for the great input!

  • Bryan Van Slyke

    Great post and I love the encouragement. I absolutely need to nail down my why. I have thought about a book, even an ebook for sometime, but just can’t quite deliver. Time for me to schedule some actual time blocks. Thanks again!

  • http://sukofamily.org/ Caleb

    Thanks Michael! I just realized this evening that I think I need an intervention! I’ve way over scheduled the next 6 weeks and now I’m feeling the the squeeze. It’s time to get off my but and set some clear goals.

  • http://www.youthministrymedia.ca kolby milton

    Number 4 is crucial for me also. It is so easy to get distracted. I am trying to work on a huge project, and I think it’s important to know that “what’s at stake” if I don’t do it. Thanks for this post!

  • https://twitter.com/JimClaussen Jim Claussen

    Michael.. one of your best posts. Also, some of your best writing. Thanks for the tips and inspiration.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Jim. That is so encouraging.

  • http://www.WishListMember.com Stu McLaren

    Thank you for this @mhyatt:disqus … it’s exactly what I needed. My important project has been on the backburner for too long and for me, #4 (what’s at stake) will make it a priority (I can see that resonated with others as well cc @jeubfamily:disqus ).

    So I am committing to reaching out to the appropriate people within the next 48 hours to get my Business Manifesto project underway.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Woo-hoo! I’m so excited, Stu. Your project could have a profound effect on not just a person or a group of people, but an entire generation! I am really excited about it.

  • http://rebeccarenejones.com/ Rebecca Rene Jones

    Wow. Great post. I deconstruct big projects into small tasks with individual due dates. On Fridays, I plot out the week ahead, knowing things will need to flex. But it feels good to know there are small, achieveable goals lined up for each day. They’re just big enough to nudge the project ahead, but small enough to not overwhelm. You have to find what works!

  • CelesteVaughan

    Getting of my “but” seems to be my biggest problem…and my goal is my first book. God has definitely given me a story and a purpose, and as a pharmacist I’ve been learning to write for three years now. And believe me, teaching a pharmacist to be a writer is no easy task. My time is now. It’s time to get off my “but” and get it written.

    BTW, I was at She Speaks this year and thoroughly enjoyed hearing you speak in person! I listen to your podcasts while I run, but hearing you in person was a treat. (I even checked out the Nissan Leaf after hearing you speak. They really should give you a commission! )

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Thanks, Celeste. I love speaking! Blessings.

  • http://growing4life.net/ Leslie A

    Love your ideas! :) I find that I am so much more productive if I am busier. If I don’t have anything on my agenda for the day it is easy to waste hours–because I have them. Figuring out how to schedule hours that aren’t already scheduled is something I really need to learn to do.

  • http://www.nancyjcommunications.weebly.com/ Nancy J.

    Trying my best to finish a project that I go up and down on in the area of procrastination. Creating new habits so this does not happen again! Finding it is important to shore up my deadlines and stick with them.

  • http://timmilburn.com/ timage

    I am always amazed how much more powerful my calendar is than my to-do list. When I put something on my calendar, it gets done. When I put it on my to-list, it might get done. Scheduling your time at the start of the day or the night before is such a boost to productivity. #5 is GOLD!

  • Ron Greenfield

    Very useful Michael, especially the But. The excuses we give to ourselves rather than just forging ahead and taking the first step and doing it. Since I’m originally from Brooklyn, I call it the Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda Syndrome. Years go by and then you say to yourself, “Well I shoulda done it then.” Very appreciative of your posts.

  • Marian Beaman

    Last fall I took a how-to blogging course, got a blog set up, and bought your book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World and made some adjustments to help generate traffic by “engaging my tribe! Grateful for all the advice. Marian – “plainandfancygirl”

  • Rick Healey

    accept reality, get off your but and schedule time…great points.

  • http://SourcesOfInsight.com/ J.D. Meier

    Great walkthrough and examples for finding the time, and most importantly, find the “WHY.”

    A few things really help me find the time:

    1. I have to decide it’s important. I need a compelling “WHY” to stay the course. Part of this includes envisioning what success will look like when it’s done. If I can see it in my mind’s-eye, I’ve got something to keep driving for.

    2. I need to treat it like a project with a start-date and end-date. I can’t run a marathon forever. I need a finish line so I can prioritize and focus during a specific period of time, whether that’s a week, a month, or more.

    3. I need to work on it daily. Even if it’s just a little bit, the daily momentum helps create a sense of progress, and helps get the snowball rolling.

    My most common pattern for doing significant projects is to make it a 30 day sprint, and use 30 days to either complete it, or at least put a significant dent into it.

    Sometimes, my best move is a mini-scrimmage against my project. I might use 30 days to explore the ins and outs of the project to really understand the landscape, map the terrain, get the risks on the table, figure out what I know, don’t know, and need to know next. Then, by the time I’m ready to execute, I’m confident that I know the path, so finding the time is a lot easier. Plus, I’ll be ready for potential setbacks and risks, and deal with them more effectively.

