How to Prioritize Work When You Have Too Much Time

When you have all the time in the world but you’re not using it to your advantage

Everyone talks about how to work on your side hustle or passion when you don’t have much time and a full-time job.

However, chasing the life of your dreams can be just as tricky when you have too much time.

If this space you have to work is new to you because you dropped out of college or were fired, the adjustment might throw you off.

You know exactly what you want to do with your life, but the amount of time available to you is daunting.

It’s so overwhelming you wish you had limited time so you’d be forced to work. Deadlines have always worked for you, but now you don’t have one, so what do you do?

I’m twenty-one, not in college, and I don’t have what people call a “normal job.” Well, it took me three years to get to the productive state I’m in now, but I found my groove, and I can help you find yours.

Time is available to you at every corner, waiting for you to fill it with work or distractions. I’ve learned how to fill it with work more than distractions, but predictably, not every day is easy.

No matter how good I can be at prioritizing what truly matters to me (reaching my goals) distractions are only a couple of steps away.

So, while this guide will help you make work your number one priority, you always have to be on the lookout.

Here’s how you can prioritize work when you have too much time on your hands.

1. Give yourself a work schedule

Photo by Eric Rothermel on Unsplash

I wake up at seven every morning, and I’m on my laptop by seven-thirty where I write until ten-thirty.

From then until eleven-thirty, I get ready for the day, make the bed, and so on.

After that, I work until seven, with a pause in between for a meal with my family. I also have ten to fifteen-minute breaks when I need them.

I workout at seven every other day, and by eight-thirty, once I’ve showered and finished any last-minute work, I clock out.

I usually have everything crossed off my to-do list by then, and if for some reason one thing slipped by me, no big deal, it gets moved by tomorrow.

From eight-thirty and onward, I do whatever the hell I want. But daylight is for work, and nighttime is for me.

Experiment with your schedule.

When do you work best? When will you wake up? What time do you usually eat? How long will you work?

Ask yourself all of these questions (and more) and create a work schedule. The idea of having office hours will allow you to focus when you’re working.

The key is that you mess around with your schedule until you get it right.

2. Prioritize what needs prioritizing

Make a list of everything you like or want to do.

Say you’re a writer. Your list might look like this:

  1. Write articles for my blog
  2. Work on my book
  3. Watch Orange Is the New Black
  4. Promote my work on social media

Look over your list, and ask yourself what matters the most? Reorder it:

  1. Write articles for my blog
  2. Work on my book
  3. Promote my work on social media
  4. Watch Orange Is the New Black

Here, you have two equally important priorities. Thankfully, you have plenty of time for both of them. What time you work on either doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you work on these before anything else.

For me, writing my Medium articles and working on my fictional stories are just as important. However, I work on articles first thing in the morning because that’s what works best for me. Then, I work on writing fiction.

So, figure out what your priorities are, and when would be the best time to work on them.

3. Make a to-do list

You can’t just make a regular old to-do list. You’re not throwing in as many items as you can, and then doing the things that matter the least first.

That’s called busywork, and you always want to put that off for last — unless it’s vital.

You’re going to write a to-do list the night before you go to sleep. This way, when you wake up tomorrow morning, you’ll know what you need to do, and you don’t have to waste time figuring it out.

Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

In this list, write down your top three priorities for the day. Then, write down other things you need to do. Don’t write more than five items.

Your top three priorities are things you must do to be one step closer to your goal, or because you have a deadline you gave yourself.

They’ll be your main focus of the day. If they all end up taking hours, so be it. But you have to get them done.

Everything else you write down can wait until later or tomorrow. You’ll be tempted to do them first, but keep your goals in mind!

4. Give yourself short-term deadlines

Start establishing daily habits that give you deadlines.

One of my daily habits is to write fiction for at least ten minutes every day. This is a short-term deadline, and I have to follow through with it because it’s a daily habit.

If I skip it, I’ll regret it tomorrow.

Speaking of regret, use that crappy feeling to your advantage.

If you skipped your goal today and missed your deadline, how will tomorrow-you feel?

You’ll probably curse yourself out. So have compassion for your future self and do the work you know they’ll be proud of.

Say you need to upload a blog post three days from now. Your deadlines can be to write the blog post today, edit it tomorrow, and then format it the day after that before uploading.

If you skip any step, you’ll have to do double the work the day after, and who wants to do extra work?

If you’re going to be your own boss, act like it. Stick to your word and remember your goals. You can’t reach your aims if you’re not putting in the work.

Final tip: How to handle distractions and other random things that pop up

If you know you have an event coming up, or you have to go grocery shopping, here’s when the perks of being your own boss come in — you readjust your schedule for the day.

Move your to-do list items around and figure out a better time for you to work. If, for example, I know I’m going to be out all day tomorrow, then I’ll write an extra Medium article today and schedule it for tomorrow.

If you have an issue with your phone, turn it off and keep it in a different room. If you get distracted on your laptop, get an app like Focus to block you from sites.

Keep your main goal in mind, and when you do that, you’ll remember how important your work is.

Watching Netflix might feel good right now, but what will you feel after you’ve finished the episode? You’ll feel like you wasted time and like you should’ve been working.

Avoid those feelings and get to work.

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