Why you’re running out of time.

Over the past few months, I get questions from friends on how do I manage my time with the number of interests I hold and the amount of social groups I am affiliated with. Before I proceed any further, let me break down on what my priorities are — and you will notice how they are all related to each other in creativity and productivity.

Writing — Aside from my full-time job as a writer, I am working on my own novel project. Writing takes up most of my time and one of the few good things that came out of Covid-19 was the ability for me to work any time I wanted to. As long as I reached my daily quota ranging from 5 – 6 articles, that much is needed to get a day’s work done. At least 30 minutes is set aside for my personal project daily which includes (but not limited to) drafting, writing manuscripts, going through character developments, and sketching plot frameworks.

Reading — There’s a saying by Annie Proulx that goes “Reading is the finest teacher of how to write”, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s actually mandatory (though it doesn’t feel that way) for me to read a book or article every day. Other than improving my writing subconsciously, reading has given me an avenue to constantly question my thought process, my worldview, and my place in the world. Sparing time to read books on a particular subject aids in my thinking and ability to reason.

Gaming — Just as much as I write and read, gaming has been one of my favourite forms of escapism. I don’t game as often now to curb my addiction, but adding the interest to write game reviews have pushed me to game with a wider sense of purpose too. I am not just blindly playing a game for an adrenaline rush; it’s the sense of satisfaction I achieve completing the entirety of a game or 90% if not. I’m now monitoring my gaming hours and keeping it under control to a maximum of 3 hours a day. If I don’t game, that’s all good too.

Art — Art has been something I found tough to commit to given my main priority is my novel. The Art Discord server has been giving me inspirations to draw something once a month. They come with deadlines too, so that’s even better. One artwork probably isn’t a big deal for a month but it’s already a miracle for me to draw something.

Language — Language is something to be practiced every day. Even 20 minutes a day is better than nothing. I usually spend at least 30 minutes on Chinese. The days where I feel more confident than usual, I would try to complete a sub-lesson.

Why Do You Have So Little Time?

Now that my priorities are established, I want to reiterate that I am inactive on social medias, granted I am on Twitter and Discord but that’s also because I am using my laptop. I physically do not feel the need or want to use social media to engage in mindless debates and unproductive exchanges. 

The truth is we are all living differently. Some of us require more social interactions than others, hence would spend more time on our cellphones. There’s also the reality that very few of us are making real decisions like we should. A decision is a deal with your mind that no matter what happens, it has to be done. Therefore, when you say, “I should write”, you should immediately replace the “should” with “must”. Otherwise, your brain won’t take your intent seriously and it won’t “care” to help.

Trust me when I say that it’s not easy. Your mind really tricks you that the fun stuff is “more important” than your crafts. The hour you spent on scrolling Twitter, seeing a piece of “hot” thread, reading the tweets, seeing the vitriol expressed, and then sharing your own opinion? You could have spent that same hour in writing your book chapter or complete that manuscript you keep putting off for weeks.

It’s fundamental to understand that your willpower and self-discipline are two related traits that should be developed at the same time. Your willpower is the fuel of your actions. Your discipline is your ability to go past intrusive thoughts, comfort zone, and laziness. It requires consistent practice, so start small. Don’t bite off more than you can chew, it takes time, but giving up is not a choice.

But I Multitask, I Still Can’t Get Things Done

That’s because your focus isn’t in the right place. I learned the hard way that multitasking reduces my cognitive abilities. The human brain really only focuses on one task at a time. While the idea of multitasking is beneficial in some situations, it’s not ideal to incorporate that with important tasks. I realized my artworks and articles that had my full attention always turned out better than the ones I did while multitasking. Somehow giving all you have to a matter at hand improves its quality and your speed too.

I Don’t Multitask, I Still Get Distracted

Live updates on social media enables you to be on the current — and your workload piling and hobbies neglected. I won’t question your willpower but you can’t just train your mind to stay focused when it is in an environment full of distractions. Those YouTube tabs you have on your laptop? Possible distraction. Your phone notifications? Yeah. This is the one that should never disturb your attention. Turn off those notifications or switch it to silent mode, learn not to give in to idle texting because really, that can be done after your tasks. Social media apps too irresistible to ignore? I say delete. A bit extreme but if you are that hooked, that might be your saving grace action.

Careful, You Don’t Want To Be On Autopilot Mode

You don’t want to be just writing or reading just because you have to. You want to know why you are writing or why you are reading. You want to be mindful of the things that surround you. Mindfulness is something I’ve come to practice of late and still am learning to incorporate in my life. It’s nothing more than having a self-awareness, focusing your entire attention on the present moment. 

What I mean is, when you are writing, you are not thinking who is going to read what you wrote, you are not thinking about that nasty remark someone made about you, you are not thinking what are you planning to have for dinner. No. You are in the present. You are writing at this moment because you had thoughts of expressing yourself. Nothing else is in your mind but the words that are guiding your fingers to go with the flow and write on that piece of paper. 

It doesn’t matter what you focus on as long as your mind is in the present. Personally, I like to practice mindfulness in various situations: while I am washing the dishes, making a cup of coffee, taking a shower, or even reading. When your focus is prioritized on what’s happening now, you just naturally perform better in most of the situations. Of course you don’t have to take my word for it, but it doesn’t hurt to try. I’d really love to see you achieve things in life, little or big.

Good News, You Still Have Time

That’s all the more reason to make every minute count now. Until you let yourself be carried by your thoughts, immediate pleasures, fear, and pain, you will experience exactly what you “cultivate”. As the saying goes, “You reap what you sow” — It’s the universal cause-and-effect principle, every thought and feeling you experience and every action you take will kindle an effect. Sunshine or rainy days, that’s on you to decide.

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