45 Days.

In Pep Talks, Rants and Sermons by David68 Comments

This is a pragmatic post, and I hope it doesn’t sound too preachy. But one of the things creatives struggle with is finding time to create. We all do. I get emails all the time asking how I cram it all in, how I “find the time to do everything I do.” I posted a longer, different response to that question HERE last August, if you want more on the subject. But if you want to get right to it, here’s how to find 45 days.

I was reading Todd Henry’s new book, The Accidental Creative, this morning. There was a little piece of math in there that twigged in my mind. He said he’d spend one minute each morning doing a futile, seemingly insignificant task, until he added up the minutes. 1 minute each day for a year adds up to 6 hours of time wasted. Gone.

Every creative person I know has at one point told me they didn’t have enough time for a personal project, to re-build an aging portfolio, to learn a new skill. Most of them seem to find or make the time to send out tweets, pour over Facebook, or check emails a couple dozen times an hour. Many of them have seen an entire season of whatever the last big TV show was.

So I did some more math. If I freed up one hour a day it would give me 365 hours. Broken into 8-hour days, that would give me 45 days of time. To do the thing I said I most wanted to do, but “just didn’t have the time.”

I know that some people truly are stretched for time. They probably need to slow down or cut back on a few things, I don’t know. But I do know this. There is never “time left over.” You won’t get to the end of the year and find you’ve got 3 weeks longer than you thought left over. It’s the same with money. Our expenses fill to take up the slack, and for some people they overflow. But you can’t get time on credit. So 24 hours is all you have in one day. I also know that you can’t save one hour a day and have 45 days left over at the end to spend on what you want. But you can pay yourself first.

Paying yourself first is important if you want to save money. Paying yourself first with your time is also important. It’s putting the big rocks in first. Spend that hour a day working on your latest project, then use whatever time you have left for Twitter. Take the 2 week trip first, then allow some of the less important things to remain undone at the end of the year. If it’s important and it matters to you more than whatever little things fill the countless little 5 and 10 minute blocks of time, then book it. Put it on the calendar. Pay yourself first and let the little things fit in where they can. But fill the days with little things first and there won’t be room for the big ones.

Break it into whatever pieces you want, and spend it on whatever you want. But remember time is not money. Time is far more important than money. You will never be able to borrow back the time that’s gone. And mortgaging your present in hopes of time later (I’ll do it when I retire…) is just plain crazy. Your kids will never get any younger. Your personal project will never complete itself. But Twitter will always be there. So will Facebook. LOST will be on DVDs until Jesus comes back. You can watch it later. If you have time.


  1. I love this post. Every day, I spend 20 minutes reading and researching humanitarian photographers…thank you for sharing yourself…I enjoy and appreciate your perspectives.

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  4. :)David, you just hit the nail with this post. People really always complain about lack of time. And the truth is that not only they spend too much time on Twitter, Facebook, etc, but they spend their time on trivial things talking about nothing important.
    My consciousness as to the value of time came from reading Jack Canfield’s “The Success Priciples” book.
    I am so pleased to learn that you and many other peole share the same views on this issue. Really, do what is most important first. No better advice:)

  5. This post really resonated with me. The idea of a wiser use of time has been on my mind. I recently read a book that addressed, in part, kids watching TV. It offered this statistic: By age 70, the average person will have spent 10 years watching television. (!) That puts things in stark terms.

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  7. Oh David – another great post. I really need to get my shit together – soon! My “recovery” is going well and I had all these plans to get caught up, but the day slips away very quickly if you don’t have a game plan for the day! I need to stop talking about getting organized and just do it!

  8. David, you forgot the time playing Angry Birds on the mobile and solitaire on the computer! I defend this practice by complaining how slow the server is.:-) But one of my projects is to go through my photo collection deleting images that aren’t good enough and keywording the rest. this will allow me to create the themes and collections I want. Solitaire time would be great for that! 🙂

  9. Just had this conversation today, with my neighbor.
    “You can’t practice life, you have to live it”

  10. David – Great post, the problem is I just realised it took me 15 minutes to read the blog and all these comments. That can add up.

  11. David, this seems like the corollary blog to your “Buy the Tickets” blog last month. Then it was save your money for what is really important, now its save your time for what is really important. Thanks for the reminder.

