When you were a child, it went like this:
Every day contained an an eternity. Minutes washed in and out like waves on the ocean — powerful, memorable, infinite.
The first shock came with your first real obligation: “I have to go to school and sit still for how long?”
As the years rolled by, you were handed more and more of these: college, then maybe an internship, debt, a “real job.” After that — mortgage, family expectations, children of your own.
Now, every day rushes by like a train. You wonder if you were even awake for them. Months seamlessly bleed into years. Years rip by faster than you can possibly imagine.
Is there a point?
Normally when someone writes an opening like that, they are setting you up to pretend they have a solution. I don’t have a solution. Each day, I think life couldn’t go any faster. Then, I look at the calendar.
I once read all good advice is simply autobiography.
Here’s a piece of mine.
Become a Level 2 Contributor
In Jim Collins’ book Good to Great, the very first chapter is dedicated to something called “Level 5 Leadership.” The characteristics of a Level 5 Leader describe what a CEO needs to run an unstoppable company.
Everyone wants to talk about becoming a CEO because it is sexy. Nobody talks about what is buried deep in Collins’ hierarchy — the Level 2 Contributing Team Member.
I have never heard anyone mention their desire to become a solid level 2 practitioner. Hustle has a ceiling. Hard work only scales so far. But working with a group is probably the number 1 thing to earn more margin.
When you add yourself to (or create) an already competent team, you double your ability at minimum.
(And no, you don’t have to pay people to find a team)
Practice your craft
Each time you take a new action, your brain coats the axons used with something called myelin. The more you take that action, the more myelinated the path becomes.
This is the reason you can walk from your bed to your bathroom in the middle of the night.
It’s also the reason authors can come up with six new book ideas before breakfast, the reason mathematicians can do unthinkable calculations in their head, and my dog goes pee on the same bush every morning.
The more you practice, the more automatic a behavior, the less time that behavior takes.
Practice making the right decisions
Acrasia — the state of mind in which someone acts against their better judgment through weakness of will.
In other words, when you have the information to make the correct decision, but do not act on that information. Will is a muscle. Use it and grow stronger. Ignore it, and your will atrophies.
Milk that commute
Recently I switched routes on my way to work (requiring a lot of new myelin to be applied). My new path is not shorter. It is longer.
Why? Because it’s part of the work day now. It is not an opportunity to wake up.
Complaining about a commute in 2010 was just fine, but with the technology available today, it seems a bit silly. Where else will you have dedicated time for silence, for learning new things, for practicing speeches?
One option is to use this time to yell at other drivers. Another option is to use it as a springboard for the rest of your day.
Quit some things
I have said this before. I think quitting is vastly underrated.
In the world (and country, in my case) where more is always better, sometimes the most powerful thing you can do is hit the eject button on less-than-ideal jobs, people, or habits.
Beat the Forgetting Curve
In the mid 1900s, a man named Ebbinghaus wanted to remember more, so he designed an experiment around memorizing random nonsense words like “zop” and “Wid.”
After what I imagine were weeks and months of boring expectations, he came to a conclusion:
Humans forget a massive amount of information all the time.
You probably know about the learning curve. What you might not know about is the forgetting curve based on Ebbinghaus’ work.
I think this is a survival skill, to be honest. If you tried to process every photon of light and each molecule your environment, there is no way you could ever leave the house.
While that unconscious ignorance is useful most of the time, how do we contain the information which needs to be kept?
As it turns out, less is required than you might think. To keep words, concepts, or ideas from falling out of your head, review them:
- The same day you learn it
- Within 24 hours after you learn it
- A week after you learn it
- And then a month after you learn it
It’s simple. Simple, but not easy.
Acknowledge the day
I picked up this habit a long time ago. For some reason, I still can’t shake it:
This is a requirement in my life. When my days disappear into scattered neurons, at least I can look back and say “well, at least I was conscious for a few seconds.”
Even if you don’t scrawl down dates in your Moleskin like a crazy person, being mindful of the day, at least for a moment, can make them more real.
For every ambition, there is an equal and opposite fear.
Venture into an area unknown, and your brain will likely try and destroy you.
Doubt and shame are probably the two most crippling reactions in this world. Earlier in our species’ history, to feel shame might mean you would be cut off from the rest of your tribe, which would be a death sentence.
Now, it is imperative to act without doubt. If your friends try and kick you out of the club, don’t worry. You can join my tribe.
“The artist must follow her heart, even if she is completely wrong”
— Maestro Rodrigo, Mozart in the Jungle
The True Secret to Finding More Time
Starts with an idea, an idea applied to your unique situation based on your interests, preferences, and lifestyle.
I don’t know your life, but I know ideas. That’s why I’m giving away my book — The Ultimate Guide to Infinite Ideas — away for the price of an email address.