    Of course, when I have to use my serious skills, my Program Management skills, I create a work breakdown structure to map out the details of the work so that I can truly estimate the work, and, as a result, allocate the right amount of time and schedule appropriately.

  • http://www.boneheadbusiness.com/ Ryan Yamane

    Excellent post. I’ve been thinking about this topic of priorities a lot lately. Especially helpful for me is this idea of making appointments with myself and keeping them. I’ve been doing this the past couple months and it has made a huge difference in my productivity in the important projects. So much so that I blogged about it the other day… As always, thanks for the great content!

  • Jeff Cole

    Michael, I love your work. However, I do disagree somewhat with your statement that your current circumstances are a result of your choices. I would have agreed four months ago, before I got cancer, but I didn’t choose to have leukemia. But, how I respond to that IS my choice. We could choose to wallow in self-pity, or we can choose to use it for good. I chose the latter and started a blog with the purpose of glorifying God and encouraging others: jeffreydcole.blogspot.com. Thanks for all you do, sincerely.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Jeff, I totally agree with you. I should have been more clear. Thanks.

  • http://www.leavingconformitycoaching.com/ Randy Crane

    #7 has always been my biggest challenge, for the same reason as it has for you, Michael. I’m in the process of finishing my book, “Faith and the Magic Kingdom,” that will be released in mid-Novermber. I’ve been working on it for a very long time, and now when I look ahead I think, “Release, Launch Week, Promote through Christmas, New promotion for the new year…” and there’s no place to pause and celebrate the accomplishment. Taking your advice, I’m going to use (appropriately enough) Thanksgiving weekend to do just that.

  • http://www.MikeVeny.com Mike Veny

    Urgent versus important. This is a constant struggle for me. Yet, as I learned through reading The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, the more you focus on ‘important’ stuff, the less ‘urgent’ stuff you will have to deal with.

    Pet projects are important. Thank you for this great article & great podcasts.

  • Antonio

    Great tips to get things done. What about to delegate small important duties people can help you have time.

  • Ed Boring

    Great post, Michael, with excellent tips. I used to teach a time management course, and I always started with your point 1 – we cannot actually manage time; time is what it is, finite. We CAN manage our choices and priorities.

  • Cheryl B Lemine

    I have two comments. My first is to thank you for simple and clear motivational steps designed to help make unproductive guilt hit the road and be replaced with footsteps of progress. My current project is about faith and grief so now I will be putting “office time” back in my Thursday night schedule.

    My next comment is what I learned from my boss from 25 years ago. When she needed to say NO, she said, “Thank you for thinking of me but.. ” I have used this gem many times. It acknowledges. It’s polite and it works!

  • http://locksmithelmhurst.org/ Locksmith in Elmhurst

    Just glad to know that a lot of people have similar concern. I agree about accepting reality, I am no superman and I just need to sacrifice the important tasks to complete the critical ones.

  • http://www.annskaehill.wordpress.com/ Ann Skaehill

    #5 and #6 have been game-changers for me! As usual, excellent post Michael!

  • paul

    Awesome stuff. Michael always delivers.

  • Suwandy Tjin

    Dear Michael,

    I would like to reiterate what you have mentioned in number 4 as the following statement. “The why is more important than the how”. If you know the why, then the how isn’t as difficult to discover and execute.

  • http://www.ricardobueno.com/ Ricardo Bueno

    If it’s important enough to you, you make the time. A couple of years ago I launched a membership site … The hardest part about launching was the fear of getting started. “Will this work?” “Who will pay for this?” Then, one day I said screw it, got started, finished, and launched.

    It was in the getting started that I began to build momentum and it felt good. It carried me all the way through to completion. I worked nights and on Sundays to get it done! Basically, I made the time and it was all worth it.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Good for you! I agree.

  • http://www.pauljolicoeur.com/ Paul Jolicoeur

    #3 really helps me keep focused on a straight path. I break bigger projects into smaller chunks and make goals around completing them. I also set daily goals that keep me moving through out my week. Thanks Michael for another great post!

  • http://daniel-bachmann.com/ Daniel Bachmann

    Great post. My current project is to transition from social to blogging, writing a book and also become a public speaker about the topics I write about.

  • http://www.productivityfrog.com/ Productivity Frog

    Michael, thanks for this post. I find the key is having the courage to prioritise and to chose to say no to the many important things that I cannot do in consequence of my decision. I think you are absolutely right when you say “it’s not so much about efficiency as it is about courage”. Hyper scheduling is not the answer – but courage is.

  • Yvonne Ortega

    I want to write another book, and I must schedule the time to do it. Thank you for the reminder, Michael.

  • Chris Howard

    A good friend of mine, Stu McLaren shared this on Facebook and I was so glad I saw it as it’s so easy to be so busy, you don’t do what you really NEED to do – thank you for writing this! Timing was perfect!

  • Guest

    For managing my time and project, I Use Replicon. Currently been using it for almost 1 year and it has helped me setup a nice schedule and helps to follow the same. Supports multi-currency billing rates, iPhone and Mac interfaces and many other options are available.