    In fact, should I even be taking the time to leave you a comment?? 🙂

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  14. I decide to cut big in my stupid habit to simply have more time on intelligent things for my life, business and passion, example my first initiative is to post on a regular base a photo on National Geographic website, it look like this:
    example 2: i want participate to contests, i never did that before, now i decide that i will.
    i want to do that for many reasons but the first is “David your right all the way” time it’s not money, it’s a lot more, it’ precious and it magical because the time is “a”, “the” memories factory.
    Sincerely, Michael.

  15. Reminds me about the book ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ that I first read when I was 18. There are simply a few habits (like using time wisely) that separate the ordinary from extraordinary.

  16. Thanks David, putting things in their right perspective. “LOST will be on DVDs until Jesus comes back” (love that line!)

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  18. The Road Hammers (country band~Jason McCoy) have a song where the lyrics/chorus include the line… “You gotta take time to make time”.. that has been one of my mantras for a few years now… especially before semi-retirement happened…

  19. Amen! I agree completely. I think it helps to understand how we get into those time-wasting patterns. Current popular wisdom suggests that we need to be connecting via Twitter, FB, blogs, etc.; we need to draw people to our work. So it’s easy to understand how those activities and the real work, the important stuff, get out of balance. Knowing there is a fine balance and finding it isn’t as simple as it may seem and it’s rarely discussed in practical terms by the pundits wiring you into social media.

    Thinking about it in terms of budget and return on investment is a great approach. Go ahead and tweet, but at the right time, for the appropriate reason and only to the degree that it provides a real advantage. If you’re tweeting more than shooting…

  20. Great post. After not picking up a brush since my Mom died, I’ve recently started painting again. I don’t know what, if anything, I have to say with the work at the moment, but the joy I experience putting something into the world with a brush or a palette knife in my hand, informs me that this is a journey I need to resume.

  21. Someone here mentioned that it is not only time, but also energy, and I’ll add emotion.

    The best thing I’ve been able to do is to not take work home with me. One of my approaches to paying myself is to make my time off work, MY time. This also works the other way around, work time is for work. Therefore, I need to be able to get my work done in the time allotted for that too. If finding time for photography at home is about not watching TV, finding time for work is about not hanging out around the water cooler, short lunches, and checking email no more often than once an hour.

    Regarding energy and emotion, if I am successful in keeping things in check at work, then I can manage both energy and emotion for my personal projects.

    What I’m coming to grips with at work is defining a smaller job. If my identity is wrapped up in the size and prestige of my “day job” then I can’t begin to also wrap up my identity around being a photographer. There is, afterall, only so much identity to go around (kind of like time). I’m not saying to be a sloucher at work, but maybe I don’t need to climb to the next rung of the corporate ladder, but instead look for work satisfaction being an individual contributor and do a damn good job at that without compromise to my personal projects.

    David – thanks again for starting this conversation.

  22. One of the reasons most of my images are from early in the morning, is because that’s the time I allow myself to shoot and explore. I will give an hour of sleep for it. It also happens to be a great time to shoot long exposures right up until sunrise, which brings great light for just about any kind of picture! It’s the sacrifice I make for my creative outlet! Great post David!

  23. Great post. Reminds me of when I was working at this software company and my boss and team lead wanted to step out for cig. break and ask if I wanted to go out with them and continue our meeting. I said no, I was saving mine up. What’s that they ask? Well, 5 minutes a hour, for a year comes to 20, eight hour days. I’ll take my 20 days all at once.

  24. I was told that you’ll always find time to do the things you truly love to do. If you’re not finding the time to do them then you may need to ask yourself some soul searching questions. Controlling emotions play a huge part in finding time I think. It’s all about doing battle with laziness, apathy, fear and self esteem.

  25. Guilty as charged. Enough said. Thanks as always for your insightful and inspirational posts.

  26. Fantastic piece! I think we should read this every time we feel there is a shortage of time for doing that pet project. I simply loved it. But i must admit it is tough to practice prioritizing things in life – but that’s also why so few are happy! Thanks for sharing!!

  27. Around this time last year I told myself that I didn’t have enough time for cycling, my other main pleasure in life. Looking back I’m not sure why I came to that conclusion but I did even though I knew that I was talking crap. I must of thought it wasn’t a ‘serious’ enough way to pass the time. I thought I didn’t have 2 spare hours a day.

