By Nir Eyal
People make time for what they want, and we should aspire to that.
“People make time for what they want to make time for.”
Though the author is unknown, this saying has become an axiom to soothe distraught thoughts.
Some use it as reasoning to understand why another person isn’t making time for them. Why aren’t they calling texting or replying?
For others, it’s become a mantra to kick-start the mindset shift they need to make difficult yet necessary decisions that protect their time—which usually means letting go of some activities and people to reserve space for others.
It’s a valid justification.
Time is precious. We only have so much of it. We must be careful about who and what we give it to. Still, that can be a challenge. Every day, we face people and activities that try to steal our time.
Here’s how to make sure you spend time on what you want.
Smart People Make Time for What’s Important to Them
When we let someone steal our time and attention with distraction, we’re paying with a non-refundable, nonrenewable resource.
If we’re to spend our time how we want to, we have to see distraction for the thief it is. And we have to start valuing our time and managing it as carefully as we do our money.
Indistractable people already do this.
And they don’t feel guilty about being stingy with their time—because to surrender control of their time is to surrender how they want to live their life and what type of person they want to become.
These people make time for what they want by setting boundaries.
People Make Time for Who They Want in Their Life
Just as important as limiting what we allow in our life is limiting who we allow in our life.
The company we keep has a massive influence on our behavior, driving us either to distraction or to its opposite, traction, which is any action we do with intent.
It’s essential to make time only for people who enable us to pursue traction. That means focusing on quality relationships over quantity.
Ensuring the values of the people in your life don’t conflict with your own is critical to picking quality relationships. But we also must pick friends with as much interest and time to put into the relationship as we do.
If you find yourself putting a lot of effort into a one-sided relationship, let it go. People make time for who they want to make time for. Likewise, you should make time only for people who make time for you.
You deserve people who actively include you in their life and enrich yours.
Follow These Steps to Control Your Time
People make time for what they want by making a conscious effort to control their time and attention.
That begins with identifying the values they want to live by. Intimacy, selflessness, and determination are all values, or characteristics of the people we want to become.
Once we know our values and the activities that facilitate them, we can turn them into time by adding them to a timeboxed calendar. Exercise might be scheduled for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m.; leisure reading every night for 30 minutes; family dinners every weeknight from 6:30 to 8 p.m.
With this timeboxed calendar in hand, we can live the life we really want. Anything that drags our attention away from the timeboxed calendar we created for ourselves—be it social media, an unhealthy relationship, or a micromanaging boss—is a distraction.
You can get other people in your life on board with your timeboxed calendar by schedule-syncing with them. For example, share your hours for focused work with your boss and coworkers, so they know when not to bombard you with emails, meetings, or Slack messages.
It’s 100 percent within your right to make time for what you want.
Start exercising control at work by setting boundaries to facilitate a work-life balance. Start exercising control over your personal life by letting go of people and activities that no longer support the life you want.
These are the things you need to do to make time for who you want to be.