I learned how to manage my time when I worked Hollywood hours at an agency. I was at the office by 8:30am, out at 8pm... or some days, much later. Then, I'd go out for those essential networking drinks, got home by 10pm, and then I'd read scripts until I collapsed.
I was constantly battling with a never-ending inbox and a growing to-do list, all while trying to carve out time to write -- my real passion. I was flustered by the daily grind, and wasn't writing a word.
That all changed when I decided there had to be a better way. I decided to take control of my schedule instead of letting the daily hustle control me. That was the turning point: soon after, I began getting out of bed at 4:30am or 5am, squeezing in workouts and writing sessions like never before. I wrote a new pilot, found clarity and focus, and got back in shape.
Here's how I transformed my life and my priorities:
1. Track Your Time in a Journal
Most people don't actually know how they spend their time. How long do you stay in bed hitting the snooze button? Is that nightly Netflix hour really doing you any good, or should you be hitting the hay as soon as you get home so you can wake up early to get in a workout?
Track your time, your sleep, and how you spend it. Even if you only have a few hours before and after work, make sure they're well spent.
When I started waking up early, I was in awe of how much time I suddenly had. I would work out and then drive to the office at around 5:30am -- which saved me time stuck in traffic -- and walked to a nearby coffeeshop to write my scripts.
By the time I walked back to work at 8:30am, I had already gotten in a solid writing session, gotten in a quick workout, and I felt like I was truly making time for my own goals.
Even now when I spend most of my time working from home, I religiously track my time. I realized that there were a few hours every afternoon where I stopped getting anything productive done, so now I exercise during the afternoon which gives me an energy boost for the rest of the day and cuts down on the mindless social media-surfing that use to creep into my after-lunch hours.
2. Perfect Your Routine
The key to developing good habits is to make them automatic: build them into your daily routine so that you just automatically do them, no questions asked.
Every morning, I got used to jumping out of bed, going to the gym, and then headed to that coffeeshop to write. Every evening, I automatically flowed through my routine of dinner, yoga, and bed.
Figure out the three most important habits you need to build into your day to get the most out of the time you have. Fit in some sort of exercise to boost endorphins, an activity like writing or reading that contributes to your career goals, and a relaxing activity like taking a moment to give gratitude or reflect on your day.
Good routines and good habits are the building blocks for happiness. You are what you do everyday, so make sure you are crafting days that are not only productive, but joyful.
3. Keep in Mind Your Three Most Important Tasks
Productivity is about approaching each day and deciding what you need to get out of it. What's the key to being successful today? What are the three targets you want to hit before the end of the day?
These could be as small as answering an important email, writing a page of your screenplay, and reading a chapter in a book. Whatever these targets are, be sure to identify them at the start of each day, and hold yourself accountable for completing them.
Focus is precious, just like your time. Give thought to your larger priorities when building daily targets.
It's Time to Make a Change
It took me a long time to begin setting that alarm so early, and to commit to building a better day for myself. However -- it's all worth it.
We only have so much time to go after what we love, so why waste a second?
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