    I was wrong. This year I’ve cycled more than in any of the past four or five years and not only am I healthier, but I feel sharper and I feel more creative too. Cycling is like meditation for me and it helps to generate ideas. Whenever I come back from a bike ride I feel rejuvenated and look forward to the creative day ahead. I now treat it as part of my job.

    Facebook and Twitter seem utterly trivial in comparison.

  28. Hi David,
    A nice “45 days” article. I must thank my friend DJ for forwarding this to me.
    By the way, I’ve also forced myself into doing some of the things productive instead of tweeting, gossiping, etc.,. Actually, my blog spot on Technical Analysis in my native language is the product of this effort.
    Babu Kothandaraman

  29. The old idiom “don’t be penny wise and pound foolish” applies here – don’t obsess about inconsequential minutiae like saving a minute here or there; focus on the bigger inefficiencies like mindless TV watching, twittering or blog reading …

  30. LOVE your perspective. It’s always a good smack upside the head for me. And personally, I thoroughly enjoy your preachy posts. Probably because I usually need an perspective adjustment. Thank you!!

  31. so very true. I have recently taken up a challenge to run a marathon and raise funds for leukemia in the process. part of my training is to run/walk (i will be fast walking it) 5 days a week. finding the time to exercise has always been an issue but to finish this race I have no choice i must practice so I am finding the time for an hour to 3 hours of training 5 days a week. its amazing what one can find when needed. kinda like finding the change in sofa and rewarding yourself with a special treat finding time to do somethign important, creative or have wanted to do for a long time is just that.

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  33. How strange that this is your post for today… I was just thinking about new priorities tonight. Uncanny, and cements the fact that we seem to deem creativity as the item to bump to the bottom of the list instead of investing in it first and letting it happily spill over into the other items in our day that can afford to come later… great post.

  34. David- thanks for this post, when I see it added up like you did it really sinks in, gotta stop wasting time…

    Thanks again, Toni

  35. Great David! Time is all that we have, and we need winsdom to use it.
    Despite injuries, I think that you’re getting a new(better!) POV. Keep this feeling, and please, share with us.
    Hope to see you in here in Rio de Janeiro,

  36. It’s frightening to think about how much time some of us actually waste, David. And that was before you even brought up the benefit of saving 1 hour a day! No more excuses here. =)

    I saw a speaker at a live event talk about how important it is to figure out keyboard shortcuts on your computer – because the wasted time adds up. Had he used your example, I would have paid more attention to him. But now I understand what he was trying to say.

    And I read a life-changing book recently. It’s called “Living The 80/20 Way”. It talks about if we actually pay attention to what relationships bring us the most joy and benefit; what clients/customers pay us the most; and what gives us the most satisfaction, we could cut out nearly 80% of the other people and stuff and do even better by focusing on that 20% (or less). The book is on Amazon; it’s a quick read – and will hopefully inspire a bunch of you like it did for me. Here’s to saving more time!

    Hope you are well, David!

  37. David,

    Thank you for your steadfast, resolute, practical perspective on the creative life. I am very thankful you are willing to share what you think. I’ve known this idea in the abstract for a long time- knowing I should not waste time each day. But when you put the concept into concrete numbers, it blew my mind and generates a great deal of motivation. More than that, its exciting to lean just how much time we DO have available to us!

    Thanks for keeping it real. Continue to take care of yourself, and Godspeed as you continue to recover.

  38. Author

    Roger – The thing is, it does add up. If you take those wasted minutes – let’s say it’s an hour a day – out of your day, you have more time IF you front load it by paying yourself first. Put the big chunks in first, then the next ones, and if you get to the end of your day without the time to do those little time-sucking distractions, then so be it. Which is part of your suggestion to make priorities; this post is about exactly that. Decide what is important, pay yourself first, and I think most of us would then find no time, nor the need, for the little things.

  39. Jules – You said “it is silly to suggest we should be jam packing our days and never take the time to appreciate life!” I totally agree, but if you read my words to say we should be doing that, then you’ve read me wrong.

  40. Alas, the “math” of a minute here, a minute there, does NOT add up to dozens of days worth of extra creative “me” time. Most creative activities take several minutes, at the very least, just to get into the “flow”. Setting real priorities and making the effort to discard habitual but unnecessary activities is a more effective solution to allocating the time for dedicated creative work – as a couple of the other posters have described. This is hard – extremely hard for many – but the rewards can be enormous (hint: setting real deadlines helps – along with support from significant others!)

