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Big Ideas

If It Doesn’t Get Scheduled, It Will Never Get Done

Create an "automatic time investment" to ensure you get done all the things you need to move forward.

What would happen if the government didn’t withhold taxes from your paycheck? The thought may initially make your heart leap for joy. Wow! I would have such big paychecks and so much more flexibility! That would be amazing!

The reality is that this scenario would probably make tax season even more stressful. If the money wasn’t taken out, you might think you had more spending money available than you do, and then not have enough left later on when the tax bill was due. (If you’ve ever owned your own business, you may have experienced this and it doesn’t feel good!)

That’s why governments automatically deduct money before you receive it. It may seem annoying and frustrating, but the reality is that they’re doing you a huge favor by helping you to allocate your money correctly without you having to put extra thought into it.

This principle of automatic investment can also work in your favor with your time. With the right systems in place to pre-allocate your time and energy to your goals, you’ll be more productive and less stressed.

Here’s how to put this into action:

Recognize What’s Neglected: What do you keep saying that you want to move forward and get done—but just don’t? It may be keeping up on industry trends, meeting with other creative professionals, or cleaning off your desk.

Try a Simple Approach: Sometimes just a small change can make a big difference. See if there are small commitments you can make to set up automatic time investments that align with your goals. By making these time commitments predestined and automatic, you reduce the friction and decision making power needed to accomplish them. 

By making these time commitments predestined and automatic, you reduce the friction and decision making power needed to accomplish them.

For example, you could subscribe to an industry publication and read it every time it arrives to catch up on trends. You could join a professional group for people in your field and meet up once a month to connect or network with other creatives. Or you could commit to clearing off your desk every day before you leave your office, so you start the next day with a clean slate. All of these activities turn goals from something you might feel frustrated by not doing, but don’t invest time in, to a natural part of your schedule. 

Dive Deeper When Simple Isn’t Enough: Simple is good. But when you find that a small tweak to your lifestyle isn’t accomplishing your goals, a more in-depth approach can help. Here’s what this could look like in the case of wanting to connect with more creative professionals:

  1. Decide on your objective: I would like to meet with at least two people in my field every month.
  2. Define your parameters: I’m open to having professional meetings at lunch or right after work. I don’t want to schedule the meetings on the weekends or later at night.
  3. Think backward: Most people need a few weeks notice to set something up so I need to put a reminder in my calendar to reach out to those I want to meet at the beginning of each month. 
  4. Anticipate issues: Some months I have a more packed schedule, so for those it would be best to set up phone or Skype calls instead of in-person meetings.
  5. Remember why: I regain energy through connecting with others in my field, and come away with fresh ideas or perspectives that dramatically improve my work.
  6. Review and recalibrate: Try setting up times with other creative professionals by reaching out at the beginning of each month and see what happens. If it works, fantastic! If not, review what was effective or ineffective, and use that insight to help you adapt and refine your approach going forward.

By making your time investment automatic, you can finally move forward on what’s important to you with minimal stress and effort.

[Editor’s note: This article was adapted from How to Invest Your Time Like Money, now available on Amazon.]

Over to You…

How do you make your time investment automatic?

What have you been wanting to integrate into your life—but haven’t? 

More Posts by Elizabeth Grace Saunders

Elizabeth Grace Saunders is the founder of Real Life E Time Coaching & Training and author of The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment: How to Achieve More Success With Less Stress and How to Invest Your Time Like Money. Find out how you can accomplish more with peace and confidence at

Comments (21)
  • Royan Kamyar, MD/MBA

    Thanks Elizabeth. Pretty sure a solid time management app *could* help… if easy-to-use and efficient enough. For those with a strong health/wellness vibe, I recommend Owaves:

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      Hi Royan!

      Yes, apps can definitely help in the execution. But as I’m sure you know, you need to set a clear intention and then decide on a routine to use the app for it to work.

      Apps are wonderful tools, but the solution is figuring out how to be more consistent in your actions.

      To your brilliance!

      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  • darthdombek

    #2! great advice to take back your life -especially for we who are endeavoring to transition from working for ‘the man’ to working for (in this case) this woman (self)

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      So true! When I became an entrepreneur, I realized that I needed to set parameters so that I didn’t feel guilty whenever I wasn’t working.

      As the owner of a business, you need to take ownership of your time or others will gladly spend it for you.

      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  • April Hill

    I never thought about the time it takes to schedule a meeting, but it’s so true. I even emailed a friend recently and it took three weeks for us to get together.

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      Yes! It takes a lot of intention to schedule a meeting with people, particularly when they’re not in your workplace.

      However, the results of connecting with great people are so worth it!

      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  • Roman Kniahynyckyj

    I think #5 is particularly important. Remember how you will feel AFTER the action. Whether it’s a run, a shower or a networking meeting. I always feel energized after networking (and after runs and showers too!).

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      Yes! Having a strong “Why” can help you overcome the inertia. Once a commitment is on your calendar, it’s easier to follow through.

      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    • Missus Delicious

      This reminds me of how in depression therapy, they actually have you make a chart of things you have to do: Here are the things I need to do and a percent of how much I think I will enjoy this. Then you perform the action and write down the actual percent of enjoyment you get. It helps you keep perspective on reality and helps you stay motivated. It works really well in keeping you from putting off stuff, even if you aren’t depressed.

  • JJ

    While tax withholding is convenient, make no mistake it is not a favour. By withholding tax the governments can curb tax underpayments and avoidance all the while improving their cash flow. In addition you can’t do anything with that money whereas if you invested your tax money before the payment is due it would be you making the profit. Don’t let anyone fool you – this is not done for your benefit.

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      It’s true that the government does benefit on the financial front from doing tax withholding.

      However on the psychological front, I do believe that tax withholding is a stress reliever for most people. Given that the average American household has thousands of dollars in credit card debt, for many people there’s a disconnect between how much money they actually have available and how much money they spend.

      I don’t believe having more money “available,” i.e. not withheld in taxes but due at the end of the year, would increase most people’s saving and investing. Instead, I could see it creating huge issues by fueling an already debt-prone society to overspend even more. This would lead to more stress and potentially more debt as they put tax payments on their credit cards.

      You probably have a lot more financial self control than the average Joe (congrats on that!) but most people don’t so the system is set up to make paying taxes as automatic as possible (hence the point of my article on the importance of systems 🙂

      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

  • Keane Angle

    I created a todo list template that revolves around a lot of these

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders


      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      • Keane Angle

        Thanks – if you’re interested, I did a blog post that explains the principles of it in more detail here:

      • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

        Cool! I watched the video. I like how you help people constrain the number of tasks and calculate the time involved.

        Realism is soooo important.

        To your brilliance!


      • Keane Angle

        For sure – the main part of using it is putting your todo list items as calendar items (i.e. “if it doesn’t get scheduled it will never get done”)

  • sidneyjblank

    I block time in my calendar to actually do the thing. I keep moving that block if I have to but I’ve found that without an actual period of time dedicated to accomplishing what I set out to do goals just remain vague and fall by the wayside like New Year’s resolutions.

    • Elizabeth Grace Saunders

      So true! Having that block helps you see the “time cost” of the commitments you make.

      This helps you not to overcommit and to realize how much time you need to reserve for something to get it done.

      To your brilliance!
      Elizabeth Grace Saunders

    • Megan

      I do this too Sidney. I abolished to do lists and block out time in my calendar. Works a treat!

  • Carinne Bird

    Hi Elizabeth, thanks for sharing this wonderful post. You’re right about time investment, I agree that it will help us move forward on what’s important to us with minimal stress and effort. Great post!

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