How to Have More Time

“I don’t have time.”

Think about this statement for a moment. How often do you say it to others? How often do you tell it to yourself?

Have you ever considered what a killer of dreams this sentence is?

  • ‘I’d like to work out more, but I don’t have time’.
  • ‘I’d like to read more books, but I don’t have time’.
  • ‘I’d like to start my own business, but I don’t have time’.
  • ‘I’d like to meditate, but I don’t have time’.
  • ‘I’d like to be with my family and friends more, but I DON’T HAVE TIME’.

The list goes on and on. But what’s fascinating is that the most accomplished and busy people seem never to say this. Warren Buffet’s schedule, for example, is almost empty (1). How can this be?

Time is Our Most Precious Resource

The big idea is this: Time is more valuable than money. You can always get more money, but you can never get more time.

Most people are way more careful with their money than with their time. If someone tries to take our money, we tend to be very protective. But if someone is trying to take our time, usually we don’t care as much.

Realizing this critical blind spot is what separates accomplished people from the rest.

In his essay, ‘On the Shortness of Life’ (2), the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca writes that we suffer from a “foolish forgetfulness of our mortality” and reminds us that if we waste our life, nature will not give us any warnings or signals. Instead, life will “silently glide away”:

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
— Seneca

How to Have More Time

According to the World Health Organization, the average life expectancy in wealthy nations is about 80 years (3). So, assuming if you’re lucky enough to live in one of these countries and that you’re not a statistical outlier, you can expect to live about 80 years x 365 days = 29,200 days.

Of course, you cannot know exactly when you’re time is up. All you can know for sure is that once you’ve spent one of your days, you will never get it back.

So, obviously we’re not talking about having more time in terms of adding more days to your life here, but rather how to have more time for what is important to you. And the first step to doing that is to appreciate fully how scarce a resource time is.

Once you’ve done that, you have to make a commitment to change. You have to decide what is truly important to you and start to ruthlessly cut out everything else.

Defend Your Time

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
— Warren Buffet

OK, so now that you’ve decided that your time is precious to you, let’s look at some ways to defend it:

  1. Cut out TV. The average American spends more than 5 hours a day in front of the TV (4). That’s freakin’ nine years of our life. And I suspect the rest of the world isn’t doing that much better.
  2. Get off the Internet. Limit the time you spend on computers and smartphones. Use apps and extensions like Self-Control, Freedom, Anti-Social, StayFocusd and Facebook Newsfeed Eradicator to limit the time you spend mindlessly browsing the web.
  3. Reduce your commitments. Question all your obligations. Experiment with temporarily delegating or cutting out commitments. See whether you suffer from cutting it out, or whether you like the extra time. Despite what we often think, the world won’t collapse when we withdraw from a commitment.
  4. Say no. Every yes that’s not important to you bring you further away from your goals. So from now on, no more yeses. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no (5). Learn to decline politely and quickly get back to what matters.
  5. Declutter. Say no to unnecessary stuff in your environment. Spend a couple of minutes every day decluttering your home, workspace and digital devices.

You have plenty of time. You just need to defend it.

“Time is what we want most, but what we spend worst.”
— William Penn

Sources

  1. Why Productive People Have Empty Schedules
  2. On the Shortness of Life by Seneca
  3. World Health Statistics 2013
  4. Television Watching Statistics
  5. No more yes. It’s either HELL YEAH! or no.