  41. My most favorite quote: “After all, time is not money. It is an opportunity to live before you die.” Donald Culross Peatty

  42. It isn’t just about time, but about energy. Tweeting and the like are mindless activities that we can do when nearly asleep. The trick is to do important things when one has lots of energy. However, don’t underestimate the importance of daydreaming and idling – you may have some of your best ideas during this time… it is silly to suggest we should be jam packing our days and never take the time to appreciate life!

  43. NOW I know why my family complains that I spend so much time on my creativity! I’m away from them 45 glorious hours a year! Ha!

    Great blog. Super though process. As usual, you inspire me. Thanks for that and much more.

  44. This is so true. After nearly 27 years of marriage, 2 kids, working and/or going to school for all of those 27 years, I realized I had put ME on the back-burner for everyone else. Two years ago I stopped working and the snowball of the effects of 27 years grew as it rolled downhill. I was forced to re-evaluate my life and it has changed forever. Seeing you speak in Maui a year ago caused me to rethink my photography and to push myself to create something more than a nice picture. I have followed you faithfully for a year now and it seems with every post I read, I learn something new just at the time I needed to learn it. Thank you for sharing so much with all of us. You have touched my life in such a fantastic way, and I am so grateful for that. Keep up the good work (rehab) and keep on postin’!!

  45. yup. i was just thinking yesterday about this! paying yourself first with time. I thought I should spend the first hour of every work morning in my office working on a personal project. There’s rarely a morning where client work can’t wait till 9:30 and I do my best client work in the evening anyway so… get ‘er done! Thanks David!

  46. So true David. This year I have forced myself to try new things creatively. I am a wedding and portrait photographer. However this year I am trying new creative projects. Did a timelapse of stars, learning to shoot video and gaining a real passion for landscape images. Heck im even getting into painting. Doesn’t matter if it sells. I really don’t care. I am doing things artistically that make me happy or fun to try.

    The absolute best thing we did this year was to place our camper on a spot overlooking the Missouri river. Why? It gets me away from home and he studio. Wither for a day or a week. Worries are gone and I am relaxed. It gives me time to think and explore ideas. There is no tv, no radio. What I have learned is it doesn’t matter what has to be done at home. It can friggin wait. As artists and humans we need time away and time to recharge. I will bring my camera gear out here (Yes I am sitting on my deck looking over the river as I type) and explore.

    In short we all need to shut off the tv, get off the Damn internet and explore the world around us….

  47. Author

    Merci, Michael. Mes pieds sons mieux, mais pas completement gueri. Ca prends seulement du temps. 🙂

  48. Thats a great post. And a good reminder for me to get 45 days free.. in fact, more like 90 days or so… Reviewing my time spend on computer doing “social” things… its more like 45 more days on Facebook and now with Google + about 10 more days…. Doing the math.. that’s like couple of Months wasted…. And I thought I didn’t have time.. Thanks David for teaching me to see.. in yet another way.

  49. thanks for that post. Time is not money, we can’t borrow it. i needed to hear that. Here I go getting back to what’s most important to me right now. until next time, bye!

  50. Author

    Kevin – Hey man, we all wasted time when we were younger – that’s the luxury of youth. The wisdom of age is getting over the regret and moving forward. Plenty of time left to do what you love.

  51. Are you sure you’re not channeling a motivational speaker? LOL.

    Good stuff though. I wished I had followed this advice when I was younger.

  52. I watch TV – the Olympic Games so I only have to turn it on once every couple of years. It was better when the summer and winter games were held the same year then I had four years in between TV time!

    Great post, David, and oh so true.

  53. Hey David
    That was the kick in the pants I needed this morning. Time doesn’t just appear, you have to focus and create it. This quote is so true….
    “Time is far more important than money”
    Cheers Beanie

  54. Great way of looking at it. The best thing I ever did for myself was get rid of my TV, 11 years ago. Since then, I took on a full-time job to pay the bills… went back to school to complete two certificate programs and one degree (so far)… and published two books. Next up? fix the blog!
    Thanks for the reminder… gotta go now, break out my calendar.

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