Time Thieves are Sabotaging Your Goals

Dec 03, 2022
Time Thieves are Sabotaging Your Goals

This week I want to share a spark that will help you identify your time thieves so you can steal back time for your important projects.

You put off creative projects because you don't have enough time.

No matter who you talk to, not having enough time is consistently listed as one of the main reasons why something important cannot be done.

"I'd love to write a book, but I don't have the time."

"I'd like to start a business, but I work forty hours a week."

"I wish I had more time to practice the guitar, but the kids take priority when I am at home."

You don't realise how much time is stolen from you every day.

Your time gets stolen waiting for the kids after school or when you're picking up your husband from the shops. It's stolen in the 20-minutes between Zoom calls or when your friend is late to your lunch date.

It's also stolen from you by people who call up to chat mindlessly for hours or schedule one-hour work meetings when 30-minutes is enough.

There is enough time for important projects if you know where to look.

The point of this is to demonstrate to people who believe they are genuinely too busy to take on a creative project that there are many more hours in the day than you might think. Once you know where snippets of time are hiding, you can steal them back and stitch them together.

Here's the thing: your book, business, exhibition, and guitar practice are more likely to get done during your busy workday than during a mythical block of "free time" because stealing time is the only way successful busy creatives get essential things done.

Identify your thieves and steal back the time you need.

Check your weekly calendar and identify any typical time-creep sessions. For example, when do you typically mindlessly scroll your phone, waiting for someone?

Instead of chatting away your lunch breaks or spending hours on your phone, what could you do for half an hour that is productive and builds towards your dream instead?

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us”—J. R. R. Tolkien

Here's the step-by-step breakdown of the process

Step 1: Identify where your time gets stolen.

The first step is to identify where your time goes. If the activities that steal your time are measurable, such as watching three episodes of the Crown on Netflix, you know that's three hours. If you turn on screen time on your iPhone, it will measure how long you spend on social media, and there are plugins to count the minutes you spend on websites "procrastibrowsing".

If there are time creeps throughout the day that you cannot measure, just make a guess. Either way, measure the "time creeps" throughout your day and add up the minutes. You'll be shocked at the amount stolen from you every day.

Step 2: Set your project priorities.

The next step is to identify the important project you want to start first. Unfortunately, this is often where creatives get blocked because shiny object syndrome will have you starting 12 new projects, and analysis paralysis will have you too scared to make the wrong choice.

The advice for both conditions is the same: brainstorm a list of things you wish you had more "time" to do. Prioritise the list in order of preference and pick the project at the top of the list.

Step 3: Scope out your creative project.

Now that you have chosen your project, you need to quantify it. What is your goal for this project, and how will you know when you have achieved it? What steps do you need to take to get there, and how long will each take? Do you need any special tools, materials, locations and so on?

Break it down to the smallest of steps. For example, your life might be so busy that you can only steal 15-minutes a day, so you need to break your project down into 15-minute blocks and tackle one each day.

Step 4: Be prepared to receive time gifts.

Now and then, you will be "gifted" with a block of free time.

Your 3 pm meeting gets cancelled, a friend is running 30-minutes late for lunch, the kid's football is rained out, and they're staying with their friends for the afternoon instead.

Whenever you are gifted free time, be prepared to capitalise on it. Never leave the house empty-handed. You should always have a notebook and pen or an iPad. Also, carry a pocket sketchbook or even a bag of knitting. Whatever your project entails, could you find a way to take it with you?

Step 5: Identify the pockets in your calendar.

My favourite stealing time technique is checking the weekly calendar and identifying any procrastination times or work breaks. Then, you can buffer space between meetings or add 30-minutes to the start or end of each day for your project.

I have written three books during my lunch breaks—600 words at a time. I painted a series of portraits by getting to work half an hour earlier and keeping the paints hidden in my desk drawer. I have journaled daily for 15 years by writing in my notebook with my morning coffee. It might take longer than you would like, but it's quicker than never starting.

Step 6: Set a goal to steal 30-minutes tomorrow.

Set a goal to steal back 30-minutes tomorrow for your creative project.

If stealing 30-minutes is too difficult, how about 15-minutes in the morning and 15-minutes in the evening?

Here are some ideas. Bring a notebook to work, and sketch in it at lunchtime. Download a course and watch it on the couch at night. Read a book on your kindle app while the kids have basketball practice. Listen to a helpful podcast or audiobook on your commute to work. Write 600 words on your phone while waiting for your morning coffee. Play guitar in the ad breaks when you're watching TV with the kids.

What could you do with 30-minutes stolen back from your day?


  1. People put off projects because they are time-poor
  2. There is more time available than you realise in snippets throughout the day
  3. Breaking a project down into 15-minute steps makes it manageable
  4. You should always be ready to capitalise on free time gifts
  5. Buffer your calendar to steal time for your project
  6. Stealing 30-minutes a day is enough to make progress on a goal.

‚ö° I hope this sparked for you why everyone has the same 24 hours, but some people use them better than others.

Please tag me on Instagram if you found this helpful.

There are hundreds of time trackers and project management software options, but I love Asana and my iCal app. Try it if you don't already have Asana—it's free.


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