How to make time for things important to you

With all this talk of starting up and working, it's easy to lose sight of things outside this - the other parts of your life, whether that's family, social life, or achieving personal goals that aren't related to your business or career. Maybe you want to run a marathon, write a novel, paint a masterpiece or crochet the world's largest tea-cosy (if you're going to dream big, you might as well dream big.) But where on earth can you find the time? It's easy to let things like this become less of a priority, or something constantly postponed for the future. However, making time for the things that make you happy outside of your startup and your job can help protect you against burning out, and remind you that there's more to life than cashflow forecasts.

John Auckland is the founder of TribeFirst, the first crowdfunding agency dedicated to raising more than funds - it's also about building a loyal fanbase, a 'tribe' who'll get behind your brand and product. However, alongside working and starting up, John also makes time for his own personal goals thanks to an amazing dedication to getting the most out of every hour in the day. We asked him a few questions about why it's important, and where he finds the time.

How important do you feel it is to take time out for things unrelated to your job or startup?

It’s far too easy to let your startup dominate your life, especially when you’re building an empire and holding holding down a full-time job at the same time. But for me, it’s important that I make time for non-work related activities or I’ll end up feeling resentful, or worse, risk burn-out.

It’s ridiculously clichéd, but the tried and tested methods do sometimes work: I keep a list. My wife encouraged me to write all my ambitions down, which she’s dubbed the “50 Before You’re 50” bucket list. Initially I resisted, having never wanted to swim with dolphins or climb a volcano. But she made me think differently about the bucket list concept by applying it to my personal development, and now with the benefit of hindsight I realise it was the most productive thing I’ve ever done.

I break my objectives down into annual goals and lifetime goals, some of which crossover – i.e. there will be some lifetime goals in my annual list.  Last year’s list included things like get a motorbike licence, get married and finish my novel. The list encourages you to take action. In November I realised I hadn’t even started the process of getting my bike licence, so signed up to an intensive course and passed the CBT and full A licence test within weeks of each other, just before the year ended.

What things are you currently working on?

My list for this year includes running a marathon, publish my latest book and learn conversational Spanish. The marathon is in May and I’m currently running three times a week. At the same time I’m crowdfunding my next novel, Ghosts in the Machine, on Unbound, a dedicated crowdfunding and publishing site for books. In terms of learning Spanish – that’s fallen behind a bit, but the list will encourage me to come back to it.

Where do you find the time for this?

Where do I find the time for it all?! More than anything I’m meticulous with time management. Every single waking hour is scheduled in my diary, with tasks on my to-do list allocated to a specific time slot, accounting for how long the job will probably take. It sounds ridiculously organised, and some of you may feel trapped at thought of having every waking moment planned. However, I find it makes me more realistic about what I can or can’t take on, and leads me to place a lot of value on my time. It’s far too easy to say yes to something that’s weeks away when you imagine time will be plentiful, but that’s just our optimistic-biased minds tricking us into thinking we’ll have more time in the future. In truth you’ll be just as busy, so it’s best to simply cut out the things in life that don’t add value. I never feel trapped by my schedule – it’s actually quite liberating to be able to say “no” because you know you don’t have time. If you really want to say yes but the schedule is busy, then something else has to give.

What are the benefits, both personally and for your startup?

I find it easier to think of hobbies as an extension of my work-related activities, and vice versa. In that way the worlds of work and leisure blur, as do the worlds of professional and personal development. I wanted a bike licence because the traffic is terrible on my commute, so it buys me a small amount of time in the future every day. Training towards running a marathon keeps my mind sharp and body healthy, and I have more energy to fuel my hectic lifestyle. My startup is a crowdfunding agency so it’s essential that I have experience in running my own campaigns, and as such, it brings massive credibility if I’ve crowdfunded my own novel. In terms of learning Spanish, I doubt I’ll be opening a Spanish office of TribeFirst anytime soon. I just really like Spain!

What do you do when things get a bit overwhelming – how do you prioritise and get back on track?

Run away to Spain, or at least fantasise about it. When that isn’t a viable option I take a step back and look at the things I’ve committed to and assess whether any of it can be delayed, or potentially even cancelled if I recognise it’s not really adding value to my life or my business objectives. It’s one of the hardest things in the world to say no to someone – it’s counterintuitive to human nature, because their asking is a sign that you’re wanted. However, you’re good at what you do - value that, and your customers will too. You’ll find they even respect you more for saying no.

What are your top tips?

Being a fan of lists, I’ll list out my top tips:

  1. Plan every waking moment, including your downtime – it will make you realise how much you waste on things you don’t enjoy, or that don’t contribute towards your goals.
  2. Be selective about the people you spend time with. If someone only ever takes from you, then it stands to reason they will hold you back. If someone helps you in return for you helping them, then it means they actually like you and believe in you, and the net result is that you’ll both benefit.
  3. Prioritise ruthlessly, and never forget what’s important to you.
  4. Write a list based on personal development. No need for dolphins.
  5. Try and do three new things every year, even if just for a day. It will be enough to make you think about yourself, and will slow the passage of time by punctuating your hectic lifestyle with memorable moments.

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