It’s still the first week of January and most of us haven’t yet given up on our goals/resolutions yet… right? I have a really interesting thought about doing more for yourself this year. We all have goals that get put off month after month, year after year. They’re they things we really want to do, we just don’t make the time for them.

  • Losing weight
  • Writing a book/resource
  • Launching a blog
  • Saving for retirement

I’ve found that we rarely make ourselves a priority. We tend to take care of everyone else first. I’m not talking about being selfish. Just restructuring a few things to make sure you do the things you want to do.

Years ago I learned about the concept of “paying yourself first.” When you get your paycheck, pull out the amount you need to save/invest first and then pay your bills. Whatever is left is what you’ll have for everything else. With this method, we may not get to eat out as much as we’d like or get to buy those extra gadgets – but at least we’re investing in the future. Most of us don’t do this. We pay ourselves last and at the end of the month, there’s little if anything left for savings. Paying ourselves first applies to more than just finances.

By nature, I’m a night owl. I love staying up late. I love when the house is quiet. I used to think that this is when I was most productive. It was usually late at night that I did the extra stuff. It was in the evenings that I would exercise, blog, write and everything else. About three years ago, I realized that my evening routine was flawed. My evenings were far less consistent than I would have liked.

  • When work was crazy, I often didn’t feel like being productive at night
  • When I had pressing deadlines, work would creep into my evenings
  • Evenings had a lot of competition (opportunities to hang out with someone, spend extra time with family or watch TV)

I realized that I was paying myself last and that maybe there was a better way. I switched my schedule and “became” a morning person. I’d wake up between 4:15 and 4:45 and start my day around 5:00 AM. Moving to this schedule was much better for me:

  • There’s virtually no competition at 5:00 AM (no one wants to hang out and if you’re getting up at 5 AM to watch TV, you’ve got bigger problems)
  • No one expects anything of you this early, so you can work on whatever you want
  • When I come home, I’ve had a full and productive day (I find that I’m more present at home)
  • I get to end the day hanging out with my family, watching a show or reading a book (a far better way to wind things down)

Paying yourself first doesn’t mean you have to become a morning person, as long as you adopt new practices that prioritize your goals:

  • Set a time when you will/won’t check your email. Your email is full of things that other people need from you. Checking your email first thing in the morning will suck you in to someone else’s plan for you right from the start. Make a habit of not checking your email until 10 or 11 so that you have at least a couple of hours to do what you need to accomplish. If it’s critically important, they’ll call you.
  • Plan your day around exercise. Put it on your calendar and don’t schedule meetings around that time. Recently, I’ve found that classes work best for me. Leaving me to workout on my own means I’m often going to find something else I’d rather do. A class is something I have to attend and is only offered at specific times. I put this on my calendar and show up.
  • Schedule the work you’re going to do. Put it on your calendar. Last year I did Jon Acuff’s 30 Day’s of Hustle. This was one of my exercises. I had two weeks left of my 30 days and I was supposed to schedule when I was going to hustle. I had a pretty big goal and I needed to make the most of my time. It was a very busy month, but I was able to find 25 hours to work on my goals. I put this time on the schedule and I got a LOT of work done. I bet that if you sat down at your calendar, you could find at least 2-3 hours to work on that thing that matters to you.