Holy tomatoes, if I hear one more person complain about not having enough time I’m going to lose it. This isn’t going to make me popular, but I don’t care, it has to be said.

Several times per week people say to me, “wow, you’re so busy, how do you manage it all?”. Yes, I own a business with several active clients, I teach at college and in the corporate world, do speaking gigs, and volunteer with great organizations like United Way Ottawa and Cracking-Up the Capital. I sing in a band, and I’ve started working on a book (more on that soon!). I write on this blog and I do a weekly podcast. I have a husband and 4 pets (having 4 pets is sort of like having one perpetual 2 year old). I have parents and a brother and two nephews that fortunately live in the same city as me. I go to the gym a minimum of 3 times per week and get 6-8 hours of sleep a night.

Yes, you could say I have a lot on the go. But balancing it all out isn’t rocket science. I have 24 hours in my day, just like you. Balancing time is all about making choices based on the priorities you’ve established. The things I’ve listed above are my priorities. Everything else comes after, and if I’m going to say “no” to something, it’s usually because it’s not on that list.

Then, I break up my day into chunks based on which of my priorities I need to focus on at that point. Sometimes, this means I need go to bed early and get up a 5am, because I need to finish a presentation or mark papers, or write a blog post or walk the dog before the busy day starts. Other times it means I get home a bit later at night, because I have a planning meeting for a volunteer project, or need to make it to the gym, or go to my band rehearsal. Each day comes with its own set of priorities, and I work based on those.

I can’t make exceptions to my list very often, because that’s when I start to burn out. The minute I stray from my list and begin saying yes to everything that comes my way, is when the balance gets shifted. I stop making it to the gym. I don’t sleep well. I get stressed because of looming work deadlines. So, everything gets compared to the list before I decide whether I’m going to do it or not.

Does all this doing make me tired at the end of the day? You bet your boots it does. In fact, most nights, my eyes are closed before I even hit the pillow. I’m not burnt out, I’m just making the most of my days, doing the things I want to do – creating, sharing, producing and, well, living.

Not creating the things you want to create because you “just can’t find the time” is an excuse. I don’t care if you have 5 screaming kids or 4 dogs or 2 jobs or all of the above. Richard Branson owns over 400 companies and somehow finds the time to blog several times per week (yes it’s actually him), and swim around his island nearly every day. I’ve seen dozens of interviews with him and not once have I heard him complain that he’s “too busy”. And this is a guy who’s building his own space program!

You need to do one thing right now. You need to take the words “too busy” out of your vocabulary. There is time to focus on the things you want to do. Make a list of your priorities. These are the things you do that add value to your life (and yes, that value can be a paycheque or the love of your kids, but also include other things that you do because they enrich you personally, like writing, or music, or yoga). Then, you need to start being ruthless with your time – anything that doesn’t make it on your list gets a “no”. No exceptions.

And, if that means you need to go to bed when your kid goes to bed so you can wake up at 5am to write for 20 minutes a day before he wakes up, then that’s what you do. If it means you need to stop going to the cafeteria with your co-workers at lunch so you can spend that time working on your new business, or creating something that’s important to you, then do that. They’ll forgive you. If it means not watching Dancing With the Stars so you can crank out a new episode of your podcast, then that’s what it takes. Sometimes you’ll be tired. Sometimes you won’t feel like it. But I assure you, if you’re only focusing on those things which add value to your life, you’ll feel less tired and less unmotivated overall.

Your homework? Make a list of all the things you do because they create value in your life. Stop doing anything that falls outside that list, and start spending your days doing on the things on your list. You’ll be amazed at what you can create.

[photo by andres.thor]