I remember being an Airman in the dorms and being broke. I wasn’t frivolous with my money; I just didn’t make much as an E-1. I would list out my wants and my needs in a little journal and spend accordingly on the 1st and 15th. I also had a change jar in my wall locker where I would toss the spare change I did accumulate and I never thought anything of it until the day it was full.
Change from this jar was dumped onto my floor and as I counted it, I realized there was a decent amount of money in there. In fact, it was enough to buy a couple things from my “want” column in my journal. This incremental daily growth can be leveraged into other areas of our lives. When we commit to doing something each day to make us better, the accumulation will have incredible effects on our lives.
A little while ago, I placed an article on our Facebook page about 1% continuous improvement. The concept is brilliant and the application couldn’t be any easier. You do one small thing towards a goal or make one small tweak in your routine and over the long-haul, there is a huge pay off. My change jar is a perfect example of this. I had no money. However, some coins here and there, translated into something after a while.
I have done this before with fitness, self-improvement and currently am building up for retirement with the same strategy. We all have things that are very important to us and we want to invest in them. I am currently trying to create a business, add value to NCOs through this site, raise two children, be a husband, and fulfill my Air Force duties all in the same day. Sadly, I do not have more hours in the day to this and I do not think that will change anytime soon. I once found this anonymous quote, “Many things aren’t equal but everyone gets the same 24 hours a day. We make time for what we truly want.” If I want to continue down the path I am, I need to be effective with my clock management.
About a year ago I was determined to get back into writing and to start creating plans for when I hang up this uniform. However, as a father, husband and SNCO, I had no time. I was going through the motions of life and still only getting about 4 to 4.5 hours of sleep each night. Something needed to change and I did the following routine for a month and found several extra hours lying around.
Week one. I looked for the big things sucking up my time; those things that could be stopped or reduced without taking value from my life. There were the obvious things like watching less TV. I would watch an hour or two at night to wind down after the kids went to sleep. I began to limit this and only did it if I was watching a show with my wife.
Week two and three. I began to look for the little things stealing minutes from my clock. One was playing on my phone. I would surf social media for much longer than I care to admit. I was wasting time doing little chores around the house multiple times instead of just once. For example, I would pick up sticks around the yard in the morning and again in the evening. So, I stopped doing both and just do it now when I take the dog out in the morning. I know all of this sounds trivial, but that saved me 15 minutes and then I would see other little things that needed done and they would take up even more time.
Week four and beyond. I became very deliberate with my time. At work, I do the tasks that take the most time or concentration first thing in the morning before I even look at my emails. Often I even unplug my phone to eliminate distractions. There are certain things I do each day, each week and each month and I have them blocked out on my calendar as appointments. I even found some time to allow me to workout twice a week and not lose any productivity.
At home, I dedicated time each morning to work on my writing. After a while of doing this, I decided to start this site and consistently have found time to publish a new article every Tuesday and Thursday. I decided to dedicate the entire evenings and weekends to my family. Not to mention, I now get 6 to 6.5 hours of sleep each night.
I did not do anything drastic. I did not sell off my children or even skirt tasks at work. I eliminated wasteful things a little at a time and made a more purposeful plan for my day. I still have a lot of work to do to improve in both of those areas and I plan to do exactly that just a little at a time. Sweeping changes are like fad diets and do not work. However, when we make lifestyle changes in a deliberate way, they stick with us for life.
Look for the spare change in your life. See where you can add value to your day. Maybe it is reading a couple of pages from a book, maybe it is reading this website or something else completely. Over the course of a month, you will notice some small changes; however, over the course of a year, you will see some major changes in your world. It all starts with a couple of minutes of your time.