Why Denial Doesn't Work
How to Jumpstart Your Stuck Career

How to Find Time to Grow Your Career, Start a Side Gig or Do Anything Else That Matters


Ah, time. If there's one thing we're good at, it's listing all the reasons we don't have the time to do the things we say we want to do. 

So many people I know have a great idea for a side business, but they don't start because they say they don't have the time. 

Other people tell me that they'd really love to explore changing careers, but they simply don't have the time to do it. 

Whatever amazing thing it is we want to accomplish in the world, our most enduring reason for not doing it is that we don't have the time. 

So today, several ways to find time . . . 

Keep a Time Log

Start by really looking at how you're using your time. For the next week, honestly log the hours you spend on your daily tasks. How many hours did you spend working? How many hours were spent sleeping? How many hours on exercise, chores, etc.? How many hours were spent mindlessly surfing the Internet or watching Netflix? 

Checking Facebook 5 times a day for 6 minutes at a time adds up to 2.5 hours in a workweek. What if you had spent that time working on your side gig instead? 

Manage Your Interruptions

While we're talking about how you use your time, let's talk about interruptions. Too many of us lose hours in our day because we aren't very good at setting the boundaries that will give us good opportunities to focus. Part of the reason we feel so exhausted at the end of a day filled with interruptions is because our brains are simply not built to constantly switch from one task to the next. 

Take a look at this article on managing interruptions and try using this Interruptions Log to track the flow of interruptions in a week. 

Once you've seen what's going on, look at ways you can manage these interruptions to buy yourself greater opportunities to focus in larger chunks of time. 

Use the Covey Quadrants to Assess Your Use of Time


The Covey Quadrants (above) are a REALLY useful way to look at how you're using your time. Ideally, you want to spend as much time as possible in the "Important, Not Urgent" column. These are the activities that will bring you the most satisfaction and that will get you closer to where you want to be. Sadly, many of us spend too much time in all the other quadrants. 

Pay particular attention to Quadrant 4--Not Important and Not Urgent. This is where  a lot of mindless TV watching and other distractions takes place. Instead of ending your day with 3 hours of Facebook and Netflix, try spending at least one of those hours on your own growth. 

Schedule the Big Rocks

Another Stephen Covey principle is the idea of the "big rocks"--the priorities in your life right now. If working on your career or starting a side business or creating that nonprofit you've been dreaming about is a real priority for you, you need to schedule that work FIRST, not last. 

This means literally putting times in your calendar when you will work on your project or business or career growth. These become your first priority and everything else gets scheduled around that. 

Use the Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique is a nice way to help you chunk your time. 

Here's how it works:

  • Choose a task you want to accomplish.
  • Set a time for 25 minutes (this is called a Pomodoro)
  • Work on the task until the 25 minutes is up, then put a check mark on your sheet of paper.
  • Take a short, 5-minute break.
  • Every 4 Pomodoros, take a longer break (15-30 minutes--whatever it takes for you to feel re-charged).

Note that if you are interrupted during your Pomodoro, then you must either postpone the distraction or end the Pomodoro to attend to the interruption and start over later. The idea is that you are working in focused bursts of 25 minutes, so if that burst is interrupted by a co-worker, a phone call, etc., then you need to either end that Pomodoro and start over after you've dealt with the distraction OR you postpone the distraction until you finish the Pomodoro. 

Start by committing to do 1 Pomodoro a day to move your project forward. Then build from there. 

Get Up An Hour Earlier

Doesn't get much simpler than this. Commit to getting up an hour earlier each day. You can knock out 2 Pomodoros and start your day knowing that you've made your project your FIRST priority. This has the added benefit of setting the tone for your day, a tone that puts your growth at the center. 

Do a Month of Sundays (or Saturdays)

For one month, commit to spending large blocks of weekend time on your project. Seth Godin's altMBA project has people working from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. every Sunday for a "5-week" sprint. How far could you move your career, side business, etc. if you committed to a sprint like that?

Change How You Talk About Your Time

Laura Vanderkam suggests that rather than saying that you're "too busy" to do something, you say instead, "This is not a priority."

So instead of saying "I'm too busy to work on my career," say "Working on my career is not a priority."

Or, instead of saying "I'm too busy to start my side business," say "Starting my side business is not a priority."

It may be that those things are true. But you may also find that as soon as you say one of these things is not a priority, you realize that it needs to be. 


Finding time to do what matters can be challenging. But it CAN be done. Stop saying that you don't have time to grow your career or start your side business or do anything else that's important to you. Instead, invest that energy in finding that time to invest in yourself. 



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