Don’t waste time. It’s the most valuable resource you have.

‘What man can you show me who places any value on his time, who reckons the worth of each day, who understands that he is dying daily?’ — Seneca

All of us at some point complain that we don’t have enough time to do what we want to do. We believe that given more time we could build our own business, be more successful, be fitter and be a better person than we are today. We spend the majority of our lives in imaginary chains letting the clock rule our lives. The value of our time is measured by what we make of it. There are 24 hours in each day, and that is plenty to use to move towards our goals. Planning how to use the allotted time and how we spend it is in our control. If we were more present in each of our tasks but, especially in the times when we are ‘not on the clock’, then we could drive more value out of the 24 hours in each day.

We have to spend up to eight hours of our day at work helping drive value for someone else’s dream. Keeping the wheels turning for the corporation or conglomerate. We spend, on average, up to eight hours of our day sleeping. Where do the other eight hours go? Do we waste them on Media and Entertainment? Preparing, cooking food and eating doesn’t last that long. Maybe we have a family to keep us busy — you need to ask yourself if your mental presence is also with them or are you thinking about what we have left to do? Planning bedtime and what’s for lunch tomorrow? Thinking about that to do list for work? Anything other than being there mind body and soul.

Another great example is when you’re feeling tired in the evenings after work. Are you fatigued or have you set some limitations on how much you can accomplish in one day? Do you experience the same tiredness at the same time on the weekend as well? Are you even present enough to notice that fact? It’s a well-known fact that we tend to be more relaxed with our time on the weekends and that is why we get the effect of the weekend moving faster than a weekday.

So how can you break this cycle?

A good start would be planning to utilise our ‘free’ time and compartmentalising it as we would our calendar on a working day. If you don’t want to spend your time doing something which will ultimately provide no value to you, then only schedule activities that will provide you value. Invest your time in the things that matter and that generate value for you and ignore or avoid anything that will ultimately result in no real benefit to you.

We can also take steps to limit the time spent on repetitive activities. For example, how long does it take you to get dressed each day? Do we give ourselves too much choice? Some of the most successful people in modern times have given themselves a sort of ‘uniform’ in that they have a go-to outfit. Its a functional outfit that doesn’t take any of the valuable time. Like Steve Job’s famous turtleneck and jeans, Zuckerberg’s grey t-shirt and jeans. If something works and there is no valid reason to go beyond the initial choice then why waste time? There are many tasks which we undertake each day that can be simplified to remove choice and the requirement for decisions. Another example is lunch — why do we have to have something different every day, when even from a nutritional point of view, having a set lunch or a selection of set meals each day has been known to increase the chances of sticking to a healthy eating regime.

What should we spend our time on?

One of the most undervalued activities in modern times is reading. The youth of today are moving away from the traditional media of books to streaming services, and this has led to a decline in those reading for pleasure. The majority of written content absorbed by society today is through clickbait articles, 140 character statements on Twitter and other social media comment and chats. None of this is useful to us in terms of adding value. We should use this time to read up on history and philosophy. If you’re a big sports fan, read an autobiography on one of your heroes. I prefer non-fiction. From books on strategy, marketing and business to self-help, psychology, philosophy and fitness. I absorb as much as I can as I realise that many before us have gone through our problems and dilemmas. They’ve experienced many things and have written about them to share this knowledge with people like us. This knowledge is there for us to read and absorb and gain that experience, its a great privilege for us. Yet how many of us do this? What could be more important than to better yourself and to learn more about the world, humanity and nature? In my mind, there isn’t much in this life that provides as much benefit without any downsides. Books today are sold second hand on Amazon for a penny. So, all you need is time — and we have discovered now that we have hours to spare each day what better use is there than acquiring knowledge.

You can also take up a hobby. Finally take that art class, buy a camera start to take artful photos, learn that new language. You may find that you have been putting off starting a new hobby using the excuse that you just don’t have enough time to fit it in with your busy life. Once you have control, you will be able to dedicate your ‘free’ time to something that you choose to do. Challenge yourself by doing something entirely different. The more we experience different things we can better understand ourselves, our limits, and learn things that we never knew about ourselves. Having the time to do something different every day can be a life changer. Learning has one of the most significant effects on our brain plasticity, it forces our brain to create new neural pathways and in effect is exercise and growth for the mind. Keeping your mind healthy and growing is important to avoid any problems in old age.

None of us knows how long we have left on this earth, but we all know that every morning when we wake up, we have at least one more day to spend. We need to ensure that each day is treated as the gift it is and use it to move forward, invest our time wisely and most importantly be present. As humans our greatest resource on this planet regardless of our circumstances is time.

I will leave you again with the wise words of Seneca the younger:

‘It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and it has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested’ — Seneca