Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Peter Deitz: How I Make Time for What Really Matters

I'm super excited to present the first post in my new guest post series: Making Time for What Matters.  Look for posts in the coming weeks from Emily McKhann, Rachelle Mee-Chapman, Rachel Cole, Tiffany Moore, and more!

Peter Deitz is a blogger, microphilanthropy advocate, and aspiring social entrepreneur. He is currently making time for what really matters while keeping an eye out for new projects to plug into, or initiate.You can follow him on Twitter at @peterdeitz

Time management is one of the toughest skills to hone as aspiring social entrepreneurs, activists, and creative professionals. Curiosities abound as do tough choices on how and where to direct our attention. If not managed properly, our schedules can dictate our peace of mind, instead of the other way around.

At various points in the last several years, I have all but lost a handle on my schedule, resulting in zero peace of mind, and the complete failure to make time for what really matters (in my case, time with friends, meaningful work, regular sleep, creative reflection, and random hobbies).

A few moments come to mind in which I deliberately re-hinged. Below are the strategies I deployed to improve my time management skills.

The Self-Imposed Blackout Strategy
- I have found that one of the quickest and most effective ways to make time is to blackout chunks of the day or week when I am devoting myself to a single task, or no tasks at all. When the goal is making time for activities outside of work, this normally takes the form of shutting down my laptop and all personal electronic devices. Sound familiar? Yes, airline protocol has something to teach us all.

The I Paid for It, So I Make Time for It Strategy - This strategy for making time may sound crass, but I have found that it can be very effective. For instance, earlier this year, I knew that I wasn’t cooking enough at home, or eating nearly enough vegetables. So I signed up for a 30 Day Nutrition Challenge. I paid upfront for a month’s worth of grocery lists, tasty recipes, and nutritional tips delivered electronically by the Living Kitchen Wellness Group throughout the month. Since I had paid for the e-course, I found that I was more inclined to go through the steps necessary to stock my kitchen and prepare the recipes. By the end of the 30 days, I had regained the habit of cooking at home, and added a few recipes to my repertoire.

The Change Everything Strategy
- In the rare situations where taking control of my schedule seemed insurmountable without major life changes, I began by sketching out on paper the activities that I wanted to be making time for. In my case, I drafted a yearly and weekly schedule, and then reverse engineered the changes I would need to make in order to pursue these activities. In each case, it took several months to implement the change everything strategy. But I succeeded in making time for the big and small things that mattered to me at that moment, including something as seemingly insignificant as setting up a DIY worm composting system.


How do you make time for what matters?

Flickr photo credit: Tuscan Kale Chips uploaded by

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  1. Great ideas--would love to hear more about the process for "reverse-engineering" your schedule to make time for what counts. . .

  2. These are great tips. Paying for things has never worked for me, unfortunately, but having blocks of time set for certain things is absolutely critical for me (though I'm better at it some days than others). I've also found it helpful to have a good organization system so you don't feel scatterbrained and distracted all the time. Then you can know that everything is taken care of when you dedicate yourself to one task or another (insert nerdy "Getting Things Done" reference here). Thanks for the tips!

  3. Hi Michele, Thanks for your feedback on the post. Reverse-engineering is about making tough decisions on what to let go of in order to make room for the activities you want to be focused on. It's amazing how many tasks we we think are non-negotiable are actually opt-in. Good luck in reverse engineering your schedule.

    Emily, Glad you liked the post. I realize the "paying for things" approach isn't for everyone, and has its limits. But I've used it more than once. In another post, I should write about how I learned to play the fiddle as an adult by combining my love for tech with the right incentives (ie, paying for courses in advance). It goes without saying that a good (often nerdy) organization system is also key. :-)

  4. Great post! Similarly to the paying for things strategy, I find it helps me to start something - i.e. it will make me come back and finish it more quickly than I would have otherwise. I do that with blog posts all the time - I feel like I never "have time" to blog, but when I start a post, I want to finish it soon after.

  5. Hi Chapin, I agree. Turning a blank screen into a few lines of text or a table of contents is a good strategy for getting something started. The same can be applied to non-writing projects. Ie, leaving a phone message for someone you want to catch up with, assembling the materials for something you want to cook, etc.


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