There’s a very common rule in personal finance that says: Pay Yourself First. It applies in equal measure to goals.
The thinking behind it, financially speaking, is that we can’t waste what we don’t have. When we pay ourselves first, we set aside our savings before we pay any other bills or spend any money. It’s priority. Then we pay bills. And if, after paying ourselves first, we don’t have enough money for your bills? Then we have to work harder to ensure we can (and double check our spending habits). That simple. We’ll usually work harder to pay bills than we ever would to set extra money aside.
When people wait and pay themselves last, they often don’t end up saving at all because there’s nothing left for the last person in line. Do it first, and succeed. Do it last, and fail.
In many interviews with successful writers, buried within talk of their inspirations and so forth will be some variation on a theme of “I got up early every morning and wrote ten pages” or “The first thing I did when I came home from work was shut the office door and write 2000 words.” It varies, but usually it’s there.
They paid themselves first.
For a while, I woke up around 5 in the morning so that I could get my work done before arriving at the office at 9. I felt that my writing was the most important thing to me, and so I would give it the first hours of the day, before the daily routine sapped my brain power and energy. I paid myself first, and it worked out. I might have been tired when I came home, but it was a satisfied, content kind of tired, because I knew I’d already accomplished something that day and there was zero guilt involved in frittering away my evening hours via lazy entertainment. I’ve since gotten off that cycle and need to return to it (a case of “practice what I preach,” for sure.)
There are ways to apply this to any goal. Want to learn a foreign language? Go over your materials and practice while drinking your morning coffee. Starting a new business venture? Do your research before your day job, or block out inviolate evening time before dinner or after-dinner movies to ensure that you’ll do it. It’s not even so much the time of day wherein your effort occurs as it is your attitude that’s important.
So many goals start with “One Day…” and stay there.
You’ll never find time. Extra time does not come knocking at the door. You make time*.
* Or kidnap it off the street, transport it via unmarked van to your residence, and then drag it in to your office… but the former is usually easier and raises less suspicion with authorities and neighbors